Summary + Statistics
Retrosuburban Real Estate Checklist rating: This property hasn’t yet been rated.
Location: St Clair, Western Sydney (pop. 20,000 of 4.3m)
Soil: Sydney clay
Build: 1970’s brick veneer house on piers with concrete tile roof
2016 Property Value: AU$NA
Household: 2 adults
Floor space: 110m²
Roof area: 120m² (house) + 25m² (Garage) 21m² (carport)
Water tank storage: 11,500lt
Tank water use: as required for irrigation
Mains water use: 245lt per day
Greywater: all water from the shower/bath is directed to the banana circle and all laundry water is directed to a constructed wetland and thence fruit trees
Power: 1kw grid tied system; 500w stand alone system. Annual Power exported:1047kWh
These figures are how we operated up to a Nov 2016. We are now almost off grid with 1.2kw of panels connected to 2 nickel iron 24 volt battery banks contributing an average of 5.6kWhrs per day over Nov 2016. Extra panels are planned to take the system up to 2.5kw.
Annual Power imported: 1518kWh
Av. Power produced: 2.87kWh p/d
Av. Power used: 4.16kWh p/d
Annual Gas used: 1102MJ (0.5 x 45kg cylinder/year)
Annual Wood used: 1m³
Food production: 80% veg/50% fruit/ 100% herbs/100% eggs
Waking hours at home: We are semi retired (confirm % estimate)
I get in grass hay from a local supplier and let it get worked over by chooks and then use it as mulch. We have 14 beds, half are about 2 metres x 1 metre and half are 3 metres x 1 metre. We fertilise mainly using a chook tractor which is designed to sit directly over a veggie bed with some compost and comfrey extract also used.
We also have fruit trees – a mandarin; lemon, lemonade and orange tree, half a dozen bananas in a banana circle, a mulberry tree, native plum, olive, feijoa and two lime trees (one Tahitian, one Kaffir) and more recently a couple of apples, a nectarine and macadamia nut. The apples, limes and macadamia are in the front yard in a fruit tree circle based around a worm tower. The fruit tree circle also has a dwarf lemon and a curry leaf tree.
In terms of electrical power, we have a grid connected 1 kW photovoltaic system that has been in since the start of 2009, but we have had a standalone system in place for over 25 years. This is what he had and how it operated up until November 2016 –
Unfortunately the fridge does consume more than I thought so we bought a couple of 130 watt Sharp panels to power the fridge and allow more power back into the house system. The stand alone and the 1k watt back-to-the-grid system have reduced our electricity bill to almost nothing.
Due to the vanishing of the AU60c feed in tariff we have decided to go off grid. The bottom bank of batteries (worn out) has been decommissioned as have the older panels with the Sharp panels being retained and a series of 4 x SolarE 130w panels and 4 x Stion 140 watt thin film panels have been installed, (soon to be increased by another 8 Stion 140 watt panels).
We also have a number of solar cookers including a solar oven which we can use to cook bread the year ‘round (it just takes a bit longer in winter.). Another type of solar cooker uses flat mirrors on a frame like a slice out of a parabolic dish to focus the sunlight on the bottom of a black painted stainless steel pot (good for frying and steaming). Due to the way we plant now we don’t produce a lot of excess veggies but we have a solar drier to process any excess we do get.
We have a over 10,000 litres of water storage – 2 x 2500 litre galvanised steel water tanks on the back of the garage and a newer plastic 5500 litre tank at the side of the house and a newer 500 litre water butt off one of the sheds.
The larger tank is connected to a 12volt pump which allows us to irrigate the various food gardens.
To reduce our water usage for growing food we have been progressively implementing low tech, low water use irrigation options over the last 6 years.
These include ollas made from scratch (by me as a potter), ollas made from commercial plant pots, deep pipe waterers, porous hose, buried pipe waterers, buried capsule waterers, wicking beds and self-watering containers.
It is really an attitude more than anything else, looking at the reduce part of the trio of “Reduce, Reuse and Recycle” and have added “refuse” to the trio – refuse packaging and other stuff we don’t need. We keep asking, “How can we do this ourselves, with what we have on hand?”.
It is a journey really and we are still working on how we can become more self reliant and sustainable and hold a “Directors” meeting every October to look at how we are travelling on the plan and what changes need to be made and what the priorites should be for the coming year. We are also contributors to Permaculture Sydney West of which I am president.
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