Our Personal Experience Going Off-Grid in Sydney

10 June, 2017

The best thing you will ever read about living with Renewable energy battery storage.In this article you are going to learn.What was my process of going solar and watt I did first.How I selected my solar system and the reason’s I did what I did. How much it all cost. Some more about our solar courses and ways to invest in your knowledge.  I live on a 650sqm block in the middle of Sydney and we wanted to use electricity for as much as possible as getting wood is a big job for me with the distance to travel to do it sustainable.

solar roof small

 Before you get excited looking at what type of solar panels you want and batteries you are going to waste your money and environmental resources on there is another step that is the most important. Understand your load. For example you need to go tow a heavy load with your car, and the first thing you check is your car capable of towing that load? If not what do you do? Well you hire a car or ask ya mate that has a Ute,  can you borrow it to move a heavy load? Living with solar and batteries is the load and it  is the most important to understand first before you go buy Solar system. Trust me your mate won’t lend you their solar panels or batteries. And the mate that says I have a generator you can borrow will always be some cheap and nasty that won’t be any good. Understanding your load is the NUMBER 1 priority, get this right you won’t need back up. Or very rarely. You don’t need to be an electrician to work this stuff out it's basic maths. And you can also cheat, buy yourself a watts meter, click here for more info. When I first started my project my daily load was 30Kwh’s per day, I then reduced it to 12 without spending any money.

Next I went crazy and upgraded everything. I also cheated and used an interest free credit card to do this. People always say I can’t afford it. Use the system we spent $7000 on fitting out our whole house with electrical equipment. Our flat mates of Ten years moved out so we said you take all the electrical stuff and upgraded it all to energy efficient appliances.With the interest free card work out how much per week it is and make sure its paid off with in that time. For us for example it was $7000 over 48 month’s interest free which cost $145 per month. That left more cashflow for the solar system. If you own your home there are companies that will finance your solar system. If you are interested contact me.  Make sure you can afford it and cut the card up once you have used your interest free stuff up. Using that card after your initial purchases is where they cost you a fortune in interest.

This is what we got for our $7000.2 new TVs 44inch and a 32 inch , DVD Player Turbo oven, Dyson battery vacuum, 440 litre fridge, 1000 watt Microwave, Thermomix , Lg 8.5KG washing Machine, Dyson fan and Changed all the Lighting over to L.E.D lights with the replacement bulb types not the down lights that require a sparky or know how. I think that’s about it. This invest alone reduced our daily energy consumption to 5Kwh’s per day and that using the dishwasher which the house already had. Get yourself a twin drawer system, if they mean the world to you. It is a must for us living in the city.

You might have other things that you want to use in your system, this is the reason to learn how much power they use and consume and build your system for you. Here is a video for an example. As you can see by understanding your load you can reduce your load. If there is only one thing you do when thinking about solar is reduce your load or even understand it. That will be the best thing you can do.When you understand your load you will understand which devices you can and can’t use when your batteries get low and that is the key to having a good renewable energy experience. Next was building my system and my budget started at $15,000.

I started looking into everything and relised I was not buying a good quality 48 or 24 volt system for $15,000. I could get a system and I would be replacing it in ten years’ time. I have lived with solar in cars and I know how easy it is to burn through a set of lead acid batteries if you need to take them low they are never the same again.Learn about different battery technologies. I then discovered Nickel Iron Batteries (NiFe Cells) and this changed everything.

I started my research and I spoke with 62 different people that had lived with them, some for 12 months and others for 50 years. They all had nothing but good things to say. I talked to my solar guy and said let’s build a system around the Nife Cells. We got stuck into the design and had a thought that would it be possible to use a 12 volt system?We knew it was going to be a risk that I might buy a heap of stuff that if it didn’t work we would need to sell and upgrade and that might set us back. If we got it right we knew we had a winner for everyone. My great Grandfather was a pioneer, he was the Cedar King of Australia so it’s in the blood to take a path of a pioneer, so I said yes let’s give it a go mate. 

The system consists of a 12 volt NiFe Bank of batteries. From research and talking to users of it it is possibly a lifetime cell. 2880 watts of thin film C.I.G.S TSMC solar panels. The reason I selected these as they have a very low embodied energy, they are heat tolerant can reach temperatures of up to 80 degrees before performance is affected, They also pick up deep inferred from the spectrum range which allows performance on cloudy days, they are shade tolerant, which means living in the city my neighbours trees that block half my panels in the morning we still get 70% performance at that time and they look amazing, black on black. As for the electrical components we only used 1 MPPT for the moment to test and we splayed the array of panels so we got a constant production of solar all day which helps the Batteries and also we can use more power from the panels rather than from the batteries.

If we have a bad morning we have enough panels facing 1330 hours that only a few hours of afternoon winter sun with top the cells up and vice versa if we have a good morning and bad afternoon.As for inverters the largest 12volt inverter we could get was a 3kw inverter, which means at any one time we can run a load of up to 3kw’s. What we decided to do was install two of these as a master slave setup. If we need more power the system has the potential of 6kw’s with this set up. It also gives us a backup. If one inverter dies over time we have a back up until we get the other sorted.

And honestly at this point we have not required the use of the 2nd inverter ever.  The biggest issue I had is getting traditional help and advice from electricians and solar people because most of them were trained in dealing with grid feed systems. I installed the system myself and I got an electrician in to connect the system to the house, it was meant to be a simple $150 job to connect up a switch for me. And that's when all my issues started. I asked if I could have the meter moved they said yes $600 after they had disconnected us from the grid (4 weeks) the list of things we had to do by law to get it connected was a joke. The bill quickly climbed to $3500 of electrical crap laws that they wanted us to upgrade to meet standards because of rising energy usage.

I said to the to them, are you guys really that dumb? This house is an energy efficient home we use less power than most houses do in an hour per day,I showed them if I turned on all my three air cons my oven, the hair dryer and everything else in my house I would still have been a third of the ratings they were wanting to upgrade me too.  I don't need all the extras  you're wanting to install. Long story short they cost me a fortune and still didn't hook up my $150 back up switch.   My backup switch is a very simple switch. All it does is select battery power or mains power. I got really frustrated with myself that I attempted to get a professional in and this happened.

And I could only imagine what would happen to someone that didn't have half the idea I do. In the end I did it myself. ( I was attempting to follow the rules and get an electrician to sign it off) And now I have a better way of explaining in to electricians and how I would advise to do it in the future.   Now we have the grid as a backup if we run out of power we just flick a switch and the house is back on mains power, which we have not done yet. We have even had  a builder at home for a week building us a new deck and welding and using loads of power tools and all on 24hoursolarpower which is a great feeling.

 My system itself cost just under $25,000 and its includes a wind turbine that I haven't installed yet either.We have budgeted $5000 on maintenance over the next 25 years and if we did this project for financial reasons we would get our money back in 7-10 years, so there would be 18 years of free electricity and no more pollution from us! Since we have been living on batteries I have opened the paper to find out we had a blackout for 24 hours the week before, Now that is a good feeling.  After going through this and learning a lot on the go, my solar guy and I have teamed up and started running course’s to show people what is possible. You don't need to be a qualified electrician to play with any system under 48volts, DIY solar is the way of the future, if you can grow food and consider yourself someone who is willing to have a go you can build your own renewable energy system under the right guidance.

 We deliver a few different  course s Check them out here. Living with Renewable energy.(Perma-Tech) DIY Your energy system. Course whilst we install your system. Thanks for reading and I hoped this helped. please share on social media if this helped you in anyway. It might help someone else as well. Go and like our solar Facebook Page If you have would like to know more or any other specific details contact us. Dont be shy.

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