Energy New OffGrid TN

Discussion in 'Off Grid Living' started by SurvivalJester, Apr 15, 2019.

  1. Jester here, new to the forum. Not long ago I began preparing my Survival bag for any major disaster that may arise and now me and my family has agreed on a new life off grid in west Tennessee. Introduction aside, I have many questions and there is a plethora of information out there. So here goes...

    First, I'm looking at unrestricted land in Hardin county outside of city limits. Does unrestricted mean no restrictions really? I know the land could possibly have deed restrictions which stand alone and I'll check for such before buying. Also do structures still have to be to code? Am I limited on number of structures? Number of dwellings? Can I use composting toilets or do I have to install septic by a licensed contractor as I've read conflicting reports on what TN will allow and I know counties can have their own rules? I looked up zoning codes and regulations but everything seemed to pertain to inside city limits.

    Second, I'm looking into unconnected off grid solar systems. My funds to make this endeavor happen are limited. So first question, does TN require a licensed electrician to install all solar systems as I've read or can I DIY it? I'm thinking I need at least a 6,000 watt/6 kw solar system to maintain our needs with micromanaging. Would it be more beneficial for me to purchase a stand alone solar generator that's expandable seeing as it would cost me a fraction of the costs for a fully integrated system. I know there are so many routes one can take within all the individual options available but I'm looking for under $8,000 after installation.

    If you're in TN off grid can you give me any tips or tricks. What not to do? What maybe you wish you did differently if at all? Anything beneficial or useful to the success of this mission will be greatly absorbed and appreciated!
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  2. ghrit

    ghrit Bad company Administrator Founding Member

    Your questions about code stuff as in your first paragraph are questions for the RE agent or the county. Off grid systems, well we have some seriously experienced off grid users.

    Our gurus will tell you to forget budgeting until you have your design somewhat ironed out. Start by summing up the gross loads you want to be able to use. Then we'll refine things a bit to get you to the size and capacity you might want. DO NOT CHEAP OUT ON COMPONENTS.

    Whether or not you can do it, well, "it depends". Build it to code, yes, you can, and really should 'cause at some point, you will be inspected, if not before then, when you sell.

    (I'm not your expert, but they will chime in sooner or later.)
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  3. Thank you for the input . I'll keep that in mind.
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  4. Dont

    Dont Just another old gray Jarhead Monkey

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  5. Ura-Ki

    Ura-Ki Grampa Monkey

    Welcome aboard, glad to have ya!
    For gear, it's always a good idea to try out as much as you can and decide on what's best for YOUR needs! Not every thing ends up being best, despite what folks say! You also want to take it all out together and put it all through it's paces as a system, this will show you the holes and what works and why, and what doesn't and why!
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  6. Gator 45/70

    Gator 45/70 Monkey+++

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  7. techsar

    techsar Monkey+++

    Welcome, @SurvivalJester !

    Your zoning, septic, electric, etc. are almost all going to be answered at the county level...can't help much on that.

    Now as far as having a licensed electrician put in a solar system, beware! They are not necessarily informed of proper installation of solar, and could make a mess of things trying. Around here, a licensed installer is only required if you do grid-tie.

    $8000 or less for a 6kw solar system? Hmmm. If you are just running DC you might make budget...
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  8. Cruisin Sloth

    Cruisin Sloth Special & Slow


    This Gent lives this way , and has taught us many .
    Another gent is Owen off grid , but he pulled all stuff down .
    TN also .
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  9. BTPost

    BTPost Stumpy Old Fart,Deadman Walking, Snow Monkey Moderator

    @TnAndy is your guy... He will know all the State Statutes and Codes, as he has dealt with all that in the past, and daily even now... He also designed and installed all his own Solar Systems which now are well over 10Kw.... Some of the rest of us Off-Grid lives, can help with General stuff... Welcome to our Monkey Tree...
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  10. BenP

    BenP Monkey++

    Welcome! There are lots of good people here and lots of good information!

    We recently had a similar thread (New around here...) going with @Hillbilly549 that has some good information. I copied my off grid-power information below from that thread. In KY there is not much regulation in the county. If you want to be connected to the power grid the power company requires an electrical inspection. You are supposed to have a licensed installer get a permit and install your septic system, I finally decided this is just so they will know you built a house and can send the property valuation guy out to revalue your property for tax purposes. In KY if you have more than 10 acres you are pretty much free to do what you want.

    I ran 2 water lines from my wood stove location to my water heater location. We make hot water with the wood stove (Wood Stove Water Heater) in the winter and it saves tons of power. When you do need to make hot water you will want a heat pump water heater. In heat pump mode they only draw 400w vs 4500w for a standard water heater. They also help cool your house in the summer. $1300 at Lowes. Heat Pump Air Conditioner/Water Heater

    Drying clothes is another big power user, I found a heat pump dryer (Heat Pump Dryer) that only uses 400-500w vs. 4500w for a conventional dryer and does not require a vent. We just installed this set a few months ago and they work great.


    This is our solar setup, I just use standard breakers for all my DC current, the square D Q/O series from Lowes are rated for DC current.

    Solar Panels 2600W (bought a pallet on eBay for 50 cents per watt, free shipping.)
    Schneider Electric Conext XW MPPT 60 Amp Charge Controller (x2) ($500)
    Schneider Electric Conext SW 4024 3,400 Watts, 24VDC Inverter 120/240 VAC ($1400)
    Schneider Electric Conext XW+/SW System Control Panel (SCP) ($250)
    LiFePO4 Prismatic Batteries 24V, 300Ah ($4000)

    You can make your panel mounts out of uni strut, they sell it at most big box stores as well as the hardware for it. I also did not mention Air Conditioning but you can buy a mini-split air conditioning system on flee bay pretty cheap ($700-800) that will work if you are building a small house. They also have duct versions of the mini-split that I did not know about until after I bought ours. Here is a thread with some pictures of the uni strut and mini-split system: More Panels & Mini Split A/C
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2019
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  11. TnAndy

    TnAndy Senior Member Founding Member

    County restrictions are best answered at the county level, as it will vary from county to county depending on whether THAT county has adopted building codes or not. Look up the county offices and simply call them with questions if you want accurate answers.

    Connection to the grid will require NABCEP certified installer, assuming they will let you connect....TVA (the regions power supplier) has gotten more snarky as of late about private solar installs.....I think they have gone to favoring larger commercial solar 'farms'. Off grid solar does not require licensed anything.....however, that does not mean you should get a lot of good advice/guidance assuming you have no experience.

    As for a 6kw system for $8k.....not gonna happen for an AC system. As ghrit said above....DO NOT CHEAP OUT ON COMPONENTS..which is the first mistake most off grid systems make IMHO. Forget most of the crap you'll see on YouTube because there are a lot of idiots on there posting pure baloney.

    Panels: say 60 cents/watt x 6,000 = $3,600 (don't forget shipping)
    Racking/mounting (and please don't use wood)....say $1,000
    Combiner boxes: 300
    Wire/Disconnects/breakers/etc: 1500
    Charge controllers: (you'd need 2-3) 1000-1500
    Inverters (you'd need 2 or more to effectively use 6kw) 4,000 +

    The above (and I'm sure I've left out stuff, this was purely off the top of my head) is already at $11,000.....and we have gotten to batteries yet....a 48v, 800amp/hr set of L-16's (16 6v) is gonna run $250 x 16 = $4,000. You could get by with half 8 battery 400amp/hr set.....if you're willing to run a generator a lot more, or use a lot less power....but adding another set several years later is not a good idea mixing different age batteries.

    So you can see you're looking at nearly double your budget for a 6kw system.
  12. oil pan 4

    oil pan 4 Monkey+++

    Post here before you buy anything.
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  13. TnAndy

    TnAndy Senior Member Founding Member

    A note Ben.....unless the rating on them has changed, they are approved for DC up to, but not including, 48vDC.
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  14. BenP

    BenP Monkey++

    You can make your panel mounts out of uni strut, they sell it at most big box stores as well as the hardware for it. I also did not mention Air Conditioning but you can buy a mini-split air conditioning system on flee bay pretty cheap ($700-800) that will work if you are building a small house. They also have duct versions of the mini-split that I did not know about until after I bought ours. Here is a thread with some pictures of the uni strut and mini-split system: More Panels & Mini Split A/C

    I am going to edit my earlier post and put this info in it for next time. :)
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  15. Thanks Mate!

    Preciate the response. I know a lot of trial and error is on the horizon. Right now I'm shooting for the minimum basics for everyone involved.

    Thank you sir!

    Thanks. Yeah that's what I figured. I'll get on contacting the county asap for specifics.

    I know TN doesn't have a specific license for solar but does require a licensed electrician for installation. But not sure if that's tied in or not. I'll ask the county to make sure.

    What about a 6kw expandable portable solar generator? I've seen them range from $5,000 to $10,000. But I can't find many reviews on those who have used them on this size. Thoughts?

    Thanks guys. Hope TnAndy has the answers.

    Thanks for the info. I'm definitely trying to reduce my energy consumption. Trying to limit it to energy efficient fridge, water pump, charging of batteries, power tool use, energy efficient washer (maybe), with wiggle room. I'm looking into alternative non electrical means for everything else.
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  16. Thanks TnAndy, looks like I may have to shift some things around. I'm sure you guys hear this a lot but electricity is not my forte. Though I'm an experienced carpenter and have years of experience in general construction. As I stated above I'm looking into powering a minimal amount of appliances, am I correct on my assessment of needing a 6kw system? And what about a 6kw portable solar generator? I'm gonna make this happen, though I may have to do without many luxuries for a while. I'll definitely check with the county on particulars. And I don't want to be connected to the grid. The goal is to separate as much as possible beyond inspections and paying taxes. What would you consider a comfortable beginning off grid budget in west tn?
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  17. Merkun

    Merkun furious dreamer

    I dare say if you are correct about 6kw, it is poop shed luck. The first step you take should be to add up your expected loads and see what comes out. FWIW, I power the house with a 5kw gennie when power goes out for one reason or another. YMMV, obviously, but it's safe to say that you aren't going to be a profligate power pig, and it is quite possible that 6kw of AC is way beyond reasonable. Now, you have to recognize that your AC gennie is not going to do you any favors if you are powering your house on DC.
    Methinks you missed some of the data in @TnAndy 's post 11 above. But that beggars the question, since you do not know what you need for a starter system yet. That load study alone will determine your design.
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  18. TnAndy

    TnAndy Senior Member Founding Member

    No way to answer that without specifics on planned use.

    Not real sure what that'd have to describe it more.

    Nothing wrong with being grid connected IMHO.....certainly a lot less expensive. I'm grid connected, but prepared to be without it if it goes away.....short or long term. As for inspections, they are often for your own good in addition to being a PITA. Except for a minor amount of sales tax, being off grid isn't going to cut that much.....the property tax guy doesn't care if you have power or not.

    Again, absent very specific use requirements, no way to answer that. WHAT are you planning to power ??
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  19. Seacowboys

    Seacowboys Senior Member Founding Member

    My cousin has just placed her ranch outside Henderson, on the market. Has a lot of standing timber, some pasture, a couple nice lakes, and an unbelievable amount of turkey and white-tail.
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  20. BenP

    BenP Monkey++

    If all you are running is what you have listed ("energy efficient fridge, water pump, charging of batteries, power tool use, energy efficient washer (maybe), with wiggle room") you can get away with anything. Our inverter is 4kw max and it will do everything we need for a family of 4, I even used a table saw with it to cut out our cabinets.

    Having an energy efficient house will be key, we built an earth berm house (basically a walk out basement) and it takes very little to heat/cool it.
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