a broad life

A little house in the desert

So this is our little house in the desert. Yes in the middle of the desert, but what a view. We were fortunate enough to be able to purchase this small part of desert in 2008, just before our second son was born.

We have piped water which is great because there is no water underground just rock and rocks… We don’t have electricity however. The power lines do not go out as far as us which was a major plus for us. We didn’t want those unsightly electrical cable running across our view. So we went solar.

We had no experience with living in an only solar house but we were willing to learn. First, the cost of solar in Namibia is not cheap. There are no government subsidies, no tax breaks, nothing. So we had to include it in our measly home loan sum. Which meant we would have less to build with and we had a very thigh budget.

We were also renting a house at the time which meant we would have to pay both the rent and the first payments on our bond. Needless to say, we wanted to finish building as quickly as possible. It took just under six months to complete our house. Well sort of.

We did all we needed to do to make the house livable and moved in.

The solar system we got is very small, as per our budget. But we still have the same eight years down the line. It is a 3 kw system with 12 batteries.

We can’t iron, hang our clothed out as we cannot have a dryer, use a stove top toaster and wash our clothes in cold water. None of these things are thing we miss. Our clothes come out just a clean in a cold was, our toast may take longer but just as tasty, we have sun shine most days so our clothes dry in a few hours and I don’t miss the ironing.

Aside from this our home is a normal home. We have all the usual electronic equipment. We only really watch TV in the evening for an hour or so and our house has lots of windows so we don’t use the lights during the day. We have had to switch our refrigerator as the first one we bought was a normal fridge and drew so much power we had to shut it off at night during the winter months. We now have a SMEG fridge that is very energy-efficient and we haven’t had any problems running it all day, even in the winter when it can be misty.

During the winter months we have had, on occasion, a day or two without sunshine. We have a generator, 5 kw , which is large enough to run the house for a few hours should our batteries run low. This happens from time to time but we are now accustomed to it and gear down our energy consumption should the weather not cooperate.

Hot water is another issue. We have a double system, or a backup system, for those winter days when you really need a nice warm shower but the sun is nowhere to be found. First, we have a very simple solar geyser. It is, very basically, a collection of black glass pipes. The water circulates through the pipes – with the help of a small solar pump – the black glass pipes absorb the heat and pass it on to the water flowing through. This then gets pumped in to our geyser. Of course, no sun means no warm water. So for the grey misty days we have a small gas geyser. We switch it on and off as we need it – so if we had a sunny day we can just switch it off and while the water runs through it, it won’t turn on. This way we are guaranteed a warm shower all year round!

Last year we installed a pool so we had to source a solar pool pump as we cannot run a normal pool pump off our solar system. although the solar pump is more expensive and we had to purchase more solar panels for it, it runs without a problem from sunrise to sunset and we have a sparkling pool to swim in.

The pool is of course not heated so in order to ensure the water is warm we have a solar blanket. This is basically two big plastic sheets that have air bubbles between them. These air bubbles absorb the sunlight and transfer it to the water. As long as we keep the solar blanket on our pool water remains beautifully warm.

We also completed a small pottery studio for me last year. This includes a pottery wheel and kiln. The pottery wheel is run by a small generator just outside the studio. I just turn it on whenever I need the wheel and the kiln we purchased is a gas kiln as it would be impossible to use a normal kiln.

The idea of going solar is at time overwhelming for most of us but in reality it is just a shift in thinking. There are so many options available nowadays that solar should be the way to go. With a little bit of research I think everyone can make solar power work for them.

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