The 3 Steps to Taking Your Home Off-Grid, or Surviving Load Shedding

Step 1 – Understand Your Consumption

You need to understand what your daily energy consumption (kWh) and maximum demand (kVA) are.  But more importantly, what causes those numbers to accumulate each day.  The better you understand this, the easier it will be to make the necessary decisions and the less money you will probably need to spend in the long term.

Good ways of doing this are:

  1. Start keeping a spreadsheet of your monthly energy consumption numbers and calculate your average daily kWh consumption per month.  You can often get that straight off your monthly bill.
  2. Measure the power consumption (kW or kVA) of your main appliances if you can.
  3. Estimate the energy consumption (power multiplied by time on) of each one of your major appliances and see if the accumulated values correlate with the daily kWh consumption calculated in point 1).  (Our PowerProphet software makes this easy).
  4. Understand the relative proportions of the various major categories of energy consumption (such as Water Heating, Pool Pump, Lighting, Kitchen Appliances, Cooking etc).  Understand why the largest categories are so high – is it because of inefficient, power hungry appliances, or the length of time that those appliances run for each day, or both?  (Again, our PowerProphet software makes this easy).

Step 2 – Improve Your Efficiency

Once you understand your daily consumption, opportunities to make quick easy savings usually become obvious.  Start with the largest categories of consumption and do what you can to become more efficient, either by changing your behaviour or adopting more efficient technology, or both.

This step is crucial because you can permanently reduce your consumption, often at small  or low cost, and thus gain on-going savings regardless of any alternative energy projects you may implement.

In any event, it is usually much cheaper to improve your efficiency first, than it is to supply alternative power to an inefficient house.

Some examples of simple cost effective ways to become more energy efficient:

  • Efficient Shower Nozzles (substantially reduce your daily hot water requirements if you shower a lot)
  • LED and CFL lighting (especially if you have lots of halogen down-lighters)
  • Wash your dishes the old fashioned way
  • Reduce the time your pool pump runs each day

 Step 3 – Select Suitable Alternative Energy Sources

 Once you have done what you can to get your home as efficient as possible, you can then start selecting suitable alternative energy sources for the various consumption categories you identified above.

Some examples are:

Consumption Category Off-Grid Power Options
Water Heating Solar Water Heating or Gas
Small Appliances and Efficient Lighting (eg. TV, Computers, LED and CFL Lighting, cell phone chargers, small efficient fridges etc) Solar Power, with Inverters and Batteries.
Power Hungry Appliances (eg. Washing machines, tumble dryers, large fridges, powerful microwave ovens, underfloor heating, electric heaters, halogen lighting etc.)
    • Solar Power (very expensive for power hungry appliances)
    • Micro Hydro (if you have a suitable river on your property)
    • Do without
    • Generator
    • Continue with Eskom
Cooking Gas
Home Heating Gas or Wood or anthracite burning heaters

 

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