Thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic, people have come to realise just how fragile the fabric of modern society is. When youre no longer able to Buy With One Click on Amazon, people start panic buying and we come to realise how dependent on technology we have become.
We have become dependent for a reason. The only way to feed 7 billion people is with mass agriculture, GMO and basically, mass produced low quality food. In an age when both parentd normally work full time and look after the family too, the easier it is to get food, the better. We only have so much energy and mental bandwidth. If we worry about a pandemic and the end of civilisation via a solar flare, we probably won’t be thinking about or first world problems at work – which are actually important – as work is how we provide.
There is another harder, more rewarding, less superficial yet potentially more lonely way! Living off grid somewhere.
The thing is though – you’ll be free! With many people depresses and miserable living the moder way, it may well be worth the effort.
Living Off Grid – a Checklist
Start off with some kind of a sketched out plan. For example:
- Budget – how much money do you need to buy the land, property etc?
- Find out about the laws regarding what you can and can’t do in your area
- Consider how you might need to make money
- Will you need to learn any new skills?
Okay – ready, next step – make a list of all the stuff you need…
- Shelter – House, cabin, Caravan or Camper
A good place to start, is to think about what type of ‘shelter’ you and your family would be happy to live in.
If you’re an ex special forces guy, or survival expert, without a family then your off grid needs and wants might be very different to that off a middle class family who currently enjoy the comforts of suburbia.
The most common form of accommodation because it’s the most comfortable and suitable for families. Although I have known a family live in a bus.
A popular choice as talented and skillful builders can do most of it themselves, there is also a few loopholes in some countries in regards to planning permission (you would need to check up on rules for specific state or country).
A lot of people ask:
Can you live in a caravan?
In the UK the simple answer is no, not legally. It has to be a second residence that you only live in 10 months a year max. More info here
I do know someone who lives most of the year in a farmer’s field but he says it gets too cold in December. Unless you are Wim Hof, heating and warmth is likely to be an issue.
once you have decided what type of abode to live in, narrow down the possible location(s) and what type of land you will need to buy.
Think about the local weather, land availability, proximity to more urban areas and friends & family, taxes, building code requirements, etc.
Location is an important factor when estimating the cost of moving off grid – somewhere in south England is likely to cost a lot more than somewhere in a random par of Scotland or North Wales. If you are going to work whilst you live off-grid, how far are you willing to travel each day? AirBNB might be a good way to make money if you have land for camping or an out-house of some sort.
If you have family, consider your country’s location in relation to schools, hospitals, shopping and kid’s entertainment. If you are married, you should consider your spouse’s family as well as yours – probably!
In the US – you can use http://www.city-data.com/ to look at climate information. This is essential for deciding on what crops to grow, animals to keep and how to power your home/cabin/caravan.
Water – you need it for drinking, for washing and you may also be able to use it for energy. Hydroelectric.
Depending on where you are planning to live when moving out of the network, you may have to deal with water delivery, either drilling, pumping, or transporting a body of water. Look at the cost, labor, and practicality of each.
If you have water on the property, e.g. a stream or river running through it, you may have to look into the ‘water rights’.
If you do have access to running water – how will you purify it?
Will you use a sediment filter and/or a UV filter. Rock mineralisation is also popular, using volcanic ash high in negative ions and also chalk and limestone to up the alkalinity.
Grow, catch and collect. Well, you could presumably just make a monthly trip tp the supermarket but that pretty much defeats the objective of living off grid – you want to be self sufficient.
You need to eat everyday – or most days. However, while setting up your off grid lifestyle you might be able to forage some bits of food, or hunt – but you’ll need a go-to backup of dried food etc.
Remember, it takes time to grow food. If successful (and it’s possible you may not be!) the fastest crops will grow in a few weeks – depending on the season and weather – so be sure to have some basics as backup like oats, rice, and peanut butter.
Consider the ‘staples’ that you will need – e.g. potatoes, corn, beans.
Think about whether or not you’ll have livestock – chickens, goats, sheep etc.
Will you use a greenhouse? If so – budget this in and research what and how to grow tomatoes and other plants. A raised bed polytunnel is also a good greenhouse alternative
How will you keep the crop eating pests away too? Pesticides, garlic pellets, a slug electric fence? (electric fence instructable tutorial here).
Aquaponics is also an amazing way to grow plants and keep fish.
“Aquaponics (/ˈækwəˈpɒnɪks/) refers to any system that combines conventional aquaculture (raising aquatic animals such as snails, fish, crayfish or prawns in tanks) with hydroponics (cultivating plants in water) in a symbiotic environment. In normal aquaculture, excretions from the animals being raised can accumulate in the water, increasing toxicity. In an aquaponic system, water from an aquaculture system is fed to a hydroponic system where the by-products are broken down by nitrifying bacteria initially into nitrites and subsequently into nitrates that are utilized by the plants as nutrients. Then, the water is recirculated back to the aquaculture system.” (source)
In the above aquaponics system (which would set you back a fair few thousand) – An electric pump moves nutrient-rich water from the fish tank at the bottom – through a custom made filter to remove any specific particles the plants above cannot utilise. The water has many remaining nutrients, which can then be used by the plants and is cleansed before returning to the fish tank below. A cyclical system keeping the fish and the plants alive.
Off Grid energy – how much will you need and how will you generate it?
If you generate enough, you could even make money by selling it back to the grid* (UK info here)
*I don’t think you can be completely off grid to sell it back to the grid though – how would they get it from you? Please comment below if I’m wrong.
*you can – you just need to be able to switch off and on grid.
So pointed at 1 it’s mains pointed at 2 it’s off grid … on 0 it’s off
Solar power tends to be the go-to energy source but may also depend on the local climate
Wind turbines are also popular, be sure to check out city-data.com for wind profiles of the area.
When it comes to choosing turbine – you’ll need a decent-sized one if it is going to be your primary source of energy. A 400-watt wind turbine, will produce enough power to accommodate a few devices and it uses more than a four-foot diameter rotor; A 900-Watt turbine uses a seven-foot turbine; A 10,000-watt (10KW) turbine, should be enough to generate the power necessary for most or all of a home, uses a 23-foot turbine and is mounted on a tower often cutting over 100 feet.
Hydroelectric is also a popular choice for an offgrid power system.
You can buy a microhydro system like a turgo or build it from scratch yourself.
Hybrid systems and primary / backup systems are a good idea, in case the primary source breaks somehow
Methane Biodigester Energy
This basically uses rotting food to produce methane gas, which powers your home. Although the best fuel for the biodigester is cow manure. It may be possible to get this cheap if your off grid location is near a farm (quite a few of the UK off grid locations are near farms in my limited experience).
You can find a commercial biogas system here – https://www.homebiogas.com/ – which costs about $700
Working from Home? WFH
if yo are working from home, then you will need to sort the internet out.
a mobile phone, with a booster or a satellite internet system are popular choices.
Sewage and Sanitation
You shouldn’t shit on your own doorstep for a variety of reasons. With this in mind you will probably want to invest in some kind of sanitation system for poos, wees, waste food, water and rubbish from packaging etc.
Septic tanks are the most common form of sewage treatment and consist of an underground tank generally built of GRP or Polyethylene. The most popular septic tank is the “Onion Shape”, but there are now also “Shallow Dig” versions that are used where it is difficult to dig up deep excavations such as rocky ground. The septic tank works by entering the tank waste, the solids sink to the bottom and the naturally occurring bacteria begin to break down the solids in sludge and drain the liquid on top into drainage field. The tank must be emptied / desludged annually by a recognized contractor. Septic tanks are not allowed to discharge into a watercourse.
A sewage treatment plant system
A sewage treatment plant, or packaging treatment plant, is a miniaturized treatment plant. IT products that are fully treated, that can be discharged directly into a watercourse, such as a river or stream, or to be ground through a drainage field, depending on EA regulations.
A complete sewage treatment plant system is by far the easiest way to get approval from the Environmental Agency to process your own off-grid waste. Some systems are pre-approved for discharge to a watercourse at certain volumes.
The entire system takes up a small amount of above-ground space and is low maintenance. Different systems can have different requirements. Some require annual and frequent deceptive services where others are much more hands-off.
There are now systems that can run without an electric input, making the system as green as possible.
References and more info link:
General Tips for Going Off Grid
- Join a community group on Facebook and/or Reddit
- Trial a small turbine or solar panel system in your ‘normal’ house
- Try growing your own fruit and veg