|Monty's permanently vexed expression makes him the perfect 'poster boy' for this entry|
Speed wobbles are inevitable on our headlong flight into energy self-sufficiency, and our resolve is already being tested
Living off-grid and producing our own clean energy sounds noble and if in some in small way might inspire others to try something similar, then it is. But as I’ve mentioned before, it is also initially very expensive; at least twice the cost of connecting to the grid. We’ve made our peace with this, confident that we will save both money and a tiny fraction of the planet in the long term, but in the short term it means diverting cash from our actual house build. Solar panels, photovoltaic panels and batteries, a power inverter converting AC to DC - sometimes relatively new technology is expensive, requiring constant maintenance and periodic replacement. And even after all this; we will hardly have power to burn. Two minute showers and being forced to regulate when we can use certain appliances will become part of our daily regime. We are prepared for this adjustment in the way we live, or like to think we are, but it’s harder to happily make sacrifices when it actually costs you more to do so. It’s going to be difficult enough to realise our dream home on our budget, without our ‘energy solution system’ gobbling more and more of our funds.
The next worry is a connected one (literally), but has been resolved and deserves an entry of its own, probably because people don’t think about this subject enough. Did you know that in designing a septic system allowances have to be made for a human being producing 180 litres of ‘waste water’ per day? Installing a self-contained waste disposal system is an absolute given when you live in the country. We used a septic tank system in our last home for a decade, and found it extremely efficient. The catch is that our beautiful block of land becomes very damp in the wetter months. Factors involving land contours and soil type means that the ground becomes water-logged in the lower parts of our property. Or house is sited on one of the driest areas (we’re not silly) but unfortunately the local council still insist upon a secondary aerated system to avoid the very unpleasant consequences of a standard unit failing because of excess ground water. Not only is this more expensive, but requires a pump which needs to run constantly to aerate the waste.
The last issue might be more of a cosmetic one, but is still unresolved. Our future ‘life-style choice’ has also meant that we have had to be thorough in choosing the most energy efficient appliances we can find to populate our new home. In truth this challenge has been fun, acquainting ourselves with energy star ratings, LED lighting and the insidious gratuity of digital time displays. This has started well, but we seem to have come unstuck with the heart of the heart of the home – the kitchen stove. We have been reliably advised to forego an electric one because of its draw on our power reserves, and look at a gas or wood-fired option instead.
So, will the lure of a sexy, inexpensive electric stove cause us to rethink our whole off-grid master plan? Will we shackle ourselves to a power company for the sake of a shacklock?