Is Idaho a Good State to go Off the Grid?
City Beach at Sandpoint Idaho
Idaho is a very diverse and beautiful state. It's also one of the freest states in the union. It's easy to start a business here and the weather is perfect, in other words there is very little humidity! I hate humidity. If you are looking to go off the grid in Idaho there are few states that are better suited for that, there are no tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes or floods in Idaho and most people still retain the civility America used to have back in the 50's. But, it doesn't mean that Idaho is perfect. Here are 12 categories that will help you decide whether Idaho is the perfect place to stake your homestead and go off the grid.
Idaho has a great deal of variation in its climate. Pretty much any weather you want you'll get in Idaho except maybe high humidity. Idaho can get uncomfortably hot in the summer and has reached temperatures of 110 degrees. However, in winter, it can get very cold especially in the northern regions where the normal temperature is usually in the 20's.
The average annual rainfall varies since the lower part of Idaho is high desert while the upper part has a mountain climate. The upper part of Idaho can get from 30 to 38 inches of rain while the lower part can get an average of 11 percent. The average for the United States is 37 inches.
In addition, Idaho has over 3,100 miles of rivers, more than any other state.
3. Building Codes and Alternative Housing Materials:
Most of Idaho requires building code adherence, however, there are some counties in Idaho that are more flexible than others. I have been told that Idaho county has no building codes other than meeting the electrical and septic standards. In most of Idaho you can build your home using any material you want as long as you are not in a subdivision with its own set of standards.
4. Cottage Business Laws:
Idaho's seven health districts operate as independent agencies. Each district responds to local needs. However, having said that, I spoke with a Mr. Patrick Guzzle from the Health and Welfare department of Idaho and he said that historically Idaho has allowed direct to consumer sales of non-potentially hazardous food products (products that don't have meat or milk or bacteria in them) without requiring a license. And, that there is no limit to the amount of money you can make through these sales. Idaho does not allow cottage goods to be sold commercially.
Currently, there is a movement to codify these cottage business practices and put them into law by an organization called "WORC" which stands for Western Organization of Resource Councils.
Given this information I think it would be safe to say that Idaho's Cottage Business practices are as liberal, if not more so than many states who do have laws written on the books.
5. Homeschooling laws:
Idaho is one of 11 states that have no state requirements for parents to initiate contact or give any notice to the state whatsoever that they are homeschooling their kids. In other words, parents have total freedom to home-school their children in Idaho.
6. Rainwater Harvesting:
It is legal to capture rainwater off roof structures and the ground as long as the rain has not entered a natural waterway in Idaho. Idaho was given an A+ by people who rate rainwater harvesting freedoms.
- Idaho has a state sales tax of 6%, however prescription drugs are exempt.
- Generally all income received by an Idaho resident, regardless of the source, is subject to Idaho income tax.
- Idaho does not tax social security benefits.
- Property taxes are assessed at full market value. A general property tax is imposed for local purposes and is limited to 1% of market value. The state property tax is suspended as long as the sales and use tax are in effect. A homeowner's primary residence is eligible for an exemption of 50% of the assessed value of the home, up to a maximum of $81,000 as of 2013. There is also a circuit breaker program. To qualify you must own and occupy the home as your primary residence, you must meet income requirements and you must be either age 65 or older, a widow(er), blind, former POW, fatherless or motherless minor, or a qualifying disabled person. If qualified you your property taxes could be reduced by as much as $1,320 dollars. Idaho's property taxes are on the low side for a western state.
- Idaho does not have an inheritance tax, gift tax or an estate tax.
8. Gay Marriage:
Same sex marriage is banned in Idaho and earlier in 2014 a bill was introduced to protect the freedom of religious businesses, but I don't think it passed.
9. Gun Laws:
- There is no state permit required to purchase any rifle, shotgun or handgun in Idaho.
- You do not have to register any firearms in Idaho.
- There is no licensing of gun owners in Idaho.
- There is no permit to carry rifles and shotguns, however you do have to get a permit to carry a handgun.
- It is unlawful to possess or carry any concealed weapon while intoxicated.
- You can carry a concealed weapon in your home, place of business or on your property without a license but you need a license everywhere else.
- It is lawful to possess, purchase, or sell a machine gun that is legally registered and possessed in compliance with all federal laws.
10. Garden and Food Laws:
Raw milk is legal in Idaho and is even sold in stores. You can have a garden in your front yard, in fact you could probably turn your entire yard into a garden and no one will bother you in Idaho. The only caveat to this would be if you were in a subdivision that had laws against it.
11. Raising Farm Animals:
Backyard chickens are allowed in Idaho but you'll have to check with the specific town to see how many are allowed and if you need a permit.
12. Property Prices:
It would seem that the cat is out of the bag because property values have gone up in Idaho. Idaho property is still a good deal when compared to other western states like California or Oregon, however, when compared to mid-western states or southern states ..not so much.
13. Growing Season:
Idaho is one of the most diverse states when it comes to growing crops. You can find high desert, rain forest or alpine meadows. In the north where the area is mountainous and heavily forested the growing season is short and it snows a lot, however in the middle and lower parts of Idaho the growing seasons are longer and they don't get as much snow. If you choose to locate in the northern area you will need a greenhouse and you will have to provide food for your farm animals.
Overall I would say that Idaho is a very good state in you are looking to go off the grid. The weather is good in most areas, there is plenty of water and the laws are (for the most part) bent toward freedom for the individual. There are a few problems, for example the cost of property is higher than many other states and in some areas you will have to put up with a lot of snow. However, in my opinion Idaho is one of the best states to go off the grid, but don't tell anyone I wouldn't want to ruin it!
Additional Articles by Brie Hoffman
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- Is Montana a Good State to go Off the Grid?
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You Can Rent this if you ever visit Sandpoint, Idaho
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