A casual environmentalist and a hard headed realist – I switched to off grid living when it became clear I was not going to survive without electricity and running water. Living just outside the city, we were facing a bill of about $85k to connect to the national power grid, including transformers, step down equipment, power poles and copper cables.
What does being off grid entail – Produce your own home, your own power, your own water. Mostly renewable, and you may not even need to shop for groceries anymore, if you treat your dirt right. Off grid living is self-sufficient, without reliance on one or more public utilities.
In my off grid world, I am autonomous. I don’t rely on municipal water supply, sewer, electrical or other utility services. I still buy gas from the petrol stations, but am working on the production of gas and heating from chicken and cow dung, a project that will soon manifest marvelously. With the exception of gas, which I still currently buy, I live in a self-designed, passive solar earth house, with a hand dug borehole as well as rain water harvesting and storage for water. I compost waste and I pay nothing for utilities.
We are powered by 4 200-watt solar panels, a solar tracker and an off-grid battery bank. These will power a refrigerator, a freezer, two laptop computers, two LCD television and DVD player, satellite TV and Internet, a washing machine, and a kitchen fully stocked with appliances.
Air conditioning is a major energy hog, but if you build in cooling panels into the walls of your house at design stage, you can get a house that is automatically cooled right through the walls. For heating, we would rely on a combination of solar heating and methane digestion to produce heat and some energy. The more the solar panels you have the easier life will be because you can use appliances that might have been too energy-intensive otherwise.
Batteries store power for use at night. We use large, deep-cycle, lead-acid batteries which we monitor regularly for state of charge, preferring to have it not fall below 50%.
Our hybrid inverter takes charge directly from the solar panels. However, in the dark days of the rainy season, we can also charge our batteries using a generator.
Do you want to try off grid living
Off grid living requires something of a culture change. While you’re currently used to AC living, you now need to get used to DC living. What will that entail. Check out next edition for some tips…