| Jul 17, 2019

Back in the ’60s and ’70s, the concept of living ‘off the grid’ was generally the purview of counter-culture types, back-to-the-earthers and such.

However, in this day and age, technology and ingenuity have made the concept attainable for most people and motivations have evolved as well.

And last Thursday, several area residents got to see three examples of what modern off-grid living looks like as Stan and Marily Seitz opened up their home and cottage along with Rick and Debbie Morey. The two couples live at opposite ends of Canonto Lake near Ompah and while their setups differ, their approaches — and motivations for going it alone are remarkably similar.

“The Hydro guy told me, ‘you’re about $120,000 away from our line,” Doug Morey said during his part of the tour.

Stan Seitz told a similar tale.

The Seitz’s have been off-grid for about 40 years. They built their place just up the hill from the cabin her parents have had since 1970.

Marily defers defers to Stan when it comes to explaining how it all works.

“I’m the big picture,” she said. “I said ‘solar would be good.’”

Stan, it would appear, is the the architect of their off-grid existence. He sounds for all world like Star Trek’s Scotty talking about how warp drive works when describing his setup, all the while insisting how simple it really is.

And when it comes down to it, the solar system is relatively simple. Solar panels convert sunlight into DC current electricity. Then you need an inverter system to change that to AC current to run a household and you need some sort of monitoring and control for the whole thing.

The devil, it would seem, is in those details but both Seitz and Morey seem to have it down and while they proudly explain their systems like any enthusiast in almost any pursuit, they continue to extoll the simplicity virtues of their systems.

One of the major variables in the systems is the batteries used to store power. (“The solar panels charge the batteries, which run the lights and appliances,” they both said.)

In the main house, Seitz has batteries of a size you might expect to see on an aircraft carrier. The batteries in the system down at the cabin are more pickup truck size. Morey has similar size batteries, just a lot more of them.

One thing they both agree on is that the roof is no place for solar panels.

“You have to get up there and shovel them off in the winter,” Seitz said.

He did however, move the roof panels he started out with on the main house down to the cabin which isn’t used in winter.

Seitz also has a windmill but it was struck by lighting and is out of action.

“And the company is out of business,” he said.

They seem to be getting along fine without it.

For Morey, wind power isn’t an option.

“We’ve very sheltered here and don’t get enough wind.”

But neither of these operations seem to lack for anything. They have video systems, satellite TV, radios, stereos, plenty of lights.

They do use propane for appliances (fridge, stove, deep freeze, hot water heater) and have wood stoves but microwaves and coffee makers are plugged into the wall.

Other than the fact they’re not hooked up to the electrical grid, they don’t seem to be living life much differently than anybody else.

Except that they’re all ready for a zombie apocalypse.

“When the grid goes down occasionally, our kids would get phone calls from their friends to find our what happened in their favourite TV shows,” Seitz said.

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