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Is New Mexico a Good State to go Off the Grid?

Updated on September 4, 2014

New Mexico is the Land of Enchantment. It has beautiful high desert scenery, spectacular mountains and mesas and no humidity. Many people who love the high desert choose New Mexico to go off the grid. However, New Mexico has some obstacles that must be accounted for if you want to live a sustainable life there. Do the benefits outweight the obstacles? You be the judge.

1. Weather:

Weather in New Mexico is extremely varied. In general you can expect high temperatures, low humidity and pleasant weather. The southern part of the state is desert, extremely dry and hot while the northern area is mountanous with an alpine climate and snow in the winter. The eastern part of New Mexico is made up of short grass plains and dunes while the western side is full of mesas, mountains and volcanos. The Pacific ocean is 800 miles to the west and the Gulf of Mexico is 700 miles to the southeast. There are no hurricanes, tornados, earthquakes or floods (except during an occassional hard rain). The biggest problem one might encounter going off the grid in New Mexico is the lack of rain. In the southern desert areas the average rainfall is less than 10 inches per year.

Year round average temperature ranges from 23 degrees to 90 degrees Farenheit.

2. Precipitation and Snowfall:

The average annual precipitation in New Mexico is 14.6 inches. New Mexico is the 46th dryest state in the union. It does snow in New Mexico but mainly in the mountains.

3. Building Codes Alternative Housing Materials:

New Mexico's climate is ideal for building with adobe bricks, cob or using earthbags or straw-bales. In fact a lot of the older architecture was built using these natural building materials. They do have a code for building with adobe in New Mexico so building with these materials should not be an issue in New Mexico.

4. Cottage Businesses:

Cottage food laws in New Mexico require a permit to operate a food processing operation in their homes. The foods must be non-potentially hazardous foods like jams, jellies, cakes, pies and tortillas to name a few. They can only be sold directly to the consumer at farmers markets, road-side stands or at special events like parades or flea markets. There is no sales limit in regards to cottage businesses but there are labeling requirements in New Mexico.

5. Homeschooling laws:

New Mexico has is what is considered a “low regulation” state. The state requires parental notification only. In other words, the parents must notify the school district that they are home-schooling their children.

6. Rainwater Harvesting:

Rainwater harvesting is not illegal in New Mexico, in fact, it is encouraged because harvested roof water actually captures the water, making use of it and returning it to the ground which would otherwise evaporate in the hot desert air.

Nevertheless, there are laws that apply to ground and surface water. Water rights are a “first come first served” right.

7. Taxation:

  • New Mexico has the 41st highest tax burden of all the states.
  • New Mexico is one of the few states that tax social security benefits.
  • State sales tax is 5.13% although it may be higher in some areas.
  • The effective property tax as of this article is .55% of value. A law that was passed caps the increased assessed value at no more than 3% in a year unless the property is sold or remodeled.
  • There is no inheritance tax.
  • The estate tax is associated with the collection of federal taxes.

8. Gay Marriage:

Same sex marriage became legal in New Mexico on December 19th, 2013.

9. Gun Laws:

On the face of it New Mexico seems like a good state if you are concerned about the freedom to bare arms. However, it does require the completion of a 15 hour course and other strict licensing before you can obtain class 3 weapons.

10. Garden and Food Laws:

Raw milk is legal and you can buy it retail in New Mexico!

I could not find any regulations against having a garden in your front yard in New Mexico but good luck trying to keep it hydrated unless you have a water catchment system!

11. Raising farm animals:

Farm animals can graze year round in New Mexico which can save a lot of money since you don't have to buy extra feed.

12. Property Prices and Cost of Living:

The median cost of a home in New Mexico as of this writing is $179,600 while the median average across the United States is $170,100.

All other areas like groceries, health, transportation and utilities are below the average of the United States but just slightly. According to people who track these things New Mexico scores a 101 compared with the average across the United States of 100. The score is based on the U.S. Average. A score above 100 means that the state is more expensive than the average in the United States and a score under means that the state is less expensive than the average.

13. Growing Season:

Most of New Mexico has a decent growing season unless you are in the mountains in which case you would benefit from a green house. Nevertheless, when it comes to plants the problem in New Mexico is not the growing season as much as it is irrigation. In many parts of New Mexico rainwater is low so one must prepare crops taking this into consideration.

New Mexico is a very compelling state to go off the grid. There are myriads of natural cob and adobe buildings throughout the state and the high desert weather is wonderful. Moreover, there is a huge community of like-minded self-sustaining people in New Mexico. However, New Mexico has some very real problems. Recently, the police state has amped up to such a degree that it would give me pause when considering a move to the state. Also, the lack of water is a very big issue. Finally, the state tends to lean liberal which is a big negative in my mind. Also New Mexico was the birthplace of the atomic bomb and remains the center of a massive nuclear arsenal. So one must take these facts into consideration when weighing the pros and cons. I hope this article helps make your decision a little clearer when it comes to going off the grid in New Mexico.

Would You Like to Go Off the Grid in New Mexico?

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    • Brie Hoffman profile imageAUTHOR

      Brie Hoffman 

      6 years ago from Manhattan

      Thanks "savvydating". I've personally never been to New Mexico but after researching this article I found myself wanting to go. It really is a beautiful state.

    • savvydating profile image


      6 years ago

      I live in New Mexico. Frankly, I don't know much about living off the grid as I prefer all modern conveniences. However, we have a number of "hippie-type" people here who seem to enjoy the natural life.

      Actually, the enchanting thing about New Mexico are the mountains and the fluffy, cotton candy cumulus clouds. The sky actually appears dome shaped---really! It is the prettiest, most comforting feeling ever.

      One of my favorite things is watching the Sandia mountains turn red as dusk falls in the evening---thus the name, the Sandias, which is watermelon to the Native Americans. The other lovely thing is that we have all four seasons and they're all realatively mild. So, yes, we get these rather pretty snowfalls for Christmas, which usually melts within days, unless you live in the mountains. Also, if you are into chile, New Mexico produces the finest Hatch chile to be had.

      The humorous thing is that we are the land of manana (yesterday), so we do things when we get good and ready and not one minute before. It's kind of funny and an "inside" joke. For example, at work the other day, we had a cake for someone who was leaving. The cake was pink with red flowers, but....some of the flowers had only two petals. That's what we call a "land of manana" example. The decorater just hadn't gotten around to completing the petals. We learn to take these things in stride and laugh about them.

      Very nice article, by the way. Voting interesting and useful!

    • profile image


      6 years ago


    • Brie Hoffman profile imageAUTHOR

      Brie Hoffman 

      6 years ago from Manhattan

      Oh wow, thanks for the plug! Yeah the whole off the grid thing is really taking off. Part of it is because of disgust with the country and part of it is our contaminated food and part of it is inflation. Whatever the reason I think this series will continue to do well. Thanks for the support.

    • breakfastpop profile image


      6 years ago

      This s a very interesting and comprehensive look at New Mexico. I went to have my hair done this morning and they were talking about good places to go off the grid! I told them about your series. Voted up, useful , interesting and awesome.

    • Brie Hoffman profile imageAUTHOR

      Brie Hoffman 

      6 years ago from Manhattan

      Thanks for the added information. I've never been to New Mexico but it certainly has a lot going for it.

    • MizBejabbers profile image

      Doris James MizBejabbers 

      6 years ago from Beautiful South

      The state is gorgeous. I lived in Hobbs, NM, for two years and loved every minute of it. The schools were good and my kids hated to move from there. However, things can change in all those years since we were there. My niece has just moved to Santa Fe, so I guess I’ll have to ask her. I found housing and groceries then to be reasonably priced. The climate was moderate and wonderful, but coming from a wet state, I did miss rain. One boon for off the grid, “swamp coolers,” as they are nicknamed, use much less electricity than Freon units, but these do evaporate water to cool.

      We planted a small patch of tomatoes and radishes in our back yard, and I don’t think there is enough acid in the whole state of NM to make a tomato taste good. LOL We had a sprinkler system in our front yard but used it rarely because of the cost of water.

      The nuclear arsenal wouldn’t turn me off because the Pine Bluff Arsenal is just a few miles South of us. They’ve recently destroyed the biological warfare stored there from WWII. We also live 60 miles east of a nuclear generation plant.

      I would find a “liberal” atmosphere refreshing, but do watch out for community property laws, unless those have changed. It is the radical conservatives in our state who try to run hybrid drivers off the road. Anyway, I think you have done a good job of presenting an aspect of one of my favorite states.

    • Brie Hoffman profile imageAUTHOR

      Brie Hoffman 

      6 years ago from Manhattan

      Thanks Billy. I've been watching "Breaking Bad" and it's filmed in New Mexico so I guess it piqued my interest. It's a very beautiful state but the nuclear arsenal would keep me away personally.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      6 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I've always wanted to visit this state, but not live there. I need more green, if you know what I mean. But I did find the information interesting.


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