Chris is out in Spain on our eco-micro-farm whilst I continue to nest here in the UK. When I talk about off grid living in Spain many people assume it’s difficult, or they wonder what an off-grid house looks like and how it functions. Well, it looks like a ‘normal’ house! Inside we have regular light fittings, power sockets, light switches. There are flushing toilets, showers, hot and cold running water, a washing machine….. things you’d find in an on-the-grid house. Most of the lights in the house are LED lights, they use the least power but provide powerful lighting. We don’t use a lot of power-hungry machines – so other than the washing machine we don’t have appliances like a dishwasher or a microwave and we don’t use hair dryers or straighteners or an electric kettle (our cooking hob runs on a gas bottle and we have an on-the-hob kettle for boiling water). I don’t use the iron (damp clothes on the line dry without wrinkles), generally we are just very conscious about power usage.
It’s only when you look at the details, that the nuances of off-grid-living become apparent. Chris’s workshop is really the ‘hub’ or the ‘control centre’ of the off-grid operation. There you’ll find the 8 large batteries which store the power that is generated from the 12 solar panels on the roof. There’s also the invertor and the information panels that allow us to see how much power we are generating and how much we are using.
Our water storage tanks are located beneath the house. They hold a total of 24,000L of water. A water pump (driven by the solar power) then pumps the water up to the house so that taps and showers work as ‘normal’. We use as little water as possible, we also collect rain water and we use water from our showers to water the trees. Waste water from the washing machine is used to flush the toilet. Since the water pump runs on the solar power we are careful to have our showers during daylight hours so as not to drain the power stored in the batteries.
We are not on the mains sewage system so waste water goes into a black hole. This means we are careful not to flush anything down the toilet other than the odd piece of toilet paper – and we don’t flush the toilet unless it’s absolutely necessary (if it’s yellow let it mellow!!). We are also very careful about what we use for cleaning – using eco-friendly products means the bacteria in the black hole stay non-smelly! We don’t use bleach or harsh chemicals. For showering we also use very gentle, natural, shower gels created with minimal chemicals. My face creams are also very simple and natural (but I’ll talk about that in a later post).
There’s no central heating system in the Spanish house and, despite what you may think about the Spanish climate, the winters can be bitterly cold with temperatures regularly dropping into the minus figures at night. The house is heated by a large wood burner located in the living room downstairs. It tends to keep the downstairs temperature at around 18’C and the upstairs at around 15’C which is comfortable – and we have gotten used to wearing extra layers and dressing appropriately!
Having the experience of off grid living has made us very conscious about energy and water conservation – and this filters through to our lives when we are in the UK. Our utilities bills have drastically reduced and we are much more careful about wastage of all kinds.
Have you ever lived off the grid? Share your experience with me!
All the best