Off-grid living can vary widely, but generally embraces a sustainable, autonomous lifestyle including generating your own solar power, rainwater collection, waste removal/sewage solutions (such as a worm farm waste system) and growing indoor aquaponic gardens
Adelaide, Australia – Kathy Menzel says she used to be completely oblivious to power bills, “just running along in the hamster wheel like everybody else, you know, busy, busy, busy, spend, spend, spend”. She and her husband Bob, both IT professionals, did have an inkling they wanted something different though, yearning for a serene country lifestyle with no neighbors.
When they finally found their dream block in the Adelaide Hills, reality hit home. “We’d been looking for five years for this great piece of land in the middle of nowhere but still easy to commute to the city,” she says. “But it was going to cost $450,000 to get on to the grid.” The cost of connecting was far more than the $238,000 for the 10 acre block, which was only 1.5km from a main road.
Undeterred, Menzel researched sustainable housing and calculated their energy and water needs. The result was a self-sufficient home they’ve been enjoying for four years now – which cost $150,000 less than the price of connecting to the grid. “It’s completely changed my way of living and my whole understanding of everything to do with energy waste and carbon,” she says of her new minimalist, eco-friendly lifestyle.
These days Menzel is acutely aware of her energy and water consumption. “It’s not an endless resource; someone’s paying for it somewhere, and I mean look at the climate – the Earth is paying for it, isn’t it?”
What are the challenges and perks? “Oh, just perks,” she laughs.
For one reason or another, Australians are increasingly taking up the gauntlet while governments drag their feet on sustainable housing regulations. Even the six-star building standards, for instance, just don’t cut it, says Menzel. “You know, you can put windows wherever you like and you can just run a big great air-conditioning system and pay a fortune.”
They built their home guided by “passive house” principles, achieving a 7.9-star energy rating. With no air-conditioning and a combustion heater for cold winter evenings, she says it never goes below 16C or above 26C inside in a region that dips below zero in winter and can soar over 40C in summer. Two rainwater tanks provide plenty of water, with enough to spare for the South Australian Country Fire Service.
Off-grid living can vary widely, but generally embraces a sustainable, autonomous lifestyle. This includes generating your own power, water, waste removal and sewage solutions (such as a worm farm waste system) and can extend to growing your own food.
Possibly the ultimate answer to sustainable living is the earthship, a passive solar shelter made from recycled tires, plastic and glass bottles and aluminum cans. “You can use other stuff as well,” says expert Martin Freney. “Like you can salvage sheets of metal from car bodies and old fridges and washing machines and use them as roof shingles if you’re really creative.”
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