Getting off the grid

Electricity is so expensive and electric bills are scrutinized so much by various law agencies that I want to get off the grid. How can I run a grow system independent of electricity grids? Solar panels sound like the best solution in sunny locations. How do you set up an appropriate solar electric system to run an efficient grow system?
Santa Cruz, California

It is easy to have solar panels installed on the roof of your sunny house as long as you own it. You can do it yourself or you can have them installed by a professional firm. A 2,500-watt system, which would produce enough power for a single 1,000-watt lamp would cost between $15,000-$20,000 (installed). Batteries cost another $10,000. California has a rebate program so about one-third of the cost would be paid by the state.

Setting up a complete off-the-grid system is not the only way you can defeat the high cost of electricity. If you installed a 2,500-watt solar panel system and hooked it up to the grid, you would have a two-way meter. The electric company may actually buy electricity back from you. They won’t cut you a check, but they will zero out your balance. California has a variable rate system. Ratepayers pay almost three times as much during the peak hours, which occur during weekdays from noon to six or seven pm, the same time solar panel electric production is at its peak.

By timing your lights so you are using them off-peak, you would sell the company electricity for almost three times what you would buy it for at off-peak hours. You would be able to use a lot more electricity than the cells produce, at no cost, except for the solar panel loan or mortgage.

Another way to use light and not pay for it is by using sunroofs or light tubes. You can install a sunroof to supply light directly to the room under the roof. If it’s large enough, the sunroof will provide adequate light for a successful garden most of the year. A garden light can be used to supplement the light during the winter, when the intensity wanes and the duration shrinks.

Light tubes are similar to sunroofs, but instead of distributing sunlight throughout a room, it is captured in extremely reflective tubes that carry the light to a desired area, such as a room on a lower floor. The tubes are sold and installed in diameters as large as 20 inches, which capture and deliver a considerable amount of light. Their efficiency can be increased by adding reflectors to the collector on the roof so that more light is captured. Several of these tubes could illuminate a personal garden during much of the year without resorting to electric lights.

Readers with grow questions (or answers) should send them to Ed at: Ask Ed, PMB 147, 530 Divisadero St., San Francisco, California 94117, USA. You can also email Ed at [email protected], and send queries via his websites at All featured questions will be rewarded with a copy of Ed’s new book, Best of Ask Ed: Your Marijuana Questions Answered. Sorry, Ed cannot send personal replies to your questions.



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