When he was a teen, Link Knight saw his uncle go bankrupt and vowed to stay out of debt. Years later he moved into what was left of his uncle’s old home (a family home from the mid-19th century) in rural southwestern Victoria, Australia. The building was missing walls, filled with junk (his uncle was a hoarder) and not connected to the grid (“Since the power system was privatized in Victoria in the early 90s, it would have cost “over 43,000 dollars to get the power connected”).
Link eschewed the large generator that his uncle could never afford to run for a self-installed mix of photovoltaics, propane appliances and low-consuming fixtures (e.g. LED lights). Comparing installing solar to “hanging a picture”, he used – for his main system- two 120-watt panels on star pickets connected to a 30 amp charge controller and 2 batteries (for 200 amp hours). He setup a dedicated system for his solar fridge: one 120-watt panel running off 100 amp hours of batteries.
The system is minimal, affordable and, Link argues, proof that there’s an alternative to buying your way off-grid. “There’s this myth going around that you can’t go off the grid cheap, that you need to put in more than 50,000 dollars worth of solar panels in order to live off the grid. I can tell you for a fact it is cheap to set up off grid”.
Not all appliances feed off his PV setup. He uses a propane freezer, a camping stove (also propane), a wood-burning stove for heat (in his bedroom) and once a week he turns on his small generator for laundry day.
To maximize his generator time, he runs 3 twin tub washing machines (designed to be used without mains pressurized water, he manually moves the clothes between wash and rinse cycles) and simultaneously runs the pump to the refill the overhead tank that holds his household water supply.
Currently his rainwater catchment system is too small for all his water needs so he has to rely on pays to have his reserves refilled by truck, but he hopes to improve his catchment and avoid this cost in the future.
Right now, he saves 80% of his income and his largest expense is his internet bill (he spends a lot of time posting to his youtube channel), followed by the water bill. He does shop at the supermarket, but he has had tougher times economically when he has relied on foraging for things like native peas, stinging nettle and wild honey and hunting Australia’s “national pest”- rabbits (something he can do on foot with his hands).
He admits some things are a bit more complicated, but “there’s a lot of ways and means that you essentially end up achieving what you had on-grid anyway”.