Living off-grid doesn’t mean giving up modern conveniences. There are a number of companies that make specialized off-grid appliances, and while they cost a bit more at the start, they’re built to last a lifetime.
Our off-grid cabin has all the modern appliances, and while some are specialized for off-grid use, others are just efficient versions of standard household appliances.
We don’t have an off-grid gas range, and that’s a huge mistake. You don’t really realize how much electricity a modern gas stove uses until you’re off-grid, and you want to bake in the winter time.
Modern gas ovens use special technology that is designed to keep them at a more constant temperature.
They do this by using an absurd amount of electricity in an igniter that continuously turns the stove on and off. Sure, the heat is generated by burning propane, but our “gas” range burns about as much electricity as a countertop plugin electric oven.
Growing up, we had one of those old pilot light gas stoves, and it worked just fine without any electricity. It kills me how much less efficient the new ones are, at least in terms of electricity.
Our kitchen was designed around an old-time wood/gas stove, but the previous owners took it with them when they moved out. We were disappointed, but it didn’t seem like a huge deal at the time.
That’s one of my biggest regrets about this house because it’s hard to find a wood/gas stove. Even if you can find one, it’s even harder to get someone willing to install it.
There is one place up in Maine that refurbishes them, called Bryant Stove and Music (the couple has since retired, and no one else took it on, so they’re permanently closed). We’ve made one visit out, and we’re hoping they get something suitable in stock soon so we can switch our stove out.
Shortly after our trip we called them, and they’re no longer dealing in wood/gas combo stoves simply because there’s no one willing to install them.
We’re now looking at options from Lehmans, which is an outfitter for off-grid households and Amish families. They sell both wood-fired stoves and kerosene stoves.
Ideally, we’d install a large wood-fired stove for winter heat and cooking, and a small kerosene stove nearby for quick summer cooking and coffee without heating the house. Kerosene burns clean, unlike butane and propane camp stoves.
It takes some time to learn how to use a wood cook stove, but they’re simple to use once you get the hang of it.
Refrigerators are by far the most common off-grid appliance, so there are a lot of off-grid grid refrigerator options. There are propane refrigerators for fully off-grid camps and DC electric models that run directly from battery power without an inverter.
DC Electric Refrigerators
If you have any electricity generation capacity, go with a Direct Current (DC) electric fridge. They use almost no electricity since they’re super-insulated and they can run directly from your batteries even if the inverter is down.
We run a Sunfrost RF16, and it’s basically a standard-sized refrigerator/freezer. They’re a bit more expensive than a standard AC refrigerator, but they’re built to last a lifetime.
A while back we were having an issue with ours, so we called the manufacturer for help finding a service tech. He laughed and said we don’t need a service tech, they’re extremely simple machines. He was able to talk me through the issue over the phone in about 5 minutes.
Ours has been running strong for more than 30 years now.
According to sunfrost, “one 100 amp hr 12V deep cycle battery will typically run the Sun Frost RF12 (a bit smaller than ours) for 3 days without recharging.” That’s a pretty small system, and still, it keeps it running.
They also say that 4 hours of sun on one 135 watt panel will keep the fridge running without issue. The only place where that becomes a problem is in far northern states in the winter time.
Living up here in Vermont there’s been plenty of times when we’ve shut the inverter and everything else down, and just let the fridge/freezers run on DC power for days on end. I’m very glad that we have that option instead of a standard AC refrigerator.
If you’re completely off-grid, with no way to generate electricity there are propane refrigerators. They’re not the best way to do it if you have other options.
That said, they do work well for remote cabins with no electricity generation capacity. Lehman’s sells gas-powered refrigerators and freezers if you find that’s the best option for you.
Propane refrigerators are much less efficient, and they use relatively expensive fossil fuels instead of free solar power.
Here’s a comparison of their efficiency: “A 10 cubic foot propane refrigerator will typically consume 1.5 lbs, or .375 gallons, of propane per day. The energy content of 1.5 lbs of propane is 32,250 Btu or about 9485 watt-hours. The Sun Frost RF12 consumes only 24 amps hours a day, which is equivalent to 288-watt-hours a day. That is an astounding 32 times less.” (Source)
With a propane refrigerator, you’re essentially burning something hot to keep something cool…and a lot is lost in the conversion there.
We run two DC electric freezers, and a third large AC freezer in the summertime when the garden crops are coming in.
The DC freezers are hard-wired into our basement, where it stays cool year-round. Both of our DC freezers are 8 cubic foot models made by Sun Danzer.
Our AC freezer is a large 14 cubic foot model, and we use it to store produce and meat harvested on our homestead in the summer months. Once the busy summer season is over, we work through all the food and preserve it in other ways, largely by canning.
The AC freezer can then be off for the winter months when electricity is more scarce.
Before moving off-grid, I’d never had a dishwasher. Now we can pack it and let the sun do our dishes for us while we’re out in the garden.
Our dishwasher isn’t anything special. It’s just an energy-efficient KitchenAid model from more than a decade ago (model #kuds02frbl1).
Believe it or not, running a dishwasher off-grid actually makes a lot of sense. Doing dishes uses up power for a well-pump unless you’re lucky enough to have a gravity well.
By packing the dishwasher in the evening, and then waiting until mid-day the next day to run it, you’re delaying use of electricity to match the supply.
Without a dishwasher, I’d be inside doing dishes on sunny days, rather than out in the garden, and I’ll honestly say it’s by far my favorite way to use our free electricity. In the summer, a dishwasher running midday doesn’t even dent our solar production.
In the wintertime, you can either skip using the dishwasher, or wait for the sun to run it, or just turn it on when you kick on the generator.
Off-Grid Washing Machine
Our electrical system is pretty robust, and we’re able to run a standard washing machine without issue. We have to time our loads to peak generation, but I’m happy with that solution.
Some modern washing machines have an electric water heater built into them, that pre-heats the well water to ensure that the water is at just the right temperature going in.
That’s not a good idea off the grid, as any type of electrical heat takes a lot of juice. There are plenty of models without it though.
If you’re looking for a more “off-grid” solution than a standard washing machine, we also have a small pedal powered washing machine that we use as a backup and when electricity is scarce.
A friend of ours lives in a yurt near us in Vermont and had been very happy with hers for years and she turned us on to them.
There are also a couple of different crank-operated washing machines with great reviews, like this one and this one.
The main benefit of the pedal powered machine is that it both washes and spins out the clothes. Crank operated types don’t spin out the clothes, so you’ll also need a clothes ringer, and those things are incredibly expensive (though built to last generations).
If you go that route, I’d recommend a Calliger Clothes Ringer. They’re a real work horse and will last forever. We have one of those from before we invested in the pedal powered washer.
Off Grid Resources
Looking for more off grid resources to help you make the transition?
- 6 Things I Wish I’d Known Before We Moved Off Grid
- Financing Off Grid Property: Things to Know
- Our Off Grid Solar & Wind Setup Tour
- Maintaining Off Grid Systems in Winter
- 7 Tips for a More Dependable Off Gird System
- Finding Off Grid Homes For Sale
I really enjoyed this post Ashley! I have been wanting to find out about off grid appliances for a while now. The info you gave was very useful!
I see that you don’t mention something very important, which is biodiesel from algae. With that biodiesel, you can have the equipment that uses oil. Water, biodiesel is the most important thing.
Good post thank you. I don’t live off the grid however will look into the DC frig. when we replace ours.
Is this in Portland, Maine, or Portland, Oregon?
The stove store I mention is in Thorndike Maine and we’re in Vermont…so I’m not quite sure what you’re asking…
Nice to see that you still are making and selling these stoves. Where can I buy one?
I’m not making them, I only talk in the article about how we’re planning on installing one. There’s a store in Maine that fixes and sell them, and I link to them in the article.
do you know about gas powered airco?
i am looking for a 24000 BTU powered with propane but cannot find any.
if you have some informations, please let me know
I wish I had an answer for you, but unfortunately, I don’t know of any.
The is are other manufacturers of new wood burning ranges, also. One distributor is Lehmans Hardware, mostly located in Ohio. They primarily cater to the Amish. I’m sure they have a website
Hi Ashley, I use a 1955 Servel Refridgerator I got for free from a fellow cabin owner. It uses no electricity and works great.
If you go to Antique stores you can sometimes find old Wood Cook stoves.. I have 2 one is called a summer oven stove and it has a really small oven and the other is a regular Wood cook stove. Both were given to me so I was lucky. But I know the one cost about $500 for the person who gave it to us. I love wood cook stoves. they not only cook but they will help heat your home. I one day hope to build my dream home and not only will it have my wood cook stoves set up but I will also have a working fireplace for cooking and a baking oven in the side where I can bake bread and pizza’s. I also have a chance to buy a antique gas stove for $50 from a neighbor and hope to use that in my present home. Electricity is so expensive and although we use propane in summer I can use my summer cook stove outside my house,
Interesting post! I’ve been annoyed by the lack of years my last few appliances have lasted. My grandmother gave me her old washer when I got married and it lasted me another 8 or 10 years. I’ve gotten, maybe, 4 to 5 years out of the last 3 washers. They die about the time the warranty is up. Same thing with gas stoves. I had an old avocado color stove and my husband said when it died we could get a new one. I finally got a new one and since that avocado stove died, I’ve had to get a new stove about every 5 years. The stove I have now I bought in October 2016 and it is now saying “Error” and only one side works…ugh. I would love to have that avocado stove again.
I didn’t know about the electrical needs of a modern gas stove, thanks for sharing. I grew up without electricity in the 80s (not because it was trendy- we were just super poor). We didn’t have solar either, so all our appliances were propane- we had a 50’s O’Keefe and Merrit stove that had been converted, and a Servell fridge from like the 30s that had also been converted.
I love the idea of a wood cookstove, not because I live off grid, but for general resilience, but would have no idea how to use one!
Cooking on a wood cook stove is definitely intimidating. When we went out to the shop, they showed us how they work (without a fire) and I was really overwhelmed with how many levers and switches they have. It’s not just like a normal wood stove where you put wood in and burn it. There are adjustments all over the place, at least on the one we were looking at, and I imagine there’s quite the learning curve.
Remember root cellars they work really well with no propane or electricity. Maybe you may need a fridge in the summer when lots of sunlight is available. Thanks for your info it all helps.
Lovely site you have on the digital highway. I reside 15 min south of the VT border (the analog highway!)
If you would find a vintage and safe parlor heater of value, let me know.
Sharing is caring. It’s city gas with a pilot (gotta change the jets for propane) and very thrifty.
It’s was retired and removed from a 1200 sq’ apartment
Electric not necessary. Set the thermostat, that’s it.
I suspect you have solved your cooking stove by now or I would suggest a “gas and gas” stove.
Gas heat with a stove and oven. They are also being retired due to the lack of a piezo ignition.
I wish you well and trust you are acquiring support regionally during your journey.
mf (Adams, Ma)
Do you where to find a pedal powered sewing machine? We had an old pedal powered Singer as a kid. I wish my mother hadn’t given it away! It was a real beauty. I don’t expect to find anything close to it, but I’d love to find a non-electric sewing machine.
I don’t, but if you find one, let me know!
I’ve had success at antique stores and on Facebook Marketplace, craigslist, etc. I did manage to acquire one and I love it.
Lehman’s has a treadle sewing machine and is online.
You can find a treadle sewing machine on Amazon. The cabinets are harder to find, and expensive, but the Amish make one for around $500.
check out estate auctions and flea market areas for a treadle sewing machine. They also make new ones that fit in the old treadle cabinets. I saw a Janome one for sale on Amazon a while back. Just google Treadle sewing machine there are various for sale in a wide range of pricing.
Lehmans in Ohio, also online, carries them brand new.
If you haven’t found a stove yet I will tell you about mine. It is made by Hotpoint and the electronic ignition is run on a 9-volt battery. It cost more but has been well worth it.
As for a treadle sewing machine, they seem to be pretty common here in Oklahoma.
Thanks for the tips, Deb. I’ll have to check them out!
I know this is a pretty old comment, but if you’re still out there I have a question about the oven on your stove. I have a battery start stove also, a GE model, that I’ve had for 7 years and the oven runs waaay too hot. I have adjusted the screw inside the knob to the lowest setting and it still runs a solid 50 degrees too hot. Had a repair guy out years ago and he said there was nothing wrong with it, some of them naturally run hot, that’s just how they make them these days, which to me is total bs and totally unacceptable. But I’ve learned to live and cook with it like that and was wondering what your experience has been with the oven on your battery start stove? Cheers!
Just wondering, when you say “gas Powered” do you mean natural gas (don’t have it here) or propane gas (LP)?
Also, If using wood, it’s kind of expensive, no? Not just the stove itself, but an unlimited supply of cooking wood would cost through the roof??? Also, propane is a bit more reasonable, but still, if you have no access to it, you’re kind of sunk!
Guess I’m thinking of SHTF scenario, which would be best? Wood? Propane? ….?
I do have several ways to cook that are more like “camping” cooking options, just nothing for the house. Also have several non electric washing machines, like the pedal power and two of the spin ones.
Wood could definitely get pricey if you don’t have access to wood on your property. The wood is really beneficial if you have access to wood. I would think that in that scenario, the wood would still be better. You might want to think of ways that you could barter with someone that has access to plenty of wood.
Hi, I really can’t understand why you would go “off grid” and own a dishwasher. We have one that costs nothing much: our hands, some hot water, an eco friendly scrubbing brush made of coconut fibers, a little soap. We have been living aboard sailboats for more than 3 decades, and have found that hand washing clothing etc is fine, and we occasionally take a large item to the local laundromat. A lot more water-efficient than using a washing machine daily. I admit to only raising one child, and he shared in the dish washing chores, but if we want to reduce the amount of drinking quality water we waste, then we need to get rid of the items that cause the largest waste, don’t you think? Best wishes – great recipes on your site – Gay
We installed a 24V DC solar system in our cabin and we’re having difficulty finding a DC-powered ceiling fan, useful in recirculating the wood stove heat. Vari-fan and vari-cyclone are true DC powered but seem to have gone out of business. All other “DC-powered” fans are actually DC motors receiving AC power which we don’t want.
Any ideas, websites or contact would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.
On our off grid system (with AC inverter) we use an induction burner and 1/4size commercial convection oven rather than a stove, plus the wood stove top in the winter. Instead of the kerosene stove you were thinking of for summer, this would use your extra electricity and avoid burning kerosene or propane. THe single induction burners are less than $100 and unbelievably efficient because they don’t heat the stovetop-just the food or water.
Actually, we did indeed get one since I wrote this article. There’s quite the learning curve with them, and they get hot fast! Last summer I burned so many things on it, but eventually got the hang of it. Great for using surplus electricity (and a lot cleaner than kerosene).
Bryant’s In Thondike Me. Closed 2 years ago.
Loved that place, we do have several good stove shop in midcoast Me.
Could you or anyone address using off grid equipment within city limits? I know many city’s have laws regulating many things that off gridders use daily. Things like septic tank systems for one. Also how do you change the laws a city feels it must have to control us.——— I, Grampa
The only advice I can give is to do what you can within the limits that you have in your city. You can certainly try to change the laws by getting more involved in your community or you could relocate to an area that is more off-grid friendly.