How to Power a Home Off the Grid


Living "off the grid" originally meant not being connected to the public-utility electricity grid. Now it has come to mean a lot more--it is a movement to choose which parts of civilization you want and which parts you want to reject. Most of the people who describe themselves as living "off the grid" reject public-utility electricity and sewage (and to a lesser extent radio, television, and water), but embrace wholeheartedly the Internet and the film industry.

Things You'll Need

  • Alternate source of electricity
  • Alternate sewage arrangements
  • Alternate source of water
  • Alternate garbage disposal arrangements
  • Research living off the grid. This is definitely something you just can't walk into. You have to find and install alternate services. You also have to fix them when something goes wrong. If you can't do this, you can't live off the grid. There are hundreds of resources--books, magazines, and Internet pages--where you can find information. There are also communities of people who are unplugged and eager to talk about it.

  • Decide what you want to do about electricity. Doing without is one option, but not the one most people want. Your best choices are solar panels and wind energy. This choice depends partially on where you live. If there is a lot of sunlight in your area, solar panels make sense. If you live in a windy place, wind energy makes sense. Energy produced by these alternate sources is stored in batteries and used during times when there is no sunlight or wind. Some people produce enough energy that they can sell it to the grid.

  • Decide what to do about water and waste disposal. These are not power issues, but if you don't take care of them, you will fail no matter how good your power supply is. According to the Environmental Information Agency, 17% of Americans already supply their own water. The two main sources are wells and cisterns. Wells usually come with a lot of goverment regulations and so require the services of a professional well digger. Cisterns are large containers that collect rainwater. Which method you choose depends on what kind of area you live in. Waste disposal usually consists of septic tanks and composters. Learn about these before you go off grid.

Tips & Warnings

  • Take a few minutes and decide exactly what it is you are trying to do. Going off grid is really about deciding how you want to relate to the mainstream of society. One way is to work in a tiny cubical and buy everything you need without caring how it works. Another way is to learn how everything works and work on your off-grid homestead constantly. Maybe there are some other paths, and maybe one of them is perfect for you. Think about it.
  • It is hard to get back on the bus once you get off. See if you can find someone living off the grid and stay with them for a while before making the move yourself.

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