How to live off-grid: is it really possible, and what are the potential problems?

Living without utility bills...

It is really possible to live "off the grid", and in fact, it's relatively easy to do so now without giving up too many of the day to day comforts we have come to regard as basic necessities.

Of course, it depends on how far off you want to be and what kinds of "things" you feel are necessities. My former wife had cousins who lived on a beach 7 miles beyond where the paved road ended. That's not a great distance, but once you're beyond the reach of a 100 foot extension cord, you are off the grid.

They had no electricity, but they did have a fridge that ran off of propane and a stove that did as well. They had a well and a gas engined pump to pump water into a tank on the roof, which gave them somewhat pressurized water, enough to fill the toilet tank after flushing and to rinse soap off your hands or the dishes you were doing. they had a solar bag ( a camping and boating product) which sat in the sun and absorbed heat, to give them some hot/warm water.

In the early years of their home ownership they had both CB radios and marine radios for urgent communication, and they had a solar panel to provide for charging the batteries the radios ran off. These batteries also powered a couple of lamps with 12 volt bulbs for nighttime illumination but they also had a few kerosene lamps in case of a series of cloudy days when they were out there full time. Later, cell phones improved the communication issues greatly.

There was a community of houses like theirs, so the local propane dealer had an all wheel drive truck to deliver propane out to them, and they weren't so far out that they couldn't get an all wheel drive backhoe out to dig a cesspool for them.

Depending on how far off you are, these things can get pretty expensive fairly fast, or may not be available at all and you have to figure out how to bring them in yourself, or do without.

If you are a computer addict and need to have the net 24/7, your laptop battery will need assistance, and you'll want a bigger set of solar panels and get into bigger storage systems (deep cycle batteries) for when there is no sun. You may choose to augment the cells with a wind turbine, there are a variety of them made now for boats as well as residential use.

Living "off grid" is fairly easy, you are limited only by your wallet size as to how many of the day to day luxuries we take for granted can come with you. But with out the preparation, or the specialized products like the propane fridge, a simple power outage can remind us of what life was like in the 1800's, except we frequently don't have kerosene lamps handy or alternatives to electric stoves that suddenly won't work.

The biggest potential problem that I can see, is that when you are off in a semi remote location like I've described, you are also out of the reach of modern emergency medicine so an otherwise "minor" injury can take on a different complexity, rather quickly.

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Teresa McGurk profile image

Teresa McGurk 8 years ago from The Other Bangor

Thanks for answering the question so readily and knowledgeably -- you address the real issue well: it's all a matter of how much one is willing to do without. I've lived in some pretty spartan situations and know how to manage without modern conveniences, but when I look around my house (empty, since I'm selling it) I see that the cell phone and laptop are now interwoven into the pattern of my routine in such a way that I can only imagine ever going half "off" the grid at this point in my life. Great Hub -- thank you.

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