Off the Grid Myth-Busting
The Truth About Off the Grid Living
What first comes to mind when you think about living off the grid? Do you envision a peaceful and comfortable life in a beautiful environment, or do you imagine a remote setting with more than its share of isolation and hardship? What is truth and what is myth when it comes to these conflicting views of an off the grid way of life?
I'm here to debunk many of the myths that exist with regard to living this type of green lifestyle. Here's the truth, as I know it from experience, about living off the grid. Let's go bust some myths!
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The Ultimate In Off Grid Living
I just finished reading about the Stone Camp last night and I have to tell you it has opened up my eyes to so many more possibilities. Ted Carns has truly pushed the envelope when it comes to off grid living. Over the past 35 years, Carns has created a zero waste lifestyle that has truly redefined sustainability.
Photo Credit: Â©RoJo Images - Licensed For Use
#1: Off the grid living means a life of isolation.
Truth or Myth?
Isolation is a myth.
Not everyone who resides off the grid lives like a hermit. Granted, some individuals enjoy a great deal of solitude. Off the grid does not necessarily equate with a remote location far from neighbors, family, friends, and conveniences.
Some "off-the-gridders" actually live close to what others think of as civilization. They may dwell outside of the city limits, but still live close to stores, services, places of employment, and other people.
This myth may have gotten started because many off the grid dwellers choose to live away from the hustle and bustle of urban centers. Also, strict zoning laws are likely to encourage some families to seek rural locations that have fewer restrictions. Remote land can often be more cost-affordable and more amenable to building the types of homes preferred by those seeking a natural lifestyle.
I can think of the example of straw bale construction. One reason I moved to this location in Colorado is that I may build a straw bale casita or cabin. This is a good climate for it and the zoning laws allow this type of construction. Wide variations exist regionally when it comes to building green or earth-friendly abodes. That is a huge consideration when choosing where to live your off the grid life.
#2: Living off the grid means doing without.
Truth or Myth?
Deprivation is a myth.
If you take the term off the grid literally, the one thing you will have to do without is being connected to the power grid. And you know what that means: You will have to do without those dreaded utility bills.
Does that mean you have to go without electricity? No. There are many ways to generate power when living unplugged from the grid. Do you have to give up appliances? No. However, if you utilize solar energy, like I do, there are adjustments to be made. For instance, appliances that draw lots of amps do not work well with smaller solar power systems. Specifically? Toaster ovens, electric clothes dryers, some electric hair dryers, some power tools, and machines with certain types of heat elements (for example: espresso machines, electric woks, electric space heaters, etc.).
What is the impact? You adapt. I still make toast. I still stir-fry food. I still dry my clothes. I haven't given up good coffee. I use my power tools when necessary. And, I still have a space heater. The adaptations? Whenever possible I dry my clothing out on a clothes line. My laundry has never smelled fresher. I purchase energy-efficient appliances that draw less power. I use propane gas appliances when it is more feasible (like my stove and wall furnace). Finally, when absolutely necessary, I run my back-up generator so that I can use those tools and appliances that need an extra power boost.
Did I give up indoor plumbing? No. My off the grid cabin has running water and an indoor bathroom. Did I give up air conditioning? Yes. I don't need it here in the mountains. I really cannot think of one thing I need that I do not have. All in all, if you are living off the grid and lacking in something, it may have been a personal choice to do without that amenity.
#3: An off the grid lifestyle is only for the young.
Truth or Myth?
The requirement to be young is a myth.
I am amazed at how often I hear the comment: I'm too old to live off the grid. I should have done it when I was young.
That may be true for some individuals. For those with serious medical issues, perhaps some off the grid scenarios would not be possible. Age, however, in itself, is not a true barrier for most individuals. I can understand that those who are significantly mobility-challenged may need a more mainstream lifestyle. Certainly, as one ages, convenient access to medical services looms large in terms of priorities.
If you are basically healthy, age need not be a deterrent to living an off the grid lifestyle. There are many individuals who have lived out their lives in an off grid setting. I didn't start this incredibly rewarding lifestyle until I was in my 40s, and I have to say, I am so thankful I didn't let age keep me from living my dream.
#4: A life off the grid is a life of poverty.
Truth or Myth?
Poverty is a myth.
You don't have to be poor just because you decide to live off the grid. Some individuals do choose to adopt a life of what they call voluntary poverty. Not everyone needs a lot of money to live well or sustainably.
What each of us might term as poverty is very unique to our perspective on what defines a good life. It's not just a term denoting income level. Each individual has a different comfort zone when it comes to how much money is needed to sustain a chosen type of lifestyle. I can live very well on very little. I don't need or want lots of possessions. In fact, for many years I have been in the process of downsizing by choice. That's just me. I certainly don't judge others for having or desiring something different.
The main point is this: You can be rich or you can be poor no matter where you live. It's not necessarily a function of off the grid living.
#5: It is not affordable to live off the grid.
Truth or Myth?
It is a myth that off the grid living is not affordable.
Each of us has a different financial situation. It is not possible to generalize to all. That being said, I will share that my cost of living is significantly less now that I am living off the grid. My mortgage payments are lower. My taxes are more reasonable. I am able to afford more land off the grid than I ever could have afforded in an urban or suburban setting. In addition, I have no utility bills except my monthly fee for a satellite Internet connection (and occasionally filling a propane tank).
Cost is vastly dependent on location, water rights, taxation, size and type of home, number of desired amenities, insurance, distance from necessary services, and more. Affordability must be determined person by person, family by family. What I am seeing here in Colorado is more and more families and retirees moving off the grid. Part of that trend may be due to tough economic times, living on a fixed income, and/or a desire to live in a more basic or essential manner. Personally, I believe we will see more people choosing this lifestyle in the coming years.
#6: You must know a great deal before moving off the grid.
Truth or Myth?
It is a myth that you must have vast knowledge before moving off the grid.
You don't have to know everything up front to be able to successfully make the move to off the grid living. What you do need to have is a real appetite for learning. There are many things you can learn best by doing. Experience is often the best teacher.
I knew very little about solar energy when I moved into my off the grid home. The first thing I did, though, was to educate myself regarding the photovoltaic panels and battery system. That is just one example. I cannot even begin to tell you how much I have learned since moving off the grid. It has been an amazing education, an ongoing learning journey.
There are so many exceptional resources related to green living. I am fortunate to have a friend who is highly knowledgeable and competent when it comes to fixing anything that might break down. His expertise has been a huge benefit to me when I run into mechanical issues with my generator, water pump, or solar inverter. Most of what I have needed to know I have been able to learn via books or the Internet.
What would you want to know before moving off the grid?
#7: Living off the grid is a step backward.
Truth or Myth?
Off the grid living as a step backward is a myth.
You may worry that some of your friends, colleagues, or family members might consider an off grid lifestyle to be a step backward. Often, many of us worry too much about how we are perceived by others.
What is forward progress? Is it tied to what we call modern living? Is a simple lifestyle — a lifestyle stripped down to essentials — less than other ways of life? Is it possible that a move to a more basic manner of living could actually be a step forward?
These are the questions of the quest for a life of contentment. Each of us has our own answers within. Where will your next step lead you?
Where do you stand?
When it comes to off the grid living, I'm all for standing...
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Sustainable Living Anywhere
In appreciation for your time here, please enjoy a free copy of Walden by Henry David Thoreau (provided by Project Gutenberg).
Did my myth-busting change any of your perceptions about off the grid living?