Considerations for building an off-grid home


Are you ready to disconnect?

Leading a sustainable, environmentally conscious life is becoming more attractive to homebuilders. Through intelligent, thoughtful design, homes can function completely off-grid whilst maintaining all luxuries of an on-grid lifestyle.

We have seen an increase in people choosing to go off-grid as it provides them with the opportunity to minimise their impact on the planet, or environmental footprint. We see this through the implementation of passive design principles, combined with advancements in technology and increased competitiveness in the solar market. Achieving the perfect balance between sustainable design and comfort is no longer out of reach for off-grid home builders and modular homes.

Below we outline what you need to consider to make the most of operating your home off-grid.

Passive Solar

A passive solar design should be the first consideration made when planning your home.

It involves balancing the function and aesthetics of a home, with the role of the sun on your home. Design and orientation  play a significant role in the homes ability to heat and cool itself whilst reducing energy consumption and carbon footprint.

To work well, the design needs to include:
– Window orientation within 30 degrees of true north, clear of any shading
– Thermal mass – concrete, brick, stone or tile, to absorb the heat from the sunlight during winter and absorb the heat from warm hear during summer
– Conduction, convection or radiation to distribute the heat around the house
– Shading systems such as eaves or operable vents and dampers to allow or restrict heat flow, shutters and awnings

It’s also worthwhile considering any wind factor in the area. If you are lucky enough to be building along the coast, you’ll need to consider any coastal breeze likely at your property.

Windows & Insulation

Window selection and placement is an integral component to an off-grid home and coincides with the orientation of your home with a north facing building being the best option.

Large windows combined with roof eaves allow more light and heat into the home during winter, while providing valuable shade during summer. Get this right during the design stage, and you’ll be surprised how much it can affect the temperature inside your home.

Making use of natural light – in the form of well-positioned skylights – also reduces the need for indoor lighting and will lower your overall power consumption.

Wall and ceiling insulation is a must for all Australian properties and can reduce your heating and cooling costs by up to a staggering 50% per year, whilst reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

How well an insulation product resists heat flow is know as its R value. The higher the R value, the higher the level of insulation. The appropriate degree of insulation depends on your climate, building construction type, and whether auxiliary heating and/or cooling is to be used.

Power Generation

Living off grid means you have to consider your home’s source of power and energy. Usually, off-grid homes rely on generators, solar energy, wind or a combination.

It is important to remember that any electrical grid starts with power generation, and an off-grid generation system is no different.

Whilst solar panels are a fantastic solution for generating electricity, there are times when the panels are unable to produce enough power (night time and cloudy days) to meet demand.  This is where a battery system comes in handy; they store the electricity until you are ready to use it. When shopping around for a battery system make sure you check whether the system has a built in inverter.

There are several government rebate schemes, it’s worth checking the Federal Government Energy website to see what is available in your area.

Waste Management

Living off-grid means you cannot rely on government or public services to dispose of your waste. Therefore, handling and disposing of waste is a factor that needs to be considered in setting up off-grid.

A Septic Tank is an effective and environmentally friendly way to remove toilet matter and gray water from your off-grid home. The relevant permits and approval must be acquired through your local council and EPA and it is strongly recommended that installation is done by a company that specialises in septic tanks.

Alternatively, composting toilets offer a pleasant water-saving solution to flushing systems in off-duty houses where water is a precious commodity. Compositing systems can be configured above floor for low use patterns or with sub-floor compost cambers for more regular use.

The additional benefit of composting toilets is they great for the environment and can help save upwards of 30,000 litres per year.