Out of Love for the Environment, Some Sydneysiders Practice ‘Off-Grid’ Approach

Solution off-grid, as they call it. They do not want to rely on the government or private companies for access to clean water and electricity.

Michael Mobbs was one of the Sydneysiders who adopted the solution. “About 25 years ago I off-grid for two reasons. First, for childish reasons, I was told I couldn’t do that and like a child I wanted to do it. And second, I want to show my love for the earth.”

Mobbs is an expert on sustainable home construction. His house in Sydney relies solely on solar panels and rainwater for his daily needs.

Rainwater is collected from the roof through closed gutters to prevent leaves and bird droppings from mixing with the water. The collected rainwater is then channeled through a filter until it ends up in an 8,500 liter capacity tank buried under the deck.

Mobbs also reuses dirty water that comes from his house. To that end, he installed four tanks which were also buried underground. An aerator pumps air into the tanks to support the life of microorganisms that clean the water by eating the waste they contain. When needed, water is pumped out of one of the tanks through a sand filter, and sterilized with an ultraviolet lamp to kill viruses and pathogens.

Most of the water in the Mobbs house is not used for drinking and eating, but for flushing toilets, washing clothes, bathing and watering the garden. However, Mobss admitted that he could drink the water directly from the faucet, and did not experience any health problems.

According to him, he saves 90,000 liters of water per year, or about 3 million liters during the 25 years he has practiced the approach off-grid.

In 1996, Mobbs was also listed as one of the first in Sydney to install 18 solar panels on his roof. He then added 12 additional panels bringing the total power capacity to 3.5kW. In 2015, Mobbs took it to the extreme by cutting his home completely off the private power grid.

Approach off-grid also do businessman Debra Gray. He installed rainwater tanks and solar panels in his home above the cafe he founded, which his daughter now runs.

“Water is a very valuable resource. Why waste it? I can also save on electricity costs. Usually around 1,200 Australian dollars a month (equivalent to 880 US dollars, ed), now only 700 dollars.”

Gray didn’t go as far as Mobbs because he didn’t have enough space to install an extra tank and lots of solar panels. Approach off-grid only practiced for his cafe. To meet the needs of his house, he still accesses the water and electricity network available in Sydney. [ab/uh]