Off-grid living may be your perfect scenario. You might be preparing for the End of Days or a zombie-apocalypse, or you might strive for full self-sufficiency. Regardless of your reasons, the desire to look after one’s own needs is on the rise. From alternate power and water sources to food and entertainment, it is becoming more common to do so.
If you want to try living off-grid, read on to learn what it means and what you should prioritize. Living off-grid requires a substantial amount of planning and effort, much more than simply moving to the woods.
What Does Living Off-Grid Mean?
Living “off-grid” means your home isn’t linked to a local power grid in its most fundamental sense. You’re on the grid if your home’s power comes from a municipal power hub.
If the major hub goes down (or if your local lines are destroyed), you’ll have to pay money to use grid power, and your electricity will go out. For rural people whose pumps are powered by electricity, this might result in a few hours of inconvenience or many days without water.
It means that you are either living without electricity or have your own power source when you are off-grid. Other municipal lines, such as water and sewage, might also be disconnected. Perhaps you have a septic tank and a rainwater collection system, or an outhouse and a well.
In any case, rather than anything provided by the local government, your own efforts and equipment provide you with the resources you need for daily life.
Those who live off the grid are completely self-sufficient. They live like their pioneer ancestors did a couple of centuries ago, growing their own crops, raising livestock, spinning and weaving fiber to make their own clothes. Some only have a limited amount of alternative energy or produce a significant quantity of their own food and medicine.
Where you reside, how much time, energy, and money you are able to devote to alternative living styles, as well as how much your particular creature comforts matter to you, determine your options for off-grid living.
Three Types of Off-Grid Living
Off-grid living can be done in a variety of ways. There are three primary methods:
1. Roughing It
This is a situation in which severe circumstances lead to this type of off-grid living. People who were forced to live off-grid after their houses were destroyed in the California wildfires, for example, found themselves without a choice when they discovered there were no alternatives.
Of course, there are those who decide that today’s frantic modern living is too much for them and would rather revert to a simpler way of life. So they go off into the hills with whatever they have sold or packed up.
Living in a shelter with no running water or electricity is referred to as “roughing it.” A potable river or lake (albeit you would still have to filter the water) and a way of staying warm, such as a fireplace or woodstove, are typically available nearby.
They’ll most likely have a generator or solar panels, and only use a small amount of electricity when absolutely necessary, if they decide to have it. Cooking is often done around the hearth, wood stove, or fire pit, and lighting is primarily from oil lamps and candles.
This is the cheapest option for living off-grid, although it is also the most difficult. Nonetheless, 940 million individuals (or 13% of the world population) do not have electricity, so “roughing it” is far more widespread than most people realize.
2. Partial Off-Grid Living
For the majority of people, this is the most attainable and comfortable form of off-grid living. It aims to increase self-sufficiency while cutting down on the reliance on municipal resources.
Let’s say the aforementioned family lives in a semi-rural environment, for example. Instead of being connected to the municipal sewage system, they may have a septic system. They gather rainwater throughout the vegetable garden and get water from the nearby pumping station.
They may pack a woodshed and use a wood stove instead of using electric baseboard heaters to heat their house. They most likely boil water and cook on it, too, since they’re heating the house with that stove.
They might produce about half of their own food and keep several chickens for eggs. They hang their laundry on the line instead of using a clothes dryer, and have a chilly basement full of preserves like jams, pickled vegetables, and root vegetables.
While maintaining creature comforts, it’s a way to significantly reduce one’s eco-footprint (and yearly power bills). It is considered by many to be the ultimate combination of both worlds.
3. Comfortable, Fully Off-Grid Living
To establish, this necessitates a considerable investment of money, but it can be extremely comfortable and lucrative when done properly. In addition, you won’t need any outside help to keep you warm, fed, and hydrated.
Those who live entirely off-grid are self-sufficient in every way. They have a variety of power sources, as well as plenty of fresh water, but they will also be equipped with modern amenities. Electric cars that they can charge up themselves, as well as a solar-powered septic system, are possible.
Some or all of their food requirements may be met by off-grid homesteaders. What about the creature comforts we’re all used to? Raising livestock and growing vegetables are common practices, but what about them? They might tap maple and birch trees and boil down the sap instead of buying sugar from a local store. They also keep bees for honey production. Others in their community might also exchange crops or crafts.
How to Start Living Off the Grid
1. Start Planning
The first step is to create a list of your needs in order of importance, if you’ve been considering off-grid living for a while. This will allow you to see where you’ll have to put in the most effort for off-grid planning.
Let’s say you have a family of four: two adults, one kid, and one teenager. One adult works from home and requires access to reliable electricity for at least eight hours every day to manage emails, Zoom calls, and other responsibilities. Also, consider the amount of energy needed to do homework and have movie nights every Saturday for the family.
What about water? Are you connected to the municipal water supply? Is it possible to dig a well on your property? How much rain or snow does your region receive for a catchment and cistern system if wells aren’t an option?
Now think about what you’re going to eat. Is your stove powered by electricity or gas? Include that power source on the list. As with a refrigerator, it’s the same. In a cold basement, can you keep food secure? Will a fridge and freezer need electricity?
Will you need to grow enough food to feed everyone in your home as well as reserves in the event something spoils in storage or you have unexpected guests? Do you have any animals? What do they need in terms of housing and food?
Record the activities you perform on a daily basis, as well as the amount of energy, water, and food required to operate efficiently.
2. Find Out the Off-Grid Laws in Your Area
Many people are surprised to learn how tight restrictions are for off-grid dwelling. You’ll have to get used to the restrictions and limitations that apply to different possibilities in your region. If you’re attempting to live off-grid in a suburban or semi-rural neighborhood, this is more of a concern.
Owning your own property may give you the impression that you have complete freedom to outfit your home with solar panels and raise some backyard chickens, but every county and municipality has its own restrictions on that.
For example, you may want to live in a tiny home on a property that you have purchased. Nonetheless, certain places have stringent minimum household size restrictions or prohibitions on mobile housing.
You might run into problems with solar panels, or discover that the region has strict rainwater collection requirements. Or maybe you’ve built a stunning edible garden just for yourself, only to have local authorities visit and inform you that the location isn’t zoned for agriculture.
That is a waste of time, money, and energy. That is not just heartbreaking. You’ll have to destroy all of your food sources and find new ways to feed yourself.
Before making ANY preparations to go off-grid in your region, it’s crucial that you understand the local rules. You may find that it is virtually impossible to do so. If you’re dead set on living off-grid, you’ll have to relocate.
Best Places For Living Off-Grid
Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, Louisiana, Missouri, and Tennessee are some of the most hospitable states for off-grid living in the United States. Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, and Saskatchewan are the top destinations in Canada.
Decide on an region with a climate that is pleasant, has permissive building regulations, has a low cost of living, offers alternative freshwater supplies, optimal solar, hydroelectric, or wind power potential.
Although it is more convenient to discover all of these options in one location in various US locales, there are ways to make the most of the northern climate and short growing season. All you have to do is think outside the box.
3. Consider Your Surroundings
Remember to investigate the local environment thoroughly if you’ve discovered an perfect site for off-grid living.
For example, you may have discovered a wonderful piece of property. Agriculture, animals, and construction of a home are all permitted in this area. There are no composting toilet or solar power concerns in the area, and there is a nearby water resource.
That’s fantastic! However, both flora and fauna in the area are important. What species are around that might prey upon your vegetables, herbs, nuts, and fruits if you’re going to grow a lot of them? Will elk, deer, and groundhogs steal all of your greens? Are crows going to eat your corn and blueberries?
What about animal welfare? Are all of your hens going to be killed by foxes or weasels? Are there mountain lions or coyotes in the area who may raid your flock? What kinds of predators do you know live in that location? To know if you’ll need to invest money in guard dogs or perimeter fencing, you’ll want to determine this out.
To keep your animals safe from bears and cats, will you need an electric fence? When designing and budgeting for your alternative power sources, you’ll need to take that into account.
4. Determine Your Budget and Get Researching
Shifting to off-grid living will necessitate a significant financial investment, as you may have inferred by reading this far. You’ll have to figure out the best ways to get self-sufficient electricity, water, and food if you want them. In other words, you’ll have to purchase all of the amenities you’ll need to thrive in your new way of life.
Every off-grid living concept you have must be thoroughly planned to be viable.
The kind of power equipment you’ll need will be determined by your individual or group’s needs. For example, only using electricity for an hour or so each day if you live alone and prefer books to Netflix. A family that is dependent on force for employment and leisure will require a lot more.
You have three off-grid power options:
- Gas-powered generator
Each of these three off-grid power sources has advantages and disadvantages, as we can see in our article about them. Some are more costly, and others are more dependable. Be realistic about how much money you can put into the care and maintenance of these systems when you’re doing your research and budgeting.
When and if your outdoor solar panels are damaged, will you have enough money to replace them? What about inverters and energy storage? If you want to operate a generator for many hours each day or in an emergency, budget for gas.
It’s beneficial to have at least two options when it comes to off-grid energy solutions. You can use the other in the meantime if one of them fails or needs maintenance work.
Look into which kinds of equipment are compatible with alternative energy sources while you’re researching them. Can you just power your current kitchen appliances with an inverter, for example? Or do you want to install a solar-powered fridge or stove?
After a few days without water, a human will die, so finding a good water source is critical. You’ll probably want to move water to the top of the priority list since you can survive without electricity.
If you disconnect from your local water grid system, will you have access to clean, drinkable water? Are you relocating to a place where you can get it from the ground?
Will you employ aboveground storage tanks or subterranean cisterns if you’re going for rainwater and snow collecting? If they rupture, how much money do you need to invest in them and maintain them?
Is there any water below the surface? How much will it cost to have a well dug? Can you make a manual pump out of duct tape? To keep your water pump working, will you need solar or wind-powered electricity?
To get water from a river or lake nearby, let’s say you have one nearby. How are you going to filter the water? A hand-pumped ceramic filter is used? Or a more powerful filtering system to guarantee that everyone in your household has access to enough water, food, and cleanliness every day?
What are the most prevalent water-borne illnesses that may affect you? Are there livestock farms nearby that may contaminate the water table with droppings? Or a lake algae bloom that requires additional treatment to make the water drinkable when it emerges in response to specific weather conditions?
You’ve made your decisions about water. So, how about food? Providing as much food for yourself and your family as possible is common practice when living off-grid. You’ll need to figure out how much space you’ll need to grow enough for everyone if everyone follows a plant-based diet.
Since there’s no point in growing okra or kale if someone hates it, decide which plants everyone will eat. After that, you’ll need to check your soil for fertility issues and determine what amendments you’ll need. After that, you can plan your seed or seedling purchases.
How are you going to feed them? Will you place rainwater collecting devices near the gardens? Do you need to conserve power for your watering equipment?
Research whether any of the local flora is suitable for your off-grid requirements. Are there sufficient timber and firewood trees nearby? Can you eat them? Will you be able to forage for nuts and berries? Tap trees for syrup? so you’ll know what you’ll have to work with. familiarize yourself with as many indigenous species as possible.
Do you intend to raise animals for slaughter? What are you going to do with all those eggs? What are you going to feed your animals? So, how are you planning to preserve the crops? Would you make jerky out of the meat? Decide if a solar dehydrator is required or if you can go with eight to twelve hours of electricity per dehydrated batch.
This isn’t a topic that anyone enjoys talking about, but it’s an important one to consider.
How are you going to cope with your family’s sanitary needs on a daily basis? On the property, are you going to have an outhouse? You’ll also need to understand the local regulations governing how far away from the house it should be, as well as where to put it so it won’t pollute the groundwater.
A composting toilet is treated in the same way. Can you source the lime or sawdust locally and prepare it? Will you have to prepare a financial plan for that? Do you have a strategy for rotating it on a regular basis? How will you compost the material? Where?
Neither of those appeals to you? Rather, investigate a septic system. How are you going to flush your toilet if you don’t have any water? How often should the tank be emptied in your jurisdiction? In most cases, a family home’s tank should be emptied every 1-2 years, and a vacation home’s tank should be emptied every 3-4 years.
Can you find any local firms that can assist you with this? How much does it cost them?
You’ll need to consider how to wash reusable pads or whether you can use catchment cups instead if you have to cope with menstrual cycles. If you have young children, consider diapers as well. Can you use a dependable water source to wash and sterilize these objects?
What about animals and farm animals? What steps will you take to keep their living areas clean and sanitary? For horse, goat, or rabbit excrement, do you have a composting method in place? How are you handling your dog’s droppings if you have them?
Start Small, Right Where You Are
In order to adopt an off-grid lifestyle, you don’t have to sell all of your possessions and go live in the woods. In reality, right now you may begin to implement modest modifications that could eventually lead to off-grid solutions.
You can begin reducing your dependence on the power grid by making a few modest adjustments, whether you live in an urban apartment or a semi-rural house. Charge your phone, tablet, or laptop with some portable solar panels. Water your herbs and small vegetable plants on your windowsills using a water catchment bucket you’ve created for your balcony or back patio.
Whenever feasible, hang your laundry outside to dry: this saves you money and conserves energy. Do you have a garden? Build an outdoor shower with a cistern. They’re wonderful, and whenever the weather permits, you may enjoy a refreshing wash outside (or indoors).
Whatever you can grow, grow as much as possible. For other meals, use the scraps to make soups, jams, and seasonings. If you can, make your own clothes and use candles in the evening rather than turning on all of the lights.
Take baby steps into this way of life, gradually making little modifications to figure out what kind of lifestyle you really want. You can take concrete steps to make your dreams a reality once you know how you want to live. Keep making lists, doing research on the best conceivable options for the items you believe you’ll want, and save money to achieve your goals.
The Advantages and Drawbacks of Living Off the Grid
There are both benefits and drawbacks to an off-grid lifestyle. To make the best choice for yourself and your family, they should be weighed carefully.
Off-grid dwelling has a major benefit in that you are completely self-sufficient. So what if the grid goes down? You have no idea how it will affect you. You’re still covered if an emergency strikes the local municipal water facility. And, of course, all of the money you won’t be spending on electricity bills every month.
Moreover, if you pick one of these smaller alternative housing options, going off-grid may necessitate an initial investment. However, your investment may not be as big as you fear.
In addition, living a fully self-sufficient existence allows you to define your own goals and values, which can’t be quantified.
However, you can’t forget about the downsides of living off-grid. Due to the fact that many places will not allow you to be completely off-grid, you may need to relocate from your current location.
If you have children, you should also factor in their well-being. If you’re raising children in a home that lacks running water or electricity, child protective services might attempt to intervene.
This could be seen as a detrimental environment for youngsters, and the courts may attempt to take custody of them. To prevent possible distress and expensive legal processes, familiarize yourself with the rules in your region.
If you choose to go with the “modern off-grid” option, you must weigh the investment you’re making. The cost is not insignificant, although you may think it is.
Remember, there are several lifestyle adjustments you may need to make. Your whole life will change if you decide to go totally off-grid without the help of wind, solar, or hydropower. You’ll no longer be able to take a quick shower or wash dishes in your sink by simply running to the bathroom.
We just want you to be happy in whatever form of off-grid lifestyle you choose to pursue.