Who lives there: Writer Murray Grimwood (53) and
teacher Jennie Upton (45), their cat and dog, and on and off,
their two teenaged sons.
Where: 25 minutes north of Dunedin, off State Highway
Claim to sustainability: Off-grid home, carbon-sink
forest, bath vegetable garden.
If you go looking for a gadget or even an appliance in the
Grimwood-Upton household you could be looking for a while.
Gadgets and appliances use electricity and as Murray and
Jennie's home north of Dunedin is not hooked up to the
national grid, they keep them to a minimum.
The power to run their household comes from a simple solar
panel and a wood stove, with backup from a petrol generator
They do have cellphones, laptops, a stereo, a washing machine
and a television.
However, the stereo is from a car (uses less voltage) and the
television (which is only turned on to watch the odd movie)
and washing machine run off a generator.
"We've not made any real sacrifice to go off-grid," they
But why, many of us would ask?
It came down to two things.
They owned a forestry block 25min north of Dunedin, buying it
in 1994 for its carbon-sink forest, and their home in
Waitati, which was part crib, was restricting the growing
With those issues in mind, along with Murray's desire to have
a go and see what he could build on a $50,000 budget, the
family decided to build on the block four years ago.
"We wanted to see what we could do on a tight budget."
So the open-plan, two-level home was built using
"super-insulating" chiller panels, usually used in cool
stores, with the few inside walls made of single sheets of
plywood, and the north face of the house mainly windows.
The windows for the large conservatory, which traps the sun
and feeds the heat back into the house through wooden air
vents, came from the old Ansett terminal at Dunedin airport.
Various ingenious uses of air circulation had been used to
keep the house warm, he said. "It's super-efficient."
They used offcuts of wood people did not want to create a
large kitchen table, stairs and shelving.
Lighting is provided by home-made LED lights, which use
barely any electricity, and cooking is done on a gas hob and