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The Premise: If you’ve spent any time perusing blogs and online forums regarding off-grid living, you’ve no doubt stumbled upon Off-Grid-Geek.com, and even though they only offer a scant 75 articles posted over the last five years, husband-and-wife writing team Alan and Arlene Fiebig tackle all things off-grid from generators and solar panels to beekeeping and homemade canned soup. Their first-person writing style is engaging, unimposing, sympathetic, and easily accessible.
The book before you is an extension of their experiences and blog, albeit a condensed, focused, and deliberately designed extension … but it reflects their style, passion, energy, and skills as experts in the field of off-grid energy production.
The 411: Readers have followed their electrical adventures since 2012 when the Fiebigs stepped away from the grid and began sharing the pros and cons of living in the Wisconsin wilderness, miles from a connected electrical source. Through thick and thin, successes and failures, they’ve relied on Arlene’s knowledge as a mechanical engineer, and Alan’s creative out-of-the-box solutions to off-grid conundrums.
The Verdict: Much like their blog, this book reads easy with a light, folksy charm that’s reminiscent of the farm reports in a small Midwest newspaper, ones sprinkled with wit and regional, cheeky humor. But don’t let that rustic unpretentiousness fool you: If you know very little about electricity, alternative power sources, or how you can be less reliant on the power grid (and want to), this book delivers. And the Fiebigs know what they’re talking about. They’re not an Instafamous couple fresh out of the of an air-conditioned Newport Beach condo pretending to live off-grid; they live this lifestyle every day and spent the last few years succeeding at providing clean, renewable energy for their mountain retreat.
The first few pages sets a fictional grid-failure scene, but it’s best skipped, while the introduction sets the tone for the rest of the book and provides the reader with a key understanding: “We hope to help you bypass some of the beginner steps we took along the way as we learned and refined our system,” writes the duo. “We have learned from our mistakes, and you can too!”
Though they discuss generators and batteries at length, the real focus of the book is how to set up a productive solar power system based on their own experiences. The first four chapters define the terms, the equipment, the possible power sources, and tell a great deal about how electricity works and what you can expect. This is great for a beginner, but the real thrust of the book doesn’t punch in until part two where solar energy is finally discussed.
The first 50 pages are a necessary requirement to educate the neophyte regarding electricity, but a more technically detailed book would have relegated these pages to a tenth of the space. That said, some of the charm of this book — how to create electricity via pedal power and how you should really change your lifestyle if you want to leave the grid — would be lost.
Most important, the book offers projects and solutions that are attainable, concepts practical, and procedures feasible for entry-level preppers. If you don’t know the technical aspects of a solar panel system or how batteries in a series function, for example, the Fiebigs provide this information in a way that’s easily understood.
The book’s largest flaw is something that cannot be helped. Read this book now; buy and install the gear today; get your off-grid solar system online as quickly as possible, because Prepper’s Total Grid Failure Handbook has a shelf life. Sure, the concepts of electricity, solar power, how batteries work and are wired together are timeless, but the equipment displayed in these pages — solar panels, charge converters, cables, batteries — will be outdated soon, replaced by updated gear with perhaps different parameters and specifications.
Overall, it’s a manual for beginners looking to set up a solar panel system at their home or bug-out shelter. It goes to great lengths to make the reader comfortable with complex concepts, while at the same time, covering a great deal of useful information with very little waste.
|Novel & Author||Prepper’s Total Grid Failure Handbook|
Alan Fiebig and Arlene Fiebig