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Could You Live Off the Grid?

One of the movements growing in popularity, among the environmentally-conscious and the survivalists [3] alike, is the idea of going off the grid. There are different degrees to which you can become independent of the services offered by utility companies and local governments. Some are interested in disconnecting from the electric grid, while others take it even further and disconnect from water and sewer.

However you decided to do it, though, going off grid requires planning and preparation. In some cases, it can even mean an outlay of tens of thousands of dollars. Many of the systems required to make going off the grid work cost a great deal of money up front. You need to weigh the up front costs with the long-term savings, and you also need to consider the value to being self-sufficient, with no need to rely on others to bring you the services you need.

Disconnecting Your Electricity

Before you can disconnect your electricity, it’s important to make sure you are able to generate sufficient energy to perform all those functions. The first step is often to do what you can to make your home more energy efficient [4]. This includes considering the placement of your windows, the use of insulation, and the use of energy efficient appliances. Some consider making sure they have electric heat so that they don’t have to rely on heating oil deliveries. You will have better success if you use less electricity to begin with.

Next, figure out which systems to use. It’s often a good idea to use at least two different systems. Many people use a solar system, and then supplement with wind. You can also get access to geothermal energy on your own, with the right system. You’ll want to store energy for further use as well. This can be done with DC batteries, and then the right conversion system to turn it into AC power when ready for use. As a backup to your backup, it’s also possible to use propane generators to charge the DC storage batteries. However, if you want to go completely off grid for self-reliance, even propane might not be the best choice.

Consider creating your system a little bit at a time. Few of us can afford to pay for a wind and a solar system sufficient to provide the estimated 10,000 kilowatt-hours your home will need each year. Instead, you can go green [5] and off grid a little at a time. Create a plan to buy a little at a time, and make use of local rebate programs and tax credits to help you with the cost.

Some enterprising individuals don’t disconnect from the grid. Instead, they sell electricity to the grid. With the right equipment, and the right power company to work with, any extra electricity you produce can be sold to the system, so you can make money on your efforts.

What About Water?

Going off grid with water takes planning as well. You can have a well drilled on your property, and a pump installed to get it to your home. You need to check with local regulations before taking this step, though. Even if you don’t completely off grid, you can reduce your need for water from a utility company by using cisterns.

Getting rid of waste is probably about the trickiest aspect of going off grid. My in laws live in a very rural area, and have a septic tank. They don’t have sewer services. However, there is maintenance that needs to be observed, and you might need someone to come clear out some of the waste. There are other methods of disposing of waste and waste water, but it can get tricky. Check with local regulations before proceeding.

Could you go off grid?

(Photo: Powerhouse Museum [6])