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Did You Know?Projects in 12 countries are registered in the Living Building Challenge and six other projects have been certified to date. December 3, 2012By Steven CastleThis Net Zero home not only produces all its own energy, it stores and automates it as well. Yes, we’re thinking of Hurricane Sandy victims of a decimated power infrastructure, but also of the hundreds of thousands whose power goes out regularly in big and not-so-big storms and wait for days while large and overtaxed utilities try to restore power. And more and more, we’re seeing homes designed and built not just with net-zero (producing your own energy) in mind, but with storing energy as well. Six OutBack inverters (center) and a bank of 48 batteries (left) convert and store the electricity. The 72-panel solar PV array produces 16.6 kw, with 260 kWh of battery storage, enough for about 36 hours of use, says Snider. The home consumes about 100 kilowatt hours (kWh) of solar energy a day when the homeowners are in residence—some of that just from keeping the backup generators warmed and ready to go. The eMonitor display shows energy production and consumption at the circuit level with easy-to-read graphs and charts.
AVDomotics created its own “modules” within the Crestron platform to enable the automation system to communicate with an OutBack Mate2 solar inverter control system.
The Crestron system can also perform much-needed load shedding, in which it turns certain devices down or completely off to save energy. After construction, the owners realized they could save even more by swapping their incandescent lights for LEDs (light emitting diodes). When it’s time to leave for the season, the owners only have to push an away button on any of their Crestron controllers turn off everything. For added assurance, the Sniders and AVDomotics receive alerts from the eMonitor and Crestron systems if any circuits are on or if there’s a problem with a system in the home.
This article is based on a feature article in the July-August issue of Electronic House and can be found here.
Big cities aren’t for everyone… If you’re someone who enjoys the outdoors and a simple life, maybe its time to consider moving to an off the grid home. In rural parts of Scandinavia sod roofs are popular, and have been the design of choice for centuries. West Virginia has plenty of beautiful options of off the grid homes, imagine stumbling across this in the middle of the fields and forests.
Valhalla California is a group dedicated to building an entire off the grid community in the heart of Los Angeles.
This off the grid cabin is set into the side of a private mountain ridge, surrounded by dense forest.
The small family house in Spain was built by Alventosa Morell using six wooden boxes constructed in a workshop and then later placed on concrete slabs. This beautiful off the grid hobbit home proves you don’t need to be an architect to build a cozy home. Designed by Tom Chudleigh, Free Spirit Tree Homes are built for creative minded people who want to express themselves through their dwelling. This beautiful home is built by the Justin Capra Foundation for Sustainable Technologies and Inventions. So we know what it takes to live off grid and how you generate off grid power, but what does living off grid look like?
They come from those looking at modest solar photovoltaic (PV) investments to power their homes with grid-tied systems and realizing that when utility power goes out, so does their system’s ability to produce power (backfeeding power on the lines is a hazard to linemen trying to repair a grid).
A solar thermal system heats water for domestic use and the home’s radiant-floor heating system, and a backup generator and water heater for times when all the power from the sun isn’t enough. The company also programmed the Crestron system to monitor the level of liquid propane and water available in their respective tanks. When the house is unoccupied, for example, the well and septic pumps shut off, and if there isn’t much juice left in the solar system’s storage batteries, the lights dim to 75 percent.

The thing that I use the most is checking on the PV system and seeing how much energy we’re producing, and I can do that from anywhere in the world,” says Tim.
Twelve zones of audio and eight TVs, including a surround-sound system in the family room, are served by home control company Crestron’s ADMS Intermedia Delivery System media server. White says it cost about $3,500 to replace the existing bulbs with Philips and Color Kinetics LEDs, but was well worth it, as the homeowners would have had to spend $10,000 more on solar panels to run the incandescent lights. AVDomotics may tie them to indoor and outdoor temperature sensors so they can turn on and off automatically. Then they can hop in the car, take a last look at their remote retreat, and press another button to roll down the aluminum shutters over all of the first floor windows and doors for safety and security. Emails are also delivered to AVDomotics twice a day with a status report of the system, which helps the custom electronics dealer proactively remedy a situation before it becomes costly or dangerous. This hi-tech ranch style home is located outside of Joshua Tree National Park in a small community called Three Junipers. They offer amazing insulation, stabilize the home and look beautiful throughout the different seasons.
This tree house style cabin is set along the Appalachian mountains and could be a hikers dream.
This small cabin in New York would be great for a unique off the grid home to spend vacations into the backcountry. The homes are not connected to electricity or gas plants and instead use recycled water, solar energy and even have a sustained food forest where they grow their own fruits and vegetables. The cabin overlooks a river in the valley below and some beautiful scenery and vast wildlife. Simon Dale built this place with only $3,000, some simple tools and lots of help from friends and his father-in-law. Declarations of grid independence also come from people who are fed up with losing power for days or weeks during storms that are becoming more prevalent and more intense. It’s powered by a large solar PV system, but it also stores the energy collected in a bank of batteries that are governed by a system to optimally charge them automatically—and automatically conduct load-shedding when power supplies are low. Snider’s home is miles from the nearest power lines, so the home had to build to be completely self-sustainable. A high-end Uponor in-floor radiant heating system, which relies on water heated by the roof’s solar thermal panels and liquid propane-fueled hot water in the backup tank, was integrated into the Crestron control system as well. Crestron’s DigitalMedia switching technology delivers audio and video content to different areas of the house via the company’s DigitalMedia fiber solution, with fiber-optic wires terminating at each of the home’s TVs. In essence, they have already received an immediate return on their investment, and then some.
The Homes and Garden TV network has a show where regular couples and families looking for an adventure rent or buy a home completely off the beaten path.  Moving to a off the grid home, away from vital services such as indoor plumbing, electricity and garbage pick up may be a nightmare for some, but the benefits and experience is drawing people to consider their options. Generally, people think of hippies when they think off the grid but many families are choosing to make the change because it can save thousands of dollars every year. Each house is built with solar and photovoltaic thermal technology that power the home exclusively, making them totally self-sufficient.
Some off the grid homes even have trees growing from their roofs of beautiful wildflowers and bushes. This beautifully designed cabin is owned by fashion designer Scott Newkirk, who has no traces of modern technology in his home. The eco domes are sturdier than normal housing and capable of withstanding natural disasters. Half a dozen doors provide easy access to the yard and easy ventilation of the property in this three bedroom one bathroom home.  It is eco-friendly and took less than four months to complete. This house has nearly no visual or environmental impact on the surrounding landscape in Wales.
They are wooden spheres that hang from trees or other surfaces in shapes that mimic the natural world.

The foundation is building other homes and the structure has a flexible nature to be able to make plenty of designs, shapes and sizes. Tim can also see how much power is available as stored energy in the batteries from Crestron’s touchpanels and apps. The cost alone is opening people up to spending some time learning just how easy it is for North Americans compared to some regions of the world. Rainwater is collected in five gallon storage tanks and filtered for regular use and grey water is stored outside to water plants.
The practice started long ago because materials could be purchased inexpensively, the installation was hard work, but families were larger and had plenty of manpower and friends helped much like American barn buildings. Homes can be truly unique instead of the cookie cutter ones we are used to seeing, and who wouldn’t want to wake up to the mountains everyday.
The walls are made from cob which is a mixture of sand, clay and straw which makes it easy to make curved modern looking edges and is cheap and sustainable. The sun is used for heating and the insulation is made from local wood and recycled materials and uses only a quarter of the energy of a normal house of that size.
Near Denver, Colorado, the home takes advantage of 300 days of sun to produce lots of its power from a couple of solar arrays, and the home's careful siting makes the most of passive solar and daylighting to minimize the energy needed to run the home.
He decided to add 16.6 kilowatts of solar PV to the mix, even though powering the home with generators might have been cheaper. Even the landscaping is done using only native plants, and despite being off the grid this community is only 20 miles from the nearest city. Some of these places don’t have electricity but windmills and solar power are both commonly used for electricity. It took some imagination and alternative energy sources, but now Dale can live like a character from his favorite book. The house uses a blend of tree house and sailboat technology, using suspension and anchor points similar to those found on a sailboat.
The modular unit is made in a way that if more room is needed in the future it can be easily transformed into a more functional, larger space. After all, if you’re going to power a home, you may as well take advantage of Arizona’s abundant sunshine. For a bit of rustic living, Norway could be a beautiful place to move to an off the grid home. After dealing with the stress of a busy work week, this looks like the perfect place to unwind and detach from the outside world.
The green zero energy ‘soleta’ home can even be controlled by a smartphone device, making living off the grid an attractive modern concept. And, because straw is plentiful and locally available in the UK, it produced just a fraction of the carbon footprint of an average UK home, 50 tons of carbon dioxide, during construction.The future of off grid homes in TorontoThere is a confluence of ideas happening that will generate the efficient, green house of the future. Its easy to see with these attractive homes why people are deciding to give it a chance, whether its the beautiful rural landscapes, gorgeous unique homes, or just to save a few dollars here are some of the most intriguing options.
There are different sizes, some are small and confined like the inside of a trailer while others are built more like houses with many different rooms and even a second story. Prefab offers the promise of replication of proven, tested designs with factory controlled quality; digital driving of CNC machines offers tighter tolerances, more effective use of materials and less waste. Of course, bigger houses need more electricity, so it'll be more expensive, but if bigger is better for you, it can be done.

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