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Building Our Home August 2019

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Our journey to living off grid and sustainably in South Africa continues… August was an exciting month! I GET A SHOWER! Fairy lights, bonfires and a veranda with a SHOWER!

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Follow our off grid journey as we go from looking for land to building our off grid home.

We are on a journey to living off grid and self sustainably in South Africa.

Along the way, we’re doing a lot of research into various topics involved in this lifestyle.

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Browse articles with information and tips on off grid living in South Africa

Running Water

Our area is completely off grid in that we have no municipal services. We are zoned agricultural. However, we are offered the option of connecting to irrigation water. It’s water that is pumped up from the river into a holding dam, then pressure fed to properties who pay to connect to it.

The connection fee is once off and covers the cost of the pipe to your property, and labour. This is the only service the municipality provides us in return for the (minimal, to be fair) rates which we must dutifully pay them monthly (grrr). But at least a very useful one – and they don’t meter it.

It is not potable water, and a filtration system to make it drinkable would cost a fortune. It’s good for plants, and for now, for us to shower in and wash our dishes.

Happy days! With the irrigation water connected in August, we were able to move onto getting a shower and a kitchen sink happening. Running water!!

For the shower, we’d found an awesome old yacht tap in a second hand store in Barrydale. Unfortunately we couldn’t get it to work properly, so we bought simple on/off irrigation tap handles from the hardware store. For the kitchen, we’d scored a second hand sink with draining board on Gumtree for about R200. It needed serious scrubbing and bicarbonate of soda, but looked great after that! We had it fitted to the top of the recycled wood kitchen cabinet from Die Plank Fabriek.

You doesn’t truly realize what a luxury running water is, until you live without it. I was so excited to not have to lift heavy containers every time I wanted water. And don’t get me started on the shower amped-ness! This also meant that the collected spring water could now be dedicated to drinking and cooking only. So I’d have to worry a little less about metering it out to last until Russ was able to come through for a free weekend again.

Veranda

Our next step was to add a covered area behind the cabin to give us a bit more living space, as well as some more formal ablutions. We built a shower cubicle and a toilet cubicle, while putting on a roof that runs the full length of the cabin (6m) and comes out to 2.8m. Pretty much doubling our living space woohoo!

We used Zincalume AZ100 roof sheets to match the cabin roof, and treated poles for the support pillars. We didn’t have anything to clad the ceiling, but we did have some left over sisilation from doing the cabin, so that went up. It’s proven to have been a good move – in summer the temps reach 40deg here, and we are still able to sit under the veranda for some of the day without it getting too baking hot. We used the same roof sheets to make the walls of the shower & toilet cubicles.

Gas Geyser

If you’ve been following us, you’ll know I did a ton of research into solar geysers. Solar geysers aren’t very cheap, and we’d need to install some sort of back up system to cover the months it would be too cold to work. In the end, we decided to invest in a solid gas geyser, which is reliable, robust and works year round. Later, I hope to investigate biogas, but currently it’ll be too costly for us to try build and experiment.

We bought a Dewhot gas geyser to heat the water for both the kitchen sink and the shower. I am VERY happy with this geyser, it’s been light on gas, and adjusts to the incoming water temperature fluctuations very quickly. It uses a battery for ignition, which for real long term sustainability isn’t fab, but could probably be rigged to run off solar power. Instead of running the hot and cold tap simultaneously to get the desired temperature, we set the geyser to 46deg and only use the hot tap to shower. This saves a ton of gas, and it’s been perfect.

Grey Water

Once we had water connected to a kitchen sink and a shower, we needed drains to take water away.

I was also keen to get the toilet urine separator pipe set up to drain away, rather than having to empty the bottle every few days.

To this end, I dug and planted the banana circle grey water system, and we ran our pipes out to it.

Making Pretty

Finally, we are reaching a point of real comfort and less survival. So I had the energy and space to start beautifying our little home.

I love fairy lights, and couldn’t wait to put up my collection of solar lights. They add so much ambience and really transformed the space into something magical!

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