Lately I have gotten few questions about ecokit being designed as an off-grid home. Many people are not sure what defines living ‘off-grid’…
To me, going off the grid is about not needing to buy energy from a big energy company – being energy independent. The purpose or goal of this process is to become completely self-efficient and I reckon that is what we all should be striving for, especially when building a new home.
Off-grid isn’t a state of mind.
It isn’t about someone being out of touch,
about a place that is hard to get to,
or about a weekend spent offline.
Officially, “off grid” refers to a home or town that is disconnected from the electricity and natural gas networks that serve a region. Living off-grid, therefore, means having to radically re-invent life as we know it.
I believe anyone can go off-grid. It might change the way you live but not in a bad way. People just become more aware of their energy consumption. You may need to make small living and behavioural changes to conserve energy use.
It should not be a quick decision though. Going “Off the Grid” is a process.
For “going off the grid” to be viable, you need to ensure you maximize the benefits of energy efficiency first. Ecokit home comes with energy efficiency “built in”, so we have taken care of that. We can ensure that ecokit home design, as well as appliances, are as energy efficient as possible.
To be off the grid (especially in Australia), you will need solar panels to generate most of your energy, a battery bank to store energy for your home needs, as well as a back-up generator to use as a last resort. If you are up for it, you can even ditch the back-up generator.
Just be prepared for a few romantic nights a year, with candles for light and fire for warmth – quite romantic really.
Building a smaller house is the first step – reducing the size of your home can be enough to make the economics of off-grid work – it saves on construction costs and reduces the amount of space you need to heat and cool – a major source of energy demand. Careful design, selection of materials and use of insulation reduces the need for heating and cooling, while energy efficient appliances ensure any energy you do need to use is minimal.
A major component of getting design right is the use of north facing windows to maximise natural heat gain in winter, combined with eaves over those windows that keep direct summer sunlight out.
Going off the grid evokes a life in a cabin far away from civilization for many. But the off-grid life doesn’t have to mean you can’t have the comfort you are used to – the lights, hot water or a wi-fi connection. Off the grid technology is rapidly improving on a global scale, with investments from private businesses who see this as a big opportunity – a once in a generation opportunity to create a whole new industry around a whole new way of delivering energy.
Despite the unwillingness of the Australian politicians to act on the growing issue of climate change, the rest of the world are preparing for this major change in energy markets. There is a huge sense of urgency that Australia cannot ignore forever.
Going off the grid today can be cost efficient and achievable for new homes, if the size of homes is smaller. A reduction in size can save you thousands on construction cost – if used to offset the cost of stand alone power, it becomes viable today.
The energy efficient design, sustainably sourced materials and efficient manufacturing processes are the key benefits of our ecokit home. I see this project as an opportunity to create an alternative to conventional houses, with the “off the grid energy solution” that will show how there don’t have to be major compromises to living off the grid, indeed there can be major benefits.
So – should you be going off-grid? Ultimately this is a personal decision, however with energy prices rising and the long-term Return on Investment good, going off the grid/stand alone is very achievable now. Technology will improve but now is as good time as ever! I think everyone should consider it – have a look around for your local sustainable group, online resources, as well as your local council.