So, strictly speaking, Brian isn’t quite an off-gridder (but lets not split hairs!)
For Perth dwellers Brian and his wife, living (almost) off-grid started after his quest to find fossil-free transport, in his words “for when all the oil runs out”.
Describe your place.
Our place was build in 1970 and is a double brick and tile 3 bed 1 bath, facing close to North, set on 2,000 sqm and on a slopinghilly block. We have an original 43 year old solar hot water system with electric booster on timer, mains gas for cooking and strictly limited heating. We also have a slow cumbustion wood heater (yes, the CO2 is ‘closed loop’, not fossil), single inverter reverse cycle air conditioning in the kitchen and ceiling fans elsewhere. I highly recommend people treat their roof with ‘Insulpaint’ as we’ve found it effective. The grid-connect panels are on the house roof, which has a pitch of about 32 degrees, which I was told was close to optimal average for the year for Perth. It’s a perfect permanent home for two old farts!
Specs of your system?
We have two systems – the first is a grid connect which started as 1.72kW in 2008, with Fronius 5kW inverter. I added a 3.8kW in 2010 (when WA introduced 40c feed-in-tariff), all the house roof. During the 2013-14 financial year, our average daily production was 22.3Kwhrs, while our consumption was 20kWhrs (i.e net export of 2.3kWhrs).
The second is a hybrid off-grid, which was installed in July 2014. I added 5.88kW which were mounted on the garage roof and connected to a Kaco 6002 5kW inverter and Selectronic SP Pro 481 Controller / inverter; it’s a 48v system. Our batteries are 8 x 12 volt truck batteries and I have short term plans to add another 8. In 3 to 5 years I’ll look to purchase better cheaper batteries.
Just a note on my battery cost / source. I have a mate in the truck business. Big trucks run on 24 volts from 2 x 12 volt batteries. When one fails, they don’t mess about, they replace both. This can mean that the non-failed one still has ‘life’ in it. So being a kind-hearted person, I give these a home! Cost? Zilch, other than the odd Corona. In the long term, I will be looking for Lithium battery packs from battery electric vehicles that are below par for a moving vehicle, but this would not matter for a stationary application such as ours.
Has going (almost) off-grid compromised your lifestyle?
My renewables adventure started in 2007 when I was looking for fossil-free power (both vehicle and energy supply) to use when oil runs out. I started with an all-electric motor bike, and a 1.72kW solar system on house. It’s just kind of snowballed from there! The bike now has 65,000 kms on the clock, all powered by solar and in 2012 I bought the all-electric Nissan LEAF, to replace my wife’s old clunker. This has now done 15,000 km, again all powered by solar. As age pensioners, we no longer have electricity or petrol / fuel bills…and we love that.