We no longer have any petrol on our property. Not in the car, or the ride-on mower.

This has been a life-long dream for Carl, ever since learning about the Keeling Curve and the impact of fossil fuels and ICE (internal combustion engines) in the 90s.

When we first met, Carl was saving up for a Tesla, completely onboard with the Tesla approach of accelerating the transition to sustainable energy with electric cars and solar power, efficiently.

I had a bunch of Ryobi lithium battery tools (including a whipper snipper and mower, plus the usual drills and sander). A book on sustainable living. And a gazillion garden fantasies.

We moved up to Goonengerry, and started building our dream.

We built a home. We chose a steel-frame kit home, for strength, resilience, and to reduce cost. Sadly, it was mind-blowing how much packaging this generated, and yes, fossil fuels were used to create the steel frames, and in the trucks used to bring the components.

But we didn’t use any petrol powered cranes or lifts ourselves. Every piece of the frame was manually lifted, with muscles or a block and tackle. Physics, persistence, logic and creativity. (As a physics dropout, I had to supply the last two).

We tried to mow with a Dewalt lithium mower. Really tried. But it was worse than the Harbour Bridge – by the time you finished mowing one end, the other end needed cutting again.

There were no electric ride-on mowers available, so we bought a second-hand ride-on Husqvarna as a temporary measure.

ICE engines suck. They keep breaking down. They need petrol.

At one stage we were waiting for parts for so long, the grass grew to waist height. We tried whipper-snipping, but spent more time untangling the whipper-snipper head than snipping.

We discovered the pleasures of goats! Goats love grass and lantana. (But sometimes they don’t like fences).

A huge hailstorm hastened the pace of transition by completely writing off one car, denting every panel in the second.

The Solution

We have 40 solar panels on the roof.

This generates more power than we need, feeding the excess back into the grid, reducing our bill.

We are still on the grid, as we don’t have our own battery. But we manage our usage with timing:
We don’t use a clothes dryer
We only use the washing machine and dishwasher during the day when solar panels are at their peak.
The electric hot water system only heats during the day – not on demand.

The Car

We have one car, a Tesla 3.
We installed a charger in the garage, for efficient charging.
We configured the car to begin charging at 10am – so it’s free.
We also adjusted the charge rate downwards so that even on cloudy days the solar panels can keep up.
We charge up to 80% normally, for battery longevity. Although we’ll go to 100% if planning a long trip.
We can even pump our tyres at home with a compressor (I accidentally bought one while looking for an air mattress inflator….).

The Mower

We did more research on electric ride-on mowers and discovered Cub Cadet.
Just like Tesla, the demand is definitely there. We had to wait three months for new stock to arrive from overseas by sea.
It’s awesome. One charge does the whole block – almost 1ha.
We plug it in to a powerpoint when finished mowing, charging during the day when the solar panels are generating.
There’s a trailer attachment, so we can now move mulch and compost around more efficiently.

The BrushCutter

After the torture of multiple line trimmers, a friend told me about Ego Tools. Lithium-powered cordless garden tools.
I bought the Power+ Multi-Tool Power Head, with swappable brushcutter and line trimmer heads.
Oh the joy of a tool that works. One battery charge (again during solar production time) lasts as long as I do. Long grass, begone.

Fallback

We are in a semi-remote area of high wind, next to a forest. So there is a risk of losing power.

Our water supply comes from two underground tanks, fed by water from the roof.
Downhill. So we need reliable power to pump water up to the house.

And there’s a natural pool that relies on constant power to operate a pump to keep water moving and filtered through the reed bed system.

In our two years so far, we’ve only lost power once, for around half an hour.

For water, worst case we could dip a bucket into the tanks, to retrieve water. Or the natural pool. Or the top fire tank.

I have a tiny lithium battery Hyundai 1000W power station for emergencies – it would charge my laptop all day for work or other small devices.

I love rechargeable lights. I have solar or USB-charged lamps and torches everywhere.

Should we get our own battery?
It’s not the optimal solution – a local community-based grid of solar panels with large scale storage (hot rocks?) would be the preference. The current setup works for us.

The Verdict?

Absolutely worth it.

It is sooo good not having to worry about running out of petrol for a mower.
We haven’t been to a service station all year for a car.
The solar panels are powering the majority of our usage for free.
Feels good to be part of the solution.