I am doing some research into how to maximize a tiny budget for a teeny dwelling. I do not have any money to spend yet, though I am working towards a savings goal. Admittedly, I really should be maximizing the electricity bill by being in bed asleep except the two cups of chamomile are yet to have the impact I thought they would.
Disclaimer: I am not a builder, this should be read as an opinion piece only. What follows is merely my current understanding of the Building Codes and current regulations. This should not be taken as fact, and anyone looking to build should get a copy of the current Building Code of Australia, or of their country/locale and contact relevant professionals: e.g. certified builder; electrician; plumber; council assessors. The legislation, pricing and understanding relates to Australia only.
Today, it seems I am a walking talking head ache. To distract myself, I am doing my usual thing, where I try and get my head around an entire industry, or at least the salient bits, in three days, or less. Given the time I have spent so far, it really is quite remarkable what I have learnt about low cost living solutions. I am also taking into account the possibility of living in a semi rural location and at least giving a smaller environmental footprint a nod.
For example, I now think I know (please see a licensed builder/ assessor/s) that in order to have an off grid solar system for power worth having you need a solar panel and inverter system, batteries - preferably deep cycle - and a back up generator. When I started to get my head around it all, I decided that being connected to the grid is an absolute bargain, and complaining about the cost of electricity pales to almost insignificance when you get your head around it all.
As best I could tell, a high quality off grid system for a small dwelling could set me back $8149, with the average battery life being 12-15 years. with a five to seven year warranty. Plus with the system I was costing you needed to by a DC (Direct Current) Fridge for $800 - 1000 with about a 50 L capacity. The generator for the solar system, to keep me away from the electrical company, would be $7000 or more. The best ones on the market seemed to have warranties of around two years.
It seems to me there are smarter ways of saving on electric and still having the convenience of the grid. The grid looks good once you get your head around the alternatives. The Building Code of Australia now requires that dwellings that are signed off for living in (Class 1 a), are well insulated and meet expected wind grades for an area. Well insulated dwellings are a great way to minimize heating and cooling costs.
Newer appliances and smarter use of electrical goods, along with modern electrical bulbs also help save electricity and water. Then there is the possibility of having some adjunct solar panels that really seems to give a person the best of both worlds, and can be installed post build and saved up for. A wood heater and camping oven could be part of the back up system I would have in play for the hopefully, rare power outages, where I would plan to live.
I can definitely see the advantages of Australian Certified, modern composting loos which start at a $1000 or so, and while there is some plumbing involved, do not seem to reach the heady heights of a septic system at around $7-10,000 plus. This is what happens to someone who is curious, wants to know how to save money, has heard of people spending $30, 000 on a septic system and can not help but wonder that there is a cheaper, contemporary way of dealing with the waste.
There's also the temptingly genteel but expensive option of an incinerating loo which deals with the waste by burning it, in a self contained contraption. The ashes go on the non-food garden. Nicer, and will set you back around $5000 with no real plumbing cost involved. The fear of a burnt behind may put some people off, though as I understand it, you trigger the process while well away from the loo's efficient use of effluent.
Disclaimer: for professional building advice please contact relevant authorities and licensed professionals.