It’s a follow-on to these posts:
- Los Zacatitos
- Wildlife-ing in Los Zacatitos (incl. a short story of a rattlesnake encounter)
- Done Deal. Moving to Los Zacatitos, Baja Sur, Mexico. Many Pictures
I’m purposely writing this while never having read a single thing about the ins-&-outs of living off grid; i.e., away from municipal electric, gas, water, and sewer services. Instead, I went and just did it for 5 days, and rubbed elbows with people in a remote—mostly American and Canadian expat—community in Los Zacatitos, at the tip of Baja—some of whom have been doing it routine for as long as 30 years.
…There are real women here—not spoiled, brat-girl-cunts in woman-like bodies—who’ve been making the 1,000 mile drive from San Diego to Los Cabos by themselves twice per year for 15+ years. One of them will be my immediate next-door neighbor (I’ll be gladly looking after her home, truck, and stuff until she gets back in November). And, before Alexa even gets back to the border, she’ll have already driven from northern Minnesota. By herself. And, no: No Dyke. 120 pounder. Has a boyfriend; an electrician, and you should see the beauty of his wiring work for her dual AC/DC photovoltaic system. …I love women. WOMEN. Not punks, cunt-girls claiming the title. Get it?
Moving along, some now have off-grid homes that fetch $200,000 and more in the R/E market. And, even millions. In the US, people are installing huge banks of photovoltaics to feed back power to the grid while in high demand whilst they’re off in a cubicle. My brother recently installed one and it works great for an on-grid home in that application. What I didn’t realize is that in off-grid, the equation changes from lots of panels to lots of batteries—and just enough panels to charge them. Gotta have lots of sun though. No problem.
The best way to begin thinking about off-grid living is to imagine a fully self-contained travel trailer. In this respect, people have been doing it for decades in relative comfort (just small scale, with a view towards conservation of resources). Way back, however, such excursion was typically limited to a few days at best—unless you have access to a water fill-up, a generator to recharge batteries, and someplace to dump your shit.
Once you have that thinking down, it’s all matters of scale, in principle. And now, with photovoltaics or “solar panels,” it can scale into homes worth millions—and a panel or two is almost standard equipment on any trailer now, in order to recharge batteries. …Several off-grid, villa-style homes down there are on the market for up to $5 million. The owner of the place I’m renting is looking to sell, and it will likely be listed at $220,000. Bea and I will consider, once living there, whether we want to participate in that offering ourselves.
Now, blow your mind. All three of these projects by the Campos Leckie Studio architects (in the true sense of arTchitecture) are in Los Zacatitos.
Zacatitos 03 is my landmark to turn left up the road to my place, 300 yards up the main road.
While monthly water delivery into ~10,000 liter cross-connected tanks, gas delivery into a propane tank, and a septic tank with a leach field are no-brainers to me, it’s the electrical that’s epiphanyesque. All those other things must scale to demand too; it’s the electrical that only recently has made this so very possible as a total living situation, opening up billions of sunny acres worldwide to human habitation far enough away to keep out the fucktards, while the State seems happy enough to leave everyone to work disputes out on their own, which is my preference. Maybe no island is needed.
It changes you, when the cops are only 45 minutes away. Maybe you become a wee bit more polite.
Let’s delve into the basic electrical problem.
Electricity is measured in terms of amperage, voltage, and wattage. Amperage (amps for short) is a measure of the AMOUNT of electricity used. Voltage (volts) measures the pressure, or FORCE, of electricity. The amps multiplied by the volts gives you the wattage (watts), a measure of the WORK that electricity does per second.
Think of it this way: Electricity flowing through a wire is like water flowing through a garden hose. The amount of water that can fit through the hose depends on the diameter of the hose (amps). The pressure of the water depends on how far open the faucet is (volts). The amount of work that can be done (watts) depends on both the amount and the pressure of the water (volts x amps = watts).
See? Tradeoffs. Where have you heard that before? In the typical off-grid scenario there’s one essential given, or constant: 120V alternating current. The other two—amps and watts—are up to you. Want to power a single 120V light? Easy. One car battery, one solar panel, an inverter (DC to AC) and you’re done. Like I said, it’s only scale from there.
It get’s interesting from that point and begins to expose a wee bit of what you take for granted. You want to blow dry your hair in the morning while the coffee machine is making your cups? Well, without doing calculations, that few minutes of convenience is going to cost more amps and wattage than everything you spent in terms of lighting and entertainment from dinner to bedtime the night before.
Watts are the big problem, because it’s a kinda calculus deal, where rate of expenditure is part of it. It’s no problem how much you’re using. The problem is how quickly you require it. Accordingly, in the small systems, no blow dryers or coffee makers (heating elements in general are enormous watt hogs). For the former, it’s hot and arid. Relax. Your hair will dry. For the latter, learn how to make the best coffee ever with a French Press or a gas-stovetop espresso contraption—and boil some water on another burner, to make it an Americano. BTW, the refrigerator is gas, too.
Zac’s Bar & Grill has to have a big system to do this and plus, a generator for when things turn south due inclement weather or an equipment breakdown. 20 seconds of vid. Notice that tables are candlelight. Just one more reason; only, Angel and Paul—the owners—have to do it right so they can be open 7 nights per week, from 1PM to 8PM.
Is your appetite wet, yet? How about the greenies, who would force the world, rather than live by some element of example and tout it? Make no mistake. I do this because I wish to inspire, never force or get people to do my forcing.
So now, let’s get to the practical experience. I had zero issues. It was like being in a dry-camping travel trailer, only with a relatively unlimited supply. But, the house is designed in such a way that it’s hard to overuse. One thing that was interesting in contemplation? The entire rest of the world could go dark and my light switches still work.
…You notice lots of light switches. Good for electrician tradesman. See, you don’t want a switch turning on a bank of lights. If it’s cloudy, maybe just one. If sunny, maybe you can go all out and flip 3 or 4. Get it?
Water is the other thing you’ll use at night. You hear the small pump turn on when you open a faucet and the pressure switch gets tripped. Oh, my. No city water pressure. And on that score, I can’t see much of a material difference in cost, between having tucks haul out water to fill the tanks, and the State granted monopoly that pipes it in. You can have a water heater too, gas. One here, but I didn’t bother when a windy night blew out the pilot. Better to go tankless, on-demand anyway, something I had exclusively in my Japanese house from 1984-89 (and my ’01-’05 San Jose house I installed myself) and is what probably got me thinking of the insanity that is insatiable demand, way back then.
Consider the tradeoff: use zero gas when not running hot water, but take a 12-hour hot shower if you want vs. scale. That’s all. Fucking scale.
But I’ve yet to really show you why all of this could be important. Sure, you can have this on the grid, but you can have it off the grid for a lot less effort and expense. Do the accounting. You might be able to do it now. Here’s a quick 30-sec vid beatrice took her first morning waking up to the birds, the natural alarm clock.
With off-grid living, we’re going to pay $650 per month for this place. Yes, you have to have some means, but even scraping by, you can make it work.
What’s hilarious in Zacatitos, is that you have multi-millionairs and folks pissing in buckets, all having a common, very important cord. Nobody talks about their money means because this is a level playing field on many levels and nobody really cares.
…The day I arrived, one long-term resident had a fire break out in his woordworking garage (spontaneous combustion, likely). Rich and poor gathered to fight it and put it out.
The fire department is only 45 minutes away.