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Author: Subject: Off Grid Construction: Advice Needed
DBaja
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[*] posted on 2-12-2020 at 12:49 PM
Off Grid Construction: Advice Needed


*Switched my post over for clarity*

Ok, so my build is inching forward! :bounce:

My engineered plans have been updated, permits have been renewed and I'm deciding between a few different local builders to run the job. I'll be heading down in a few weeks to finalize my choice and talk specifics for the build. As always, with the help of this community I have been steered in the right direction! Thank you!

I read this ol' casa, awesome and very informative book. I will refer back to it often. I also read God and Mr Gomez as recommended, also a very good read! My Baja bug is officially out of control! haha. I also have Gringos in Paradise which will be my next reading endeavor.

Like I said, I'll be meeting with my prospective builder in a few weeks to not only finalize my choice of builder/crew, but to also discuss the specifics of my build. In order to do this I would like to be a bit more educated regarding a few things. Please be advised, I have read over what threads I could find on this forum before reaching out. I would really like to further educate myself with everyones newest experiences and opinions.

Side Notes/Reminders: House is in San Juanico and mostly off grid. My home will be an 1800 sq ft, 3bd, 2bath, 2 story vacation home visited seasonally for week long intervals. Eventually it will be lived in for longer durations. Young family of 3, soon to be 4. House has municipal water, no municipal sewage system or power. Septic system is currently a large covered hole in the ground. :!: Not sure if more background is needed, let me know.

HERE ARE MY QUESTIONS

1. I'll start with the septic system. For those of you who are grid what are you running? I don't want to break the bank but I'll definitely be needing a better system soon. Also, I read that septic systems are illegal in baja :?: Im confused

2. Power: Right now the house (first floor) only has junction boxes with the plastic conduit throughout. I plan on going full solar with a backup generator. Recommendations in that dept? A lot to discuss there, I know.

3. Plumbing: I have 3 separate 1,100 L tinacos I can utilize with a very crappy no longer working electric tankless water heater. I would like to do this one right. Tankless or tank? Electric, propane, solar? I saw a sweet 120L rooftop solar water heater that interested me, but I have my doubts. Whats the tried and true trend out there?

4. Off grid appliances: Fridge size/power source (gas/electric). Oven. Microwave (not much to talk about there, other than it being a power hog). Anything else worth mentioning?

5. Heating/cooling: Is a built in heading/cooling system necessary for you guys? If so, what a good route to go? I was thinking about not doing any AC but maybe have a small gas or wood burning stove in the corner of the living room. I plan on having overhead fans in every room. Suggestions?

6. Windows/doors: I keep going back a forth on this one. Import my windows or have them built locally? Dual pane would be nice if I had AC or extreme outside temps. A post here said Milgard has a storefront in Cabo but Milgard is denying any official affiliation if one still exists. As of now I plan on having my doors build locally. Suggestions?


OOOOOK, just in case your head didn't already explode from questions ill stop now.

Thank again everyone!
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tiotomasbcs
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[*] posted on 2-12-2020 at 05:44 PM


Best Resource is Locals in Juanico...they know the skinny!
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advrider
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[*] posted on 2-12-2020 at 07:51 PM


We are off the grid in the US. We run a propane fridge that works really good, I'll see if I can find the brand. It's small but does the job, you might check on some of the 12v cooler fridge/freezers that run on 12v or 110v for cars. We use one in the car and as extra storage at our cabin, we don't travel with out it. ARB or Norcold are both good brands.
Install more batteries then you think you will need. I love wood heat but not sure how available firewood is in Baja?
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chumlee57
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[*] posted on 2-12-2020 at 10:04 PM


ok, I'll give you my scoop, but all these decisions are yours. #1 septic systems are the only viable source of sewer in baja, unless ur in a city, so septic is the norm.
#2 Solar is the greatest ( if you can service it year round ) If not, keep things very simple with a propane generator, a good one with a remote starter. Set things up for solar in the future, your description of time being used yearly at this time dictates a fossil fuel ( get over it ) #3 hot water, you have plenty of otions, I use a typical hot water heater and turn it on only when I need it ( installed in 2008, still works like brand new ) your call tho, i'm good with water on demand here also. #4 for the time you will be using appliances, use the propane generator, it will cost you a little to keep the tank filled, but you will meet and have a good relationship with the propane guys, and more important, you will have less overall grief. That said, set yourself up with basic infrasturucture for future solar, etc., that will be basic conduits, cheap plastic pipe. #5 heating cooling, definatly a fireplace if you have the space, etc., but more important set things up so you have one very insulated bedroom for sleeping with a great air conditioning product, mini -split would be my choice and it would run off the propane generator #6 windows & doors, this is subjective, if you are able and are engaged in the effort, insulated ( dual glazed ) windows and doors are available in mexico, most are segundo's, sold at a number of different locations, Ensenada would be my purchase place. But as I have done, simply bring specific sizes of the windows you need from the states and pay the 16% tax at the border, obviously this is a bit of an effort, but if your living in baja, make the effort. With bringing your own, you also have the sizing, etc., that you prefer...buenos suerte amigo
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wessongroup
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[*] posted on 2-12-2020 at 11:35 PM


Certainly a wealth of information from "real time" folks ... and they share :):)

Good luck with your build ... sounds like fun to me :):)
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advrider
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[*] posted on 2-13-2020 at 07:44 PM


We also run a propane generator that charges the batteries when ever we run it, mostly just to power tools or a blow drier for the girls. I find a propane tank style water heater has done the job for the last 15+ years for us, simple is good. We have a small basic system, no AC needed as we are at 8k feet in the sierras..
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[*] posted on 2-13-2020 at 08:37 PM


Insulate, Insulate, Insulate
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RFClark
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[*] posted on 2-14-2020 at 12:35 AM


We’re between San Felipe & Puertecitos!

1) Lots of insulation! Paint your roof with White Cool roof paint!
2) We have about 4KW of Solar Panels & 10KW of batteries!
3) We bought an efficient 120VAC refrigerator/freezer 8 years ago. Today I’d buy a 24VDC refrigerator/freezer.
4) We have a propane tankless water heater & propane heat.
5) The house is wired for 220 AC as in the States.
6) Separate your Gray water from your toilet just like in an RV. Our part of Mexico uses round 4’ X 5’ deep concrete lined pits for the toilet. Ours is over 20 years old never been pumped out & no problems yet!
7) We have AC use at least 20 SEER Inverter Heat/Cool units! At least in the bedroom so you can sleep at night in the summer! Also saves propane on cold winter days.
8) We use a Propane DC generator for back up. System should be 48VDC today with a 7-10KW inverter.
9) You can use the same appliances as up north, just don’t turn them all on at once!

Our house is 10 years old everything works fine still
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DBaja
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[*] posted on 2-14-2020 at 08:09 AM


Fantastic info, thanks everyone for your contributions so far! Much to consider
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RFClark
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[*] posted on 2-15-2020 at 11:07 AM


Hi All,

I have 12 330W new Solar Panels sitting at my place south of San Felipe l will sell all or part for $2 per watt. Contact me at rclark@intervideo24.com for details.

We’re there now.

Richard
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mjs
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[*] posted on 2-15-2020 at 03:47 PM


Quote: Originally posted by RFClark  
Hi All,

I have 12 330W new Solar Panels sitting at my place south of San Felipe l will sell all or part for $2 per watt. Contact me at rclark@intervideo24.com for details.

We’re there now.

Richard


Hi Richard, $2/watt ($660/panel?) sounds awfully high. New 330 watt panels are substantially less in San Felipe. Are you sure about that price?
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DBaja
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[*] posted on 2-16-2020 at 10:20 AM


Thanks for the offer Clark
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[*] posted on 2-16-2020 at 10:55 AM


Looking forward to seeing some pics!



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BobbyC
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[*] posted on 2-16-2020 at 11:21 AM


Here's a good group to ask:

https://web.facebook.com/groups/BajaOffGrid/
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BajaBlanca
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[*] posted on 2-18-2020 at 04:20 AM


Your build sounds fantastic! We are in La Bocana, on the Pacific side about half way down Baja. One of our neighbors is literally just starting a build, this week, of a 3000 square foot home. Builder from Santa Rosalia but using local helpers...he gave himself a year to put it all together. Going to be a beautiful home!

Welcome to all the newcomers!

I think it is hysterical that you read God and Mr. Gomez before starting construction. Since husband Les has done lots of construction here, trust me, the difficulty is REAL. My recommendation is to be there for every minute they are building to make sure it is up to snuff. Wish you luck and many great moments in your new home.





Come visit La Bocana


https://sites.google.com/view/bajabocanahotel/home

And always remember, life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by those moments that take our breath away.
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DBaja
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[*] posted on 2-18-2020 at 06:20 PM


Thanks, more than anything the books just feed my excitement! Going down in just a few days for more progress :bounce:
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[*] posted on 2-19-2020 at 05:42 AM


We live in a solar powered community in Baja at the moment, the designer uses "inverter motor" appliances, fridge, pool pump, fans, etc which are apparently much more efficient in that they ramp up and down and continue at low rpm when power exists, versus step up/down, on/off. We run the lights, AC, charge electric vehicles etc without a worry and pay no electricity bill! Reduces our stress with visitors or kids who may inadvertently leave lights and fans on and doors open which would otherwise cost a fortune, running AC and fans also reduces humidity.
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[*] posted on 2-20-2020 at 02:38 AM


SMA makes inverters to use your solar and power the house without a battery bank, so, instead of having a massive bank, you can have power for either emergency situations when you are grid tie and the power goes out, or when you only use a little power at night but a lot in the day, apparently you can reduce your bank bank size for an application like yours. https://www.sma-america.com


[Edited on 2-20-2020 by gnukid]
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[*] posted on 2-20-2020 at 01:12 PM


WE built in Centenario (suburb of La Paz) 9 years ago. My only comment is about the tankless water heaters. WE had three installed as it would have been a long run from one end of the house to the other. Good brand Bosch. Because the water pressure fluctuates depending on the pump from the cistern, one minute you could be doing fine in the shower and when the pump turned on you had to jump to avoid being frozen or scalded. The Bosch service came and examined the systems to make sure they were properly installed etc. The pressure tank fluctuates between 40-60 lbs from off to on and the Bosch guy says ok. But, the problem was never solved on any of the three heaters. We replaced with propane heaters and never looked back. The tankless heaters sat outside our gate for three weeks as I thought someone would take them. Finally the trash men took them.

Get the biggest propane tank you can afford particularly if you get a propane generator. They are thirsty if you run them a few hours a day and that cuts down on propane deliveries. You will develop a relationship with the propane guy and if so they come when you ask. Otherwise it's Mexico and sometimes manana means maybe tomorrow.

Like others said-- insulate, insulate. A stove or fireplace is very nice as no matter if it is Mexico some nights are cold.




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[*] posted on 2-23-2020 at 12:04 PM
Seeking Off Grid Advice


Thanks for all the responses in here! We too are building an off grid home on the Pacific coast west of La Paz (Conquista Agraria). As we presently live in Canada, we have very little knowledge almost everything we will need to consider. Presently we are seeking info on sizing a complete solar system for this area. We will have a 2400 sq ft home, with 4 bedrooms and 3 full bathrooms and kitchen fridge, freezer and most all the appliances we use up here in Canada, including microwave and 2 burner induction stove top (110v). In addition we hope to charge at least one, perhaps 2 electric vehicles eventually. We are planning on a 5kw solar panel system to begin and anticipate 12kw eventually. The 5kw is sized for a partial build at around 1400 sq ft 2 bedrooms and 1 bathroom with 2 car garage.

With that in mind and the need for an engineered septic system, are we in the ballpark on sizing the solar system? How many AGM batteries at 48 v would we need given 351 days of solar per year? We have a small 2kw gasoline generator but could enlarge that to 4kw and have looked for Inverters with backup generator supplies.

Any input from experienced off grid owners would be greatly appreciated.
Thanks
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