Life off the grid

Energy Efficient: The lights in Gary and Jo-Anne Allie's home shine brightlu come rain. wind, sunshine or loadshedding as the couple live off the grid. They took the ;plunge' four years ago.
Energy Efficient: The lights in Gary and Jo-Anne Allie’s home shine brightlu come rain. wind, sunshine or loadshedding as the couple live off the grid. They took the ;plunge’ four years ago.

Couple reaps benefits of green investments, is unaffected by load-shedding

While most Eastern Cape residents are scrambling to snap up gas products and stock up on candles, a Port Elizabeth family is reaping the benefits of the green energy investments they made four years ago.

Life off the grid, especially now in the midst of Eskom’s power woes, is proving to be so good for Gary Allie, his wife Jo-Anne and their kids that the family is looking at adding electrical appliances to their gas-powered repertoire because their solar system’s electricity output has been that excellent.

The Allies – Gary, a GP, and Jo-Anne, a computer programmer, who live in Sardinia Bay with their teenage son and daughter, Dane and Jade, said: “We use 9kW of power daily and our solar system produces about 18kW or more of electricity each day.

“Everything in the house runs and operates smoothly – we have not had an issue in five years of living like this.

“In fact, we are looking into buying electrical appliances because of how efficient the system has been.”

Load-shedding is a foreign concept in the couple’s beautiful home – they only experience the bane to many a South African’s existence when they are on the road and the traffic lights are off, or when browsing social media.

No matter the weather or the state of the country’s strained power grid, the lights keep on burning in the Allie home thanks to their 16 solar panels that sit pretty on the roof of the couple’s garage.

Sourced from Germany, each panel costs R3 000 and has an energy capacity of 300W. The panels are designed to detect even the faintest sunlight, the couple says.

Two inverters and 24 2V batteries round up the Allies’ power generation arsenal.

“The inverters were sourced from Australia and Belgium, and we got them for R40 000. We bought the batteries for another R40 000,” the Allies said.

Although the input capital needed to become self-sufficiency is high, the long-term benefits are worth it, they say.

“The solar panels have a 25-year warranty and the batteries have a 15-year lifespan, so you recoup the costs over time. Also, how much does one pay Eskom for electricity over a lifetime? The real pity here is that 90% of people who experience load-shedding cannot afford to go off the grid,” they said.

And the municipal quote they got to wire their home came to R80 000 – as far as they are concerned, taking the plunge into solar energy has been worth it.

The road to energy efficiency is the culmination of years of painstaking planning and research.

The Allies put their heads together and drew on each other’s strengths and areas of expertise to develop this and other green systems functioning in their home. The couple harvest their own rain water.

They began investigating ideas on off-the-grid living while travelling the world as part of the Globeriders Cape2Cape team from 2007 to 2010 – an overland trip that took them to 70 countries.

“We came across some of the best ideas in the UK and Europe.

“We heard about the Eskom crisis while we were still on the road,” they said.

To them it is an oddity that someone driving the latest luxury car will complain about not having power, as the money spent on such items could be invested in making one’s home not only environmentally friendly but also energy efficient.

-Xolisa Phillip

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