Our Journey to Living Off-Grid & Constructing a High-Performance Home
Here at Craft Homes, we’re proud advocates of sustainable building in New Zealand. This is evident not just in the projects we've completed for Kiwi families around the country, but also in the homes we build for our very own. In fact, we have exciting news on that front!
After we, Toby & Cat Tilsley, purchased our dream 15 acres of land in Te Mata just out of Raglan around the middle of last year, we’re thrilled to share our plan and journey in building an off-grid, high-performance home!
At the time of writing, we’ve submitted plans to council and hope to start building in April 2021. We are going to live in the home, but also plan to use it as a Show Home for high-performance homes in the area. We hope to inspire people with our sustainable, off-grid lifestyle and help others witness the clear benefits of this type of build, so they too can find ways to achieve the same.
Below, we lay out what living off-grid entails, what high-performance home are, and how we plan to achieve both. If you want to witness this exciting journey from the very beginning, read on!
What does “living off-grid” entail?
Living off-grid entails living in a way that you don’t have to rely on external systems, suppliers, or providers, e.g., living without being connected to the mains electricity or power grid.
How we plan to achieve off-grid living
Getting power from the mains line to a rural site can cost thousands of dollars and is an issue for most people living in rural areas. This is one of the many reasons why we’ve decided to invest that huge lump sum into a fully off-grid PV (solar) energy system and produce our own energy.
If you want to live off the mains grid, the key is working out energy requirements. Take stock of every appliance in your house—from the washing machine down to your electric toothbrush—and determine your hourly power usage. It’s also important to note that these daily energy requirements might change in summer versus winter.
Then, engage a solar expert to work out the number of solar panels and battery backups you’ll need for your daily energy requirements. Of course, it won’t always be straightforward, as there are a lot of technical things to factor in. Most homes can end up with excess (overflow energy) which can be saved in a battery. To make the most of solar power, we recommend setting up your home to use the most energy during the middle of the day when the sun is at its highest point.
Rainfall Harvesting & Wastewater Treatment
In New Zealand, we have a reasonable amount of rainfall, but relatively few people harvest it. We plan to collect the rainwater that falls off our roof and filter it through to a tank, which can be used for drinking water, for watering the garden, doing the laundry, etc.
We will also be using the Natural Flow system that separates black and grey water at its source and naturally treats both to convert solid waste into liquid fertiliser, so no power is needed. Blackwater from toilets is treated by worms and a filtering process. This is a closed ecosystem that simulates the forest floor. Greywater, on the other hand, is treated via a series of natural settling and filtering processes. The black and greywater are then combined before disposal into the soil to be used for irrigation.
Growing Our Own Food
We’ll be cultivating our own veggie garden and creating an orchard for fruit trees so we can grow as much of our food as possible.
Furthermore, we’ll be keeping animals such as chicken and pigs. They are their own composting system, after all, and leftover food and offcuts from vegetables can also be fed to them to reduce waste.
What is a High-Performance Home?
A high-performance home is a house constructed in a way that maximises energy efficiency. When building this type of home, the focus is on delivering a comfortable and well-ventilated home that’s both energy efficient and very quiet. Homes of any size or style can be built to this high standard using a range of different techniques and materials. In addition to creating a very energy efficient home we plant to produce as much energy as the building uses, which is essentially living off-grid!
High-performance home design requires optimum performance of the following factors:
How we plan to achieve an Off-Grid, High-Performance Home
As well as using the design principles above, we are planning on using various innovative products in our Raglan home.
Examples of these are:
Ultimately, it’s about sustainable living
At the end of the day, it’s about creating a sustainable lifestyle that’s great for our family and the environment—all the way from the building materials we use to the appliances we’ll be using in our day-to-day living.
Keep on the lookout for exciting updates!
We will be releasing a video series of the build process as we go, so stay tuned on the Craft Homes Facebook Page or our website!
If you are interested in building a High-Performance New Build Home, or just curious about sustainable building, don’t hesitate to contact us or ring Toby at 021 025 53091 to set up a free consultation.
Toby and Cat Tilsley