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Living Off-Grid

Independence from dependency on public utilities is making off-grid life appealing. Those who have been living off the grid for a long time have learned to be self-sufficient and make the most of natural resources to meet their daily requirements. Living off the grid is a great way for many individuals to save money and live simpler, more sustainable lifestyles.

When you live off the grid, you'll be in charge of your food, housing, water, and electricity. This off-grid life may be a dream come true for individuals with a pioneer spirit. In this article, we'll go into detail on what living off the grid entails.

Is It Unlawful In Australia To Live Off The Grid?

Living off the grid is not a crime in Australia. It is quite conceivable for a homemaker to function on the national energy grid. Whether they live in a small mobile home or a self-sufficient home on a piece of land, living off the grid in Australia's most isolated areas can be a simpler and smarter option. Meanwhile, living off the grid in a populated region comes with its own set of issues, such as the need to be linked to runoff and sewage infrastructure.

Why Is Living Off The Grid So Popular?

Off-grid living has become very popular in Australia in the last decade or two. If you wish to move to this way of life, there might be a lot of initial fees, but the rewards are large after you've settled in. According to those who have tried it, switching to an off-grid home may pay for itself in about three to five years.

When you consider the benefits of having control over your utilities, better food options, being energy efficient, and easier access to the technologies that make it workable, living off the grid has become a reality for many Australians.

Types Of Off-Grid Energy Systems

The range of independent power alternatives accessible today is one of the most essential aspects. It makes off-grid life conceivable. Even city dwellers will find them simple to integrate and use. Two of the most popular power sources are as follows:

Solar energy

For many Australians, solar energy is the off-grid solution of choice since it is one of the most popular forms of sustainable energy. It's an easy and cheap energy source to transition to, with big businesses like Tesla manufacturing Powerwall batteries for households.

Wind energy

Wind energy is ideal for open areas remote from cities since it may generate a lot of electricity. Excess electricity is stored because many off-grid systems contain a backup battery or two.

The Basics Of How To Go Off The Grid

Obtain property

If you do not own any land and do not have a home that you would like to convert to off-grid living, you must first find a location that suits you. However, you must buy land with natural resources, including sunlight, wildlife, a reliable water source, and natural fuel.

Once you have a piece of land, you can choose to build an off-grid home from scratch or buy land with a house that you can convert to off-grid living. And if you already have a home in a location suitable for off-grid living, you simply have to make modifications and rehabilitate it into an off-grid home.

A cabin, classic wood-frame home, cob house, strawbale home, tiny house, an Earthship, or even a yurt, which is essentially a large tent in the shape of an octagon, are all options from which you can choose your off-grid home.

Note: Rehabilitating your existing home is more viable if you only need to make a few modifications (i.e., add sustainable features or make it more eco-friendly).

You can also join one of the existing communities that live off the grid to guarantee that you still have connections with people. All you have to do is carry out an extensive internet search on off-grid communities worldwide and find one near you or in an area that you'd like to settle in.

Acquire the necessary permits

Australians who have chosen to live off the grid have not completely shut themselves off from civilisation. They simply decided to live their lives without the anxieties and expanses of conventional city living. To begin living off the grid, you may need to get planning and council approval to build a new home. Some off-grid specialists recommend securing land that does not require building or living permits.

However, when you consider you and your family, the alternative of securing land where permits are not necessary isn't always workable. The regions where permits are not required are isolated, meaning they are far from towns, schools, and others. The further your property is from civilisation, the less likely you are to need permission for off-grid living.

Generating energy and sourcing food

When you live off-grid, you provide your own electricity, food, water, shelter, and protection for your homestead. This entails growing your food, heating and cooling your home on your own, and getting rid of your own waste and power generation from renewable sources. This is why you need to be very selective and purchase a piece of land with natural resources for your use.

Installing a solar panel or employing generators and storage batteries can guarantee power generation. There is no need to be concerned about the price. The total cost of installing solar panels continues to fall as technology advances. As mentioned before, wind energy is another excellent green power choice.

This is especially handy if you are located outside of cities and in open areas. Wind energy can generate a large amount of electricity. As a plus, you can even store surplus energy. Power may be stored since off-grid systems often include another battery storage that stores energy for later uses.

When the weather turns gloomy, or you experience a mechanical problem with your solar panels, having a backup is essential! You could install a mini-hydropower turbine as a backup system if you live near a creek. You could also have a wind turbine installed near your home as an alternative. Simply consult renewable energy companies near you about your choices.

Sourcing water

Building a well or living near a water system makes it possible to source your water. If you get your water from a natural stream or lake, keep in mind that you will need to filter it. You can apply one of the various water filtration techniques available to accomplish this. Moreover, you also need a water collection system.

This could be as straightforward as a rain barrel attached to your home's gutter or as complex as a cistern water collecting system that gathers all of the precipitation from your roof. You should also have a storage tank whose capacity is around twenty gallons. Before you go off the grid, make sure you can sustain both yourself and your household without relying on civilisation or a neighbouring metropolis.

Availability of hot water

Depending on where you live, having a reliable source of hot water will become an essential element of your daily routine. According to the (DCE) Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, heating water is the second-largest energy end-use in Australia's residential sector. Therefore, you must decide on a sustainable means of heating water while creating your off-grid homestead.

Although there are various methods for meeting your hot water demands, a solar heating system is the most practical. It is also a long-term option for an off-grid house. As the name implies, a solar heating system absorbs energy from the sun and utilises it to heat water. Solar heating systems with evacuated tubes efficiently collect energy because of their cylindrical design, which allows them to track the sun for extended periods.

With this setup, you can also utilise wood stoves and install larger kettles to heat as much water as needed. Consider installing a cast-iron bathtub that retains the water's heat and transfers it to the bathroom floor for optimal efficiency. Having such an integrated system can lower your off-grid home's energy usage and carbon impact. It can also provide central heating and cater to your cooking needs.

Waste control

To go off the grid, you must be able to deal with all your waste, notably sewage. Because living off-grid means not relying on the government or public utilities, your home is unlikely to be connected to any main sewer line. The fact that you are no longer connected to the sewer line means that you must be capable of handling your waste.

You should also consider other wastes, such as food waste and general garbage, so composting and recycling become necessary for off-grid living. Waste control is vital in off-grid living because a lack of a proper waste management system increases the risk of disease and illness for you and your family.

Off-Grid Living Options

People prefer to live off the grid for a variety of reasons. These reasons include:

  • To save money
  • To promote environmental sustainability
  • The need to be self-sufficient
  • For independence and freedom
  • To minimise one's consumption and waste
  • A preference for communal living
  • To connect with nature
  • To connect with the old ways
  • To achieve a work and play balance

Living off the grid might be a good choice in whatever case if you are in search of a drastic lifestyle shift. The following are the most prevalent methods for living off the grid.

Getting by

Also referred to as roughing it, getting by is living off the grid without relying on the government for power, water, gas, or septic. This is the cheapest choice, but it demands that you make significant lifestyle adjustments. If you go with this option, you'll have to build a modest home on a piece of land, like a wood cabin. It will most likely lack running water, plumbing, and electricity.

For hygienic purposes, you would need to construct an outhouse and have a well, rainwater catchment, or river nearby for drinking and bathing. Most people who "rough it" cultivate their food and establish a modest farm to meet their family's requirements. If you want to be self-sufficient, as most people who "rough it" do, you'll need to do something comparable.

Grid half-on, half-off

Living half on and half off-grid is a suitable compromise for anyone who doesn't want to "rough it." This implies that you do not rely on the contemporary system much; however, you do use it as needed to live a more modern lifestyle. To put it into perspective, when you opt for this option, you may still have access to the city's power at night for cooking or lighting, but not during the day.

In addition, you may be connected to the city's sewage system yet pump water into your home from a well. Every half-on, half-off lifestyle is unique, and it might contain a variety of self-sufficiency and mild dependency on the grid. Many people discover that living half on and half off the grid allows them to live peacefully.

This can be a fantastic alternative for you if you have children or are trying out an off-grid lifestyle. If you wish to live this way, you'll want to further your independence by producing your food, creating your cleaning and hygiene products, and keeping hens or livestock.

Off-grid living in the modern era

Living off the grid in the present day is the most popular alternative. It involves connecting to all the current amenities while being self-sufficient through technology. While this is the most expensive choice upfront, it may reduce your expenditures over time.

In this case, you aim to use the grid for as little as possible. You'll need the means to harness power if you go off-grid in this fashion. Solar panels on your roof are the most common way to harness the power. If there is running water nearby, you can use water power, and if you are in a location that allows you to harness the wind to generate power, then that is also an option.

Many people who live off the grid drill a well and connect it to an electric well pump to get flowing water from the earth. Some people also prefer having a manual crank alternative in case the electric well fails. Instead of using the sewage system, your indoor bathroom may drain into a septic tank. If you can pump clean water into the house, you will be able to shower and wash.

The Cost Of Living Off The Grid

You'll need a good solar battery, a substantial off-grid solar system, and a backup generator to live off the grid. Even after government subsidies and incentives, living entirely off the grid will cost at least $25,000 in total. Every day, the average Australian family consumes between 12 and 16 kWh of power.

A 1kW solar power system will produce around 4kWh of electricity under ideal conditions, which you cannot always guarantee. This implies that a 3kW–4kW solar system would be enough to handle your daily energy needs, but if you want to go off the grid, it's best to be careful and go with a bigger system of about 5kW.

A 5kW solar system will cost between $4,500 and $8,000 at the time of writing, although clients who qualify for a government subsidy may be able to get it at a lower price. Solar power has a huge disadvantage in that it only works when the sun is shining, so if you want to have power all night, you'll need to install a solar storage battery. Solar storage is relatively new, and it is currently rather expensive to purchase; however, it is worth the investment.

Hypothetically, if a person consumes the majority of their electricity at night, a storage system of at least 10kW may be required—again, this is dependent on their energy consumption. A solar system of this scale might cost anywhere from around $8,000 to $12,000, including installation.

An off-grid solar system may cost more than $20,000 when you factor in the cost of installing a solar system and storage unit and disconnection and municipal fees. Solar systems and storage batteries are expected to become more affordable in the future, so if you can't afford them now, it could be worth waiting. Keep in mind that your solar system will require maintenance, which may require extra repair and replacement costs.

Should You Go Off The Grid?

Whether you should unplug from the power grid is dependent on your area and personal circumstances. Even if you get a good price on solar, it might take ages to get a significant return on your investment, and that's providing your system doesn't degrade before then.

Because grid power is so expensive, not joining it may be a better option for new residences. However, quitting the grid is a huge risk for homes that are already linked. On overcast days, solar won't be able to perform as well, leaving you without power when you need it most.

Living off the grid may appear to be a significant step, yet many Australians have done so and thrived as a result. If you are ready to go the extra mile to become more self-reliant and conscientious, you should consider living off the grid. It is advisable to employ experts near you to guarantee that your switch is seamless as they are equipped with the prerequisite knowledge and skills to install your preferred energy system.