I remember when we first began looking for house to purchase in Tulum. We looked at several houses and then started looking at building lots. Finally, we found a piece of property at a great price in Los Arboles Tulum. 5 hectares in the Jungle. Tulum off grid living was becoming a reality. When first looking at it, it is nothing but jungle and ruts and holes everywhere. Its, at first, hard to visualize a house and landscaping there. But we decided that is where we wanted to live. There were many other beautiful homes out there on their 5 hectares. If they could do it so could we.
Los Arboles living, though, is all off- grid. Off grid has no utilities running to it. Some off-grid areas also mean no water running in, but Los Arboles has water coming in. When we decided to start building, we researched builders and we were recommended to find one who was familiar with building in Los Arboles and building for off grid. When we were ready to start building, we met with our builder and the man we hired to do our solar set up. One of the most important things about building off grid is your solar and batteries. We all sat down, and Ezequiel, our solar guy, asked us everything we were going to be using in our house. Right down to how many phone chargers we were going to be using. We even had to account for when we had company and how many they might use.
Using solar to supply electricity to our house is great. We live just like we did in the states with PG&E and SMUD utility providers, but a whole heck of a lot cheaper. We just have to make sure we have enough batteries and solar panels to power all those things we easily had electricity for. We had to keep in mind that anything with a heating element draws a huge amount of power off the batteries. Microwave, dishwasher, coffee maker, blow dryer, flat iron, etc. Also, A/c units require a lot of power to run. I guess I should have listed those first, as they are a huge necessity here. LOL.
When we sat down and discussed what we would need, we had to ask ourselves, do we really need these things. If we did, then we would have to spend that extra money on batteries to have what we assumed were necessities.
We chose the A/C units, dishwasher, coffee maker and a small microwave used only for a quick re-heat. When we cook, it is using many pots and pans and bakeware. Well, good thing we went with a dishwasher.
Choosing the type of batteries is another discussion your solar installer will surely initiate. It really boils down to your budget. The majority of homeowners here use the tried and true six volt golf cart type battery. Their life is about seven years if properly maintained every month with topping off their water levels. Every several months, they should also be equalized. This involves running the generator for about six hours to over charge them. The installed price for a minimum system of twelve of these is approximately six-thousand U.S. For three times that amount, one can purchase tesla type batteries. They are sealed, meaning no maintenance, and their purported life is reputed to be fifteen or so years.
Picking out the right generator for your house size is important, too. If you figure your solar panels and batteries right, you will hardly ever have to use your generator. There are times, though that we could get cloudy days for a week at a time and your batteries get little sun. This is when the generator will kick on.
Another thing with off-grid is a septic system. There are two different types of systems. The Humidel and the Piranha Waste system. Both are eco friendly systems.
The Humidel is a system that the wastewater goes into a catchment tank. It is broken down and leaves the tank as grey water. It flows through a cement troth that is full of dirt and tropical plants. Banana tree, elephant leaves and other tropical flora. By the time it hits the end of this troth, it pours out of a small spout that is almost clear.
The Piranha system, which we have. It has three chambers the waste passes through and is broke down to grey by end of the third then is ran into the fourth stage of tropical flora. It does not have piranhas in it. It has bacteria eaters that eat and break down the waste inside the chambers. Just thought I should clarify that. Lol. We must be careful with the cleaning products we use, or we will kill these bacteria and then must add more. Chlorine is not their friend.
As I said before, there is water running to the community. But, off grid living is benefited by having a water cistern. We had one installed in our home, as most houses out here have. We had a cement cistern built. Some cisterns are a huge plastic tube. Ours is under our bedroom and about the same size as the room. We take our water seriously. Lol. The roof is the catchment. We have 3 drains on the roof with screen cage protectors to keep the drains from clogging with leaves and to keep leaves from getting inside the cistern. Water is pumped up from the cistern and ran into a water tank on the roof and then comes from there into the house.
There are many times of the year, though that we don’t get rain, so naturally, we set it up that we fill our cistern with water from the community line. One thing that we didn’t do when our house was built was to set up our spigots to run from the city water and a shut off valve so we could stop the water coming from the line to house, but still have water to the spigots. So, we recently put a tee in the line. One to the house, with a shut off valve and one to the spigots. This way we can water our lawn and flowers without using our higher quality rainwater in the cistern.
We have four things that is run off the propane tank. The generator, the hot water heater, the clothes dryer and the stove. We hardly use any propane, unless that generator kicks on, then it will go quickly. If our generator doesn’t go on but a couple of times, we can go 4-5 months without filling it. To fill our tank is about 150 usd or less, pending on how low our tank was when we filled.
Last thing. Pool. We have a pool. We set our pool up with 3 solar panels of their own and the pump comes on when the sun is shining. We also set it up with a switch, so we can run our pool off the batteries if needed. Sometimes it might need to be run after a couple of days with no sun powering the panels.
People ask us if we have any regrets going to off grid living. Our answer. Heck no!!!! We love it. We would never know we were living off grid if it weren’t for a generator coming on once in a great while. Our generator is out behind our carport and sometimes we don’t even hear it come on.
I hope you enjoyed this read regarding Tulum off Grid living. Have a great day!!!!