Living Off-grid on 12v Solar
With 3 children under 10, living off grid totally dependent on a small 12v solar system took a fair bit of adjusting to. It was definitely challenging but it came with a lot more benefits than sacrifices. Of course it required some careful consideration of the kinds of appliances we could use. It also made us more aware of how much power we use and what we use it on.
We learnt to check the wattage of all electrical equipment we purchased and to decide if we really needed it. It turns out there were many things we didn’t need after all. We all became a lot more resourceful and handy. Our practices changed a lot. Not leaving lights on when not in the room was a big one for the kids. For me, learning to cook with minimal machines was a must. We all became a lot more resourceful, handy and considerate of the Earths resources in general.
The biggest sea-change
You would think the kids had the hardest time transitioning but no, hubby had the biggest sea-change. He lived in the United States for decades before he came to Australia. He was used to heat, power, lighting, air-conditioner and water. Everything one needed being was only a button, switch or a tap turn away. Lots of appliances and restaurants and take-out food on every second corner. Rural Australia of course, was a whole different landscape.
The kidlets could not complain as they watched Dad handle so many things like a real warrior. He:
- had a crash course hands on training with solar systems and before we knew it he was managing it all quite well
- setting up solar panels to turn toward the sun
- streamlining lighting and power efficiency
- planning all of the charging and recharging of all our appliances
- was constantly learning, updating and improving our solar system to get the most out of what we had.
He even set up a solar hot water system on the roof and learnt all about rationing water. Hubby went from having excessive long showers every day, to timed and rationed showers that required pumping water into a header tank. Food habits changed too and he became all the healthier for it. He ended up eating vegetables from the garden whose names he didn’t even know!
When we had to move, and again rent, we luckily got a private rental of an old farm house where the owners were very flexible. They allowed us to sett up a solar system to work congruently with the house mains power. Our little cottage lifestyle paid off as our solar knowledge and our water rationing came in very handy. We even handled one small tank in a drought with no dramas as we were all already used to rationing!
We did take the opportunity to upgrade the power system. A set of 6 gel batteries and more solar panels helped. Lights, TV, computers, and all other appliances were powered by one battery system. An extra battery was used just for our large 12v caravan fridge. All light bulbs were changed to small wattage bulbs and LED lights. The washing machine and the water pump were the only things still running on mains power. There is only so much you can change when renting.
Our power bills were on average $20 a quarter (minus the $105 for the pole as it was a second residence on the property). There were a lot of power outages from storms at this house. The kids loved the fact that while everyone else was in the dark, we could still watch a movie together in the loungeroom.
We still have 12v power even after the addition of another 2 children,, but we upgraded again. This time to Lithium ion (LiFePO4). These are far more energy efficient and we can use them almost to full capacity. Plus even I can lift them with ease. I don’t want to ramble about how great they are, that is for another article. Needless to say, we were so won over by LiFePO4 we decided to go into business selling them.
There were benefits that we had never even thought of, particularly for the children:
- it has shaped them into teenagers that are aware of the Earth’s resources, how to use them efficiently and wisely.
- they are deeper thinkers… on other levels too as the consideration of basic necessities and where they come from.
- it has led to a deeper consideration of other parts of life… they question, seek out answers and then make informed decisions.
- they also have an appreciation for the simpler things in life. They are still teenagers who want their devices and gadgets, however, they are aware of the power needs, how they work, what dangers they pose and what advantages they can bring.
- it has given them an all-round greater respect for ‘things’, for our planet, Mother Nature and all that goes into supporting human life in our world.
- it is having a similar effect on the young children. I am sure will end up with just as healthy awareness of these down-to-earth considerations when they are older.
The main point here is that living off-grid can take some adjusting to at first, but in the long run there are no real sacrifices, only gains.
We watch movies, use computers and mixers like the next person we just do it for very little cost. Mains power outages or price hikes don’t affect us. We are all the more conscious of our actions and our footprint on the Earth.
This way of life just keeps on giving. I am sure that we will see a lot more benefits as the kids get older and pass on their sustainable wisdom and inquisitive minds on to their own children. And hey, if my hubby can manage it after what he grew up like, anyone can!
P.S. May 2020.
Our family has been severely affected by the suspension of our business due to Covid-19. We are really struggling. Please donate:
Thank you, from the Edge family.