Locals go off the grid

2017-08-10 13:51
Stuart Grossi with his bank of batteries that he uses partly to power his home in Pelham. Grossi has been living off the grid for four years.

Stuart Grossi with his bank of batteries that he uses partly to power his home in Pelham. Grossi has been living off the grid for four years. (Ian Carbutt)

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Living “off-the-grid” is becoming an increasingly popular choice for people looking to reduce their carbon footprint and assert their independence from the power suppliers.

At a time where power outages and water restrictions have become an almost daily occurrence, experts say that more people are considering the off-the-grid approach.

The “grid” is a common name for the power grid — the linked system that delivers electricity to the masses. A typical house is connected to power, water and telephone lines. Going off the grid means shunning these public utilities in favour of creating your own energy.

Some homeowners choose to be partially off the grid by supplying their own electricity and ditching their phone line, while still relying on the convenience of city water and sewage.

Others choose to live completely off-grid by digging wells or using a cistern system to collect water. A septic tank takes care of the sewage and, just like that, no more water bill either.

Guy Hickinbotham, manager of a local business that supplies equipment that assists people to move off the grid, said he had noticed more people moving in that direction in Pietermaritzburg and surrounds.

Hickinbotham, from Bundu Power Generators and Solar KZN, said the trend was mainly due to the Eskom rates increasing every year, as well as the unstable electricity infrastructure.

“People can move totally off the grid or just have solar equipment and generators as a back-up. It is always advisable to start by moving your bigger items onto a gas supply source, such as your stoves and geysers,” he advised.

He said the “ entry level” cost of moving off the grid starts at around R25 000, but costs could escalate to more than R200 000 for complete power independence. “People can start off small and later on add more inverters, batteries and [solar] panels,” he said.

Stuart Grossi, of Christie Road in Pelham, who farms organic vegetables, says he has been dependent on borehole water, a high-end purification system and solar power since 2013. He does not use any municipal electricity or water.

Grossi said he had spent almost R300 000 to fit solar panels and a water purification system on his property to remove himself totally from the grid.

“I don’t even know when there is a power outage or water shortage anymore. I have taken an ordinary house in the suburb and made myself and my property completely self sufficient,” Grossi said.

He is now running a company called Homestead Solutions where he consults with people on how to move off the grid.

“There are at least six people who, with my advice and recommendation, have since moved off the grid,” he said.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  living off the grid

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