Monday, October 24, 2011

Living off the grid and a house tour

For years I have dreamed about living in an “off the grid” house, so I was very excited when I heard this house was powered completely by wind and solar. But as I’m being reminded these days, the reality of something is often quite different than what you imagine it might be! Not necessarily in a bad way… just different. On the surface, the house looks like any other house… you can’t tell it’s off the grid. (Unless you notice the wind turbine and solar panels at the top of the driveway!) But we really have to watch how we use electrical power.

So the energy created with the wind turbine and solar panels charges a bank of batteries in the garage. Every time we use power, we draw on those batteries. John checks them morning and night and writes down what the charge is. On a sunny, windy day lots of power is being generated. We had a day like that last Friday and John came to me and said “today’s a good day to use appliances”. So we did LOADS of laundry (beach towels, sheets, bathing suits, clothes….everything!) – Actually I shouldn’t say “we”. John did all the laundry and hung it out to dry on our makeshift clothesline, then I helped fold and put everything away. One of the benefits of having a husband at home is that I don’t have to do EVERYTHING! I get help! While he was doing laundry, I was vacuuming the house and cleaning the lanai off of one of the bedrooms for Zara to sleep in.

When John came home from his reconnaissance trip to Molokai, Zara saw photos of the loft in the house and immediately claimed it as her bedroom! When we got here, we got it all set up for her and moved dressers and furniture up there. She stuck it out about a week then the creepy crawlies got to her! All night long she could hear little scuttling feet above her head and each morning she’d find heaps of fresh gecko poo all around her bed. (Who knew that geckos made such a mess!!) One night she woke up after having a scary dream about her room, and came down and crawled into bed with John. The next morning she informed me she wasn’t comfortable sleeping up there anymore. I can’t blame her! I don’t think I’d want to either!

So we moved her bed down and into the lanai. Then Bella decided she wanted to sleep out there too, so out went her bed! Now, this room is ALL windows, facing east, with no window coverings. Bella was up at the crack of dawn after her first night out there, or maybe earlier! The sky was just starting to lighten when Bella came to me and whispered “I’m going to go play Lego”. I thought “Are you serious?!?! Please go back to bed until the sun comes up!” She reluctantly went back to bed and when I looked over about 6:30am , she was sitting up on her bed, watching the sun rise up into the sky. Now she waits until the sun is UP then she goes out to play!

I got sidetracked there! Back to living off the grid! The batteries in the garage are on a trickle charge so that they can’t be over charged. IF the wind blows all night, which it often does, then there’s enough energy being produced to keep the batteries topped up. However, if there is no wind, then between the trickle charge and the ceiling fan in my room we wake up with low batteries and the generator has to be turned on. Within an hour, the batteries are at full charge again (and the generator is very fuel efficient). But I’m still baffled… I always thought that an off the grid house could make and STORE enough energy to (literally) get you through a rainy day. Not in this case. We are assessing our battery levels on a day to day basis. Anyways… we’re learning. Many nights there is not enough energy to run the dishwasher so we hand wash or run it the next morning. We have to be super conservative with using lights and toasters and any other electrical appliances. It makes a person extremely aware of how much we depend on electricity! But I also have to say it feels pretty neat to know that the energy we're using it being created right here!

I’ve been asked for some photos of the house and our living space so will give you a little tour here. I’ll narrate the tour below each photo.

The view of our house as we drive up the driveway. The wind turbine and solar panels are just to the right of the garage.

Walking from the driveway up to the entrance. Garage is on the right. Trees loaded with papayas on the left!

The covered entrance way. I love the big doors that open up. They were selvedged from a hotel in Maui. The kids spend a lot of time playing right here. It feels like part of the house with the open door way.

If you turn to your right while standing in the entrance way, you have this view. Behind the doors on the left side are the washer and dryer, and the hot water tank (which is solar). Straight ahead is the outdoor shower. The door to the right goes into the garage.


The main part of the living space has vaulted ceilings. It appears more spacious in these photos than it really is! Behind the sitting area, there are more open doors that lead to a big lanai. There's a ping pong table in there but it's a space that rarely gets used. The breeze coming through those open windows cools the house.

A lovely, fully equipped kitchen. Notice all the fresh fruit sitting on the counter to the left of the fridge!

This is taken from the kitchen looking across to area on the other side of the entrance. Straight ahead in the middle is a bathroom. On either side there is a door leading into a bedroom (and another bathroom). You can also see the loft were Zara WAS sleeping. I plan to turn that space into the kid's play area. The stairs leading up there are steep and super narrow. There's a nice dormered area with windows that let in lots of light. Zara spends quite a bit of time drawing at the table up there and watching the deer out back. Notice all our beach stuff sitting on that little sofa by the door and my basket beside it. We're always ready to go to the beach!

This is the bigger family room, eating area and the wood fire oven (aka the pizza oven!) This is currently where the kids play Lego. John's getting pretty good with the oven and we've enjoyed lots of hand made pizza's baked in there! Delicious! There's a door to the right of the table which leads out into the front (ocean side) yard and patio.

This photo just gives a bit of a perspective of that room in relation to the kitchen. Can you see the glass jar full of shells to the left of the bright red kettle? We're having so much fun collecting shells!

Here are the girl's beds in the lanai. Note the big windows on 3 sides! It gets hot during the day, but lovely and cool at night!

Well, that's it for now! Hope you've enjoyed the tour. You're welcome to visit anytime! We'll crank up the wood fire oven and have a pizza party!


  1. What a stunning house! I love the big windows and the kitchen and the openness of the living area and the big front doors and the outdoor shower and the earthy colours and the adorable pizza oven! I'll stop now, ha ha!!

  2. I am literally raging with jealousy after reading this post and viewing the photos ... beautiful! Makes me long for another 3 (or more!) month stay on the Hawaiian islands.


  3. wow, J. you really ARE living in paradise! someday you'll look back at this post and say holymoly that was a good life!!! gorgeous house! gorgeous island! gorgeous family! gorgeous YOU! try to help your kids embrace the gecko poo. it's not gross. it's part of life and is not dirty like dog poo would be!!! i remember lying in my bedroom in Malaysia watching the cockroaches on the ceiling, hoping they wouldn't fall onto me. over time, i hardly noticed them anymore. they were just one tiny part of living in paradise!! and i LOVED the geckos! they were like pets indoors that i didn't have to take care of! a little broom and dustpan would make short work of their droppings! xoxo

  4. thanks for the house tour, I can picture you there better now! Sounds like you are getting adjusted day by day, and it'll feel like home in no time. We'd love to come and visit you sometime!

  5. Just checked in here and got the house tour! Thanks, looks great. I guess earlier bedtimes will make up for the early mornings, watching the sun rise!
    Cheerio, jb

  6. Living off the grid you say. Good for you. My hubby would want a tour. We've visited a few new homes here in Alberta (Canada) built to live off-grid. Some of them were beautiful... like yours!

  7. Jacqueline, thanks for the time you put into this tour. I feel like we visited you!