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Going Off The Grid Guide – overview of options on heat, water and power.

By Loretta White
January 3, 2009
File under: Green Building Techniques, Heating Systems, Natural Alternatives


My husband and I, like all green people want to become as self sufficient as possible. Starting with the major projects in a new house is not always possible, but there are infinite ways to start. We are starting with a plan that includes heat/cooling, water, electric and smart green choices that not only reduce fossil fuels and are 80%+ more efficient, but also pamper you. Gone are the days when green was packaged as a sacrifice.

In the research first we wanted to make sure we considered all the possibilities, which was surprisingly difficult. Who knew that when we utilized a wood stove in the basement, we would not only save on the oil consumption, but also on our electricity due to the burner not firing up!

Basically, renewable energy can be put into seven categories; Solar, Wind, Geothermal, Ocean, Bio, Hydrogen, and Hydro. These energy sources can be utilized in various ways to heat and cool, to make electricity or other power, or to run automobiles or other machines currently powered with fossil fuels. When looking at these, I decided to separate by usage.

Heating & Cooling Boilers, stoves, furnaces, hot water heaters and Alternative multi-fuel systems:

These can be outdoors or indoors, Fireplace inserts, pot belly, cast iron, soapstone, cooking stoves and fueled by one or a combination of; wood, coal, wood pellets, gels, Natural gases. Like; methane or propane, grains, such as soybeans, corn and other biofuels.

Their names vary as well when utilizing a certain technology like Gasification Furnace. This burns wood or biomass fuels at a higher temperature and significantly better efficiency rate without smoke or other discharges

Then, the material, shape or where they were originally used comes into play. An example would be a Wood Stove being called a Soapstone stove, a potbelly or Fireplace inserts.


  • Solar Heat;
    • Passive Solar
    • Active Solar
    • Water Walls
  • Bioenergy or Biomass (also see solar here)
  • Gel fuel
  • Geothermal
  • Hydronic heating
  • Hydrogen
  • Radiant
  • Masonry
  • Cellulosic biofuels
  • Advanced batteries
  • Hydroelectric and Ocean Energy
    • Tidal current
    • Wave current
    • Water wheels
    • Hydroelectric
    • Dam-less hydro


  • Hydroelectric
  • Hydro Power;
    • Hydro kinetic
    • Pumped storage
    • River
    • Tidal
    • Wave
    • Reservoirs and constructed water ways
  • Wind
  • Bio-energy or biomass; Plants and algae, landfill gases, and municipal solid waste
  • Solar or Photovoltaics
  • Fusion – Plasma
  • Cooking – Solar, wood (also heats)


  • Water – can be converted to a gas source in your vehicle!
  • Bioenergy – ethanol
  • Solar cell vehicle see
  • Electric


  • Passive solar home plan
    • indirect-gain systems 
    • direct-gain systems

Over the next few weeks I will write several blogs defining what we have found to be the best of the best, no matter where you live.

Check out part 2 and part 3.

By Loretta White, the green evangelist.

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