Zoning For Off The Grid Living
The Off Grid Partnership
Just like traditional partnerships local governments have to create an environment that fosters self sustaining off the grid living. If this partnership between off grid people and the government doesn't improve, the idea of being self sustaining and legal will continue to be an up hill battle.
The government needs to improve solar access, relax zoning restrictions, and streamline the permit process. To achieve this there needs to be some sort of organizations or board developed to speak for the off grid community in one voice.
Once an organizations is formed the first thing they should achieve is a list of best practices for living off the grid. This will assist the off grid community and help us meet all legal requirements.
Should You Be Able To Living Off Grid?
Many zoning laws prohibit off grid living. These zoning laws impact self sustain living on several fronts. One area that hits the hardest and cost the most to address is waste management. How do off grid people handle there waste? Many people living off the grid use composting toilets; others use a septic tank.
Special note: When I called my local government about purchasing a piece of land and living off the grid in my RV the first question was about waste management. The person I spoke with had no clue how an RV's waste system worked. That is why I believe the government needs to be educated, so that laws and codes can be adjusted to allow off grid living.
I know that some will say it will never happen because local government have these laws in part to generate revenue, but I think there is a comprise somewhere.
Another area with a big impact on living off the grid is size. Size does matter. In New York a dwelling has to be over 800 sq ft. Each state is different. However, most have similar zoning requirements.
Why is it okay to living in a shoe box of an apartment that is not 800 sq ft but illegal to live in a luxury RV? Again, an organization speaking for the off grid community could quickly address this issue because it makes no sense to me.
Best Practices - Waste Managment
Waste Management - Educating the Health Department with knowledge of how off the grid methods meet health and safety requirements.
- Composting Toilet
- Incinerating Toilet
- Filtered Grey Water system
An incinerating toilet is used just like a regular toilet, however there is no water requirement. The toilet uses a bowl lining. Once you have completed the task you simple press a button. The contents for the toilet fall into a combustion chamber where it is incinerated. The incineration is at 600 degrees and turns the waste into ash. There is an indicator that tells you will to empty the ash. The ash from the incinerating toilet is odorless.
Composting toilets are generally used when there is no water, a lack of plumbing to a sewer, or no septic tank available. A composting toilet provides a water-less and practical way to taking care of business. Using a composting toilet is a clean alternative for off the grid applications. All professional constructed composting toilets provide an odorless experience because of their venting system. Using a composting toilet is green because there are no chemicals.
A Composting toilet uses natural microbes to breakdown human waste. When it's time to empty the toilet you just put the contents in your composting pile. The result is a nutritious rich plant fertilizer for free.
Recycling Grey Water
Using a grey water recycling system is a simple way to handle water from the bath, sinks, dishwater, or washing machine in your off grid home. Recycling grey water requires that you use nature friendly soaps and deterrents. Many grey water systems use PVC piping and a 12 volt water pump to get the water where you need it.
Which Off The Grid Waste Management System Do You Prefer?
Best Practices - Energy Collection
Best ways to collect energy for your off grid homestead:
- Solar Panels
- Wind Turbine
Special Note : Many off grid homestead use a combination of solar and turbine energy collections.
Using solar panels to generate energy is the way to go for those looking to live off the grid. Going solar can be a DIY project. A simple solar setup requires four elements:
- Solar Panels
- Solar Charge Controller
- Battery Bank
First hook your battery together. You can decide to hook the batteries in parallel or as a series. Parallel is negative to negative - positive to positive. Connecting your batteries in parallel will increase your amp hours but the voltage will remains the same (12 volts). If you decide to hook up your battery bank in a series your battery bank incoming amperage will be increased. Hooking up in series allows for faster recharging of your battery bank. Once you have decided your battery hookup its time to connect it to the solar charger.
Next, hook the solar panels to the solar charge controller. Again, this can be done in parallel or series. The controller protects your battery bank from being over charged.
Now you can hook the inverter to the battery bank. You now have power.
Special Note : When setup your solar system decide whether it will be mounted or placed on a stand. I prefer setting my solar panels on a stand so that I can clean them with ease, and move them to a better location as needed.
How to save money on your battery bank
To get cheap batteries go to your local car battery distributor. Ask to purchase batteries that have past their expired date. Usually you can negotiate to purchase expired batteries for their core price.
Alternative Energy Sources
Best Practices - Water Collection
Best ways to collect water for your off grid homestead.
- Rain Barrels
- Drilling a Well
- Hauling In Water
Which off the grid water collection system do you prefer?
How a Water Well is Drilled
Does the Size of Your Home Matter?
Best Practices - Size
Does size matter? In my opinion this law with its zoning restrictions should just go away. Who is to said that larger is better or makes a healthier living environment. Please express your views on the current issues surrounding off the grid living.