Living off the grid is not just a twenty-first century idea. In the mid-1960s Yancey Bros. Co. introduced the “total energy” concept, which was a one-package system for prime power generation. Several apartment complexes around metropolitan Atlanta switched to Yancey-powered total energy, with engines powered by natural gas driving electric generators.

Total energy was the energy required for lighting, heating, and air conditioning produced by a single plant. The engines and generators themselves were about 33 percent efficient in the creation of electricity—not efficient enough to warrant a switch to a single power source. But the total energy concept reclaimed the heat in the engine’s exhaust and the water jacket and put it to work in direct heating systems and absorption air conditioning units, boosting engine efficiency to 75 percent or more.

When Yancey built its new headquarters in 1971, the company installed engines to generate all of its energy needs for nearly four decades.

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