Off-grid couple provide insight into their eco-friendly lifestyle
A Northumberland couple who have adopted an off-grid approach to life have given a little insight into their way of living as the country faces a looming energy crisis.
Kezz and Nathalie Petronelli-Stone run an environmentally sensitive woodland management business from their home near Chatton and have even filmed an episode of Ben Fogle: New Lives in the Wild for Channel 5.
Kezz explained: "We source our own water from a bore hole we dug nearby and we make our own electricity via solar panels.
“We capture power at 12v, we then invert that to 240 to run the house as a regular house. Any excess power is stored in large battery banks for long dark days, of which Northumberland has many!”
They also have a pair of old back up diesel generators for running a washing machine (essential for their rental cabin) or recharging the batteries quickly if there’s been no sun for a period of time.
"We bulk buy red diesel and source waste vegetable oil from local businesses, clean it and then use it to run the generators,” added Kezz.
"We have no mains electric, everything is done here.
"The house is wired 240v just like a regular house, but we choose not to have things that we deem unnecessary such as electric kettle, microwave, TV, basically anything that gets hot or lights up.
"Our entire house runs off way less than a 13amp plug and can last for a week with no sun or generator."
Their main electrical requirements are for their fridge freezer, LED lights and to recharge their phone – although they do now have a music recording and photographic studio which has its own battery bank and solar charge system.
They do spend money on mobile phone data but consider social media a useful luxury to enjoy.
"The house is heated via wood from the woods surrounding the property, that’s our hot water too, though we can produce hot water via immersion if we have the generator running,” added Kezz. “We also have solar water heating for the brighter months so no need to run generators or light the stoves to make hot water.”
They also grow their own food, supplemented by occasional shopping trips to Wooler.
“It’s a full-time job being self sufficient,” said Kezz. “We love our community so keep active within it trading goods and skills. But compared to most, we are very self sufficient & provide for ourselves well.”
But he admits it’s not a lifestyle for everyone.
“You need to be inventive, good at solving problems and you need to be into it,” he says.
"But I do think everyone can do better, they just have to want to.
"In my experience everyone wants to save the planet but no one wants to give up anything to do it.
"Smart phones, smart appliances, oil heating, gas cooking, 2 or 3 cars, a holiday home, flights abroad, whatever, each to they own but to all has an impact.
"Not everyone can live how we do, where we do, but we can all make a difference. I used to worry about it all and also used to spend way too much time trying to tell people to do better. It’s pointless. I’ve found people to be far more inspired by adopting methods they can see somewhere that are making a difference that they can see, understand and implement themselves.
“Climate change is real, it’s here and it’s happening. But as a society we are not going to do anything remotely useful about it as we have no idea just how huge the implications are and even if we did we still can’t agree on how to tackle it.
"Start small, use less, recycle, buy second hand, walk more, talk more, inspire others and great things will come.”
There are fears thousands of families in the county could struggle to put food on the table this winter due to soaring energy prices.
The Northumberland Gazette, Berwick Advertiser, News Post Leader, and Morpeth Herald are working with other JPIMedia newspapers across the UK on a Keep Us Warm This Winter campaign to put pressure on the Government to ensure no vulnerable families find themselves without heating this winter.
Kezz’s top tips.
1 Lightbulbs can have a huge impact. Change them to low energy and turn them off when you’re not in a room.
2 Don’t upgrade appliances and white goods so often, carefully consider what you could do with the old one.
3 Standby mode uses a considerable amount of power when you add up the various items in your house.
4 Plan your meals in advance. Microwaves are tremendously useful but defrosting does happen naturally if you plan in advance.
5 Heating, something I’ve noticed when entering peoples homes is how overly hot they are.
6 Our water usage as a nation is crazy! Try going 24 hours without using water and see how much you actually need. Then find a balance and you’ll save a huge amount of water and money.
7 It wouldn’t hurt for people to take a little more exercise to get their circulation going and warm their natural body temperature. It could mean prolonged healthier living and being able to turn the resting heat in your home down considerably because your body core temp has improved.
8 Use group schemes to save haulage, time, congestion and get your group a better buying rate on things like heating oil or gas.
9 Simple things like planning your journeys, asking if neighbours/family members etc need anything from a store before you head off.
10 Check your car at least once a week with oil, water & tyre pressure – very simple skills that can make a huge difference to keeping your vehicle running at its most economic thus saving fuel and keeping its emissions in check.