9 Must-Have Off-Grid Appliances for Your Cabin
Equip your cabin or second home with these must-have off-grid appliances, ideal for making "roughing it" just a little more comfortable.
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Power Sources for Off-Grid Appliances
If you’re thinking about building an off-grid second home or cabin as a rustic getaway, you probably don’t expect it to have all the comforts of your primary home. But, living off-grid doesn’t mean you have to give up every modern convenience. A number of different power sources permit you to run basic household appliances without having to connect to a municipal power grid.
Practical power sources for off-grid appliances include:
- Gas-powered generator. This power source may be the simplest option, but gas-powered generators are noisy and they smell bad. They also emit carbon monoxide, so make sure there’s no way the fumes can enter your home. And, make sure you don’t run out of gas!
- Propane tank. Propane is a good option when renewable sources (like sun or wind) let you down or aren’t viable in your location. If you’ll be relying on propane, you can have a stationary tank installed and filled by a propane delivery service. If you don’t have a stationary tank, you’ll have to haul heavy portable tanks back and forth.
- Solar panels. If your cabin is in a spot that gets a lot of sun, solar power might be your solution. The size of the photovoltaic system you need depends on how many kilowatts you require. The initial cost is high but afterward, solar is a green, virtually cost-free solution.
- Hydroelectric power. If you’ve got some fast-moving water with sufficient “head” (vertical drop) on your property, you may be able to harness some of that energy to create hydroelectric power — not unlike old-fashioned watermills. Like solar, a hydroelectric system can be a big investment, but it allows you to store energy for when you need it.
- Wind turbine. If your rural getaway is in a windy location, a wind turbine system is another green option — although also costly at the outset. According to the U.S. Department of Energy’s website, a turbine needs an average annual wind speed of 9 mph for a turbine to be a practical option for your home. Wind also needs to be “clean” for a turbine to work, with the air moving in a fairly consistent direction. “Dirty wind” moves erratically in multiple directions and doesn’t work well for harnessing electricity.
Solar, hydroelectric and wind-generated power is stored in batteries to which off-grid appliances can be connected.
The array of off-grid refrigerators includes everything from portable solar coolers to conventional fridge/freezer combos that may run on generators or solar power. Some operate with a combination of solar, generator or DC (direct current) power, like that of a solar, wind or hydroelectric battery, with the generator as a backup when the weather is overcast for extended periods of time. Solar-powered options usually require that you have a solar system in place, although some models are sold together with a solar panel large enough to power the fridge.
Commonly used in RVs, propane refrigerators are another option. Anything resembling a full-size fridge and freezer combo is a significant investment for your off-grid cabin, but worthwhile if you plan to spend long periods of time there or host a crowd.
Off-Grid Water Heater
Like their conventional counterparts, tankless propane water heaters use the least amount of energy, because they only heat water when the tap is opened. A greener option is a solar water heater that’s powered by roof panels. But these have their drawbacks: They’re weather-dependent, so no sunshine means no hot water. And, once the hot water supply is depleted, you have to wait for nature to do its thing and heat up more water — a major drawback when you want a hot shower at the end of the day and someone else used up all the hot water!
If you want to keep it simple and inexpensive, a portable two-burner propane-powered stove is an easy option for your off-grid cabin. Available models can be powered by propane, butane cartridges, or both. For something more substantial, you can go with a full-size stove and oven powered by propane. Or, to go even further off-grid, opt for a solid surface griddle that can sit right over your barbecue grill and allow you to cook pancakes and other foods that can’t normally be cooked on a grill.
To invest in something that really becomes the centerpiece of your cabin, consider an old-style cast iron cook stove. Powered by wood, this beauty also helps heat your home — a welcomed bonus in cold climates.
For short-term freezer needs at your off-grid cabin, consider a cooler-size, portable freezer that hooks up to a 12-volt DC current car battery or your solar, wind or hydroelectric system’s storage batteries. It can be used as a fridge, too, depending on how cold you set the temperature. For longer-term use, like if you’re going to be in your cabin for weeks and want to freeze fresh-caught game or other perishables, consider this larger option, also powered by a 12-volt DC current.
The barbecue grill is the original off-grid cooking appliance, so for outdoor cooking at your off-grid cabin, you have plenty of options. The Home Depot sells dozens of grills and smokers that are fired with wood pellets. If you don’t want to haul bags of pellets or charcoal out to your retreat, you can grill out the old-fashioned way by making your own charcoal using hardwood firewood and a cast iron grate set over some bricks! Or, maybe a basic charcoal or propane grill will feel a little less like you’re roughing it.
Off-Grid Laundry Options
Doing your laundry off-grid doesn’t have to involve hauling an antique washboard down to the nearest stream. Use a portable washing machine. One option is this completely manually operated clothes washer, which is great for cranking out — literally! — small batches of laundry. For larger loads and less elbow grease, consider a dual washer-spinner that can run off a portable solar generator or a solar battery. The spinner section spins most of the water out of your just-washed clothes, greatly reducing line-drying time.
Wood-Fired Hot Tub
Okay, so it might not be an essential appliance for your off-grid cabin, but a wood-fired cedar hot tub will make those chilly nights a lot more fun! These hot tubs from Redwood Outdoors can be DIY assembled, and heat water to a toasty 105 F in two to four hours. What better way to enjoy a clear, starry night at your rural retreat?
Portable Pizza Oven
We’re partial to pizza ovens, and the availability of portable models means you can take your oven with you when you visit your off-grid cabin. Several types, including the Ooni Fyra, are fueled by pellets, meaning no propane or natural gas is required. Ooni sells tote bags for its ovens, making them even easier to pack up for a weekend at the cabin.
Off-Grid Slow Cooker
Off-grid living doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a hearty meal. This slow cooker is powered by a 12-volt DC current, so it will run off the batteries attached to your off-grid power system. It makes it easy to enjoy soups, roasts and stews without standing over the stove for hours — because that’s probably not your idea of a vacation getaway.
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