Living and working off-grid

Craig Timmerman decided to pull the plug in 2020. While moving his business, which includes two radio stations, to an 84-acre parcel of land he owns in Little Current, Northern Ontario, the province’s electric utility quoted him $80,000 to get connected – even though the nearest electric pole was just across the street.

For a man who has always been interested in the idea of going off-grid, that’s all he needed to take the plunge. And in his case, solar and propane were the perfect solution.

“The first and most important thing is to look at your energy needs,” he says. “I did our power calculation: five staff, hot water tank, heating system, etc., right down to a coffee maker…then we need a heating source, so it made sense to go with propane.

“When I looked at all the different heating systems, I found that propane is hands down the most efficient.” Solar-generated electricity runs the air conditioning in summer.

In the end, he says it’s all about the math. “Hydro One wanted $80,000 just to install power and then $400-$500 per month for the rest of my life.” With a background in electrical engineering, Timmerman did the installations himself. He spent $23,000 for off-grid equipment. The heating system and hot water tank cost around $10,000.

“And now there’s no monthly cost for electricity. It’s 100 per cent free.” He has a generator in case of emergency.

The system has been amazingly reliable,” he says. “Even on cloudy days we are producing electricity.”

The house the Timmermans are now building at the same site will run exclusively on propane. He wanted propane appliances due to their efficiency.

“A propane cooking stove is the best cooking appliance…The heat is continuous, it’s instant. It just works so well.”