If the words “off the grid” conjure up the image of a remote game hunter with a long, unkempt beard… well, you’re a little behind schedule.
These days everyone is talking about going off the grid, stepping out of the modern rat race and claiming a better, older way of life. Still, what does it mean to go off-grid?
- 1 What Off the Grid Living is Not
- 2 What Off the Grid Living Actually is
- 3 Choose your own adventure: Thoughts and plans for your off-the-grid experience
- 4 Is Off The Grid Right For Me?
- 5 “An ounce of preparation is worth a pound of cure”
- 6 “I love it when a plan comes together:” Getting started
- 7 Long-term considerations
- 8 Off-the-grid, but not without luxury
- 9 Other off-grid considerations
What Off the Grid Living is Not
People often use off-grid to mean self-sufficient, but the two terms are not necessarily the same. Off-grid it can and often is autonomous, but it is not an absolute requirement.
Being off-the-grid is not the same as living a sustainable life. This can be done both online and offline. If your goal is to live 100% sustainable and eco-friendly in your lifestyle, you can do it in the city center! In some places it can be much easier to live sustainably in the city than in the countryside.
What Off the Grid Living Actually is
The “network” is the power grid, the network of power lines, poles, cables, and transformers that connect each building to electricity.
In its most basic form, disconnecting from the grid simply means cutting off your connection to the grid. That could mean running out of power at all, or you might want to generate your own power.
More generally, off-grid also refers to water and waste processing. A truly off-grid home is not tied to municipal water supplies, city waste treatments, or electricity sources. You have access to water, sanitary facilities and electricity; A house off the grid can be quite comfortable! But you are not connected to the wider network in any way.
Now you know a little more about what it means off-grid. The definition is pretty broad, and you might be thinking, hey, there’s a lot more to that category than you thought! You are not wrong.
Camping can be considered an off-grid life, just a temporary version. Backpacking is also possible, or even a camper. And of course, a remote mountain hut or both are also technically unavailable.
Choose your own adventure: Thoughts and plans for your off-the-grid experience
It’s been building for a while, but you’re finally at the tipping point.
You’ve decided to leave the rat race of the modern world, the endless consumerism of our society, and go back to something simpler, a little more direct. You don’t want to be dependent on the infrastructure of the anonymous city; you want to feel dirt on your nails again.
In other words, you want to get off the grid. But you can’t just grab a stash bag and pocket knife and head out into the wilderness – at least, not without a lot of training and experience! You need to gather supplies and plan the details.
This article will help you break down some of those details and walk you through everything you need to consider before going offline: the challenges you will face and some options for overcoming them.
Is Off The Grid Right For Me?
Why why why? What makes you consider going off-grid?
The answers to that question determine the challenges you will face in your off-grid experience. Also consider these other questions:
1. What do you want to achieve?
Tired of modern civilization and want to get off the grid and get away from it all? Are you stressed and need a place to recover?
You may feel your connection to nature is fading and want to recharge by living a life limited only by natural rhythms: sunrise, sunset, the four seasons.
Or maybe you even have a specific goal for your off-grid adventure: you want to write a book, meditate, or make an artistic effort without interruption.
Whatever your reason, it’s not enough to react wildly and randomly leave the net. Think about why you want to get off the network. Then go to the next question
2. How long do you want to say off-the-grid?
Some of the above reasons are not necessarily long term. If you just want to get away to finish your novel without interruption, you may only have to do it for a few months or even a few days.
If you’re looking to relive the whole farm experience, you’re clearly into something much more long-term – years or even decades. Think about what you’re trying to accomplish by going off the grid, and let that shape your timeline
3. What is your budget?
The budget can also have an influence. Living, completely disconnecting from the grid and building your own house, power supply, septic tank and the whole thirty feet, isn’t necessarily a cheap experience.
That’s not to say it’s unaffordable, but you should consider what you want to do and how you can afford to do it.
You may first need a fun, long, off-the-grid adventure of a more temporary nature — an overland hike, a long hike, even a desert retreat — before preparing to sell everything and of the land to live.
“An ounce of preparation is worth a pound of cure”
If you have answered the above questions, you can now better decide how to proceed. However, there are more details to consider before taking the first step.
Know the rules and regulations
Living off the grid exists in a legal gray area. You should check local rules and regulations to make sure you can live off the grid.
This is especially true if you want to live permanently outside the network. There are safety rules and legislation for septic tanks, power generation and building regulations.
You may not have to follow all the rules for a new home in the middle of town, but you’d be surprised how many regulations you still have to meet.
Plan the parameters
Complete your answers to all of these questions above. For the purposes of this article, we’ll assume that you’ve decided to more or less permanently cut yourself off from the grid, build some sort of home, and aim for a basic, self-sufficient infrastructure.
Do your research!
With all that prep work done, you’ve actually only just started getting everything in order for your adventure.
In addition to rules and regulations, you’ll need to research everything from construction techniques to food preservation methods.
A LOT of study needs to be done – the test will be put into practice from what you learn
“I love it when a plan comes together:” Getting started
In this section, we’ll take a look at what you need to do to live off-grid right away, what you need in the long run, and finally, how to live off-grid without sacrificing modern conveniences.
You can also think of this as three different off-grid lifestyles, from super basic or survivalist to one that is very modern yet self-sufficient.
Where do you want your home to be off-grid? Are you looking for a dream place, with a plot of land in front of your house, where you will settle and never leave? Or do you want an off-grid outing?
Both cases affect where you place your home off the grid. You will probably want to buy the land, which will give you the freedom to build all your own infrastructure.
You can’t live long anywhere without some kind of shelter. Whether you’re doing it wrong in the desert or just starting a farm on your own property, you’ll need to build something to live in.
The exact shape is up to you, but there are some considerations.
- Cost: how much money do you have to work with?
- Durability – How durable do you want the structure to be?
- Comfort: what are you willing to live in?
People have built houses from the net with old barns and rickety sheds; they have lived in damaged buses.
All those options can work in the short term, if you’re going to build something permanent. You may also consider a caravan on site if you are going to be disconnected from the grid for several weeks or months at a time.
When it comes to more permanent structures, the sky is the limit. Some people hire contractors to build a brand new home, equipped with all mod cons, and then provide their own power and water supply.
Others plan a simpler home and buy or salvage materials from junkyards and construction sites to build their own dream home.
One of the biggest challenges you will face in your off-grid home is finding a source of fresh drinking water. Some options to consider:
This is one of the easiest ways to collect fresh water and has the added benefit of incorporating your building. Set up barrels or a storage tank, or if this becomes a long-term solution, consider installing an underground bladder.
Remember that stormwater has some weaknesses, the biggest of which is that it can be intermittent or seasonal, leaving you without a water source for part of the year or depending on an alternative system.
Stream or lake
Using a nearby natural water source, such as a stream or lake, offers some benefits.
You could find a way to combine water extraction with power generation and rely on hydropower for your energy.
But like rainwater, all but the largest flows can be seasonal, and even lake levels can rise and fall.
The most permanent solution to an off-grid water supply is to dig your own well.
It is not always an easy task; You may have to sink quite a bit before you reach a consistent stock depths of a thousand feet or more in drier climates, which can increase your costs significantly.
But once installed, you need to have a water source that is adequate and reliable.
Another major challenge is what to do with the waste it produces. If left untreated, it will quickly become a significant health risk in your new home and could render much of your property uninhabitable.
Fortunately, there are some traditional techniques for dealing with human waste that you can use
By far the easiest method is to dig a small hole, do your business and then bury it. It hides dirt and eliminates much of the risk.
But this only works best for very short periods of time; temporary camps, rather than permanent housing.
An extension of the burial method is the construction of a latrine pit, which is used for a longer period of time before being buried. For short to medium term homes, a flushing toilet can process your waste.
However, if you’re going to settle on a farm, you’ll probably want something more permanent than a series of latrines.
Full septic system
For most permanent homes, you will want a septic system. Once installed, these can be independent of any network and capable of handling all the waste your home produces.
These challenges are those faced by people who plan to live off the grid for the long term, on farms or the like.
These are not new challenges. Humanity has faced the same problems from the beginning.
As a modern offline resident, you have more options than ever to deal with these issues.
As we mentioned before, you can be offline and still buy most or all of your food. But many people who go offline also strive to be self-sufficient, at least in part.
If you are cultivating a farm, you will be looking for farming methods, animal husbandry, and perhaps forage for food in the surrounding countryside. Food collection isn’t your only concern either – you should also consider storage.
Depending on the reliability of your power source, you may want to consider alternative cooling methods, such as a cold basement.
Full water use
If you started with a basic rainwater tank, you may want to look for an upgrade. If rainwater is a reliable source, consider adding an underground storage system.
If you have installed a well with an electric pump to run on your power supply, you may also want to install a hand pump in the same well so you have a reliable backup.
This is the most important consideration for most people who live off the grid. How will you generate your electricity? There are at least five options.
1. There is no power You live off the grid and old-fashioned, and you are left with firelight as your only source of artificial light.
2. Wind energy Making use of the wind has been a known technique for centuries, but does cause some problems; First of all, it works best in places with constant and near constant winds.
In some areas, wind power is very unreliable or inconsistent at best. It may be acceptable as a backup system, but you can’t rely on it to generate all the power you need.
3. Hydropower Small-scale hydroelectric power stations are becoming more efficient and more common, but are obviously better suited to rural areas that remain relatively humid for most of the year.
4. Solar Energy By far the most popular option, solar energy brings enormous benefits. The sun shines everywhere, making no area completely unsuitable for solar energy.
And the technology behind the photovoltaic cells underlying the panels has improved dramatically, with everything from standalone solar panels to photovoltaic tiles now an option.
Solar panels tend to last and are quite resistant to damage, making them an attractive option due to their lower maintenance costs.
The biggest downside to solar is the storage system – you need a way to collect and store energy during the day to use it at night. Fortunately, there are ways to do this with new and improved battery systems.
5. Gasoline Generator Most people have a generator as a backup, but they burn regular gasoline, making them quite an expensive and time-consuming option.
Whichever method you choose, you will have to tackle the problem of energy storage. This can usually be handled through a battery system, plus an inverter to make electricity safe for use in your appliances.
Off-the-grid, but not without luxury
Off-the-grid doesn’t mean going back to a stone-age level of technology. With the right planning and preparation, you can keep all the comforts of your modern life while off-grid.
There are a surprising number of options for internet in remote or hard-to-reach locations, but satellite internet is probably the most common option. It’s usually more expensive than other forms of internet, but (weather permitting) it can give you super-fast internet almost anywhere.
Getting an internet connection through normal wired means will probably be difficult. Today there are many options that are just as fast and in some cases even faster than more traditional wired connections.
Mobile Phone Hotspot – Probably the easiest and cheapest option, you’ll want to use network coverage detectors to find out which mobile networks have the best signal where you are, then find the best contract you can for most of the data you’ll need .
Mobile Router – Long a staple of the caravan crowd, a mobile router offers an upgrade for using your mobile phone, but it works on the same principle. If your off-grid home is within range of a cell tower, a mobile router can provide you with a strong internet connection. Be sure to shop around for the best deals and coverage; Make sure your home has the signal from the provider you want!
Satellite Internet – For more remote locations, satellite Internet may be the only real option. A connection can be made from almost anywhere in the world, with strong connections and high speeds. There are drawbacks: these tend to be more expensive options than the others listed, and the weather can disrupt the connection.
Living off the grid doesn’t mean you have to become a subsistence farmer. Many people choose to disconnect from the power grid in a place that is far enough away to be remote, but close enough to move to the city.
Others choose to spend money on satellite internet and work from home. The thing is, you don’t have to unplug everything to get rid of the network.
Keeping a “regular” job is 100% possible if you live off-the-grid. In many cases, moving to off-grid also means you want to slow down your work life.
If so, options other than the 9-5 routine might be worth considering, including these options popular with off-network users:
Working as a freelancer or consultant: If you can specialize, becoming a freelancer or working as a consultant is usually a good way to create a more flexible work schedule.
Informal / Seasonal Work – Switching to the off-grid often leads to big savings, so if you can work less, seasonal work is a good option.
Blogs/Social Media – Capturing the whole process offline can be personally and professionally rewarding and can even help pay the bills if you do it right.
Other off-grid considerations
Building a full house installation can be expensive, but there are several ways to reduce that cost.
You can look for recycled building materials or even buy a large plot of land and split it up, and sell the extra lots to raise money to build your house.
That’s the approach this lady took. If your goal is a more survivable setup, you can do it much more economically.
Security / Legality
Living off-grid is no more dangerous than living in any other rural location, with a few notable exceptions.
If you are surviving, minimally off-grid camping in a remote and wild location, there is likely to be a higher risk of exposure, wildlife, disease, etc.
If you run a completely modern farm, you probably won’t be taking any unusual risks, other than normal construction risks, etc.
The issue of legality is a little more complicated.
Off-grid living is basically perfectly legal, and all items in an off-grid home are legal in isolation (camping, building a house, installing a septic system, using solar/hydro/wind power, etc.).
However, there are numerous local and state laws that affect each of these elements; If you pay close attention to the rules, you can break the law and thus have an illegal home off the net.
Ready to make plans?