Off Grid Sustainable Living

The old days when living off grid was like living in a cave are well and truly gone!

Modern solar electric battery systems mean you can live a normal life with a microwave, fridge, TV, sound system, washing machine and vacuum cleaner etc, etc. All with NO power bills!

Growing your own food

Yerranderie is 600 metres elevation and nearby is Lake Burragorang, a very large body of water which has a significant influence on the micro climate of our area. It tends to moderate low and high temperatures and we do not get many frosts. It takes a bit of work but it is possible to create a great garden with vegetables like these which were grown in Yerranderie

The local soil is not rich in organic nutrients so as soon as you decide to start a veggie garden you need to start composting as much as possible. Kitchen scraps, lawn clippings and kangaroo poo will get your compost pile going but will take a while to be suitable for the garden. If you are starting from scratch you most likely will have to transport bags of organic material and fertilisers into your new garden. In this video below, Rob Thompson shares his experiences of working towards a self sustainable vegetable garden with remote control watering technology in the Australian bush at Yerranderie.

Water

You will need to calculate the amount of water tank capacity you will need for your family arrangements. The tank system below is suitable for a small family and consists of 3 tanks at ground level with 17,000 litres and the tank on the stand is 7,000 litres. The higher tank provides pressure water to the house without any electric pumps on. It gets filled by water pumped up from the lower tanks on sunny days when there is plenty of surplus power.

As well as growing your own vegetables, there are other fun ways of living a sustainable lifestyle like home brewing and sprouting your own salads.

Electricity

The price of solar equipment has plummeted in the past few years so it becoming more affordable to expand our systems. Here is an example of an off-grid system. This photo shows one main 24 volt system with a smaller 12 volt backup. Both use EPever controllers and T-Power AGM lead acid batteries. The orange units are the surge arresters….essential to divert spikes from lightning to earth and away from the electronics.

When you live off-grid, it’s all about power management, monitoring and getting to know your usage during Summer and Winter.  Know what each appliance uses and time their use to maximise the sun time. On a sunny afternoon most systems are fully charged so that is a good time to run the bread maker and washing machine with solar power which will be otherwise wasted. You can also use the excess power to heat your hot water tank. If it’s a cloudy Winter day, don’t run the 1,500 watt vacuum cleaner….leave it for a sunny day! With some awareness you can live a pretty normal lifestyle.

These cheap little inline Watt Meters ($25 on eBay) are a good way to establish the individual power draw and log usage!

Lighting must be LED.  Strips or bulbs.  These days a 7-12 watt LED is easily bright enough

Refrigeration is a big power user and you need to be aware of how your fridge works in your system. If you are planning to get a 240 volt fridge or freezer, it is best if it is an inverter type. The older designs are cheaper but they have big in-rush currents each time the compressor kicks in and goes straight to maximum power. The inverter types “soft start” and wind up the power smoothly to only the minimum required.

These are some good tips from Stephen……..  I have 2 off these Esatto Hybrid Fridge/Freezers.  One operates as Fridge (5 Star) and the other as a Freezer (3 Star).  They were about $450 each. Being a top loader, when you open the door, you don’t lose all that cold air!

I don’t have a huge battery bank, so another little thing I’ve done is divided my battery storage into two (2) banks, with a selector switch to allow me to operate on bank 1 or 2 or both.  In Summer I’ve got plenty storage for my controlled usage, however in Winter, I use Bank 1 during the day, knowing I’ll have Bank 2 for the evening TV, stereo and lighting + overnight refrigeration.

Through “Wheeling and Dealing” and the fact I have an Mechanical/Electrical Engineering background, this system has cost me under $2K.  If I have a long spell of cloudy weather, I do have a “Supa Dupa” Victron Battery Charger and genie, which I need to run larger power tools anyway.

If you want something to “set and forget” be prepared to spend a whole lot more!