Are you filled with despair every time you get your utility bill?
Have you had enough of noise, pollution, stress and all the other trappings of civilization?
If so, chances are you’ve considered living off grid as an alternative.
Ironically, many of the technologies of today are what make it possible to go back in time to a simpler way of life.
It’s not a simple as installing a solar panel and a rainwater system though, or is it?
This is everything you need to know about living off the grid.
Options for Living off the Grid
You have three broad options when it comes to off-grid living.
Half and Half
An almost-there off the grid existence is common on smallholdings and farms.
Homeowners in these areas rely on modern infrastructure to a lesser degree.
Water wells and solar power, as well as septic tank systems for waste disposal, are common in these areas.
Other rural properties still rely on electricity or water from city resources.
Often, a farm or smallholding has some means of producing their own food thanks to crops and livestock.
Adjusting Your Existing Lifestyle
This involves gearing up for a greener future by adjusting your own abode to fit in with the cities of tomorrow.
Usually, all you need for this is an efficient solar system and a rain-water harvesting setup.
This way, you can continue enjoying all the conveniences of modern life without fossil fuels and hefty bills.
Getting Away from It All
Living Alaska-style is the epitome of an off the grid lifestyle, where you rely totally on your own resources to survive.
If you’re considering going the whole hog like this, then you’ve got some planning to do.
How to Live Off the Grid in a Remote Setting
Unless you were born that way, self-reliance is intensely challenging.
If you’re considering turning your back on modern-day conveniences, you must consider the following important points.
1. It Takes Money to Go off the Grid
Off-grid living is cheaper – eventually.
Setting yourself up for a comfortable existence takes time and money though, especially when you have a family to consider.
There are things you need for your new lifestyle that only money can buy.
What’s more, though you’ll be eking out an existence from the land, you need money for ongoing expenses.
You can’t grow things like fuel, medical supplies, and clothing – for those (and many other things) you need cash.
If you are fortunate enough to have a home-based job that brings an income, that’s great.
However, you need to make sure that you can use the business technology you need at your new location.
2. You Need Land to Live Off (And On)
Off-grid rentals are few and far between. Chances are you are going to need to buy land and build your own escape-from-it-all.
For now, we’ll focus on the location aspects of suitable land.
You need a plot of land that’s close to schools if you have children.
Despite how you feel initially, you will need the company of other people from time to time.
Choose a piece of land where your neighbors aren’t too far away, and that is not so remote that you never see your family and friends.
Medical facilities and shops are other considerations. Pick a spot that’s away from the crowds but still within reach of basic necessities.
Depending on your preferences, try to avoid areas with extreme temperatures. You’ll get sick of the snow after a while and high temperatures become unbearable when they continue day after day.
Another consideration is enough space to build your dream home, plant your food crops and raise some livestock.
Once you’ve found a likely area, there are a few more things to consider when it comes to looking for places to live off the grid.
3. Water Is a Top Priority
Not even Bear Grylls can survive without clean drinking water. Neither can livestock and plants.
Land without water rights is useless to you. A good strong well, river, or lake are the best options.
If you are considering solar or wind power for your energy, make sure your chosen spot gets enough sunlight and wind to keep you up and running.
Make sure you know all the zoning rights, water and mineral rights pertaining to the piece of land you like.
Double check that you can physically and legally install the energy generators that you need on the premises.
Unexpected surprises can turn what’s meant to be a simple life into a living hell.
4. Shelter from the Elements
As you move further away from civilization, the less restrictive building regulations tend to get. Check these before you start planning your new home.
Unless you’re buying land that already has buildings on it, log cabins tend to be the cheapest type of dwelling for off the grid living.
Straw bales, cob, and earthbag technologies are other cost-effective and environmentally friendly options.
You can either move in when construction’s done or stay on site in a recycled shipping container, yurt, or RV during the whole process.
5. Sources of Food
A vegetable garden is a top priority when living off the land.
Remember that most vegetables take at least a month until harvest. Trees can take years to bear fruit.
Until then, you’ll need to stay stocked up on store supplies or what you can buy from a local market.
Chickens are the heroes of the day when it comes to food production. They don’t eat much and are quite happy to forage on their own.
They’ll happily start laying eggs straight away, provide manure for your vegetables, and can be a source of meat.
Quite a variety of predators agree, so build your chickens a safe place to stay out of harm’s way. Preferably close to your house.
6. Raising Livestock
That brings us to another sensitive issue. If you are going to raise livestock for meat, you will need to kill these animals yourself.
Remember that domestic animals are efficient breeders, make sure you have a plan in place to sell excess stock and avoid overloading.
When you have livestock, you must know basic veterinary care and be able to recognize the symptoms of common animal ailments too.
Otherwise, you’re in for a hefty vet bill every month.
7. Plants and Seeds
To start and maintain a vegetable garden takes careful horticulture.
You’ll need seeds and cuttings to start out and have to learn how to harvest these for next season’s crop.
A greenhouse is an excellent option for year-round crop production and well worth the initial expense.
8. Powering Up
Candles and firelight are very romantic at first but they won’t keep your supplies cold or your laptop running.
Some sort of electricity is important if you want a relatively comfortable lifestyle.
Solar panels and wind turbines are the best options for a reliable source of energy. They’re expensive to set up but they last for up to 5 years.
You can get rebates from the government for installing these green options though. The savings on your electricity bill far outweigh the initial expense too.
A backup generator is imperative in case of emergency and also comes in handy to run tools and other electrical implements.
A small portable generator, like these ones from Genset, is a good option.
9. Dealing With Waste
Composting toilets are popular among eco-friendly off-the-grid aficionados.
You can have flushing toilets if you’re able to install a septic tank in your area and you have abundant water.
When it comes to plastic and paper, “reduce, reuse, recycle” is the way to go.
Some farmers have a small landfill for household refuse but this soon becomes an eyesore. It best to avoid plastic and paper waste in the first place.
Kitchen scraps and cuttings have an automatic home on the compost heap or as chicken feed.
10. Materials and Tools
Part of learning how to live off the grid is figuring out how to fix things yourself. You’ll soon learn how to perform basic home repairs.
To keep up with these aspects of general upkeep you’re going to need some tools. Get a supply of the basics to start with. You can always add to these as needed.
Keep safety precautions top of mind when working with tools. Remember, you’re a long way from medical assistance.
Lumber, wire, plastic sheeting and metal posts are part and parcel of rural living. Keep a stock of all the things you think you’ll need for emergency repairs.
You’ll soon learn to keep offcuts and scraps for a rainy day. Keep these in a safe place with the rest of your tools. A tool shed works best.
The one thing you need more than anything else is a strong commitment to what living off the grid entails.
At times you may feel like giving up and hightailing it back to the city.
Other times, you’ll wonder why you didn’t embrace life off the grid sooner.
Murphy’s Law is a daily rule of a life away from it all. Stick it out and in time you’ll surprise yourself with your own ingenuity in dealing with these challenges.
Keep reading my blog for more advice about the things you wonder about sometimes or get in touch to discuss your ideas for new articles.