How quitting the grid – in an energy efficient home – will save you

Can you imagine arriving home from work, and after parking the car in the garage, checking the levels of energy stored in your own power station? Yep!! Enough to run the house tonight and top up the electric vehicle for tomorrow.
You check your mailbox knowing you don’t have to worry about any gas or electric bills being there because you are not on either grid. You have built a freedom home!

off-grid home
An off-grid home in Maine, US.

So, how does this happen. First, it is important to understand you will not be living in a “glorified tent” the accurate description given to so many homes in Australia, where people build to a price and not to a standard.
That is costly and inefficient. Standard is number 1 in Europe and North America where in many places it is -30° in winter and you cannot open a window, but where energy efficient construction still enables people manage to ventilate, heat and live healthily and comfortably.
Professor Adrian Barnett from the Queensland University of Technology has described many Australian homes as nothing more than “glorified tents“, exposing us to much lower temperatures than the Scandinavians endure! Around 2,000,000 homes in Victoria alone are less than 2 stars.
Barnett wrote in The Age. “The result is that most Victorians are using more energy and spending more money than they should just to keep their homes at a liveable temperature.
“Gas and electricity prices are expected to rise, so the cost-of-living impact will only worsen. For many low-income and vulnerable Australians, heating one of these flimsy, poorly insulated homes is unaffordable, leaving them to live in chronically cold conditions that are detrimental to their health – and ultimately to their lifespans.”
And yet you can build a house using the latest Australian, Italian, French, German, American, Chinese and many other countries’ building materials, methods, products, technology and ideas that will take you off the grid… and you don’t have to invest in expensive heating and cooling.
The cost of this winds up being roughly equivalent to the old double brick way of building; except your non-capital gains taxable home is worth more and you have no energy bills to pay and only some for water (although that may change in 2017/18).
In investment terms, there are two vital components: capital growth and income. Clearly a home that is void of energy bills and heating and cooling (which can break down, need replacing or fixing; appallingly builders are still installing expensive to run Refrigerated Air-Con which seem to costs ~$10000 upwards –  plus running costs) is worth more than a similar size home that has both these appliances. A home that doesn’t need these, plus is self-sufficient energy wise is worth more and is easily proven by historical data.
Tick capital growth.
As for income, zero gas and electric bills is real (after tax) money in your pocket. An average electricity bill of $500 a quarter running at 7 per cent energy inflation, over the time of a solar panels warranty of 25 years will cost you $135,353.
And gas – which is tipped to rise by 30 per cent by 2020? How much would those savings be?
And what would happen if you used those nominal savings to pay down your mortgage quicker? How much interest would you save? It is a double whammy in terms of income.
Tick Income.
On top of this you and your family can live in an environment that keeps a comfortable year-round temperature, kills dust mites and mould, and eliminates toxins and condensation. Respiratory illness sufferers will love that! Plus, the tiresome housework of dusting all but eliminated.
The solar system would be designed by a REC/CEC electrician to know exactly how much electricity you need in the daytime and designed to be able to capture this energy from the sun (which also warms the house) and for night time usage as well …. and by 2020 if not before, charges the EV.
Also, an exciting new residential wind energy source was recently invented in Holland using ideas from 2300 years ago! That is on the way. Goodbye petrol costs.
Fanciful? No, reality. It is happening in places like Germany now!
And for business owners, the principals remain the same. Experts can examine all your equipment for energy efficiency and for only around $2000 give you a report on recommendations to increase efficiency and productivity.
Then, via either the CEFC or other renewable energy finance experts, a finance and tax report that shows you how can save real money on energy outgoings – savings that go straight to your bottom line.
The return on investment is often north of 20 per cent a year, rising as energy prices rise, and your rent-to-own payments are often less than those you are currently paying energy companies using dirty coal that is polluting the atmosphere and contributing to the global climate change emergency.
Ultimately, it is a case of paying the energy company … or yourself, whether it is at home or work.
Whether you believe in climate change or not, energy efficiency is a commercial investment, for homeowners and businesses. And your investment will help make the world a cleaner, healthier place.
P. Stephen O’Leary is author of “THE FREEDOM HOME …. PAYING ENERGY BILLS is OPTIONAL …. and may save your life.” He has a degree in sustainability assessment from Swinburne University, is qualified as an authorised building sustainability assessor with the Association of Building Sustainability Assessors (ABSA) and holds several more managerial and financial qualifications.
Watch for links to purchase the eBook on OneStep and RenewEconomy in February.


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