Nigel Hargreaves lives on the eastern seaboard of Australia. He sent us his hopes for an off-grid future:
My first residence in Australia was a wooden shed which some friends and I converted using re-cycled Australian hardwood timber.
I had two 75W PV panels to supply electricity to a bank of six 2V ex-telephone exchange, alkaline batteries. Most of the lights were single, hi intensity laser diodes. There was a 600W inverter for conventional stuff like a stereo and laptop computer.
Bottled gas was my cooking fuel and occasionally, when my roof-fed water tank was up, I would light a fire under a cast-iron bath outdoors for a hot bath, using off-cuts and litter from the surrounding woodland. I also had a pot-belly stove which heated the place in the winter, but my roof insulation was lacking and a great home for rats coming in from the cold!
This could have been improved by better design of course – and kept me cooler in summer too.
I built a dry compost toilet (aerobic digestion) out of a standard wheelie bin which served me very well. Grey water went through pipes to feed the surrounding trees and bamboo I planted for shade. Some salads and vegetables were grown on another plot of land a few hundred metres away.
I am keen to buy/build my own house in the future. I intend to take advantage of Aussie Federal government subsidies to buy solar hot water and PV energy systems.
At the moment I work as a Solar hot water system installer and can see the benefits of this in a country like Australia. I also favour PV in Australia, having experience as a consulting engineer installing solar powered water pumps in South Darfur, Sudan, in the 1980’s. Presently I am thinking about making the PV system grid- connected, to earn money as an electricity generator and reduce the maintenance and cost through the absence of batteries, although I haven’t finalised this as it will depend on the location of the land I buy and whether there already is mains power at the site.
Ground source heat pumps and straw-bailed walls are also of interest in a future design.
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