Living Off the Grid:
Tips for Getting Started
Recently, I have been reading up on “living off the grid” and have become more and more fascinated by the idea. Living on your own land, completely independent and self-sustaining, providing your own power, water and food. This lifestyle trend has become more and more popular, and I can understand why. Being surrounded by a digital landscape and relying on technology for work and leisure time, the idea of unplugging completely sounds like pure bliss–at least it does to me.
No one is ready to just up and leave their job to live off the grid, but I have compiled a few tips to start going eco, even if you’re not completely disconnected…yet. If you can only be 80% off grid, then be 80% off grid. If you can only be 30% off grid, then be 30% off grid! Any small changes you are able to make will have a hugely positive impact on the environment!
If you aren’t planning on up and leaving your place of residence, then stay put and convert your home. Make it as energy efficient as possible! First, consider all of the utilities that are paid for: power/electricity, heat, and water. Now, let’s think about all of the ways to produce your own energy, honing it from natural resources like wind and solar power. Starting with power/electricity:
Installing solar panels on the roof of your residence is a great first step to sustainability. It will cut your energy costs by up to 50%. Be sure to choose the panels made from silicon alloy; they are more lightweight and even more durable, therefore more efficient. However, before you take the plunge, be sure the types of solar panels you choose to replace your power will provide you with enough power for your needs on a daily basis and is cost effective for your lifestyle!
This is an option for those who own land and have plenty of space and monetary resources to make the switch to wind energy and lower their energy costs. Also, consider the altitude at which you live, for wind speeds increase with altitude, and it takes wind speeds faster than 10mph to spin a turbine. This home conversion will take a lot more research into factors of living, but may have a large payoff to transfer energy off grid.
Next, let’s go over ideas for heating your home:
Pellet stoves are a source of biomass fuel for the home. Using “biomass” pellets, this type of fuel is carbon neutral, so it is quickly becoming the alternative to most fossil fuels used in heating homes. These stoves can be freestanding or inserted into a wall in the home, and are extremely efficient! This is a great home conversion: something that reduces your carbon footprint and takes you one step closer to becoming self-sufficient.
Solar Water Heating (Using Solar Panels)
Also known as passive solar water heating, this heating system utilizes solar panels fitted to the roof to heat water, which is then stored in a hot water tank. There are nifty guides to help you install your own solar water pumps and storage containers, or you can look for an installer with good references. This kind of home conversion will replace the energy used from inefficient electric heaters and will use a cleaner and more efficient process to heat your water–something that uses the most energy in your home.
Finally, a few more ways to adjust your home to be more self-sufficient with your personal water supply:
Simply put, a cistern allows you to harvest rainwater, which can then be used for drinking, irrigation, washing, etc. There are many different systems that can be setup to harvest rainfall, some extremely simple and cheap , and some much more elaborate for long-term self-sufficiency. Overall, consider the region you are in and the length of the wet and dry season. Harvesting rainfall properly is a great way to cut water costs and become self-reliant.
If you live in a residence that utilizes well water, you’re halfway there! If there is a natural running water source near your residence, this can be utilized with a water pump directly from the source. Utilize this water for different purposes depending on the source–slow moving streams are best for washing clothes as opposed to drinking.
Food Growth and Storage.
If rising prices at grocery store chains have gotten you, well, down, then consider shopping at a local farmers’ market instead and purchase local produce and other foods directly from the source, skipping the freight transportation and warehouse storage entirely! For other foods, consider growing your own; that’s the easiest and most reliable way to know it is 100% organic.
A greenhouse is the most reliable way to produce food year-round since the glass house can keep your crop warm in the winter. Fruit, vegetables, and herbs can be harvested year round, but having a greenhouse requires a lot of responsibility and daily upkeep. If you are ready to produce your own food for yourself (and even others!) then consider the different types of greenhouses that can be built depending on your region, needs, and lifestyle, and go for it!
Named for the place in the home that should always be considered cool and dry, the cellar. A root cellar is a great thing to utilize if you plan to keep fruits and vegetables stored away in anticipation for the colder months. This would require the same kind of commitment as a greenhouse would, but would of course pay off: imagine being able to keep fruits and vegetables fresh and edible for months at a time! Once again, look for the right root cellar plans that work for your lifestyle and take one step closer becoming even more self-sufficient!
For anyone who has more land to work with, consider these options:
If you’d want to produce even more of your own food, consider having your own small chicken coop! Feed and keep your chickens and they will produce eggs all year. There is plenty of information about this and plenty of research to be done to understand if you’re ready to have your own chickens. If you have the time, space, and energy, definitely consider it!
If you’re used to raising animals, then a great next step is to raise goats for milk (and soap!) for the year, and also for companionship, of course.
Finally, I will always be a bee advocate, and with bees disappearing left and right, we need to make moves to save the bees! If you’re not ready to keep a beehive, there are other alternatives, such as bee houses and hotels, that are extremely helpful for the pollinators. You can also make a bee bath, or grow certain flowers just as small but kind gestures for the bees.
Well, I think we have the basics covered! But, there are a few outliers that can still be applied to sustainable living if you’re not completely off the grid. Don’t worry, you’re getting there!
These allow you to store energy for when you need it and can be charged from more than one energy source.
Another thing I’m a huge fan of is electric cars, especially Tesla! When the time comes to get a new car, consider the alternative and upgrade to a hybrid or an electric car!
Another quick fix is replacing all of your light bulbs with LED bulbs, more energy efficient and longer lasting!
Kitchen Herb Garden/Backyard Garden
If you’re not ready to build your own greenhouse, then have your own tiny herb garden in your kitchen, and expand into a vegetable garden in the backyard!
There are tons of other ways to live a self-sustainable lifestyle, and these are a few tips to get you started down the right path. Last but not least, RECYCLE, RECYCLE, RECYCLE! Even if you can’t make a single change from the list above, you can recycle papers, plastics, and glass to do your part. Most off-the-grid individuals are able to build and use recycled items, so your trash is another’s quite literal treasure.
Check out this great article to get more in-depth details about off-the-grid living, and how to go completely off the grid!