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Designing an eco-friendly off-grid home

by Ken Harbour on August 11, 2014

Designing an eco-friendly, off-grid home 

Those people who care about the world they live in and want to adopt a lifestyle that is as environmentally friendly and energy saving as possible could consider living in a home that is self-sustaining and entirely independent of the National Grid.

What being off the grid means 

Being independent of the National Grid means that a home will no longer have access to mains water, electricity, gas, and the telephone. Homes in very isolated areas of the UK have been doing without these utilities since the structures were built, so it may not be as scary a prospect as some might think. In fact, it is becoming more and more viable as renewable energy equipment prices fall. 

The benefits of an energy independent home 

A home that gets its energy from somewhere other than fossil fuels has to be a good thing. Fossil fuel supplies are getting lower, and deposits are often in areas of the world that are riddled with conflict, making them even harder to obtain at reasonable prices. Living off-grid should mean a person’s costs come down, and there is also the personal satisfaction of knowing they are not contributing to the raping of the planet’s resources. 

Sustainable materials 

A person can decide to go off-grid gradually or make a complete change, building a property from scratch. Properties of this type can be made almost entirely from natural materials, such as timber and straw, with the sourcing of these carried out using equipment that gets its power from renewable energy, such as the Sun.

Using the Sun 

The Sun is not going to run out of power for a few more billion years, so it makes perfect sense to make use of its ferocious energy. Obviously, solar panels will not be utilised during the night, and their efficacy is reduced if the day is overcast or rainy, but solar energy can be stored, ready for use. A less expensive way to trap sunlight is to install solid shutters at windows. Left open during the day, they allow heat into rooms, and when closed of a night, they help to keep it inside and thereby warm the home.

Using rainwater 

Rainwater can be collected in a fibreglass or concrete tank or cistern, which can be placed above ground or set into it. Another alternative is a water barrel, which provides an efficient means of conserving and recycling water that would otherwise simply sink into the earth. 

Sanitation 

Another way to come off the grid is to utilise composting toilets. These use no chemicals and a minimum of water. An aerobic process decomposes the human waste using peat moss and sawdust, which absorb any liquid and reduce odour. The finished substance can then be used to fertilise the land. 

Off-grid, eco-friendly homes are certainly a rising trend, with such homes springing up throughout the world, and their independence becoming a concern to major power suppliers. More information regarding coming off the National Grid can be found at the Energy Saving Trust.

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