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How to beat loadshedding

The couple’s new home with its solar panels which provide their power needs. Picture: Supplied

The couple’s new home with its solar panels which provide their power needs. Picture: Supplied

Published Apr 16, 2021

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*This article first appeared in our The Energy Issue of our Simply Green digital magazine

Shaun Fereira’s energy journey was a big deal which involved selling up in the city and starting a new life off the grid. This is his story...

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I grew up and lived most of my life on Gauteng’s East Rand but always wanted to live away from people, be close to nature and try to be as self-sustaining and sufficient as possible.

In April 2019, my partner Donna Porterfield and I sold our house in Benoni, as well as most of our furniture, and set off in our car with all we could fit in it.

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We travelled all over South Africa, camping at various caravan parks and looking for land in a quiet area with a river.

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After about three months, we found what we were looking for: 4 hectares of land between two private game farms with a 150m private riverfront. It is about 12km from a small town called Koppies in the Free State.

We moved on to the land at the end of July 2019, living in our tent. The first job was to clear the bush – it was so thick you could not even see the river. We braaied most evenings and also had a small one-plate gas burner.

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The couple travelled all over South Africa, camping at various caravan parks and looking for land in a quiet area with a river. Picture: Juanita Swarts

We filled it using a ladder and then had a gas geyser which gave us hot water for our outdoor bath under the tree. For power we had 2 x 330W solar panels, a 12V 200ah gel battery, a 2500W inverter and a charge controller. This ran our 50-litre camp fridge, our television and lights. We started a small garden and drilled a borehole for water.

We also built a 6m high tank stand – and eventually started building our house. The building, which is 8m by 12m has an open-plan lounge and kitchen; two bedrooms and a bathroom which uses a composting toilet. The living area opens on to a 3m by 12m deck which overlooks the Renoster River.

Just over a year after we arrived, our house was completed in August 2020, and we moved in. Today we are totally off the grid for both power and water. We upgraded our solar system, so now we have 9 x 330W solar panels, a 5kW inverter/charge controller, 2 x 24V Revov 10.2kWh lithium-ion batteries.

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Bush bath: This was the tub the couple used before they moved into their new home. Picture: Supplied

All this powers a fridge freezer and a camp fridge; our borehole pump and pressure pump; television; ceiling and deck fans; the washing machine and all the lighting.

When we’re not braaing we cook on a gas-powered oven and hob and have a gas geyser for hot water. Our soil here is clay but we have found that after mixing in some compost and a lot of organic matter – left over from all the bush clearing – our soil is fine.

We put up a 5m by 16m shade-net tunnel and have started growing various vegetables and plants. In future, we plan to build another two shade-net tunnels. We also have livestock. We started with two cows, which were meat cows, and later we got a milk.

Shaun Fereira and his partner live totally off the grid, for both power and water, on their land in the Free State. Picture: Supplied

Jersey cow who had a calf three months ago, so we now have a herd of four cows. The Jersey cow gives us about 6 litres of milk a day. We plan to get more animals but before we can do that we need to build a barn which is one of our next projects.

Our goal is to be as self-sufficient and sustainable as possible and maybe even make a little income from our animals, vegetables and plants. It has taken two years to get where we are now and we are loving it.

Hopefully, in the next two years, we will have achieved our goal to supply most of our food needs. We are learning every day by growing things and keeping animals. You can follow us on our Facebook page: HomeSteadSA.

Five things we wish we'd known before we started

The control panel which synchronises energy storage and consumption. Picture: Supplied

1 If you are going off the grid get a minimum 5kw inverter and charge controller.

2 Go with lithium-ion batteries.

3 Learn to work with what you have and do a lot of your own research.

4 There is no such thing as failure – you only learn and get better.

5 Learn patience as sometimes things can take time. You can follow us on our Facebook page: HomesteadSA.

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