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We've been off-grid for eight years now.

Until we bought this block we were powered by the grid just as most people are but we were very keen to go off-grid. This block had no power connected and actually had had an note on the title to say that the local lines company were not obliged to supply power even if we wanted it.

Which was just fine by us.

When we first moved onto the block we lived in a rented cabin that had a tiny shower, chemical loo and not enough room to swing a cat. Which was absolutely fine by the three cats that were crammed in there with us. We found a great local solar power expert (Darren at the Watt Shop) and he designed the system that's served us well ever since. Because there was no house, (in fact we had no idea at that stage where we would eventually build a house), the solar panels were left in their wrappers and the system was set up to charge the batteries from a generator.

Fast forward a couple of years and the house site was chosen and we moved into an old smoko hut next to the site. The hut was a 2.5m x 4.5m bedroom/office/kitchen/dining room a but we had to build an outdoor shower and, until we built an old-fashioned outhouse, we hired a portaloo.

Most solar panels are sited on the roof of a house but we needed power before the house was built so our panels are ground mounted. The site carefully chosen (can't be overshadowed, must face due north) is on the other side of the house site from the hut so we had a series of extension cables strung through branches from the 'electricity shed' where all the hardware is, to the hut. I remember our first power cut; we thought maybe there was a problem with the inverter. Actually, a possum had swung on an extension cable and unplugged it.

Now we've been in the house for six years and living off-grid is as normal as living on roof water. We cook with gas, water is heated by rooftop solar/wetback and goes through a gas califont to boost the temperature if needed. The wetback also heats the water for our underfloor heating!

So, what is different about being off-grid? Not a lot. Anything that uses electricity to heat things is a problem so I don't have a hairdrier or hair straighteners. Sadly I do still own an iron but use it as infrequently as possible. As I said, not a lot of difference... I do find being off-grid a great saving, not only do we not pay for power but as I browse though shops looking at the wonderful coffee machines, blenders, slow cookers, mixers etc I tell myself they're incompatible with being off-grid. Trust me, that's saved us a fortune!

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