(02/27/14) - For the past 30 years, a Mid-Michigan man hasn't received a bill from Consumers Energy or any other utility company. He's almost totally energy self-reliant.
When Don Dunklee built a house in Genesee County's Richfield Township, he decided Consumers Energy was going to charge too much to connect it to the grid. So he did his homework.
He learned that with a couple of wind turbines and a bank of solar panels, he could supply the electricity his household needs. Some of his solar panels were used in a giant solar array years ago in California.
His refrigerator, tankless water heater and cook stove run on propane.
It helps that the base of his house is a few feet below ground level. That lessens the need for heat in the winter and keeps it cooler in the summer.
On windy days like Thursday, the electricity is stored in a series of golf cart batteries stored underground in his energy management shed.
With careful planning, he and his family can go three to five days using the batteries to power the TV, computer and lights.
He realizes living like this isn't for everyone, but having no bill from Consumers Energy is satisfying.
There are plenty of trees on his property, so he's twice warmed by the wood. Once when he cuts it and then when he burns it. A wood stove in the middle of the house is the primary source of heat.
"It's more than sufficient. You just have to cut more wood when it's a little colder and run the wood burner a little warmer. Some night it's too warm upstairs. We sleep upstairs. Heat rises. It's a natural way to combine the two," Dunklee said.
Dunklee says usually he burns two cords of wood in a winter. This year, he'll probably burn three cords.
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