The Husband and I have had a few discussions lately on THE PERFECT SOLUTION. It's like this whole off-grid dream/adventure has been a big flaming question, a wondering, a searching, if it really is possible. And if so, what's THE BEST-est, EASIEST, MOST BUDGET FRIENDLIEST, PERFECT-est way to go. I feel this overwhelming urge to resolve the off-grid, non-petrol-as-possible puzzle. No, not just an overwhelming urge, but more like an insatiable craving. Man, some good chocolate sounds divine. Anyway. I feel like anyone should be able to walk into to her local net-zero home dealer and check off the weather zone, number of family members, and ba-zzz, ba-zzz, ba-zzz, there you go, a nice, neat, tidy little solution all tied up with a bow: the net-zero of all net-zero buildings with non-toxic sealants and adhesives and the most budget-friendly, convenient, meeting all of your off-grid energy needs, including indulgent soaks in a tub of hot water topped off with a thick layer of soft, silky bubbles scented with natural plant essences, homes one could ever be comfortable in til the day she dies. And nary a firewood hauling broken nail and draft to suffer. Well, as they say, hindsight is 20/20, and I've been seeing different off-grid, non-petrol solutions.
What we would have done differently system wise and why?
#1 - Insulation, insulation, insulation, and sealing. I mention it here because it affects the systems performance.
#2 - Outdoor Boiler in lieu of the Masonry Heaters. Pause for Startled Gasp! Shocking, scandalous. I LOVE my heaters. My heater mason was a dream to work with. The heaters do what they are supposed and do it well. You absolutely can heat a house with them. BUT, here's why I'd go with the Outdoor Boiler instead:
a - Hot water and convenience. With an Outdoor Boiler, I could heat both the cabin AND the garden shed AND have PLENTY of hot water AND only deal with firing just the Outdoor Boiler.
That said, the Outdoor Boilers are not as efficient and are nasty, smokey, dirty. My sister and brother-in-law have their outdoor boiler banked into the ground. Love that idea as a solution to make it more efficient. I don't know if there's a cleaner burning option available, but I would opt for that.
b - Wood stove. The only thing that the Masonry Heater isn't good at is a cold night out of the blue. They're like a big ship and it takes time to heat up the mass before it starts heating the space. So, maybe I'd want a wood stove to handle the chillies that pop up now and then.
IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER: Remember, during the cabin remodel, things didn't get taken care of the way they should have, specifically, insulation and sealing. (Yes, I already mentioned that but I canNOT stress the importance of a good envelope.)
#3 - Solar hot water for the Summer. This is assuming the system will work. This would give me the Summer off from messing around with firewood. AND with outdoor boilers being nasty, smokey, dirty - in the Summer the windows are open. (Well, at least we try to keep them open. That's another post.)
#4 - Solar - yes. I'd keep that the way we've got it.
#5 - Wind turbine. Again assuming this would work as advertised.
And there you have it. The nice, neat, tidy, little solution all wrapped up with a bow. Of course, results may vary. Wink. UHG. Sorry. This is based on two people in a location where Winter can be mean and the remodel was botched.