Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live without having to pay for electricity, water and other services that our modern lives require? If so, do you really have what it takes to “Live off the Grid?”
Living off the grid simply means having a self-sustaining domicile that is independent of outside utilities. While “preppers” and survivalists may initially come to mind, for many, the goal of living off the grid is simply to live healthier and leave a smaller environmental footprint. For example, Brad Waters, a contributing writer to Psychology Today, writes about two normal and healthy households who are doing what they can to be energy independent. These families are far removed for those who are preparing for doomsday or a zombie apocalypse. So would you start to move off the grid?
It Starts With Electricity
Utility bills vary widely, depending upon where a person lives, services available and the amount of use. The average household in the United States, despite the variance in costs, still spends about 54 percent of their utility bill just for electricity. Simply put, if you can reduce or cut out the need to buy electricity, you can save a large amount of money every year. Here’s how you can do it:
While solar power can currently only produce about 7 kilowatts of power a day (in sunny and dry environments), the technology continues to improve every year. For a professionally installed 24-volt system, including a backup generator, the total cost is estimated at $38,000. However, costs are expected to go down as solar panel use increases. Swedish retailer Ikea now sells solar panel kits in the United Kingdom and chances are their kits will be available in the United States soon enough.
Wind turbines might be a useful backup to solar, especially for stormy days. For the low estimated cost of $11,000, the choice is obvious.
Long before electricity, people used water for milling grains. If you’re close to a powerful river, why not add a water-powered generator? The cost can range from $6,470 to $55,400.
Water and Septic Are A Must
No one can live without water, so the importance of a good and clean water system is of the utmost importance. For drinking water, digging a well is the simple solution. In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency estimates that 15 percent of Americans already use wells for their drinking water. A simple solution for septic? Septic tanks are the tried and true method. Combined, expect to spend about $12,000 for both. Or if you are more adventurous, greywater systems or waterless composting toilets might be worth considering.
Once you have electricity and water, the next step is heat. Heat is needed not only to stay warm in the winter, but for cooking, heating your water and many other tasks. Wood has worked since the beginning of time, is relatively inexpensive and easy to find. A complete installation of a wood oven will run about $3,700 and a year’s worth of fuel (if purchased) will average about $300. While this may seem like a natural option, the downsides of wood include the amount of heat produced, the space needed for storage and time needed to use it. Propane heat burns cleaner than wood, uses less space and costs about the same per a year.
Radical Off Grid Living
Have an unlimited budget, a three to five-year startup window and friends with advanced engineering degrees? The best option is the next generation of power plants – small nuclear reactors that can generate up to 45mw of electricity with no need to refuel for decades at a time. All for under $40,000,000 (or so).
Are you committed to sustainable living? (Don’t forget to take our poll!) Whether you’re all in or just want to save, take a look at this infographic for inspirational ideas to off-the-grid living.