On today’s episode, I share the ins and outs of living completely off-grid in our rainforest. Our humble home has no phone reception and the closest powerline is over 2km away. Over the past 3 years I have had numerous questions about this lifestyle choice, so today I am answering them all.
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Hello and welcome. Today I’m going to be flying solo and talking about living off grid. Now, for those of you who have followed my journey for the last three and a half years, we’ve been living off grid in a rainforest in the Northern rivers. Since moving here, I have received so many questions and so many queries, so many comments about different aspects of living off grid.
Today I want to share and answer some of these questions because I know so many people are very curious about off-grid living. So let’s dive in.
The first question most people ask me is what is off-grid living and how do we live like that off grid?
Living to us is all about being self-sufficient. It’s about having our utilities on hand, not connected to the grid. For us off grid living means number one less bills, number two self-sufficiency and three, a low impact on yeah. What does that look like for us in our home? Number one, we are driven by the sun. We have solar panels on our roof and we also have a solar hot water system to provide our water. So our solar is standalone solar. What this means is that our closest power line is over two kilometers away. We in not connected to the grid, our solar does not feed back into the grid.
It feeds into a bank of solar batteries, which keeps us afloat when the weather is fine and sunny. Now I’ll hot. Water is also driven from the sun. Now, living in the beautiful Northern rivers. It can quite often, we have weeks on end where it’s raining and especially this last six months, oh my goodness. We’ve run out, generate out way more than we’ve needed to however, with the solar hot water, it gets colder and colder. If it doesn’t get enough sunlight. So we actually have gas as well. Now this fuels our stoves, but also a special hot water system that we just turn some handles. It flicks over from solar hot water into gas, hot water. We have a backup so we can always have a hot shower. Seriously. It’s a luxury, not many people think of these things when they’re going off grid and what they can do to provide, the small comfort of living.
Our electricity is made by the sun, hot water made by the sun, but also a gas backup. Now speaking of water, our water is actually from the mountain behind us. We have two Springs. Our water is gravity fed into some tanks. Now we don’t actually collect rain water at all. We have so much, well, we have an abundance of water here that goes to our tanks and we have two Springs that we can tap into with ease. Yeah, so our water is quite often minerally because it’s spring water from the mountain. So it comes from the, it’s beautiful. Like it’s honestly beautiful water. We’re really privileged with that, but that doesn’t mean that we can waste water either. We’ve had some dry seasons here, which means for us washing our clothes at home, doesn’t exist for extended periods of time. Now, being water-wise is a part of off-grid living as well, because you can’t take more from the earth.
We have to be mindful of what is available. And that also goes to the sun. Like we really do have to work, seasonally without environment, because in some, you actually use a lot more power because we’re running things like fans and they suck a lot of energy. Whereas in winter, we’ve got our fireplace. We do have a wood fireplace, everyone for heating. We do have a gas heater, but we tend not to use it for some reason because the fireplace is such an incredible job. What other bills do we have? Okay, so we have a gas bill obviously for that gas every year, but we also have a phone line because I wouldn’t be able to do my job or bring these podcasts episodes to you if I didn’t have the internet. We have a phone line, it’s a good old fashioned phone. We have one of those and yes, we also have an answering machine.
Can you believe it now? Do you remember those times where we used to be able to lack, remember all of our best friends for our numbers and get home and be like ring them up after school and have long chats. Yeah, that’s me. I know so many phone numbers off by heart because I have a landline and a lot of other people in my local area here have landlines. So we know the numbers. Why do we have a landline? One who provides that internet? Good. Old ADSL it still works guys. Still good. I can still do a zoom call, but two is, we don’t have phone reception. Mobiles are continuously searching for a signal in the forest. It’s just drains the batteries. Pretty much as soon as we are home, our phones go onto plane mode. Anyone who comes to our house, I’m like put your phone on airplane mode because it will seriously kill your batteries really quickly, as far as I’m pretty sure that’s all the utilities that I can think of.
There’s electricity from the sun, hot water from the sun. Gas provides hot water and cooking. We also have the water that comes out of the mountain. We have a phone line that connects us. That is the only mains that comes to our house. So, there you have it. That’s our kind of setup.
What electronics do we, and don’t we have?
This is a really cool question because when I first moved into this house, I was so paranoid that we would not ever have enough power to even charge my laptop. I was like, oh my God. For the first two weeks, I’d take it to the library. Cause at the time I was working at the library and yeah, I’d go in and plug in there to recharge my phone on my battery, on my computer.
Cause I was so worried that we’d drain our batteries by having all these electronics. Now, just to clarify, our solar system is actually over 20 years old, it’s still doing the job. However, technology has advanced so much over the last 20 years and yeah, our battery system probably does need replacing and sooner rather than later, which would then actually stole more energy, which eventually we will be looking into so we can run more things. So right now, yes, we have fridge. It’s not a gas fridge, but a real electrical fridge. It doesn’t suck that much energy, which is really good. I’m not saying it’s choosing the right appliance for your home. Anything that’s really low voltage is really what we’re after. So we also have a washing machine. Now there’s a little catch without washing machine. I don’t use it unless the sun is on our house.
Being in a south facing valley, some days I’m waiting from like maybe nine to nine 30 in the morning for the sun to hit the solar panels so I can run our washing machine. The reason why I wait is because there’s energy coming in as energy is leaving the system and with the washing machine, when it spins, it’s a front loader, by the way, everybody, that’s a new one, it’s an LG, we’ve just upgraded. When it starts the spin cycle, it pulls more energy and our Virta, you can start hearing it. How many, Ooh, it’s sucking a lot of electricity just to speak in a washing machine. So, I have to be mindful like don’t do washing on a cloudy day. To be honest, you probably don’t anyways, right? Because he hang it outside to dry. That’s the other thing is we do not have a dryer.
A dryer is a closed line and worst case scenario. It doesn’t get completely dry. We have a, has I call it the Chinese laundry set up. We have loads of ropes inside the house. In winter, we put the fire on and everything’s pretty dry overnight, from that set up. We’re always working with nature with that element as well. We run a TV, mind you, we’re not big TV consumers or, my kids watch ABC kids in the afternoon. Sometimes we watch in the evening as well. Once again, when it’s finished, it’s turned off completely. It’s not left running. The two things that are left running in our house at all times is one the fridge. We have a light little network for our wifi and computer systems. Once again, once our laptops are finished for the night, turned off and closed, nothing is leaped going. We do have a vacuum cleaner that we use.
It’s like a little Dyson battery handheld thing, which is awesome. That’s the thing like, you don’t want it to have electronics that suck a lot of energy. Here’s the cool thing. Our solar system is awesome enough to actually run a rice cooker. When I found this out, I was like, yes, because honestly, rice cooker rice, it’s just, you can’t like do anything better than that. It’s just like such a godsend that machine I can’t live without my rice cooker. Yeah, I ran it once and we tested it and it was all good. Once again, like I couldn’t use it on a week where it’s been raining for a week. However, if our generator was running, I’ll talk more about that in a moment, I can run it. So, it’s using what you can. Usually what we don’t have in the house is heating elements. No toaster, no cattle, no hairdryers, no dry as few clothes, anything with heating elements, like an electrical heater, none of that because they draw so much electricity.
So we have zero of that. What do we use for toaster? Most people laugh when they come over, we have like a campfire one. It’s like, got mesh and some greats on it. You just put it on the gas stove top. What do we use for kettle, a saucepan? What do we used for a jaffle? I and our kids love jaffles or toasted sandwiches. It depends what you call them. We have a camp, one that we do over the gas stove. There’s always an alternate on active. I did use a hair curlerr for a while. Once again, only when the sun was out and on the solar panels, because once it’s a heating element, but as long as it’s a low heating element and not for extended periods of time, we found is really good. That’s what we do and don’t have what else?
So how do I run my business from home?
This is the other question a lot of people ask, well, we have the internet, which is awesome. So ADSL, it does work. For some reason I haven’t had too many problems over the years. Sometimes it can be dodgy, but generally we’re pretty good. I have been lucky in that regard, we did actually install an extra satellite dish for the internet. However, I think we’ve turned it on about four pre-tenure and four times a year. Maybe, when the weather is really terrible, because our phone lines can go down due to bad weather and then we’re really cut off from society. Yeah, cause my husband’s wife, we needed to always have yeah. Internet connection to the outside world. We have that and I’ve tapped into that as well. Yeah, it’s just being efficient with the electricity that we do have. So nothing is different. I still have an office, I still have a computer. I still have wifi. I have all the things that I need to run my business.
Another question that, I’ve talked a lot about having a generator.
So let’s answer this question. What happens when it rains for a week and there is no sun, okay. A generator, we have this Olson device Petro fueled by the way. So we can run that. Probably we wait until our batteries get to around 75%. Once they get to about that, we know we need to run the generator. I mean, it’s like they’re depleted in us systems. You don’t have to, like, you probably wouldn’t have to do it that much. Like let you could let it go down more. But for our system is so old. If it goes past like that 75, it takes a lot longer than a lot more energy to recharge the batteries. Generally when it’s low cloud rainy, we’re not getting that much sun in. Yeah, we always have to watch how much percentage our batteries are at.
We do dip under that 75 in the afternoons, we hit the generator. It runs for about two and a half hours and tops up the batteries and gets us through the next 24 hours, depending on what happens the next day. If it continues to rain, we may have to do it every day. It just depends on the weather. So the generator is really cool. We’re using bigger machinery, say for example, at the moment I’ve been doing a lot of cleaning, builder to come to the house and they had to use power tools, we’d run it off the generator because it’s more power, faster power than what our little battery system can do. Yeah, that’s one of the things that we have.
So, as I mentioned about the washing, that’s what we do. We move everything inside. Yeah. So that’s what happens when it rains. It’s just knowing how to, keep an eye on your system and also the weather. Okay.
The wildlife now this one always makes me giggle.
Even now as I look outside my window, we have Charlie snake. Charlie’s snake is a carpet snack. He was on a piece of tin that hugs the house it’s right next to the solar battery bank. Yeah. This piece of tin. He sits out there most mornings and sometimes all day, like a day like today where it’s overcast and cloudy, he’ll probably be there all day. Now Charlie carpet snack, he is little ish, I guess for us. He, to us is our resident math, ADA, we don’t want mice in the house. So he’s our mice eater. We tend to only see him, through where are we now? Autumn, winter.
Just the beginning of spring after that, he disappears again for a while, but he has the same spot. He always comes back to the same spot. Not once has he been inside the house? I’m sure he goes in the walls and in the ceilings, but he doesn’t come in to where humans are resigning, which we’ve come to lack, learn to live with. So, every morning we can come into my office and on the chair and look out at Charlie’s snake on the wildlife, we have giant choanas and a lot of them, we have one that’s very old. We actually like as a community, cause we’re on the emo multiple occupancy. So there’s several houses on the property. Yeah. We all looked after him for a while because he was looking pretty, not go on his funnily enough. They actually live for 80 years. Isn’t that insane? Like reptiles for how amazing.
We, he actually looks after him and since then he’s become like, he’s like a pet and he’d Grimes between the houses he comes and gets these food and whatever else. And yeah, just does these things. So, often he’s sitting, sleeping in the sun at our backdoor, very happy, most other ones because he rules the roost here. Most other ones. If you see it go on, like they just bolt up a tree. As soon as you say them, they’re not aggressive at all. Yeah, once again, you just live with them, all the snakes and things that we have here because it’s a rainforest, it’s not grassy at all. Like honestly we don’t have grass, it’s trays, weeds, and small shrubs and things that thrive in rainforest. So we don’t have anything really venomous. We’ve got green tree snakes, lots of those little whip snakes, but we also have these cool ones called night tigers.
Now they’re also part of the pie, thin family. They live in the rooms and things like that, of our house. Once again, not inside. Yeah. We have them, but they’re doing their job, eating the things that we don’t really want in the house. We live in harmony with the wildlife and that’s kind of our philosophy with living in the off-grid rainforest living situation. So, you know, we have spiders. Yes. We have lots of Huntsman’s from all different shapes and sizes from an Australian 50 cent pace to the size of my hand, when we first moved in, there was probably one as big as my husband’s hand. He’s got really long thin fingers and yeah, the spider was gigantic. His name was star. We called him here and he hung around for the first couple of months. I think he’s a bit a rude shock when two very noisy kids would come in and be like, what are you doing? Like, he was six meters above them, but at the same time, like were pretty noisy when we first moved in.
Once again, it’s an ecology thing. Like they’re eating a lot of cockroaches and bugs as well. We kind of see it as an ecosystem. However, I do quite often get Huntsman’s relocated from inside outside because there’s a threshold of how many you can have inside and also the temperament of the spider. There’s a few varieties of Huntsman’s that we have. Yet if they’re a bit flighty and Ruby, yeah. They have to leave the house. I ASAP, there’s a few parts of the house that no spiders are allowed. One bedroom, two bathrooms, not okay. Everywhere else. I don’t mind as long as they’re up high and don’t move all day. I’m good. Yeah, learning to live with wildlife, there’s plenty of bugs and critters. We got aunts and all sorts of things out there, but you learn to live with it and you take precautions. Like mosquitoes can be thick and wild and some, we get leeches, we get jumping ants, like there is a whole bunch of stuff, but we take precautions, we look after ourselves and we also respect nature.
Once again, like there’s an ecosystem here, like, well living here in their ecosystem with our house. We don’t really kill anything unless it’s the mosquitoes that driving you crazy. I think anyone with a squishy mosquito, if that was, they were annoying them. Sorry. Yeah. That’s the wildlife situation. Apart from that, off-grid living what I right. It totally. So I love it. Yeah. It’s, we are so blessed to have this lifestyle out, veggie gardens down the road. We’ve got a Creek for our kids to swim in. We can go on a forest walk with ease our bills, literally like next to nothing a year because we have a gas bill and a phone and internet bill. That is it like, that is all, most of our outgoings. We’re saving loads of money where trying to create low impact on the environment and yeah. Do our thing. So that’s awkward living.
Now, if you have more questions, hit me up over on Instagram, please do, because I love talking about off-grid living and I also, if you have, yeah. At any point is for your own place. Yeah. Just shout out because I’m happy to share some pictures and some things here over the coming weeks as well. All right. So that’s it for me today. I’ll be back with the next episode soon.