Going Off the Grid – How Practical Is It?

“Going off the Grid”, means, broadly, living without using the services of public or private utility companies (grids) such as electric, gas, or water, by generating and providing for one’s needs such as by using solar power, rainwater, growing your own vegetables, and composting your own waste.

Photo by Alex Bierwagen on Unsplash

“Going off the Grid” completely, for most people, is a completely unrealistic dream. The starting point must be to examine all the various aspects involved, review one’s lifestyle, resources, income and time availability and decide what is possible and practical and what may only be a longer-term goal.

We, as a small family, started with the idea of “going off the Grid” because of intense frustration with ESKOM, the monopoly national electricity supply company. A few years ago, ESKOM. through poor long-term planning and political interference, had begun to introduce rotational “load shedding”, a euphemism for 2 hourly power cuts at the most inconvenient times of the day and night.

The actual start of our “going off the Grid” journey had begun a few years earlier when we made a decision (before it was fashionable and ESKOM gave subsidies) to switch to using a solar geyser to provide our hot water. It was outrageously expensive, the return on investment was off the graph scale and it was my little experiment to see if it really could be of value. I will not go into detail here but leave that to a later article.

Back to “Going off the Grid”. It only took some basic research to discover that if we truly wanted to go, electrically, off the Grid fully, i.e. disconnect from the municipal electricity supply, not only would we have to cover the entire roof, gutter to ridge (impractical) with solar panels, we would also have to completely cover our one acre garden with solar panels and put in place a battery system that would need licensing as a Hazardous Installation in terms of Health and Safety regulations.

We subsequently had to go back to the drawing board and quantify what we wanted. To cut a long story short, after carrying out a rudimentary energy audit, we realised we had to lower our sights from fully off the Grid. The lesson for all initiatives is that one needs to assess the current situation, measure existing consumption and usage and then set achievable and affordable targets in the different areas.

Each one of the detailed articles will describe what we did and how we arrived at the strategy, for example, in the case of alternative electricity supply, i.e. electricity, we discovered that our roof space, space for battery storage capacity and budget could allow us to generate approximately 50% of our monthly electricity bill. Results have shown that the savings figure varies, according to the season, between 50 and 65% of total consumption.   

The topics that we will be covering in the various articles include: –

  • Electricity
  • Solar Geysers
  • Water
  • Gas
  • Solid Waste
  • Human Waste
  • Composting
  • Veggie Gardens

We will end the series with an article discussing the lessons we learnt and, in particular, some of the learnings you will NOT get from the equipment salesmen. We will also discuss the lifestyle changes you will have to consider when you decide to go, even partially, “off the Grid”.

We would welcome any feedback you would like to make and would be happy to add any additional articles on related topics that are relevant to the series.

Arend Hoogervorst