In the strict sense of the word, living off-grid implies that you will be cut off from public utilities such as electricity, water, gas and sewage. Yet there’s more to it than a self-sustained and environmentally friendly lifestyle in an idyllic homestead. So before you decide to cut yourself off from the world, here’s what you need to consider.
Determine the Whys
Living off-grid is a big lifestyle change, so ask yourself why you’re considering it. Are you trying to lower your carbon footprint, or cut down on your monthly utility bills? Or are you simply drawn to self-sustained living in a remote area? If your choice is mostly based on environmental concerns, it’s good to remember that there are many easy ways to live greener without going off-grid.
If you’re certain that this is the best choice for you, consider your location next. Some states have strict regulations regarding licensing for off-grid living, so make sure that your plans comply with the local laws. If you choose to live in a remote, rural area, you will also have to deal with wildlife, less access to amenities such as schools and hospitals, as well as being very reliant on your car. As a middle ground, living off-grid is feasible in urban areas as well, where you can easily implement many of the changes needed for this lifestyle.
Prepare a budget for both before and after you’ve moved off-grid. The costs will be determined by your electricity usage, yet even if you decide to give up electricity altogether and go back to off-grid living as our ancestors knew it, there will be many hidden costs. Even if you don’t have monthly mortgage payments, you will still have to pay property taxes, and buy items that you can’t make yourself, such as medicine, or gas for your car. You will need an income, so ask yourself if you plan to keep your job and commute, whether you’ll switch to working from home, or pick up a new trade.
Before you even start looking at power sources, the first thing to consider is whether you will have access to drinking water. Even if you have a stream next to your house, you will need to boil the water, and install filtration systems. If you don’t have a natural water source nearby, you will need to drill a well, and you will have to make sure that doing so is legal where you will live. Water and sewage are closely linked, so it’s also important to ensure that there’s no contamination, especially if you’re installing a septic tank.
Once you go off-grid, powering your home becomes your own responsibility. There are many ways to provide your house with electricity, from solar panels, wind turbines, to hydroelectric generators, if you live next to running water. It’s best to invest in a battery, so that you’re prepared for potential blackouts. Also, before you decide to cut out electricity from your life altogether, take a moment to consider whether you can truly do without a washing machine or a fridge.
With water and electricity sources sorted, you will need to consider your food. Having your own garden is the best choice, so try to find a location with plenty of land to grow crops on. Hunting and fishing can provide variety to your diet, yet they are also subject to strict regulations, depending on the season. You will also need to learn how to preserve food, especially if you won’t have a fridge and freezer.
Having the right set of skills can ensure that you can both establish your off-grid lifestyle, as well as enjoy it. Hunting, fishing and foraging will be of great use, as will learning which plants and herbs to grow. Carpentry is another useful skill, and if you plan to have your own power source, your mechanic skills will help maintain and repair it. Also, don’t forget about first aid: it’s a great skill to have anywhere you live, yet even more so when you’re off-grid.
Last but not least, consider how living off-grid will impact the way you currently live. If you’ve decided to keep your job and move somewhere remote, commuting can become a hindrance. Living remotely will also impact your kids’ education, so think about whether they will be homeschooled. Also, if your friends and family are unable to visit or keep in touch, off-grid living can soon become very lonely.
Living off-grid can be a positive, albeit drastic change. From your food and electricity sources, to the way your lifestyle will pan out, it’s best to be prepared for anything that will come up, and ensure that you will continue to enjoy it for many years to come.