The Attraction of a Low-Bills Lifestyle

Rising electricity prices and more frequent power outages throughout Australia are leading more homeowners to embrace the low bills lifestyle – a more sustainable, environmentally-friendly way of living that coincides perfectly with the ethics of permaculture.

“A greener lifestyle is about having a less expensive lifestyle,” said Kylie Ahern, a Sydney resident who is currently blogging about her home’s transformation as she renovates with the goal of living off-grid. “I would rather be off-grid than having a really expensive kitchen or car.”

According to Michael Mobbs, who has been living off-grid in Sydney since 1996, investing $20,000 in a home renovation can pay off quickly, with savings of $2,000 to $3,000 in energy and water bills. For the past twenty years, Mobbs has paid less than $300 a year for his water and electricity bills.

To achieve the low bills lifestyle she’s looking for, Ahern is installing a water tank to collect rainwater, a stormwater retention pit, solar panels, batteries, and even a greywater system to flush the toilet with reused water from the kitchen.

This concept of using resources in a sustainable, green way has been practiced by permaculturists for decades – and with more people making the switch to off-grid living, there are plenty of opportunities to incorporate these concepts into their own home renovations.

“Everyone needs to use natural resources better because we are a dry country, we don’t always have a lot of rain,” Ahern said. “It’s not a left or right issue – there’s always something we can do, and making choices particularly around water and how much plastic you consume, it starts there.”

Ahern said people have responded very positively to her renovation plans, and she’s noticed more and more people are interested in living cheaply and sustainably. The permaculture lifestyle has started to attract more followers, and people are looking at zero waste living as an opportunity to not just save money, but to avoid contributing to landfills.

Even businesses are beginning to offer more sustainable options for homeowners. Builders are providing solar and battery storage in their home packages, and there has been a marked increase in interest in these products – not just in Australia, but around the world.

“Inquiries have probably doubled in the last three months and sales are probably three to four times what they were last year,” said Jamie Allen, business manager with LG Chem Australia and Pacific.

In 2014-2015, Allen said only 100 to 150 batteries were installed throughout the country, but since then, the number has grown by about four times that rate – each year. A report from Sunlease, a company which installs solar systems, indicated that more than 6750 systems with batteries were installed last year.

While solar systems used to be a bit of a status symbol, Mobbs said people are beginning to see them as a valuable opportunity.

“People feel like it’s the right thing to do, like buying clothing that pays workers a fair wage,” Mobbs said. “It’s about having good, consistent electricity, but also about saving money. People are getting it now.”

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