If you are planning to go off-grid, you may be wondering what to expect. One moment you’re all excited about the possibilities, and the next, you’re filled with trepidation. There are so many things that could go wrong.
I’ve been in the same fix a few years ago, which is why I’m sharing some insights about what you can expect if you live off the grid.
MYTHS ABOUT OFF-GRID LIVING
There are different misconceptions about off-grid living. Mostly, these myths are caused by two extreme scenarios people visualize about this lifestyle.
On one extreme, there are folks who want to go off-grid in their really big 300-square meters bricks-and-mortar house. On the opposite end is going off-grid with a tiny house on wheels.
Both of these extremes have their big shortcoming.
Taking a so-called regular big house off-grid (with the electrical boilers and everything), will cost a fortune. You will probably even need a special room for the batteries and so on.
People consider how expensive this is to pull off, so they give up on the idea.
On the other hand, it’s really easy to go off-grid with a tiny house.
The equipment is cheap, but you don’t get the living quality you expect, especially if you have a family.
Living in a tiny house with a family is not something many people want to do. The idea seems quite impractical and uncomfortable.
What many people fail to consider is that there are options that fall in the middle-ground, where living is affordable, functional, and actually a lot of fun.
BALANCING A NEED-BASED LIFESTYLE
When I went off-grid, I first lived in a tiny house. When my family grew, I built a bigger one. It was an A-frame home.
I also added a few panels to my solar power system. As my needs evolved, and so did my home.
Overall, I’m very happy with those decisions.
The best suggestion I can give is to make a plan.
When designing off-grid systems for the house you have to start from your level of consumption. That’s the most important part.
If you want to live with the bare minimum, getting sufficient supply is easy. If you want to keep your big dryer and washer, well then, you need more panels and more batteries.
Having said that, there definitely are some constraints.
Moving away from an unlimited power supply requires some compromise. For example, I don’t have an electric water kettle. In my current position, I can’t have it.
Actually, I could… but that would mean investing more into the batteries, and that’s just to have a cup of coffee quickly with the electric water kettle. The idea makes no sense.
So, start your plan with your consumption. Think about what you really need and what you could live without.
What are the things in your life you are quite happy to part with?
Like the electric water kettle, in my case.
Perhaps you say to yourself “I need four rooms to be lit up with LEDs. I need my dishwasher. I need my espresso machine, my TV“.
Once you know what you will keep, you can calculate the consumption, and then a specialist can design a system for you.
PROS AND CONS OF OFF-GRID LIVING
There’s a lot of great benefits you get from moving out of the grid.
1. LOW UTILITY BILLS
Most significant of all is having little to no utility bill. This translates to big savings.
I have my heating system based on firewood. Since my house is in the woods, I could get plenty of firewood for free. I just have to put in some work and that’s about it.
2. STAY IN CONTROL
Second is that you are independent of the grid.
If you’re on the grid, much of your daily life is dependent on it. If the power goes off you’re left in the dark, and often in the cold. You may lose running water and so on.
If you have your own system to support your heating, water, and energy needs, you can keep functioning normally day-to-day, with no worries about power outages on the grid.
3. SUSTAINABLE LIFESTYLE
Going off-grid is a kind of eco-friendly living. You can have less carbon footprint, which benefits the global community in the long run. That in itself makes it cool.
Despite the major pros, off-grid life also has some downside.
1. HIGH INITIAL COST
Off-grid living is affordable in the long term, but it usually does require a sizable investment at the onset. The large initial investment puts is a major put-off for many.
2. YOU’VE GOT TO DO SOME GRUNT WORK
The second downside is that you have to work for the system.
When you are on-grid someone is doing that work for you. Someone is maintaining the system so that the power is delivered to your house, and wastewater is taken away. You don’t need to worry about it, you just pay. With off-grid, you are the one doing the work and you do need to worry about it.
IS THE TRADE-OFF WORTH IT?
There is no denying, off-grid life requires some work and grit. The best advice about off-grid living that I’ve ever heard was to remember just three things:
- the nights are dark
- winters are cold
- water doesn’t run uphill.
I’ve been off-grid for years now, and I do have a feeling that my children will want to continue this way of life. Because for me, personally, there is not much downside.
In many ways, low-tech is also trustworthy, like my stove. I just know I can trust my heating system because if I bring in a bunch of firewood, put it in the stove, and light up, there is not a single chance that it doesn’t get warm.
It always does.
I like that.
All these heat pumps and modern systems are of course good. But according to Murphy’s Laws, they tend to break down on the Christmas Eve.
On Christmas Eve, I make a fire.
…and even if something should happen with my solar system or back-up generator, I can light up a candle, make a nice cup of tea on my wood stove, and read a book. I’m still enjoying myself. It’s basically the same with water and heat.
Living off-grid can have a number of benefits and very little downside if you do the planning right.
If you don’t pay so much on utility bills, you have more time and money for your hobbies. I collect forest knives, shoot bows, and do stuff I like instead of working on two jobs just to pay the bill.
I’ve left that life behind, four years ago.If you want more detailed reading about solving off-grid challenges, there is a detailed blog post from Unity Home Group Alaska.