We’ve had a number of people looking at living off-grid in a one of Cedar Spring Recreation’s Geodesic Dome Range and ask us if they’ll be able to power their new lifestyle with a GridFree kit – the simple answer is absolutely! Adding an off-grid solar power kit to a geodesic dome is as easy as adding it to a cabin or a housebus.
That said, there are two major things to consider that will be different to other installs.
1. Solar panel installation:
For obvious reasons, you can’t install them on your roof! You’ll need to ground mount your solar panels – it’s as simple as installing a solid base, such as groundscrews or wooden posts cemented into the earth, attaching the aluminium ground mount supplied with our kit, and clamping on the solar panels. There are a number of benefits to having a ground mount instead of a roof mount - the panels are easier to access for cleaning and maintenance, and you can position them facing due north (even if your building isn’t!). You will lose a little bit of ground space, as each panel is 1.2mx1.8m, so when space is at a premium some people choose to put them on top of another existing structure such as concrete water tanks. Having them on the ground also puts them at greater risk of being shaded by trees, and any shading can seriously impact your power generation, so make sure they are well away from trees.
2. Electrical components:
It’s important to keep all the other electrical components out of the weather, however we typically recommend keeping them out of your living space. The cooling fan in the inverter is quite overprotective and will start running frequently, even when it doesn’t seem hot, which creates a lot of noise – not so great when you’re trying to sleep. Most customers, especially those living in spaces with less noise insulation such as tents and domes, opt to install their inverter, charge controller, and batteries in a separate building such as a garden shed near the panels. You can then run a regular extension cable and multiboard back out to the living space, or have an electrician run the AC cable into the main switchboard so you can have outlets and lights with the switches on an interior wall in the dome.
So how do you pick the right kit for your dome?
It all depends on what you intend to run, but if you’re just looking at fairly standard power use such as lights, a fan, a fridge, chargers, and energy efficient appliances, here’s a quick guide.
In all instances, there are limits to what you can run on solar power, unless you’re prepared to pay top dollar for a huge kit. Heating, cooking, and water heating are all on our Do Not Run list – so opt for a fire instead of a heatpump to keep your dome warm, dry, and free of mould and mildew. Switching to gas cooking is also an option, but this is best done outside the dome to prevent moisture buildup. There are also things that you won’t use often that shouldn’t be run on solar, such as power tools. We recommend swapping to cordless or getting a generator for this, which will also come in handy during those winter months when your won’t be generating as much power from the sun.