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How to Live Off-Grid Successfully

Updated on February 4, 2013
Marye Audet profile image

Marye Audet-White is an internationally known food writer, food editor for Texas Living, cookbook author, and food blogger.

Image:Morguefile
Image:Morguefile

If you have been wondering how to live off grid - "is it really possible?" and "can I do it?" the quick answer to all of these questions is, "Yes!".

The long answer is still yes, just with a lot more things to take into consideration. Living off grid will take a commitment of time, resources, and determination. You will really need to believe in what you are doing, have a vision for it, and want to make it work despite the obstacles that will plague you.

Living Off Grid Takes Practice

Living off grid is not the easiest way to live. Until you do it you don't even know the things that you are going to have to give up. The big things are easy to figure out: Refrigerators Heating systems Television Kitchen Appliances

There are other things that many people don't think about until they are actually in the midst of it.

  • Tools
  • Hair dryers
  • Clock radios
  • Washing machines
  • PDAs
  • Can openers
  • Coffee makers

There are a myriad of small electronics that people use daily that may not work with your new lifestyle. It isn't that they are necessary objects, they are conveniences. Yet, for many of us, convenience gives us the foundation of our lives.

If you are still thinking of living off grid then there are a few decisions to be made.

Designing an Off Grid Home

Where To Live Off-Grid

  • When you go off grid are you going to do it in your current home?
  • Will you need to move?
  • Will you choose to build a new home or restore an old one?
  • What part of the country will you choose?

Knowing how to live off-grid in different environments will help you to make the choice that is best for you.

Going Off Grid Where You Live Now

You might think that those questions are secondary but they are not. It is entirely possible to go off grid right where you live, if you own your own home. In fact you can begin learning how to live off grid today. Solar panels can be added. Circuits can be turned off. Water can be discontinued and wells can be dug. Research should be done into alternative forms of energy, appliances, and different ways to run a household when standard energy isn't being used.

It is harder to move off grid in a subdivision but it can be done, depending on your homeowner's association and local policies.

Moving to a New Location

If you are planning to move then take the time to consider your needs, desires, and the various benefits and negatives of different parts of the country. For example, in Texas where I live the benefit is apparent. The winters are basically mild. While we do get cold snaps they are interspersed with warmer weather. There are a total of three growing seasons. It doesn't take a whole lot to stay warm in the winter if you can handle 50 to 60 degrees.

On the other hand we can go two to three months in the summer with out a drop of rain. This means that you will be hand carrying water to your garden. Summers are hot. Living without air conditioning when it is 110 outside is challenging, at least until you get used to it.

If you are going to make a move then you should consider areas where there are not extremes of temperature or of rainfall.

Things to Consider

The other important thing to consider is the locality.

  • Will you continue to work at a job?
  • If so how long will your commute be?
  • How far can you afford to live from the place that you work?
  • Is the location you are looking at economically sound?
  • Will you have access to groceries, church, gasoline, medical care?

All of these questions will need to be researched and answered before you begin to look at moving to a new location.

Learning How to Live Off Grid

Now that you have established where you are going off grid the question is how to do it. The best place to start is by analyzing all of your electrical usage for a month. Exactly how much electricity do you use on an average?

Most off grid systems can not handle the load that modern man puts on them. You will probably need to cut back on your usage. The next thing to do, then, is to figure out how to cut back on your energy use. Will you use a propane stove or refrigerator? Wood stove?

If you choose to use a wood stove or heat will you have access to wood? How will you light your home in the evenings?

What type of solar do you plan to use? Is your home designed in such a way that passive solar can be used?

Types of Off-Grid Energies

There are a number of types of energy for off grid homes.

  • Solar

  • Wind

  • Wood

  • Propane
  • Water (micro-hydro)
  • Geothermal

The biggest need will be for heat and cooking. Once you have those two things decided you are pretty much good to go. Cooking on a woodstove is difficult for most people to adjust to but it can be done. Many people, once they learn to do it, would not go back to cooking in an electric oven!

Conserving energy is one of the best ways to deal with your energy needs. Anyone can do that, no matter where they are.

What Can I Do Today?

Start right where you are. Most people cannot afford to just go off grid one day. It is a process of both investing in the products needed and doing the research to gain the knowledge to do it.

Tips for Saving Energy Right Now

Conserve energy where you are.

  • Use solar hot water heaters
  • Use heat exchange units
  • Caulk doors and windows
  • Let your body acclimate to colder than normal or warmer than normal temperatures
  • Get a clothesline and stop using the dryer.
  • Upgrade insulation.
  • If your refrigerator or freezer is over 10 years old, consider buying a new, energy efficient model, or even a propane one.

In other words, see how low you can go. Get rid of the electric clock radio, the power drill, and the microwave. Try to get the electric bill down to the bare minimum.

Evaluate Your Need for Power

Once you get your electric usage under control you will be in a better position to see whether or not you will be comfortable going off grid completely. Even if you decide going off grid completely is not something you want to do you will have learned how to save on your electric bill, and that is a big benefit.

Going off grid is not for everyone. It is really an investment in a much simpler lifestyle. It does not have to cost thousands of dollars. Just do what you can, where you can.

Taking the steps slowly, researching, and learning how to live off grid will help you to make a smooth and successful transition if you decide that going off grid is for you.

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    • emilybee profile image

      emilybee 5 years ago

      Awesome hub. My co-worker lives in Jamaica for most of the year. Comes back to make some money, hardly any, flies home and lives off of her earnings. It's a pretty cool lifestyle she has going. She's content with what she gives up though, like no ways of refrigeration. I think it would be awesome. It would be like camping for a long period of time. Voted up and sharing.

    • wiserworld profile image

      wiserworld 5 years ago

      This was very clear and should be passed forward to a lot of households. If everyone across the country started hanging clothes instead of drying them, then it would radically reduce a lot of unnecessary power that's being used up. Great tips for the environment and saving on those power bills!

    • Eliminate Cancer profile image

      Eliminate Cancer 5 years ago from Massachusetts

      This is something I have wanted to do for some time. We have certainly reduced a lot - it's a healthier lifestyle, too. Less exposure to cancer causing radiation.

    • suebee62 profile image

      suebee62 5 years ago from South Carolina

      Great Hub. I think we can all see the pros and cons of having electricity and all the fancy technology has done to us as a society. I think that as some things are needed to go forward, we could still live more simple lives without a few things. I have already given up the microwave and electric can opener....lol, but seriously, you got me a thinkin'...again good hub.

    • Java Programs profile image

      Java Programs 5 years ago from India

      Very difficult .... yet very informative ..... Thanks Marye Audet ...

    • Marye Audet profile image
      Author

      Marye Audet 5 years ago from Lancaster, Texas

      Thank you.

    • littlethespians profile image

      littlethespians 5 years ago from Farmville, Virginia

      Very informative.

    • chelseacharleston profile image

      chelseacharleston 5 years ago

      Such a fabulous idea, and such an informative, helpful article, I just don't think I can do it lol. I want to, but maybe down the road or so. I really wish people could build solar and wind panels on all their roofs and just self-sustain lol.

    • Alexander Mark profile image

      Alexander Silvius 5 years ago from beautiful, rainy, green Portland, Oregon

      This is a great brainstorm starter. You have to plan for your energy, waste, cooling and heating needs. I plan to do it in reverse. I want to live in a rainy climate because I love the rain and cold - so the positive is I won't have to worry much about cooling! The negative is that heating is going to be important and a house built in a cool climate needs to employ passive heating methods. What recently took me aback is that I would probably have to dig my own well, which could be thousands of dollars. Maybe I can use rainwater, who knows.

      We don't have to completely restrict our energy usage, adding more solar panels and batteries could be one solution, or a windmill if in a windy area. Perhaps a supplemental gas generator. To me, living this way opens the door to new freedoms. If you're hooked into the grid with no ability to diversify your energy sources, that is a huge trap. A mixture of several methods offers flexibility. There are also gasoline washing machines and propane refrigerators. The possibilities are endless.

    • htodd profile image

      htodd 5 years ago from United States

      That's really great ,We must live like that :)

    • Chasing Riley profile image

      Chasing Riley 5 years ago from Los Angeles

      Great hub and great comments by fellow hubbers. It's impressive to read about people that are living off grid. I've been trying to cut our electric usage to save money. Thanks for giving me another way to look at it.

    • molometer profile image

      molometer 5 years ago

      Hi Mary, great hub with useful information.

      Yes it is doable.

      Whilst I was living in South Africa recently.

      The power company ESKOM, constantly had power outages so I bought a 2 megawatt petrol generator.

      Not green at all but it was all that was available.

      I had a bore hole drilled out and that was the water sorted out.

      When the power went off then the gennie went on and it powered the essentials fridge/freezer, TV and a lamp.

      If we wanted a cup of tea something had to go off.

      It was fine in fact it was fun.

      I actually liked the fact that SA didn't work terrible well. It felt more raw. More authentic.

      Many township people have solar panels for power and hot water already.

      If I had stayed there I would have done the whole thing solar panels etc.

      Back in the UK I am going off grid ASAP.

    • Dr Rockpile profile image

      Dr Rockpile 5 years ago from USA

      I'm impressed by people who can live off the grid. I don't think I could do it.

    • profile image

      stopover 5 years ago

      We are living off grid as am writing and typing comfortably with my computer powered by solar energy a gift from the sun. Our house was self-designed and self-built by my husby since 1991. We are living in the nature like in the middle of nowhere no noise only birds singing. Thou we have access to the supper market, hospital, bar school etc. We are using every thing with our solar power Like hair dryer, juice blender, washing machine, grass cuter machine, tools tv, radio, fan, etc. everything is nearly possible to use with solar power except pressing iron which is 1500 watt. U can use ur back up generator for ur iron. Also, we have wind generator to back up the solar in terms of bad weather. This choice we made is cost effective and have save us a lot by investing on very good solar battries that can last for 15 to 20 years. The source of ur drinking water is from directly from the spring fresh and clean no treatment added, the air is so fresh no polution and the beach which is just 5min from home is cystal clear everything around us is ecofriendly It is a wonderful place to live off grid as well as our little paradise!!!! p.s our refrigenarator is gas no problem we have gas supply that will last us for another 2yrs .

    • destinymarshall profile image

      destinymarshall 6 years ago from Crystal Lake, Illinois

      Wonderful way of living. It would be great to be able to do this if I was able to. The positive affects living off the grid has on our environment is nice too.

    • profile image

      Off The Grid Kid 6 years ago

      Do I really have to give up a can opener?? Mine doesn't use electricity. (Sarcasm) No but seriously. I think you missed the mark a bit in this hub. Going off the grid doesn't mean you have to live like its the colonial days. There are so many wonderful technologies and gadgets that make living off the grid not any less comfortable than how one might be living now. Do some research and you will find easy ways to keep that TV, radio, coffee maker, fridge, heating, CAN OPENER lol, ETC. Good luck to anyone considering the move off the grid. It's a great adventure that is quite rewarding. :)

    • profile image

      Sparkle 6 years ago

      Someone help us. We lost everything, Homes, Money, Jobs,etc. Now we want to live off the grid. )almost doing it now in 1 bedroom apt. Shut off stove, Oven, Unlugged frig. (Use mini frig) How can we get out of here and do this?

    • Marye Audet profile image
      Author

      Marye Audet 6 years ago from Lancaster, Texas

      That is awesome Jason!

    • profile image

      Jason 6 years ago

      We live completely off grid in a neighborhood near Austin, TX. Great article and you are so correct. It's a lifestyle but we enjoy just about every imaginable convenience using very little electricity. It's not all roses. Good luck!

    • profile image

      BestAbsWorkouts 6 years ago

      A fascinating topic, thanks for writing this article. I wasn't aware of all these details, but it's certainly good to know.

    • Tolerable James profile image

      Tolerable James 6 years ago from Indiana

      Really dig the topic...

    • profile image

      Jeramy 6 years ago

      In the modern life it is very necessary to opt offthegrid living. Living off the grid is not for everyone, although the off grid life contains elements everyone should strive for. We can't be sure how long our non-renewable resources will remain resources.

    • GamesReviewed profile image

      GamesReviewed 6 years ago

      I always love your hubs. This is great information.

    • greencap profile image

      greencap 6 years ago from Pakistan

      Great idea.

      We have extremely beautiful northern areas in Pakistan, where there are heavy waterfalls that can be used for generating electricity (in fact the local residents are already doing it).

      Another factor is that when you go "off grid", you can acquire land at very cheaper prices. and live in a greener and cleaner environment.

    • profile image

      cheryl 6 years ago

      Living in Texas where the summers are extremely hot and humid, any ideas on how to stay cool?

    • Apepperson profile image

      Apepperson 6 years ago from Texas

      A great Hub and a topic I'm seeing more and more people considering, especially when they look around at what's happening in today's times.

    • wsupaul88 profile image

      wsupaul88 6 years ago from Seattle, WA

      This is a great Hub and an excellent topic! Thanks for writing it.

    • diyenergyreport profile image

      diyenergyreport 6 years ago

      I believe that everyone can live off-grid, but it's a proposition that is probably alien to most.

    • profile image

      TechTrendy 6 years ago

      This is one commitment I couldn't make. I enjoy my technology to much. However we do have plans to implement a windmill and lay solar panels. I guess our house would/will be considered an energy hybrid since we wont totally separate from the energy company.

    • JeffLesa101 profile image

      JeffLesa101 6 years ago from Missouri/Southwest

      Hello

      Newbee's here..

      Good information

      Great ideas for eliminating a lot of elertic usage water conserving...

      And you hit the nail on the head when you said it isn't easy like a lot of people say..

      We (myself and my husband and lots and lots of animals)live 85% off grid now

      We started 100% but found we need sometings to make life just a little easier..

      We look forward to reading more ideas on here and sharing our experience with others

      That is as soon as we can nagavate the site..

      Thank you for the article

    • profile image

      joyce.blue 6 years ago

      wow! you hub is really informative. Living off grid looks great. It is very interesting which made me enjoy reading this topic. Thanks for sharing such a great hub.

    • Ironracer profile image

      Ironracer 6 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      Cool hub and interesting topic. Have you tried living off-grid, Marye? Just wondering if you have and what the experience was like... Cheers!

    • my-success-guru profile image

      my-success-guru 6 years ago from Upstate NY

      Hey Marye Audet,

      Fasinating insights about living off the grid. I love this idea. Like you said, I will just have to see how low I can get my energy bill down first to see if this would be realistic for me. Any more tips?

      Take Care, PS Are you trying this?

      Jim

    • lovekv profile image

      lovekv 7 years ago

      i lik this hub ,,and u

    • profile image

      JoAnn 7 years ago

      I've lived off grid for 20 years. The most offensive appliance we have is the refrigerator. Tried propane refrig but found it to be unpredictable. We use other appliances but only one at a time. Found that this gives the solar panels and windmill time to regenerate the system before using another gadget. wouldn't live any other way but you are right about it being a commitment and a lot of work. Also is a problem to get house sitters.

    • indsloan profile image

      indsloan 7 years ago

      soon gravity power will be out. work 24/7 don't have to go without ele. power ever again.

    • solar.power profile image

      solar.power 7 years ago from Brisbane

      Great hub. Im heavily involved with Solar and have lived off grid before also. However, with Federal government rebates being connected to the grid and selling your excess electricity back to the grid, makes it alot more attractive to the masses. Particularily with the price of electricity forever going up.

    • Pro1Review profile image

      Pro1Review 7 years ago

      Excellent hub! Linking to you from one of my "green" hubs. Thanks! :)

    • profile image

      Ron 7 years ago

      Thank you for all the info. I learned a lot about living off the grid. it is a very interesting concept.

    • FavorsInTheCity profile image

      FavorsInTheCity 7 years ago

      "It is entirely possible to go off grid right where you live, if you own your own home." This is a great point! Most people think that sustainable living and living "off grid" means they have to move to a remote area and re-create a home and their life. It may be harder to stay where you are and make these changes, but it is entirely possible. Thanks for this hub!

    • jimcain207 profile image

      jimcain207 7 years ago from HUMPHREY, ARKANSAS

      Really enjoyed this hub. Very informative. Yes, a person can live off the grid. I am well on my way.You said,"Living off grid will take a commitment of time, resources, and determination." Well said. How true this is. A person MUST be very determined and committed, but it can be done. Looking forward what the future holds on my ever expanding project. Incorporating wind power to go with my solar power this year. Great hub.

    • ecogirl333 profile image

      ecogirl333 7 years ago

      Interesting article. We live off grid more by accident than design, and it is less easy than living on the mains. But it is cheaper and far more rewarding too.

    • scaffolding tower profile image

      scaffolding tower 7 years ago from United Kingdom

      I've heard that living in a small town that's so far away from anything else might be considered living off the grid.

    • Newyork204 profile image

      Wesley Barras 7 years ago from Anchorage, AK

      Most people have no clue they can live off the grid. They just assume that they HAVE to buy and get everything from their utility companies. If more people tried to supply their own power, heat, or maybe even water we all would not be so dependent on the government. New Zealand is a perfect example. A friend of mine from their was surprised how people from the states are so dependent of people or companies. They believe in doing more things for yourself.

    • profile image

      Primoz 7 years ago

      Another of the major benefits living off the grid can give you is that using alternative power sources is environmentally friendly. You have probably already heard news of the hundreds of thousands of people who have become victims of massive typhoons or tidal waves created by global warming and climate change. While you may not be able to stop these yourself, creatingalternative sources of energy is actually one of the practical and down-to-earth ways for you to chip in at the movement for a greener earth.

      There are many benefits living off the grid can offer you. With some patience and hard work, weaning yourself out of the commercial power grid can be done.

    • David Harvey profile image

      David Harvey 7 years ago from Sydney Australia

      Nice article, Marye = I lived off-grid in Southern Queensland, Australia, for more than a year. It was an interesting experiment. I had a cabin on 30 acres, with plenty of wood but not so much rainfall. Days were very hot, especially in summer, and winters were cold (but not by USA standards!). We didn't get frost very often. I learned to live without refrigerators (because they take just too much power). But I like drinking my tea and coffee with milk, so I learned to use powered milk instead. I used the solar for lighting and for radio and TV, including a multiband Amateur Radio transceiver. But do get yourself a petrol generator for running water pumps, power tools (used occasionally) and a small washing machine. Been there, done that! You can find me in Facebook, too.

    • profile image

      scheng1 7 years ago

      Very true, we dont really need to use so much electricity once we simplify our lifestyle.

    • ciidoctor profile image

      ciidoctor 7 years ago

      very nice hub from aproffessional hubber

    • steve1717 profile image

      steve1717 7 years ago

      i really liked this hub .food for thought .

    • diysolarpanels profile image

      diysolarpanels 7 years ago

      This is a great hub! I'm sure there are a lot of people who would like to live off grid but have no idea where to begin. This is absolutely the perfect page for them. :)

    • James Gilbert profile image

      James Gilbert 7 years ago

      It really is more than just installing the necessary components, living off grid is a way of life. Camping is about as close as I get personally!

      Interesting hub!

    • profile image

      Build Your Own Solar panel 8 years ago

      Nice hub. But do you think thecoats associated with going off grid will ever drop enough the make it feasible for the average home?

    • solarstories profile image

      solarstories 8 years ago from Pacific Northwest

      This is a great hub, very informative on how one could adopt this lifestyle. If more people do this we can really make a difference on our environmental impact.

    • Teresa McGurk profile image

      Sheila 8 years ago from The Other Bangor

      Thank you for this excellent Hub, Marye. It is helpful, thought-provoking, and encouraging. And well written, too! I appreciate all the information, and am already trying some of your ideas. Thanks!

    • Storytellersrus profile image

      Barbara 8 years ago from Stepping past clutter

      Gee, I'd never heard of this concept, living off grid. But it sounds fascinating. Brings me back to the me that existed in the 70s and even into the 80s before solar was scrapped as non-economical by the Reagan administration. Hard to believe I was in the forefront of this movement in the Energy Resource Management program at University of Denver... and now I don't even know what living off grid is. I've gotten soft. Probably couldn't even survive living off grid at this point in my life, but I can pare down. Keep up this motivational Hub line for the sake of us all!!! Thanks.