It might be the “new American dream.” We’re talking about off-grid living.
For those not in the know, living off-grid means that you have absolutely no connections to the power grid, community water or gas. You’re a self-contained little unit. That means that you can’t rely on the outside world for any of these basic necessities… but it also means that you don’t have to.
Off-grid living isn’t just for hardcore preppers waiting for the end of the world as we know it. It’s also for people seeking greater financial independence and greater resilience against changes in financial markets. It’s certainly not for everyone, but it can be an attractive option for people looking to get out of the rat race and live a slower pace of life.
At the end of the day, off-grid living isn’t a hobby. It’s a lifestyle. You have to be prepared to live that lifestyle otherwise the benefits probably aren’t going to be worth it. It comes with a whole new set of challenges that might be worth it or just a big headache you don’t want to deal with.
Is Off-Grid Life Right For You?
Before going any further, you should consider some of the things that will be radically different if you decide to live off grid.
First, if you’re not handy or technical, living off-grid can be extremely difficult unless you have a massive pile of cash. You can save tons of money and move off-grid for very cheap provided that you know how to install things when they arrive and fix things when they break. Even your house can be tens of thousands of dollars cheaper if you, for example, know how to assemble a kit or add a solar system to an RV – or if you can quickly learn how to do these things.
Another thing to consider is that when you live off-grid you’re usually far removed from civilization. In certain parts of the country, like Arizona, Montana or Alaska, “far removed” might only mean half an hour… but that’s an hour round trip every time you need to go grocery shopping or run other routine errands.
So these are a couple things you should consider before you start learning about what you need to start living your life off of the grid.
Getting Electricity To Your Off-Grid Homestead
Power is the backbone of any off-grid living situation. Fortunately, solar technology is much better, much cheaper and much more accessible than it was even five years ago. Another good thing about solar power is that it’s very scalable and modular, so you can start with something that just runs the bare essentials, lean on a generator when you need it and build out the rest of the solar as money comes in.
Solar systems are a bit more complicated than you probably think. You need panels, batteries, a charge controller and an inverter to make the electricity usable… not to mention all the wiring you’re going to need. The costs can add up quickly, but if you can do it yourself you can save a bundle. If you can’t, it’s certainly not a dealbreaker for off-grid life – lots of handymen won’t touch anything electrical related.
Knowing how much electrical power you need can be a real challenge and a lot of it is going to be contingent upon where you decide to build. You’re going to need way more panels in Oregon than you will in Arizona. Locals will probably be able to hip you to what they have that works for them so don’t be too intimidated when you start trying to figure out volts, amps and watts. You don’t really have to get too bogged down in the weeds here if you don’t want to.
Getting Heat To Your Off-Grid Home
Heat is fortunately much more straightforward than the power part of things, but there are some variables.
For example, if you decide to live in an RV or similar (even temporarily until you build up your homestead) it will probably have its own heating system and then it’s just a matter of getting propane in to heat the place.
When you build your new home it might come with a heating system similar to what you have on the grid right now. Then it’s just a matter of always making sure that there is a steady supply of propane (or whatever fuel you’re using to heat your home). Simply.
Slightly more complicated – though not much more – is a wood heating stove. Lots of people use these because firewood is comparatively cheap (depending on where you choose to live it might, in fact, be free) and what’s cozier than looking at a roaring fire heating your home? You have to make sure that you’re properly ventilating and expelling the smoke and you have to take all the precautions that you would take with fire inside your home.
Propane-powered space heaters are a great way to efficiently heat a single room or a small area to prevent you from having to run your main heat when you’re just kind of hanging out in one room.
Getting Water To Your Off-Grid House
When you first get to your land chances are good that you’re going to be hauling water. From where? Well…
Ever see those water tanks on the side of the road when you’re driving? Turns out a bunch of them can be used by just about anyone with a quarter. So you basically drive up in your truck, fill up a water tank, haul it out to where you live and use a transfer pump to get it from point A to point B.
If you’re in for the longer term, you might want to think about getting a well. However, wells are not as cut and dried as you might think. Exploratory drilling for a well is expensive and if the exploration comes up with nothing you don’t get your money back. You’re just out potentially tens of thousands of dollars for the privilege of finding out that you’re not sitting on enough water for a well.
If you do happen to strike water, however, all you need to get water for the rest of your life is enough electricity to power the pump. That’s not a heck of a lot and even the most basic solar systems generally can handle that.
A quick word before we direct you to our long-form guide to living off grid: You need a truck, preferably one with a decent towing capacity. A lot of things you’re used to having delivered you’re going to have to go and pick up for yourself. Hauling water is almost certainly going to be a necessity at first and if you’re the kind of handyman who is going to be doing a lot of your improvements, that’s a lot of building material to haul back and forth.
So is off-grid life right for you?
We can’t say. But we hope we’ve given you a better insight into what is involved so that you can make that decision for yourself.
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