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No power lines needed for off-grid home in Lynn Mountain

Matthew Harrison is busy gearing up for another syrup-making season at Hidden Mountain Maple Farms, which is located off of the Lynn Mountain Road near Springhill. The home and sugar camp are powered by solar and propane.
Matthew Harrison is busy gearing up for another syrup-making season at Hidden Mountain Maple Farms, which is located off of the Lynn Mountain Road near Springhill. The home and sugar camp are powered by solar and propane. - Dave Mathieson

LYNN MOUNTAIN, N.S. – If you think living off-grid would be way too difficult, think again.

“Our house is two and a half kilometres off the main road, and the nearest power line is about seven-and-a-half kilometres away,” said Matthew Harrison.

Harrison, his wife Bonnie, and their three kids, ages seven, four, and three-months, live year-round at Hidden Mountain Maple Farms, which is two and half kilometres off the Lynn Mountain Road near Springhill.

“It was just going to be a sugar camp at the time, and the wife decided we should just stay here year-round because I’m here a lot in the wintertime,” said Harrison. “It’s nice and peaceful, we’re on our own land, and the kids can go out and play when they want and do what they want.”

The Harrisons have taps and lines running from 13,000 maple trees, producing syrup, maple cream and butter, maple fudge and maple sugar.

Matthew and Bonnie started building the home about 10 years ago, and built about 80 per cent of it themselves.

“We’ve lived here six years now. We put in our sixth Christmas this year,” said Harrison.

When deciding how to power the house, a combination of solar and propane was the best option.

“It would have cost $350,000 to get the power line in here,” said Harrison. “It cost $12,000 for the solar system, and I got an agricultural grant from the maple industry that covered 50 per cent of that cost.”

There are 18 solar panels in a field beside the home, which produce 245 watts per-panel, with the entire array producing 4,410 watts.

The solar panels charge 12 Rolls batteries, which are produced by the Surrette Battery Company in Springhill.

Harrison says Surrette Batteries have a good reputation throughout the world.

“I called California because I needed a breaker, and I was curious about batteries and what they would recommend,” said Harrison. “They said the best batteries on the market are Surrette batteries, which was kind of neat to know.”

Those 12 batteries provide electricity for the lights, electrical outlets, and some appliances for the home, which is 3,000 square-feet on the main floor and 2,300 square-feet upstairs.

“I have a fridge for my maple products and a deep freeze for my maple products, and then we have our house fridge and house deep freeze as well.”

The breaker switch will switch off if you’re not careful.

“When the microwave is on you don’t vacuum, or when the vacuum is on you don’t microwave, or you’ll pop a breaker,” said Harrison.

Other appliances, such as the stove-top, the oven, and the dryer run off of propane.

The home has a fireplace but, propane also helps heat the home and the hot water as well.

“We go through about 400 litres of propane a month in the winter but in the summertime, after the May 1, we might see the truck once until October, and it’s only a couple hundred litres.”

Harrison also has a generator to help power the batteries.

“If there’s not enough solar the generator takes over. It only takes a couple hours for the generator to get the batteries charged.’

He’s is currently thinking of installing a water turbine.

“I’m researching it. That will take the demand off the generator.”

Installing an off-grid source of energy was a relatively new concept six years ago.

“My wife’s father is a retired electrical engineer. He took my books and researched it for a month, and we hooked it up in a day and a half.”

Harrison says new battery and solar technology makes living off-grid easier than ever before.

“We were kind of skeptical at first but we figured we we’re here, we’re going to try it, and we’re going to make it work, and so far, so good.”

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