Our (modest) transition to urban self-sufficiency (Part 1)

Living in a city has many advantages, but also some serious disadvantages. Among them is the fact that space is limited to grow your own food or produce your own energy. Some small steps can, however, make a huge difference.

Here is what we have done in our small townhouse in Pretoria (South Africa).

1) We installed double-glazing windows throughout the house. We replaced the notoriously ugly and inefficient South African windows, with locally produced windows (designed by us). In winter, this makes a huge difference. We basically do not need to use any form of heating during the winter months, as the sunshine coming through the windows is enough to heat the house, which is then retained from most of the night (gets a bit chilly in the morning, but it’s bearable).  Cost: 30,000 Rand (about 3k USD)

2) Installation of PV panel and solar heater.

Solar heaterWe installed a small PV panel, which provides direct power to water pumps and some appliances (only when there is sunlight, as we have no battery set, nor are we allowed – yet- to connect to the grid via feed-in systems) and a solar heater. Our water geyser is now fully solar powered. It’s a pleasure to shower with hot water even in times of ‘load shedding’ (the term used in South Africa to describe planned blackouts). Our monthly electricity bill dropped from about 1k Rand to roughly 200 Rand. Cost: 9,000 Rand (about 900 USD)

3) Installation of grey water harvesting system.

IMG_1446 We are now able to collect all the grey waters coming from our energy-efficient washing machine and from our bathrooms, which we use for the irrigation of the herb garden and the lawn. Cost: 13,000 Rand (about 1,300 USD).

4) Rain water harvesting system.

Rain water tanksThrough a set of water tanks and a system of drip irrigation (which we have designed and installed ourselves recycling old hose pipes), we are now able to water all our plants with rain water. The tanks have a maximum capacity of 1,500 litres and allow us to go on for about 1 month during drought periods. Cost: 1,500 Rand (about 150 USD).

And now, we are going to cook some good pizza with the veggies (e.g. rucola, spinach, cherry tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, basil, rosemary, fennel, etc.) we grow in our own garden!

It’s so much fun!!!!

Nano and tomatoes

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