Thursday, February 7, 2013

Getting Electricity to our Sustainable Cabin

Here's an update on our sustainable cabin progress. 

As I mentioned in a previous post, in an effort to reduce construction costs, we want to build as much of the cabin ourselves as possible. There are many tasks that we can do and have done in the past.  However, there are some areas that should be left to the professionals, like electrical work.  

The most stressful and time consuming project has been getting electricity to the cabin.  Remember, this cabin is off the beaten path, so there are no utilities on the property.

At one point, we actually considered whether or not we really needed electricity.  And the answer is yes, we do.  In this hot part of Texas, we want air conditioning.  Since we cook a lot, we want to freeze/chill food, and we want a dishwasher.  While I don't mind putting clothes on a line to dry, I do want a clothes washer.  We realize that we could live without these items if we had to, but honestly, we think would be more productive if we have electricity.

If we had hired the local electrical co-op company to do the whole job, it would have cost us 15-20K.  That would have taken up a big part of total budget.  Had we gone with solar, we would have spent upwards of 30K and would have continued to spend on it to maintain batteries/replace panels.

So, how do we reduce the cost?  What we decided to do is to take on the manual labor part of bringing electricity to the cabin via the local electrical co-op.  
  • We cleared the path for the poles (meaning renting a bull dozer to clear the trees and cut a road through the path).  
  • We paid the local electrical co-op to install the poles.
  • We found and paid a local electrician to install the meter loop.
  • We trenched and buried the conduit (meaning renting a trencher to dig the paths, procuring the conduit and burying it).
  • We hired the same electrician and crew to procure the wire and pull it through the conduit.
  • The electrician also procured and installed the breaker boxes.
It took longer to do it this way, but this saved us a bundle, and we feel good about working with local small businesses.  

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