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Living ‘off the grid’ in 2017
March 31, 2017
Opening an electricity bill is about as much fun as settling into the dentist’s chair for a root canal. You’re handing over big bucks for something essential, yet it’s a cost you’d much rather reduce or avoid altogether if given the chance.
Alas, access to energy is a vital component of modern life, so we’ve had to suck it up and endure ever-increasing energy bills…until now.
Thanks to new technologies, living off grid—or without any connection to an electrical power transmission—is now becoming more and more feasible in Australia.
How do you live off the grid?
Living off grid is when you aim to eliminate dependence on electric utility companies, by generating your own power you can live sustainably over the long term.
In the past, a huge amount of infrastructure has been needed to make large power generation systems, which relegated solar energy, hydroelectric power and geothermal energy to industrial use only. Power generators and energy infrastructure of this sort was obviously well beyond the budget of an average household, but that is all changing.
Now, it is becoming much easier for an individual or a family to be entirely self-sufficient in terms of electricity, as sustainable electric power is now within reach. There are several solutions for generating affordably, eco-friendly power that is available 24 hours a day all year round:
A popular home-friendly power generator is rooftop solar, which uses photovoltaic panels installed on the rooftop of individual homes to harness energy from the sun. Any excess power generated by the panels is routed into the utility grid, a privilege for which the energy company pays you a (small) allowance. But the real savings come from generating your own power: you can shave at least a third off your power bill by installing rooftop solar, or more if you also install a solar battery.
Perhaps one of the most innovative solutions for living off the grid is Tesla’s power box. In 2015, Tesla CEO Elon Musk presented Tesla Energy, which was to become a separate business producing batteries that can power the home.
The idea behind the humble solar battery is that it complements solar rooftop panels, by storing the excess energy that is generated and not consumed during peak sunny times. At night, when your solar panels are idle, your solar battery kicks in and you can use your stored energy after dark.
The Tesla Energy Powerwall 2 is capable of 14kWh stored electricity, although if you have bolder night-time energy requirements, you can buy more batteries and stack them up as needed.
With a solar roof/battery combo, you have the ability to legitimately power your own home forever more. But, it doesn’t come cheap; this type of technology is relatively new and therefore still quite expensive, but it will become more affordable as the tech evolves.
Another relatively new trend in sustainability is the use of modern wind turbines for powering homes. It isn’t suitable to all homes, as your area needs to have adequate winds for most of the year to make the investment worthwhile.
As well as the cost, a major downside of wind turbines is the noise they create. The larger a household is, the bigger the turbine and the louder the noise.
Historically, turbine towers stood at around 300 feet high – not exactly the most discreet way to live off the grid–but quieter, smaller, more efficient wind turbines are being developed, including some that can be easily installed on the rooftop of your home.
The initial costs for installing sustainable energy solution for the average home can be a substantial investment. But if you have a long-term view of getting yourself out of the electrical rat race so you can life off the grid in a self-sustainable manner, the technology is catching up with us to make this happen!
Living off the grid not for you? Here are the ‘hippest’ places to live in Australia?