With today’s economy, it’s believed a lucky few have the means to live off-grid. However, small off-grid living can be obtainable even to those who aren’t “middle-class” or higher. Although it could require major life changes. Here is a beginner’s guide to living off-grid:
There’ve been talks of housing bubbles forming again – both in the U.S. and abroad. But all bubbles aside, you can actually find affordable land to buy in the U.S. You just might find yourself living in a state like Ohio or Connecticut, the latter of which is reported to be one of the states with the highest taxes. Keep state taxes in mind, and look into the job market in any regions that interest you.
An Internet search on “property markets in the U.S.” can give you a good idea of regions to start. From there, comparing prices from real estate websites in different regions can help you narrow the search down. You can buy an acre of land for as little as $1,000, if you know where to look.
We suggest keeping usable water sources in mind, and avoiding regions close to nuclear power plants and fossil-fuel operations. Some states have been taking action to prevent citizens from living off-grid, and you’ll obviously want to avoid those states. See here for a list of states with laws that effect off-grid living.
Finding affordable property in a location that’s right for you will take some elbow grease, but for those who are intent on living off-grid, it’s worth it.
You can always rely on America’s surplus of crappy old trailers and RV’s, many of which people will pay you to take off their hands. However if you prefer a higher standard of living, you can also look into mini-houses. Prices for mini-houses can range from a few thousand dollars, to the extravagant, and can be either mobile, or placed on a foundation. Be sure to check state and local laws, as well as permit requirements beforehand.
If done correctly, shipping containers can also serve as an inexpensive alternative to mini-houses, and they offer room for creativity. You can buy used shipping containers for around $1-5K, and renovations to make them livable can roughly cost as little as $7-10K per shipping container. Remember to use recycled and reclaimed materials as much as possible to cut costs further.
There are various forms of power systems that can be used in an off-grid home, such as hydropower systems, or even a combination. In this report, we will focus on solar and wind power, though in the end, it really depends on what works best for your property. Keep in mind it takes around 10,000 kilowatt hours of electricity per year to power the typical American home.
Before going solar, you need to learn which type of solar panels you need or prefer – this source will get you started. Solar panels can be placed on your roof, or mounted separately. Costs vary greatly depending on the size of your home, and whether or not you put the system together yourself (around $1200+), or have it done by a professional (can be around $10K, give or take). Like all forms of home energy systems, they come with maintenance.
A decent wind turbine for your home can cost as much as $1K-5K (and up), though you can find them cheaper, depending on your needs. There are three types of towers used for residential wind power that use either; permanent magnet generators (PMGs); wound-field alternators; and conventional induction motors, all of which can come at varying expenses. To learn more about wind turbine power, see here.
As mentioned before, finding property with a natural, clean water source (river, well, pond, etc.) is your best bet. If you’re interested in pulling water from a river or stream, the laws vary between states. You’ll need to look up “Riparian Rights” for the state you are interested in.
With almost any system you use, you’ll need a solar-powered submersible deep well pump. The pumps themselves are – on average – around $100-300, but can be more. You’ll have to pay attention to the product details, but most of these well pumps require 12V or 24V solar panels, which will run an additional $100+. You may be able to find kits that will save you money, or used systems through trader sites and Craigslist.
If natural water sources aren’t an option for your property, there are other solutions. Depending on the region of the U.S. you choose, cisterns and rainwater harvest systems can be used, the latter of which can easily be in the $1k – 5k range. For this reason, a DIY approach might be more feasible.
Potable water tanks are necessary for most systems, and probably a good idea if you want to keep extra supplies. As a final resort, you can always purchase water to be brought to your property by a bulk water delivery service. The tanks come in a large range of sizes, with a new 500 gallon tank costing roughly $300 – $500.
No matter your useable water source, you’ll need a filtration system. They’re easy enough to find online for $100+, and you have quite a few options here, but keep quality in mind.
You can always use a typical outhouse, but that will become troublesome sooner or later. Your best bet is to create a good sewage system, and if you’ve figured out your water system, this shouldn’t be too difficult, aside from the labor involved.
A basic septic system consists of a tank that collects and releases wastewater. Bacteria within the tank naturally breaks the waste down. As new wastewater flows in, old wastewater flows out through a series of perforated pipes where it is filtered through the soil and absorbed as nutrients.
New septic tanks range in price depending on the size; a 200 gallon tank costs approximately $300. A 2000 gallon tank will cost around $2000. You should have the tank emptied and serviced annually.
Here’s a useful source for off-grid water and plumbing: (Source)
There are various other things to take into consideration when switching to an off-grid lifestyle, such as gardening, irrigation systems, canning, and composting. Not to mention internet access. There are also other alternatives to the suggestions provided in this report, and inexpensive DIY approaches can be taken. This report is meant to serve as a rough guideline, and to stir the serious reader’s imagination.