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Photos: Living off the grid within Anchorage

Dan and Fulvia Lowe built their energy-efficent Anchorage home with wind and solar power, and are not connected to the Chugach Electric grid. Backup power is provided by batteries and a natural-gas generator. Oct 23, 2013
Loren Holmes photo
Dan and Fulvia Lowe built their energy-efficent Anchorage home with wind and solar power, and are not connected to the Chugach Electric grid. Backup power is provided by batteries and a natural-gas generator. Oct 23, 2013
Loren Holmes photo
Dan and Fulvia Lowe built their energy-efficent Anchorage home with wind and solar power, and are not connected to the Chugach Electric grid. Backup power is provided by batteries and a natural-gas generator. Oct 23, 2013
Loren Holmes photo
The Lowe's vertical-axis wind turbine is quieter than a traditional wind turbine and is better suited to residential applications. Dan and Fulvia Lowe built their energy-efficent Anchorage home with wind and solar power, and are not connected to the Chugach Electric grid. Backup power is provided by batteries and a natural-gas generator. Oct 23, 2013
Loren Holmes photo
The Lowe's vertical-axis wind turbine is quieter than a traditional wind turbine and is better suited to residential applications. Dan and Fulvia Lowe built their energy-efficent Anchorage home with wind and solar power, and are not connected to the Chugach Electric grid. Backup power is provided by batteries and a natural-gas generator. Oct 23, 2013
Loren Holmes photo
The inverter, at right, is a critical component of a renewable energy system, taking direct-current power from the solar array and wind turbine and converting it into alternating current, which goes to the wall outlets inside the home. Dan and Fulvia Lowe built their energy-efficent Anchorage home with wind and solar power, and are not connected to the Chugach Electric grid. Backup power is provided by batteries and a natural-gas generator. Oct 23, 2013
Loren Holmes photo
Batteries, powered by the solar array, wind turbine, and in times of low wind and cloudy skies, a backup natural-gas generator. The Lowes can operate their home for a day and a half on the batteries alone. Oct 23, 2013
Loren Holmes photo
Monitoring systems help the Lowes control the sources of power and see how much power the home uses at any time. Dan and Fulvia Lowe built their energy-efficent Anchorage home with wind and solar power, and are not connected to the Chugach Electric grid. Backup power is provided by batteries and a natural-gas generator. Oct 23, 2013
Loren Holmes photo
A system built into the breaker box lets Dan Lowe monitor his home energy use at anytime, from anywhere, giving him a breakdown by appliance. Dan and Fulvia Lowe built their energy-efficent Anchorage home with wind and solar power, and are not connected to the Chugach Electric grid. Backup power is provided by batteries and a natural-gas generator. Oct 23, 2013
Loren Holmes photo
Part of building an off-grid home is making it as energy-efficent as possible. Here, heat pipes lead to efficient in-floor heating, and an oversize water tank minimizes the time the well pump is operating. Dan and Fulvia Lowe built their energy-efficent Anchorage home with wind and solar power, and are not connected to the Chugach Electric grid. Backup power is provided by batteries and a natural-gas generator. Oct 23, 2013
Loren Holmes photo
Suzanna Caldwell

When it comes to building their dream house, Dan and Fulvia Lowe will tell you it comes down to circumstance.

The couple's 2,000-square foot, two-bedroom, 1.5-bath home is warm and inviting. The European-influenced design means there are high, deeply inset windows and lots of open space. There are cool colors and clean lines that contain sleek, modern appliances. The lighting is kept at modest, but romantic, levels.

And that lighting level might be the giveaway. The Lowes' dream house is Anchorage's first electrical off-grid residence built to municipal code. Instead of connecting in to the local electric utility, the Lowes instead turned to other methods -- mostly renewables including solar and wind -- to heat and power their Hillside home. 

Jack Hébert, director and CEO of the Cold Climate Housing Research Center, said off-grid homes aren't uncommon in Alaska. In Fairbanks, where the research center is based, and rural Alaska, many live off-the-grid out of necessity, cost savings or sheer independence. For some, it's a mix of all three.

Hébert said he didn't know of any other off-grid homes in Anchorage, and noted that what the Lowes are doing deserves attention. Not everyone can go as far off the grid as they have, but there are lessons in how they consume energy that other homeowners should consider.

“What they're doing is a novelty, it may not be something practical that becomes common use,” he said. “But I think some of the things they are doing are something all of us should be interested in.”

Getting there has not been an easy process. For the couple -- both in their early 40s -- it took years of research, dealing with complicated permitting and design, as well as a little bit of luck to finally move into the house in autumn of 2012.

“It all lined up by the skinny hair of our butts,” Dan Lowe said. “But we stayed focused.”

Read more: Challenges no barrier for Anchorage 'off-grid' homebuilders