Durban man shares how he managed a life off the grid

Durban man shares how he managed a life off the grid

This is how Graham Robjant is making sure he’ll never have to endure loadshedding again.


For Graham Robjant of Glenwood in Durban, relying on local electricity provider Eskom to deliver efficient and consistent electricity supply has proven to be impossible. This year alone, South Africa was plunged into darkness numerous times as Eskom initiated loadshedding and moving off the grid was something he had been thinking about for a while. Now, after living off the grid for a number of years, Graham shares his journey in the hopes of inspiring others to do the same.

“In the past I used to battle with Eskom and loadshedding. Being an electronics technician, I relied on power to fix equipment but, with four to five hours of no power, I had to have a Plan B,” Graham says in an interview with IOL.

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When he came across some inheritance money that his aunt had left him when she passed away over 10 years ago, Graham used the extra cash to finally embark on this ambitious journey.

“I spent R80 000 on solar power, which I felt was becoming the leader, and I hoped others would follow,” Graham says. “Also, I wanted to be able to help people with advice after I had been through the pitfalls.”

Graham says that the process wasn’t without some bumps in the road, but he’s finally achieved his goal of living entirely off the grid. “Over 10 or 11 years, I have been able to iron out issues. I’ve got the T-shirt. You’ve got two kinds of systems: the system that runs totally independent of the grid and the grid-tie system,” he explains. “The grid-tie won’t work in South Africa because of Eskom. Lots of people use it in Australia and are able to put power back into the grid. But, here, Eskom keeps turning us off all the time. If there is Stage 6 or 8 loadshedding, it would be hopeless. You would have to hope you had sunshine.”

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As he achieves his goal of living off the grid, Graham shares some tips that he learned along the way:

1 Buy the correct batteries. A standard car battery is not the best. It is designed to deliver a lot of torque to immediately start a motor and is not designed to charge and discharge regularly. One needs a cycle battery which is designed to charge and discharge on a regular basis.

2 Choose the correct UPS (uninterruptible power supply) for your load. You must decide what devices you want to run, look up how much power they draw, then allow for another third of that amount of power to be available, and buy an appropriate inverter.

3 Choose the correct solar regulator.

4 Ensure that you are not running applications when you don’t need to. A TV left on can consume a lot of power.

5 Look into having a battery balancing unit.

Image courtesy: Graham Robjant

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