Scaling down one's need to rely on conventional energy sources makes sense for a number of different reasons. It promotes low-impact, sustainable living. While the initial cost can be high, alternative energy saves money in the long run. Finally, it gives flexibility to people looking live in or travel through remote areas. When there is no need to connect to an external source of electricity, one's home or camper can be truly "off the grid."
Solar Panels Kits for DIY Construction
Many companies now offer low-cost solar panel kits for individuals wishing to harness the sun's energy in order to meet their electrical needs. From small-scale projects that only generate enough electricity to power a cellphone to commercial-grade panels designed to be mounted to a roof, solar kits allow regular homeowners the ability to build their own energy source at a fraction of the cost of a professional build and installation. For homeowners building their homestead off the grid, these panels are a must as they are one of the few alternative energy projects that can meet a substantial portion of one's energy needs.
DIY Hydro Power
Another strong contender for folks wanting to live completely off the grid is hydro power, harnessing the force of a stream with a homemade water wheel. The power generated through this alternative source is substantial enough to meet a sizable portion of a homeowner's energy needs, but one should be aware that freezing conditions or a seasonal water flow will affect the amount of energy produced.
A Handmade Wind Turbine
Unlike the water wheel, a DIY wind turbine won't generate a tremendous amount of power. However, the project can be undertaken at very little cost, using scrap materials for part of the construction. A small farm of wind turbines may be installed to provide backup power, or an individual turbine may be installed to power the batteries for an electric lawnmower, creating a small zone of sustainability.
A Bicycle-Powered Generator
It seemed unlikely when the professor on Gilligan's Island built one, but thanks to recent innovations to the technology, one's raw pedal power can now be converted into enough electricity to recharge small appliances or a laptop. You can build a bicycle-powered generator yourself with the proper equipment, and this is one alternative energy project that serves a dual purpose, a source of power and a great fitness routine.
A Human-Powered Washing Machine
Human-powered washing machines come in a variety of designs, ranging from ornate spindle and wheel models to simple devices using a toilet plunger and a 5-gallon plastic bucket. What all these DIY washing machines have in common is they require neither running water nor a source of electricity. Therefore, they are perfect for long camping trips or homestead living off the grid.
For individuals looking to build a vacation or retirement home in an out of the way location, or for those wanting to indulge in camping adventures in the wilderness with some of the conveniences of home, alternative energy is a must. For the rest of us, tackling one or more alternative energy projects can save money, inspire resourcefulness and present a rewarding challenge.