East Texan escapes city for life off the grid

When you think of living off the grid, what comes to mind? It's a foreign idea to so many of us who rely on conventional electricity in our daily lives.

WOOD COUNTY - Imagine having electricity and not having to pay for it.

It’s a reality for Todd Wright, who lives about 7 miles north of Quitman.

“This place has just been my dream all my life,” Wright said.

Todd was born in Wood County but would eventually end up in the Houston area, where he lived most recently.

“In the city you had people that come by in their cars with big woofers, rattling your windows and neighbors that are having parties late at night and trying to get to the store and have a traffic jam,” he said.

Years of that brought a growing sense of nostalgia for the simplicity Todd knew before. Thus, when a chance for early retirement presented itself, Todd said it opened a door to move back where it all began.

He spent more than a year look and listening for the right piece of land.

“I don’t know how many places we went to,” Todd said. “We got out of the car here and I said ‘just be quiet’…. And I said ‘this is it!’”

It’s a 17-acre space filled with trees, off the beaten path, with plenty of room for the house and front porch he dreamed of.

He not only lives the peaceful life he once dreamed of, but Todd truly lives off the grid.

“If you go into my house you’d never know I’m off the grid,” Wright said. “I have propane for heating and solar panels for electricity.”

And he has the same amenities as most everyone else – air conditioning, WIFi and TV.

“When i first bought the land, I just assumed everybody gets power,” Wright explained. “It was going to be such a problem getting the electricity here.”

Todd said it would have cost $40,000 to run power lines to the site for his new house, which sparked his interest in an alternative.

His system includes solar panels, a battery bank and a backup propane generator.

Once the sunlight is converted into electricity, it travels two places – the batteries and an inverter.

The inverter delivers power to Todd’s house much like the grid would.

Meanwhile, the battery bank acts as backup.

Dale Beggs, owner of GreenLife Technologies in Lindale, installed Todd’s off-grid system. It’s a system he says will pay for itself.

“In the long run if you buy a solar energy system you’ll spend less for your electricity than if you have conventional electricity,” he said. “There’s an initial cost but after a few years, you have it paid for.”

Beggs said the most common and most affordable solar power option is a grid-tie system, which uses energy from the electric grid when the sun cannot provide enough power.

He said GreenLife has installed an increasing number of systems – primarily grid-tie – in the seven years the company has been in business.

One incentive for customers is the tax credit they can receive for buying a solar energy system. They can receive a credit in the year it was purchased worth 30% of the cost.

Now, several years after adopting this power method, Wright said there is no going back.

“If I had the opportunity to have electricity without being charged to hook it up, I would say ‘no.’ I would stick with this. Sometimes when things don’t go the way you want ‘em to it ends up being better. Just the way it was meant to be I guess.”

After all, Todd spent years dreaming of the life he now has.

“I’m living my dream.”

It just so happens, he’s living it off the grid.

Click here for information on how you can save energy in your home.

(© 2016 KYTX)


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