Aussies Living Simply

Advice for Renters – power alternatives

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    Being a novice on the topic, I’m itching to find out some power alternatives for those of us who rent and can’t simply add solar panels onto the roof. Or can I? Are they easy to move from house to house?

    I’m the type that wants to save on my energy bills, loves the idea of solar and wind but doesn’t think there’s much point in buying a portable “suitcase” style solar pack as it probably wouldn’t even run the hair dryer!

    I’m desperate to save money on electricity bills, use all the usual tips but want something more.

    Any help would be marvelous.

    (currently on the grid in suburbia)



    the agents of this house we are in suggested we put solar panels on the roof to cut down the power we use. I said what if we leave and the answer is the solar stays as it becomes the landlords property as its connected to the roof. So why should I pay for someone else who does nothing to reapair anything going wrong at this place. the land agents actually replaced the smoke alarms yesterday as they were over 10 years old and they have to be replaced in this state by law according to the land agent. The guy who replaced them got 10 year batteries in them. So we don’t need to replace the battery just test them.

    The old ones were made in SA the new one in CHina.

    Our power bills are around the $250 a quarter and if we pay it before it is due we get 10% off. Our last bill was under $200. AS we pay $25 a week pre pay our account is always paid on time.


    Hey Suzi! :wave:

    Have you thought about solar driven appliances like the freeplay radio and those $20 flexible solar powered lamps from IKEA rather than a centralised system?

    On the other hand a modular (transportable) centralised system is possible but would take time, effort and (dare I say it) money to put together. Send me a PM or email me through our website if you want to kick around some ideas.



    Hi Zippy

    I’ve been in the same boat – wishing for portable solar for renters that is affordable too. So far no luck but I do use solar rechargers for gadgets and also put some solar lights (cheap garden kind) outside during the day and place them indoors as “mood lighting” at night. You can’t read by them but you can see enough for doing a few things and for getting around the house (- brilliant in the loo at night as no-one switches the light on and leaves it on anymore!).

    As a renter you are very much limited by what you can do but by saving as much as you can it becomes manageable. My bill is far less than most of my friends bills due to habits

    I am sure you allready do most of the following,

    Switch off everything at the wall plug when not in use. I try to let my hair dry naturally as long as I can and just finish it off with the hairdryer and use blankets and hotwater bottles instead of heaters. I boil the kettle and put the remaing water into a thermos – great for a ciuppa later and even for filling up the hotwater in the sink to do dishes (it takes five minutes to get hot water to the kitchen tap at my place lagging notwithstanding :ohmy: )

    Cooking in batches saves a lot of power and just reheating in the microwave as does using a dreampot. I spent some money on a induction cooktop (just a single small one) and use it 90% of the time as it saves time and $$. I dry laundry outside and use a solar cooker when I can.

    There is also an offer in SA for “Living Green” free standby power controllers and energy saving lightbulbs – see . these will switch off the power draw but enable you to still switch things back on using remotes.

    I hope one day some one comes out with something that renters can use – whoever does will make a fortune!


    kiewiet, we tried using outdoor solar lights as night lightsfor the kids.. but the fizz out about 2am.. do the ones you use stay charged all night, becuase this would be awesomefor our loo if we could find one that was on all night??


    Funnyly enough the cheap ones do. My DD also bought cheap solar fairy string lights which hld out almost every night unless we have had very little sun. I must say I have changed the atteries in some.

    I want to ow look into those that are like shed lights, you can switch them off and on as you need to. I suspect the batteries will last better over rainy periods. We have a teeny solar panel bought from repco or one of those places that we use with the van for lights, but it needs a big battery to charge into/from. It works very well though even though it is small. With kids at home I found lights to be a big draw so solarlights helped a lot. ow my DD is grown I am very grateful we do all our activities in one room and then scoot off to bed with hot water bottles! Computers and heaters suck!


    i got cheap ones from bunnings. which did you get? the string of fairly lights would be something my girls would love!


    Before you even think about solar in that situation I would suggest a serious look at conservation. Buy a power meter (I have seen them for around $20-30. You can even put in the cost per unit and it will tell you the cost over time). You are likely to be surprised at how much or how little power some appliances use. Using such a meter I cut our electricity consumption by around 30% without going overboard.

    For example do you have a microwave oven? We have an older model and it turns out that the clock (running 24hrs a day) uses more electricity than the oven itself (which is used only a few minutes a day).

    As for getting any sort of solar powered items consider the amount of power that they are likely to use normally. As a simple exercise, consider a typical small solar recharger panel. One I saw was about 30 cm square, produced 5 watts and cost $23. On a typical day if you leave it in full Sun in the best position without shadows, it should produce about 25 watt hours per day or about 1 Kwhr every 40 days. At 20 cents per unit (Kwhr) for mains power it will take about 12.5 years to produce $23 of electricity. So any sort of appliance that can run on small solar cells is likely to use tiny amounts of electricity anyway.

    Of course there are many good reasons for using solar power but simply saving money is probably not one of them.


    Pardalote, where did you see the solar charger for $23?? im heading out today.. OR if anyone can point me in the direction of where to look. I was going to check bunnings today 🙂


    If you can get there, the Canberra Environment Centre is offering a workshop called Retro-fitting for Renters on July 14. I think all the details are on their website:

    Other organisations might (must?) be trying to provide help for renters too. Have you tried the local library for or community notice boards?

    Good luck.


    I couldn’t find any solar charger thingos in bunnings , so if anyone knows where to get them cheaply i would really love to know!!

    I did get 2 little solar night lights, they a super cute, they stick to the window – charging in the day, then you hang them wherever in the childs room.

    You would think they would make them for more rooms in the house not just kiddy ones :shrug: . Also thinking of getting an, AAA,AA solar battery recharger off ebay, anyone used one? does it take 5 years of sunlight to charge a battery I wonder? :laugh:


    Hi Susy

    As a renter your options are very limited. Your only option for solar would be to approach the landlord and see if they were willing to put solar on the roof. Some landlords are doing that to make the property more attractive but their motive is usually to charge higher rent so you probably won’t save much money that way.

    Your only real option is to look at your appliances and see if you can reduce your consumption. You can also do some non-permanent stuff to the house to reduce heating and cooling bills.





    Dick Smith used to have them at around that price. However Jaycar has them even cheaper. $19.95. Don’t know how good they are.







    Sorry about that. In my reply I misread your question and assumed you meant the power meter.

    The price in my original post for the solar panel was from Jaycar. However it is only the solar panel, not all the extras like case, circuit or plugs/leads etc. They also have proper solar chargers but are somewhat more expensive. I was only using the minimum price for the calculation. Using a complete (hence more expensive), solar charger will make the pay back time even longer.




    I just recently heard of the “guerrilla solar” movement. It sounded very interesting. 😉

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