As our cities get bigger, our jobs arduous and our bills ever higher, living a self-sufficient life has become a dream for many. But what does it take to make that dream a reality in 2019? In this article we find out.
The off-grid dream for some is to get a cabin in the woods, growing your own food and calling it a day when the sun goes down. For most however, it’s simply about breaking the cycle of working to pay the ever-increasing bills that come in every month.
Whatever the dream however, much of the considerations are the same.
TV, internet and your phone
Let’s start with a simple one. Your TV, your internet and your phone. Some would argue that life before the always-connected internet state we’re in, was actually better, but many appreciate their line to the outside world and for others it’s critical for a job.
That doesn’t mean you can’t disconnect from the grid though. Mobile data is better than ever and we’re on the verge of a 5G revolution which will connect a much larger portion of the population to much faster internet. In fact, 5G is one of the main arguments being used by opponents of the NBN.
5G is an evolution of the current mobile phone network, promising significantly faster data, more reliable connections and lower energy consumption. These faster and more reliable connections make watching TV over your wireless internet connection a real possibility.
That’s TV, internet and your phone services all over one data connection. Not only reducing the number of cables running to your house, but also reducing the number of bills you receive.
If you wanted to, you could even take it one step further and move to a prepaid plan instead of a contract. Paying only for the services when you’re actually using them. And who knows, you might be loving the off-grid lifestyle so much you never actually do use them!
Water and sewage
Something a little bit more important than being able to watch Married At First Sight is your water supply, and what happens with that water after you’re done.
Truth is, if you already have a connection to the grid, cancelling your connections is usually not worth it. Both from a creature comforts and a financial perspective.
Let’s look at water supply for example. Most homes nowadays have a rainwater tank that complements their existing supply from the grid. In almost all situations those tanks are used for watering the plants and flushing the toilets. The reason for that is simple: it’s cheap.
You can get a water tank from Bunnings, hook it up to your gutters and reduce your water bill by using the rainwater that falls on your roof.
It becomes a lot more difficult when you want to use the water to clean yourself with, or even drink it. You’ll be looking at significantly larger water tank for example, because a toilet flush is actually only a small portion of the water we use. On average we use 340 liters of water per person, so two people would drain one of those regular rainwater tanks in less than 3 days!
But not only that, you will also need to get pumps and filters to clean the water and pump it through the house.
Not only is that expensive, it takes up space! The recommendation for a 4-person family in Victoria is 135,000 litres for example. That’s a tank 2 meters tall with a diameter of 9 meters, taking up more than 60m2 of your garden. And that’s assuming you can even fill a tank like that, because it needs a surface area of around 200m2 feeding into it to maintain it.
For most people who live in more urban areas, that’s just not possible. The same applies to sewage. If you have a fair bit of land, a septic tank isn’t that bad, but most people with neighbours a couple of meters away prefer to just stick with a regular sewer.
That doesn’t mean you can’t reduce your dependency on the grid however. There are rainwater tanks that fit in the crawlspace of your home or even tanks that can be dug into your garden, out of sight and out of mind. Giving you peace of mind that you have access to your own water supply during a drought for example.
This is an easy one. We all have a barbecue, which is basically an outdoor stove that runs on a bottle. Plenty of people run their indoor stove from a bottle too. A gas fitter can easily make the required changes to your home to be able to run off bottles for both the stove and the water heater. All you need to do is refill the bottles every now and again.
If you want to take it one step further however, you can choose to swap out your stove and water heater for electric ones. Many newer homes don’t even come with gas appliances anymore, because builders and architects realise that there’s no need. Because while it’s true that electric heating is less efficient than gas, a simple calculation shows that in many cases the cost for the lower efficiency is offset by the fact that you no longer have to pay connection fees or a supply charge for gas.
If you own your home, cancelling your gas plan is almost a no-brainer.
Something that is also a no-brainer is electricity, but unlike gas it’s not that straightforward. There’s a bit of a calculation involved, because from a financial perspective it doesn’t always make sense to switch over to renewables completely.
If you take a look at your energy bill, you will see that it’s made up out of two parts. One is for all the kilowatt hours you use, the other is for how much the energy company charges you to deliver that energy to your house.
If you’re pretty energy conscious, you’ll notice that in many cases the biggest cost on your bill is actually how much your energy company charges you for delivery of your energy. You have no influence on this number and it’s actually the biggest reason why your energy bill are always going up.
But before you give your supplier a call to let them know what you think about that, think about the options you have.
Solar power is great. We’re helping Australian families with buying and installing solar power for a reason. But that doesn’t mean there’s no limitations. Solar power – as the name suggests – requires sun. And unfortunately, the time that there’s the most sun, most of us are at work.
Batteries are a great opportunity here, but require a significant investment that doesn’t always make sense from a financial perspective. That’s why, for many households, it’s still more efficient to just pay the supply charge bill than it is to purchase batteries.
That doesn’t mean you can’t take back some control over your energy bill. The energy your solar power system generates during the day doesn’t go to waste, but is bought back by the energy companies. Significantly offsetting your energy bill and in many cases even reducing your energy bill to zero. All while still enjoying the safety of knowing that you’re connected to the grid when it’s important.
And it makes even more sense when you are using your energy throughout the day. Think working from home, stay at home parents or retirees. Instead of paying for electricity, you simply generate it yourself and sell what you don’t need back to the energy companies.
Whatever way you choose to go, from a cabin in the woods, to simply getting solar installed, there are ways to live the dream of being more self-sufficient and reducing your bills. If you would like to know more about how batteries can be used in combination with a solar panels, click here.
If you would like to know how much you can save with solar power, we can help you with that too. Give us a call on 1300 765 502, talk to our chatbot or request a couple of quotes from www.solarpowerco.com.au.