Living off-grid is one of those things that people either love or hate. I think that’s the beauty of it.
Some think off-grid living is just for nuts.
For a long time, living off the grid was something reserved for criminals or mentally unstable people.
Today, YouTube is full of stories of ordinary people who are trying to settle in remote places where they can have a deeper connection with nature.
This is even more true in the middle of the pandemic where those who lived in the cities had to face drastic restrictions and were forced to a brutal chance of habits.
For us folks living in the woods, nothing much changed.
Maybe we are not so nuts after all :)Anyway, if you are considering going off-grid, there are a few things you need to know…
What living off-grid really means
Many still think that living off-grid means self-isolating in the woods in a small cabin (often half-rotten) with no electricity.
In 2021, that is not the case.
With the technologies we have today, one can live off-grid and have all the comforts of modern life.
My house is about 1km deep in the woods from the nearest electrified dwellings… but I do have electricity. I make it on my own.
Most people think that to make your own electricity you need lots of expensive photovoltaic solar panels… but actually, you don’t.
My house has just 6 panels and I’m doing just fine.
The panels output 240W each.
I run entirely on solar panels for 6 months and I top up my batteries with a diesel generator for the rest of the year.
There are 2 months in the winter where I run entirely on the generator… and believe me, no amount of solar panels would help me to avoid that. Where I live, there is simply not enough sun in winter to run on photovoltaic panels.
But still, this hasn’t stopped me from living off-grid and having my own electricity.
So, unless your land is located in a valley on the shadow side of the mountain, you are gonna be able to have all the comforts that come with electricity.
Of course, home-brewed electricity comes in small quantities and it is precious… so you are going to have to decide what you’ll use it for.
Heating requires a huge amount of energy and it is best done with fire.
This applies to cooking as well.
I’m heating my house with a wood stove and I make my coffee and tea either on the stove or on the propane cooktop I use for cooking.
If you are used to doing everything with electricity, you have to reframe your habits a bit.
Sidenote: it is important to understand this BEFORE you start planning to go off-grid (read more about this in the conclusion).
But it is not all about electricity…
Electricity is only one of the systems you need to plan for.
The others are:
Needless to say, when you begin planning your off-grid kingdom, you need to think about all these things.
We already touched on the heat for cooking and for keeping your house warm.
As I mentioned, you wanna go with wood and gas.
Water is a deal-breaker.
It is usually available everywhere but, in some locations, it might be that you have to dig very deep or through rocks… which makes it very expensive and probably not viable.
So you gotta check if you have access to water at your planned location.
Sewage is another story cause nowadays there are pre-made septic tanks that are super cheap and do the job effectively.
Sewage is almost never a problem.
Connectivity might give you some headache.
Although one can live perfectly fine with no connection to the rest of the world, we kind of became accustomed to being reachable 24/7 and having an always-on internet connection.
All you have to do here is to make sure you get a good cellular signal on your property.
You trade independence for responsibility
The real difference between living off the grid or connected to the various networks is this:
When you are connected to the grid, the only time you have to think about those services is when you have to pay the bill.
When you are off-grid, electricity and heat require your input to work correctly and to keep working.
Sidenote: except for some maintenance work, water, sewage, and connectivity are pretty much set-and-forget.
An off-grid set-up allows you to build your home wherever you want… no matter if any man has set foot in the area before or not.
…and that’s the main benefit: independence.
Independence also comes in the form of not depending on others for the basic needs of your home (water, warmth, power).
But to gain that independence you have to give up on something…
You have to give up on being “served”.
When living off-grid, you are the one who runs your systems, so you have to assume 100% responsibility for making everything work and run smoothly.
You have to make sure all the systems are in good working conditions.
You have to provide the necessary “fuel” (diesel for the electric generator, wood for the stove, propane for cooking, …).
In other words, living off-grid is not set-and-forget.
I’ve been off-grid for 6 years now and looking back, I would not change a thing.
I made a lot of mistakes with my set-up… but I also learned a lot of things.
It has been a wonderful experience.
The thing that pushed me to go off-grid is that my land was far from all the networks.
I really didn’t have a choice there.
I’m happy I took my chances and chose freedom over “easy”.
Today the electric connection is on the border of my property.
That’s about 250m from the house.
If my generator ever breaks, it would make sense to lay one cable instead of buying a new diesel-sucker.
Even in that case, I would not give up on my solar panels and I’d keep living on my own electricity first… topping up with the grid juice when necessary.
Living off-grid puts you in charge of everything and it is very rewarding.
When you pulled this off, you are pretty much able to handle anything that life throws at you.
Going off-grid is doable but not simple.
It needs good planning and a deep understanding of everything that is required to make the living experience comfortable and sustainable.
I wish I knew what I know now what I started 6 years ago 🙂
For this reason, I’m working on putting together a guide to off-grid living, so that others can set their system up a lot faster than I did and with less waste of money (yep, I had several failed attempts on pretty much every system).
If you are interested in the off-grid guide and you wanna get a notification when it’s ready, click on the link below and leave us your email.
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