Here is an excellent article in Home Power magazine about living off-grid: HP133 p88 Toast Pancakes & Waffles:
“Toast, waffles, or pancakes: Off-grid living means not that we go without the energy that we need, but that we live more in tune with the natural rhythms around us.
“Living well on a small and finite amount of electricity is not mysterious or difficult. It starts with careful adherence to three basic principles:
- Shift inappropriate loads to other forms of energy.
- Reduce waste through efficiency, and increase conservation.
- Use energy in proportion to the amount available.
“All forms of energy are not created equal. Electricity is a specialized, high-quality form that is not suited to all applications but great for some: lights, electronics, and motors, plus a few other specialized uses. By matching the best form of energy to its appropriate use, electricity consumption can be greatly reduced while enhancing comfort and convenience.
“Efficiency is always the first step in reducing consumption. Efficiency expert Amory Lovins of the Rocky Mountain Institute calls this “negawatts”—energy not consumed is energy that does not need to be produced. A good guideline is that for every dollar spent on upgrading efficiency, about $3 to $5 can be saved on PV system costs.
Update 6/12/2113 — thanks to Tim O’neill. Add links to freezer to refrigerator conversion how-to. Following up on the above quote that “…energy not consumed is energy that does not need to be produced.” here is a cool [no pun] idea for how to convert a chest type freezer to a refrigerator. It saves energy because (1) freezers are better insulated, and (2) the cold air doesn’t fall out of the top-opening box when the lid is opened. Simply plug it into a thermostat set at a higher internal temperature (lower delta tee) so it doesn’t run as often.