Three off the grid money savers
Want to help the environment and your hip pocket?
Saving the world is something we're all committed to these days. But it really doesn't have to take a huge commitment when incorporating simple off the grid elements into your home that can lower your environmental footprint and save on your bills in the long term.
We've spoken to three Australians who are saving some serious money with their environmentally friendly homes.
When the sun gives us 'free' energy, it's little wonder that solar panels are so popular to install on your roof. Photovoltaic cells harness the sun's energy and then convert it into power that charges a bank of batteries that you can run your household's electricity off.
Richard Greaves, who runs his own fabrication workshop, converted his house to a 4.1kW solar set-up three years ago.
'After the general rebates my system cost me just over $8,000. However, my 4.1kW system is extensive,' he tells us. 'A mate of mine fitted a smaller 2.0kW system to his place and it cost him around $4,500. I went for the bigger system as I wanted it to be able to handle 100 per cent of my power needs, which it does comfortably.
At current electricity prices I'm on track to recoup my costs over the next 12 months, after which I'll be saving on my utility bills – roughly $3,000 per year – which I'm pretty excited about. For me the exercise was totally worth it.'
With generous rebate incentive available, you can offset the upfront costs of buying and installing solar panels. In the long-term, you will be living off the energy of the Aussie sun with no bills to pay.
Down the gurgler
Every time you flush your toilet you're using valuable water and money. A huge proportion of Australia's household water consumption is consumed by just flushing toilets. Mental health specialist and self-confessed environmental tragic Anne Stone realised she was spending upwards of $650 per year on water bills, so she decided to see if she could live a bit more eco-friendly while saving some money.
'I invested around $7,000 five years ago into a rainwater collection system and a solar-powered composting toilet in my house,' Anne says. 'While the initial cost was high, the ongoing costs are virtually nothing, and it will have paid for itself after another few years.'
'I can appreciate it's not for everyone, but I think the advantages for me are worth it. My garden has amazing soil nutrients and grows fantastic vegetables as a result – and the rainwater tank has reduced my quarterly water bill to $0! I also use the grey water from my washing machine to water my garden – again, it takes a little extra effort, but sustainable living is easier than a lot of people think.'
Setting up an aquaponics system doesn't mean you need a lot of space. Just look at Tim Nguyen, who has devised a compact aquaponics set-up in his small apartment in Randwick, Sydney.
'I had a balcony in my apartment that I wasn't using,' Tim explains. 'It's four metres by two and on the ground floor, so I got verbal permission from the landlord to set up an aquaponics system there. It provides me with fish and vegetables year round.
'I set it up by having a friend cut two 44-gallon drums in half lengthways, removing the tops and then welding them back together. This forms a trough, which I use as a grow-bed. It rests on top of a couple of cheap wooden supports, and an 800-litre fish tank – currently stocked with trout – sits underneath.'
Water is pumped up from the tank to the grow-bed, which is partially filled with gravel and planted with various vegetables, depending on the time of year. The water trickles down through the gravel, past the roots of the vegetables before draining back into the fish tank.
The vegetables absorb the nutrients from the water, clean the water for the fish at the same time and also convert the fish-waste ammonia into plant-friendly nitrates.
'The recirculation properties of the system mean I use about 10 per cent of the water that traditional vegetable growers would,' says Tim. 'It cost me roughly $350, most of which was used in buying the fish tank second hand. I got the drums for free and the rest was obtained fairly cheaply from my local hardware store.'
'It costs about the same to run as a couple of light globes, which I think is well worth it considering the system has yielded about 25kg of fish and 150kg of veggies in the last six months alone.'
Dex Fulton is a journalist and editor who lives the life of a serial vagrant. When he's not conveniently out of mobile range in the Australian bush he's covered in engine oil in his garage while working through his mechanical pile-o-parts (AKA project vehicles).
This article doesn't suggest that any of the people or organisations mentioned endorses or promotes Suncorp or any brands within the group.
Information is intended to be of a general nature only and any advice has been prepared without taking into account any person's particular objectives, financial situation or needs. You should make your own enquiries, consider whether advice is appropriate for you and read the relevant Product Disclosure Statement or Product Information Document before making any decisions about whether to acquire a product