Living off-grid

Living off-grid

Moving out of the city and want more energy independence and to reduce your CO2 emissions? It's not as hard as you may imagine

Off grid out in west Wales

Off-grid living doesn't mean reading by candlelight and never taking your coat off in winter... and while mains energy is cheaper, on the plus side being off-the-grid means being less dependent on the big energy companies. It can mean living in a more eco-friendly way because if you generate energy through renewables you're not emitting the CO2 a 'mains' house does; while if you use LPG, liquefied petroleum gas, for heating and cooking, you'll still be cutting your carbon footprint because LPG emits less CO2 than other fuels. (*Houses generate 27 per cent of the UK's CO2 emissions)

 

Presently around 15 per cent of Britain's homes are off-grid, which means the properties aren't connected to public utilities such as gas, electricity and mains sewage. Many people are off-grid because they live in remote locations and the mains supplies don't run to them, but there is a small but growing number of people making an active choice to leave mains suppliers. Yes, mains energy is cheaper, but if you prioritise energy independence and have some money to spend on good alternative systems then off-grid living makes sense.
 
If you live in a city flat without a garden your options for going off-grid are limited, but If you're planning a self-build in a rural place, why not think about being more energy self-sufficient?
 
Renewables, gas cylinders or both?
 
 
LPG is not considered a greenhouse gas when stored in liquefied form
Flogas distributes gas to off-grid homeowners' tanks or it provide canisters
A ground source heat pump - for renewable energy
Solar panels are widely used by off-grid homeowners wanting free electricity
Solar panels are probably the first thing to think about, especially now that the Tesla Powerwall 2 is available, which allows you to store electricity generated by the panels. 

Solar is a reliable form of power that can produce around 3,400kWh of (free) electricity every year. If you live with small children, a solar panel system that produces 3-4kW of power is the required amount for a family home, whereas a 2-3kW solar panel will produce enough energy for smaller homes with two to three people living in them. A 3kW overall solar system will cost around £5,000 - £6,000 and this should be a sound investment based on the amount of electricity it'll generate for you over its lifetime (solar panels will last 20-25 years).

 
You can also choose to have a ground source heat pump, a biomass boiler or a wood-burning stove system that generates hot water (eg the Rayburn Heatranger) and even a domestic wind turbine on your roof if you live in a windy part of the country. Wind turbines can be integrated with a solar panel system.
 
LPG tanks and canisters
 
Flogas is a leading supplier of LPG to off-grid houses and says it's a reliable rural energy option. LPG is cheaper than oil and while it's a petrochemical product - a mixture of gaseous hydrocarbons produced from natural gas and oil extraction as well as oil refining - it has three physical properties that are particularly relevant to its carbon footprint:
• In comparison to most hydrocarbons, LPG has a low carbon to hydrogen ratio, which means that it generates lower amounts of carbon dioxide per amount of heat produced.
• While there is a degree of natural variation in heating values due to the speci c proportions of butane and propane within a particular sample of LPG, it nevertheless has a comparably high heating value, meaning it contains more energy per kilogramme than most competing fuels.
• According to the UN International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), LPG is not a green- house gas in its liquefied stored state, meaning it is assigned a global warming potential (GWP) factor of zero. That said it does produce greenhouse gases when used for heating and cooking or put in internal combustion engines.
 
LPG is delivered by a tanker for those with a storage tank in their garden or it comes in canisters and it is often the most straightforward energy source for off-grid living, along with solar PV. 
 
Sewage system
 
If you move to an off-grid property it will probably already have a septic tank for water waste and effluent. If you're a self-builder and your property can't be connected to the water mains and you don't live close to a natural source, a well will have to be dug. Sourcing your own water won't be cheap: a well can cost anything between £10,000 – £20,000 depending on how deep the well is dug and whether it will be used as a source of drinking water or for other domestic purposes. A septic tank is also essential and these can cost several thousand pounds. And if you have the money, it could make sense to install a greywater system which allows waste water from dishwashing, sinks, showers and baths to be used again. Early systems only really made sense for businesses such as hotels which use lots of water, but cheaper systems for domestic properties are coming on stream. 
 
Keeping costs down

Flogas is interested in encouraging people to be more energy-efficient and independent and it's produced tips for off-gridders:

Use LED bulbs - these can reduce the cost of lighting by 75 per cent, while you should aim to get rid of any electrical appliances you don’t really need.
Make sure all electrical appliances are turned off at the mains when they're not in use. With computers, put them into sleep mode when you walk away from them. 

Take short showers
Put the lights on only when it's dark
Compost your food waste
Monitor your energy consumption and if it starts to increase for no particular reason, analyse what you're doing or not doing.
Attend workshops that allow you to learn more about how to repair any damages to the home, or how to cultivate land for agricultural practices. 
You could even start hunting and fishing so you can eat fresh food...no more driving to the supermarket on the other side of the valley!
 
 
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