How to be self sufficient in the UK
Becoming more self sufficient is a dream of many and a growing trend in the UK. Some want to become more self sufficient to reduce their ever-increasing expenditure on energy and contemporary way of living. Others would love the opportunity to get back in touch with nature. For environmentally conscious people homesteading can be a great way to reduce their carbon footprint. Allowing them to transform hobbies and practical skills into a sustainable lifestyle. In this article we will look at ways to have a lifestyle of self sufficiency.
The misconception some have is that you need a lot of land in the countryside to become more self sufficient. Although this helps it’s definitely not a necessity. Regardless of how much space you have there are ways we can all become more self sufficient.
The first steps are to ensure your home is as energy efficient as it can be. The best way to find out is to get an ECP (Energy Performance Certificate) for you home. An ECP provides information on your home’s energy use. It also makes recommendations on how you can increase efficiency and reduce your energy costs.
The ECP will cover things such as loft insulation, windows for double or triple glazing, hot water tank, radiators etc. Once you’ve got this report, you’ll be able to take the steps required to ensure your home is energy efficient.
One of the biggest ways to ensure you are not losing money is to draught-proof your home. To reduce condensation and damp you need to make sure that you don’t seal or block any internal ventilation such as wall vents, underfloor air bricks/ grilles or trickle vents which some modern windows have to allow fresh air to trickle in, However you should look for any unwanted gaps which lead to the outside, letting the warm air out and the cold air in. These can be but not limited to gaps around the windows, doors, keyholes and letterboxes, loft hatches, fireplaces, or they can be cracks in external walls around pipework, wiring and cracks between floorboards. Luckily, its relatively cheap and easy to resolve these and you should instantly be able to feel the benefits.
With technology advances there are many products on the market to help reduce energy costs. We would definitely recommend replacing traditional bulbs with LEDs if you haven’t already. According to simplyled “On an energy rate of £0.19 per kWh (kilowatt-hour – Click here for more information), the LED light bulb would cost £19 over its lifetime. The incandescent bulb, however, would cost £152 over the same period” Although they are slightly more expensive than traditional bulbs you will soon recuperate the money back in energy savings.
We would also recommend investing in smart plugs or timer plugs so you can control your appliances wherever you are. These plugs are great especially if you can get a reduced energy tariff at certain times of the day.
Off grid energy:
Managing your own energy supply is one of the biggest steps to becoming self sufficient, it is also one of the most expensive upfront investments. Solar panels offer inexpensive and clean energy and have a start-up cost of between £3,000 and £8,000. On average within 8 years you would be able to recuperate your costs and then your investment should offset your energy use for decades however you may not be able to rely on them as your sole energy provider, they will definitely be a great boost to your mains supply, helping you to reduce your costs significantly. In order to completely live off the grid your investment would be significantly higher to purchase the batteries needed to store energy you haven’t used. These batteries will typically need to be replaced every 6 to 10 years.
Solar panels usually last for about 25-30 years. After this period as long as they haven’t been damaged by external factors such as wind or debris, they will still produce energy, but energy production will likely decline by what manufactures consider a significant amount. Solar panels rarely break from within because they have no moving parts.
If you want to be able to produce more electricity you may have to look at pairing your solar panels with a home wind turbine. Wind turbines use large blades to catch the wind. The blades are forced around when the wind blows which drives the turbine to generate energy. Pole mounted wind turbines can cost anything from £9,900 to £30,000.
Wind turbines which have been well maintained should last 20+ years. Maintenance checks are necessary every few years because of all the moving parts. This will cost around £100-£200. The inverter is also likely to need replacing during this 20-year period at a cost of £1,000 to £2,000.
To live completely off the grid, it is vital to minimise your electricity use. Along with solar and wind electricity you would need to look at renewable energy systems for both water and space heating. This could involve dedicated renewables such as ground and air source heat pumps, biomass boilers or solar water heating.
Drainage and sewage disposal:
If you want to live completely off the grid you will need to source your water supply. A well can cost anywhere between £10,000 and £20,000 to build If you’re not near a clean, natural water source.
In the absence of a sewage system you would need to invest in a septic tank, this sewage tank will need to be emptied occasionally and be disposed of safely. A grey water system should also be installed this will enable you to treat water used in dishwashing, sinks, showers and baths, so this water can be used again. Reusing water that has already been cleaned and brought to the surface can help the lifespan of your well.
Grow your own:
Growing your own produce is a big step in the right direction to become more self sufficient. The British climate is perfect for growing many vegetables and fruit to supplement your shop bought food and you don’t need to have a lot of space to get started.
The easiest low maintenance crops to grow in the UK are:
• Potatoes: Really easy to grow. These can either be planted directly in the ground or for less maintenance you can grow them in an old compost bag.
• Courgettes and Squash: As well as being easy to grow each plant will produce plenty for weeks. If you don’t pick them, they will turn into marrows.
• Chillies: Providing ample crops they will produce more than enough to store throughout the winter if preserved properly.
• Beetroot: Not only are these easy to grow you can also eat the leaves and stems as you would spinach, bak cho and swiss chard.
• Radishes: One of the easiest crops you can grow, and one of the fastest.
• Shallots: Easy to grow and you can harvest by hand as they are shallow-rooted.
• Dwarf French Beans: Easy to look after requiring not thinning or supports
• Rhubarb: Great for when other crops are thin on the ground. Rhubarb will crop for many years.
• Strawberries: Barely any maintenance is needed. Strawberry plants should crop well for three to four years, once planted.
• Gooseberries and currents: Other than pruning the in the winter and harvesting very little other maintenance is needed.
If you are limited on space the best space saving crops to grow are:
• Potatoes: Easy to grow and it is possible to grow potatoes in pots. These stacking pots are especially good for space saving.
• Spring onions: These give high yields in a small space. Many varieties will also turn into ‘normal’ onions if they are not pulled up young,
• Runner beans: These can keep producing crops all summer. Along with the beans they also grow pretty flowers. You can easily grow these up a trellis, fence or arch or on a patio or balcony in a deep container.
• Chillies: very easy to grow both in pots and in the ground.
• Lettuce: Varieties such as Salad Bowl and Lollo Rossa are great cut and come again crops. You can pick a few leaves as they are needed, and the plant will keep on growing
• Radish: taking as little as four weeks to grow radishes are very easy to grow and don’t take up much room.
• Watercress: Grown on a small scale you only need a bucket of waterlogged potting compost to grown watercress.
• Strawberries and Tomatoes: To reduce space you can get these hanging grow bags.
Once you start getting a yield larger than you can eat preserving them in jams and chutneys, or trading, selling them can be a sustainable option.
Embrace a frugal life:
Frugal living is an important factor when becoming self sufficient. Learning how to get the most out of everything we already own and spending less on the things we don’t need. Living more simply and within your means will not only help your wallet but it is also much better for the planet.
Look for every way possible to save money. The goal is to make any items you buy (new or second-hand) work harder for your home.
Here are some ways to reduce and keep on top of waste:
• All biodegradable waste including food waste should be turned into compost to create rich soil to grow your fruit and vegetables in. You can either use a compost bin or put it in a heap in the garden. For small gardens and balconies this small compost bin is ideal.
• Where possible stick to showers not baths and keep them short.
• Turn lights off when exiting the room.
• Don’t leave appliances on standby, turn them off when not in use. This goes for chargers to, if they aren’t charging turn them off at the plug.
One of the simplest ways to decrease the amount of waste you produce is to try buy items with as little packaging as possible. Also say no to plastic bags and use reusable bags whenever possible.
• As well as material waste, food waste is a huge problem in UK household and worldwide. Creating meal plans help you to only buy what you will eat and is often also the easiest way to stick to a healthy diet
• Before throwing something in the bin consider whether it could be sold, donated or reused for something else instead. The goal is to let as little to go to landfill as possible.
• Recycle: While it’s better to reuse where possible recycling is the next best option.
• Before you throw something that broken out and replace it with a new one try learning how to repair it instead. If needed attend a local workshop to find out how. If repairing isn’t an option buying a few high quality items is much better for the planet and your purse longer term than buying loads of cheap disposable stuff.
The route to self sufficiency is not quick nor easy. It takes a lot of practice and patience but just think about how satisfying it will be when you finally get the chance to reap the rewards for all your effort. We highly recommend writing out a check list and ticking stages off as you go along. Keep it somewhere you will see it daily to keep you motivated. Most of all enjoy it. You will be amazed at the self-discovery you will go through along the way. Who knew living so simply could allow you to feel so free.