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The pros and cons of going off the grid

Friday, October 02, 2015

South Africa’s power generator, Eskom, is faced with having an insufficient capacity to generate the required amount of electricity for all the country’s needs and requirements. Because of this, the country has had to face rolling blackouts which affected not only people but businesses as well. To mitigate this, companies have resorted to buying generators to keep their businesses running at great cost to themselves and to customers, while citizens have to make do with load shedding for long periods at a time.  

The shortage of electricity in the country has brought to the fore the issue of the world’s resources running out. As a result of this, many people have been searching for alternative and renewable sources of energy to reduce their carbon footprint and to do their part in ensuring that the world’s resources aren’t depleted.  Many people have already chosen to switch off by going off-grid by powering their households with renewable energy from the sun, the wind and water.

You may be wondering whether you too should do your part and go off Eskom’s grid; before you do though, we’ll take you through the pros and the cons of going off the national grid and switching to renewable energy.


Pros of living off the grid

No more hefty electricity bills

You can finally say goodbye to hefty electricity bills that seem to rise constantly (Eskom raised electricity tariffs for two consecutive years, but thankfully they were rejected by NERSA  from implementing another price increase this year.) The sun’s energy is free and, what’s more, in South Africa, we’re blessed with sunshine throughout most of the year. Should you go for solar energy, you’ll likely not need to worry about having power all year round.  

Become more environmentally friendly

If you’ve always wanted to be environmentally friendly, then this is the perfect chance to do so; you’ll learn everything there is to know about how to live independently from the electricity system, as well as how to manage your use and conserve your electricity.

No more dependence on the national utility

Eliminating your reliance on Eskom’s power, means your life doesn’t have to come to a stop when the country suddenly goes into load shedding mode. In fact, that could be the time you can make some money from Eskom by providing them with the surplus energy that you will be generating.

Design your home any way you like

Because of their reliance on our city’s utility services, many homes are built in a certain way to factor in underground cables and sewage pipes that have to reach each and every home.  Since you don’t have to consider these factors, you can design your house however you like and wherever you like. You could even use environmentally-friendly straw bales or other materials that are considered ‘green.’


Cons of living off the grid 

Adapting to the new lifestyle change

As this will be a totally new way of living, it requires a mental change and approach in everything you do. If you were used to switching on all the lights and leaving the geyser on all day, now you will have to learn to only use what you need and to conserve the rest.

Start-up costs

Although choosing to go off the grid can be a rewarding experience, it isn’t cheap, as you will have to pay thousands upfront to be able to see savings overtime, as there will be no more paying hefty sums for electricity. However, you can look into renewable energy financing schemes like GreenFin to get started if money is an issue. 

Intensive maintenance required 

Since this will be your very own power source, it means that you are responsible for everything that has to do with it, which includes changing batteries, to servicing the mechanical parts, to making sure that everything is working in order. As it’s still a new technology there are few people that can service these and it may become expensive to maintain.

Space requirements

To build a truly self-reliant home might mean a bigger space to set up your battery systems, which might also require you to look for more suitable land.


After looking at the pros and cons of going off the grid, it’s clear that it’s a decision that should be well thought out. In some ways, you can save a lot of precious time by not having to worry about feeding the kids when the power is out or charging your laptop’s battery so you can get important work done on time. It can also mean less time spent claiming on your home insurance when your appliances break due to power surges. But going off the grid also leads to more effort in terms of maintenance and more start-up costs.