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Melissa 04-19-2016 07:17 AM

Wooden panel yurt in South Australia
My husband and I are in the process of looking for land to build a yurt. We will probably buy a kit (6.1 or 8.4 metres, plus annexes) from Goulburn Yurtworks in New South Wales. Are there any tips for land size, interior design (such as how many outlets to put in one room/annex), floor coverings (cork?), and other things we may not have thought about? We will have access to mains electricity, but we will have solar as well, and will most likely be reliant on water tanks. We will also have septic vs sewer as we will be in the country. There will be two adults and two small dogs living in the yurt, and occasional guests. If all goes well, we plan to expand with satellite yurts and possibly have a B&B. Any advice anyone can offer would be greatly appreciated! Thank you!

Jafo 04-19-2016 07:38 AM

Re: Wooden panel yurt in South Australia
What kind of solar are you looking at? Grid tie or off grid?

Melissa 04-19-2016 07:53 AM

Re: Wooden panel yurt in South Australia
Off grid, but it depends on the cost. I'd have to check with my solar consultant aka my brother in law : )

Jafo 04-19-2016 08:02 AM

Re: Wooden panel yurt in South Australia
Not sure how it works in the UK, but over here in the states, if you have access to the grid (electric mains) then what many people do is a grid tie system which basically works like this:

Your solar panels send power directly to the grid. This turns your usage meter in reverse. When you have no sun, like on cloudy days or at night, you use grid power as normal. The idea is to have your utility bill to be close to zero every month. This of course depends on how much sun your spot gets.

The advantages to this system is generally cost. With an off-grid system, you have to pay for the storage mechanism, which is generally in the form of batteries. This can be very expensive for even the smallest systems. With a grid-tie, the GRID is your battery and you only pay a small amount to tie into it initially.

The downside is, you are still relying on grid power, though I do understand there are some hybrid systems that allow you to store some on site (for emergency power) and pump the rest to the grid.

Over here, we have companies that will install the equipment free of charge, but you pay them for your power, at a much reduced rate. This is also dependent on whether or not your location is an ideal candidate. The company maintains the panels and equipment, you just pay for power. I never cared much for that option, but thought I would mention it.

You may want to consider some wind power for preheating water and also possibly pumping it, since I see you may be using holding tanks. :)

Melissa 04-19-2016 08:11 AM

Re: Wooden panel yurt in South Australia
Thanks for the info Jafo. We currently have solar tied into the mains/grid in our 'traditional' home. It has been working well so far, and we haven't had an electric bill for a few months because we get a lot of sun (we live in the driest state, South Australia). It is possible to go off grid here, but like in the US, it is very expensive. Not sure if our budget can handle it, but ideally, we would like to be off grid - even if I have to pedal a bicycle to make my own electricity : )

Bob Rowlands 04-19-2016 08:55 AM

Re: Wooden panel yurt in South Australia
pedal a bike for power. haha You gonna have very nice legs in short order. lol

Jafo 04-20-2016 06:52 AM

Re: Wooden panel yurt in South Australia

Originally Posted by Melissa (Post 6502)
It is possible to go off grid here, but like in the US, it is very expensive. Not sure if our budget can handle it, but ideally, we would like to be off grid - even if I have to pedal a bicycle to make my own electricity : )

Well, that would depend on how much power you figure you would need. What sort of appliances you plan on running, etc.?

The 24 volt system I have up at camp will run the laptop computer, TV, vacuum cleaner, microwave oven, radio, etc., but nothing more than 1,500 watts. Forget any major electric appliances like a stove or washer. I use my yurt on weekends, and have designed it for such use. All together, my system cost about $2,000 US. I would imagine that cost would nearly double if not triple if I planned on living there full time. You will also pretty much require a back up generator. I don't know if that is in your price range or if that would cover your expected energy usage, but it may give you a rough idea of what you're looking at.

I am not familiar with Australia, but I am assuming where you are there has no chance of freezing? If so, that will save you quite a bit of money when it comes to insulation and plumbing as you won't have to protect say a water heater or pipes. Of course, this could impact you a bit if you plan on using air conditioning.

I hope you let us know how your project turns out and post a pic from time to time of your progress. I know we would all love to see how it turns out!

hierony 04-20-2016 11:15 AM

Re: Wooden panel yurt in South Australia
If you're super efficient with everything, you might be able to do bicycle power :P For reference, a strong cyclist can produce around 200 watts consistently, with short sprints several times that. But even though I like biking, I still wouldn't want to spend 4-5 hrs a day to generate just 1 kwh of juice...

I'm still trying to figure out the most effective cooking method for myself, but it's between a small induction cooktop (1500-1800 watts, fairly inexpensive) and some sort of small wood cook stove. Cooking doesn't actually take that much total energy if done efficiently (usually 1500 w for 3-10 min, then 400-800 watts 10-50 min); the standard US ranges just use one of the most ineffective heat transfer methods because it's easy and high-power electricity is cheap.

If your building codes allow it, I'd suggest a composting toilet and a graywater system to avoid septic and flush toilets (waste of collected, stored, pumped, & treated water in my opinion). Depending on the system, septic could cost $3-20k while a composting toilet can be anywhere from $700 to $5k, depending on how fancy it is/user maintenance requirements.

If you have a good area for solar, I'd suggest looking into solar heating, at least for water.

If you do eventually develop a B&B, I'd be tempted to keep things fairly conventional to make it easier for guests (ie, natural gas/propane cook stove, flush toilets/standard albeit low-flow water setup, at best solar power w/grid tie).

Jafo 04-20-2016 12:10 PM

Re: Wooden panel yurt in South Australia
I use propane in my gas range/stove for cooking. We go through about a 40 pound tank after 1 year. The range is an old fashioned one with a pilot light, no electric. It works great.

There are also solar ovens, which I have never used:


But if you live in the desert, I can imagine them working quite well.

Melissa 04-21-2016 07:57 PM

Re: Wooden panel yurt in South Australia
Thanks for all of the information everyone! My husband and I are going to look at land this weekend. We've been told we will need a 7 kilowatt solar system, septic, and depending on where the land is, we may be able to tap into mains electricity and water (but would still go solar and we would also have rain tanks as we want to go off grid eventually). This will be our primary residence and one of the dilemmas is location. On a smaller lot (about 700 -1000 sm) near the beach (downside is that it would be in a developed/planned community) or away from the beach, probably closer to wineries, more land (not sure how much we could manage, but seems wasteful to buy 4 acres when we would use only a small amount, also may not have access to the mod cons, as I said, we would like to be off grid, but the realities of it are a bit daunting). The weather down here is mostly dry, although in the winery region, there is enough rainfall to live off of from the tanks. Another concern are bush fires, so would need to get land that is partially cleared and free of fire risks. No need to worry about snow though - temps get down to 8C/46F. There is a lot to consider... How did everyone here find their land? What were your priorities?

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