I get asked a lot about what it’s really like living off grid and whether I wish I had real power.
Most of the time my response is fuck no – I don’t miss the power bills, water bills, appliance repairs etc.
Bill free living is the dream and I know not everyone can / wants to do the same but it’s so liberating to basically never check your letter box. Our was so overgrown with grass I couldn’t even get to it for months. I’d know to look in when I saw the grass had been flattened by the posties car haha!
A typical off grid day
On a typical day – I totally forget that 100% of our power comes from our solar panels. Here’s what we usually use…
We have unlimited wireless NBN here so we use an old laptop that doesn’t hold it’s charge connected to a small TV via HDMI to stream all our TV, music, Foxtel, Netflix, Stan and 90’s banger Youtube parties or The Wiggles marathons when we have work to do. Anyway – this laptop stays plugged in 24/7 and we just turn the TV on and off as needed. Neither get properly turned off unless we need to save some power (more on that below), for the most part the laptop is on Sleep mode when we aren’t using it and the TV is on standby from the remote.
Each night we chuck our phones on charge while we’re sleeping and my laptop & second computer monitor is plugged in for probably 4 hours a day during Cypress nap times.
Our washing machine is about 3 years old now and when we bought it, we weren’t terribly concerned with power efficiency, we were more looking at saving water as we were living on the grid at that point in our last home. I probably do about 4 loads of washing a week. Sometimes I’m organised and it’s spread out over the week and sometimes it’s load-after-load on a good sunny day. Our machine has a 30 minute setting which is the only one I use – it saves us a tonne of power and water and does a great job and even getting banana out of baby shirt pockets….
The fridge we bought brand new when we moved here and finally had our solar system installed. We spent a lot of time researching this and ended up getting a stainless steel Electrolux one with the fridge on top and freezer on the bottom. It’s also designed so that the motor only kicks in once the fridge door has been shut, it gets everything back down to temperature, then turns off. I hear it sometimes at night firing up but it’s awesomely efficient and is obviously on constantly.
My vacuum is literally some cheap and crappy 1200w thing from Kmart. It does the job most of the time and I use that probably every second day. I do notice that if I use it at night, the lights will dim when it fires up, but during the day it’s fine to use for as long as I need. I’m hoping to upgrade it to a cordless upright that I can charge as needed but we’ll see.
We have no dishwasher….. I know, fucked right? I have NEVER in my adult life lived without one. But here I am – washing dishes by hand and destroying my nails. We absolutely could run one if we put the cycle on during the day but we just don’t have the room for it in here and we don’t REALLY need it.
We also don’t have a range hood for our stove. because we don’t cook meat – we find we really don’t need it.
In the kitchen we have a microwave which I’ll use to heat up my cold cuppas (#mumlife) or quick meals and we have our toaster which gets a bit of use in the morning and late at night. Both of these are cheapies from Kmart and they really don’t worry the system at all.
Our kettle is stove top. Mostly because we thought it would have to be (pre microwave and toaster days BTW) but now we just love the whole putting the kettle on and waiting for the whistle so we’ve stuck with it.
We have a gas stove and oven combo which can be tricky to find. We went with a Chef white unit that’s kinda basic but it does the job. It also doesn’t have a clicker thing so the stove top has to be lit with a long lighter which again is all part of the charm of cooking and boiling the jug. We bought this brand new and have loved it.
Other random crap
So the other electricity users I should mention are things like the lamp in Cypress’s room that’s on 24/7 which has a really low watt oven bulb in it, our 3 ceiling fans which are on 95% of the time in summer, they also have built in lights which are on way more than they should be and we have 2 pendant lights as well. Oh and my electric oil burner that’s constantly on even though the smell runs out and I forget – BRB, going to put some oil in it right now haha.
We then have the modem and all the crap that goes with that which is always on.
Our hot water system is gas and the only power that used is for the ignition when we turn the water on. This thing has been awesome – it’s super gas efficient and we get super hot water instantly that never runs out!
The water pump that carries our water from our tank to the hot water system or straight into the house is a small one that was crazy affordable and we honestly have better water pressure now that we did being on town water. We don’t have the pressure chamber for it which stores water and keeps it pressurised so that when you turn a tap on, you have a certain number of litres there ready to use before the pump kicks in so it it’s using more power than it could and it’s still fine!
And the most important electrical item we have – the battery operated, remote controlled Ford Ranger replica that my brother got Cypress for his first birthday that we charge probably twice a week so that it’s ready for him to cruise in.
The times I do feel it and it kinda sucks
Of course, there’s times where I find myself wishing for normal power. But it’s so rare that it really isn’t a big deal and it can even be a little bit of a novelty. Summer can be hard because we get so much freaking rain in Queensland. People find it hard to believe that it can rain pretty much constantly for up to two weeks straight.
I’ve found ways of dealing during these times and the hardest part is getting the washing done. Usually I’ll load the car up and go sit and a girlfriends for a day to get it all washed, then will swing my the laundromat for halfa to run it all through the dryer. it’s really not the end of the world.
Because we have no ceiling between us and our tin roof, we can’t hear the fucking TV when it’s hammering down anyway so we turn everything off at the wall and just chill doing whatever we can to fill the time. If Cypress is going stir crazy, I’ll hit up some Mum Mates for a library play date and when we has a nap in the pram, I can sneak in some work time.
The other trick I have is when the tank is full – we can gravity feed into the house for everything except the shower. The power point for the pump is inside so I switch it off and we get a trickle of water for washing hands, filling kettles and flushing the toilet. If we need hot water, I’ll switch it on or boil some.
Is it worth the effort?
Absolutely it’s worth it! Put it this way – if we were paying for power and water, I would be back at work. And not at my awesome positive, minimum wage paying job I had before having Cypress. I’m talking the PTSD causing but awesomely high paying bullshit job I once had that would be able to pay for day care and all our living expenses.