Living Off the Grid: 8 Things You Should Know

cabin in the woods.
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All apocalyptic jokes aside, now more than ever before people are considering shifting their consumer-driven lives to more of an off-the-grid lifestyle. This concept is filled with the romantic notions of working the land, conserving energy and living off what is only considered essential. Even with all the restrictions, there is freedom to off-the-grid living.

Read: If Your Credit Score is Under 740, Make These 4 Moves Now

What Is Living Off the Grid?

Living off the grid is a lifestyle that involves living without any use of modern technology, while remaining self-sufficient and removed from the rest of society. Living off the grid can mean different things to different people. For some, it can simply be the act of installing solar panels or actively working in other ways toward saving energy. For others, it can mean living in modern society but installing systems that conserve water.

No matter the motivations, living off the grid means you’re responsible for every need. That includes housing, food, water, power, sanitation and healthcare. It requires sustainable systems and lots of preparation.

8 Ways To Live Off the Grid

Breaking living off the grid into actionable achievements might be simpler than you think. It does take forethought and planning, and a particular amount of upfront investment, but this is not to say it is unattainable. Living off the grid might even be a good idea. Having a roadmap in front of you is always the best way to get where you are going. Here are eight ways you can start to transition into your living off-the-grid journey.

  1. Land and resources
  2. Housing and shelter
  3. Power supply, storage and generation
  4. Water systems and collection
  5. Growing food and food preservation
  6. Seasonal clothing
  7. Waste disposal and septic systems
  8. Physical and mental preparation
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1. Land and Resources

The first and obvious consideration is purchasing land on which to work and live. Attaining such land will be one of the biggest expenditures needed to live off the grid. To do so you’ll need to acquire land with resources you can use. The best options for this will be further away from booming metropolitan areas, in other words, far away from building codes and other restrictions. 

Make sure to research local property taxes and whether you would have legal access to this property. If it is surrounded by private property, you may have difficulty entering your land, so make sure it has one point of road access. Other factors to consider include proximity to a water source and farmable soil.  Land with more access to natural resources such as woods or water will also allow you to hunt, fish and gather from your property.

2. Housing and Shelter

There are a few options when it comes to planning your housing. You can opt to purchase an existing home initially built to be off-grid. These homes can range from primitive shelters to multimillion-dollar mansions.

You could also build your own off-grid housing, which can be more expensive and time-consuming, but at least you would be able to design according to your plans that cater to your lifestyle. Before building, seek out a contractor that is familiar with off-the-grid permits, restrictions and design. 

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Alternatively, you could elect to start with a tiny house. These are usually very small, portable homes that are a step up from traditional motorhomes. Some of them can be pretty luxurious, though limited in terms of space and mobility. Tiny homes, yurts or many cabins are often designed to be conducive to living off the grid. 

3. Power Supply, Storage and Generation

Living off the grid doesn’t necessarily mean living without power. For many people, power is still an essential aspect of living off the grid. It just means that you’re responsible for generating the power and fuel you need.

One option for generating power is by using solar panels. The average cost to install solar panels can range from $10,000 to over $25,000, depending on how much energy you need. Not only are solar panels good for your new way of living, but also are recognized as actively helping with the cost of living and climate change

Another renewable energy option is a residential wind turbine. These units vary widely in cost, depending on the size and output you need. According to EnergySage, a small wind turbine project that serves as a homeowner’s main source of electricity typically costs anywhere from $15,000 to $75,000.

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4. Water Systems and Collection

You’ll also want to make sure you have a steady source of clean water. Water can come from a natural water source on your land, like a lake, river or well. If your property doesn’t already have one, you’ll need to hire someone to dig a well or do it yourself.

You might also consider a rainwater collection system to capture and store rain. You can purchase one or make it yourself for less than $100. Keep in mind that the  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises against assuming that rainwater is safe to drink. To reduce your risk of illness, it’s a good idea to review the CDC’s guidance on safety considerations before using collected rainwater.

Getting hot water is another story as you’ll need a water heater and some power to fuel it. New water heaters and installation can cost anywhere from $1,000 to over $10,000.

Although not suitable for drinking or cooking, a greywater system is a great way to repurpose water that has already been pumped to the surface from a well or other water source. It treats and reuses water from such things as dishwashing and bathing and redistributes it for things such as irrigation or toilet flushing. 

5. Growing Food and Food Preservation

Having access to quality food sources is critical for living a self-sufficient life off the grid. Depending on where you live, you might be able to rely somewhat on natural sources like berries and plants. You can also cultivate a vegetable garden and grow your own fruit trees and plants. You’ll need to be able to preserve and store that food properly.

You’ll want to obtain an industrial freezer that can last up to a few days if the power goes out. You’ll also need enough land to grow your own food. It is said that a 0.44 acre of land can grow enough fruits and vegetables to feed one person a year a sufficiently caloric diet.

6. Seasonal Clothing

Having the right seasonal attire can be crucial to living off the grid. Extra layers of clothing can keep you warm but also save on the energy costs of heating your home. Thrift stores are a great way to save and stockpile enough clothing to get you through the summer and winter. It may sound obvious, but little details such as what clothing items you’ll need to keep either cool or warm can be vital. Having this clothing is important but you’ll also need to think about where to store these items. 

7. Waste Disposal and Septic Systems

One of the less appealing notions of living off the grid is the amount of waste disposal you will have to address. You can either develop a way of composting waste or even install a septic system.

It is important to take care as to what waste disposal system you intend to use, not only for public health and the health of those living with you but also to ensure you won’t get into legal trouble by not following federal and state guidelines.

8. Physical and Mental Preparations

Off-the-grid living takes more than just planning for the tangible, but also the intangible as well. Taking care of your physical health through diet and exercise can prevent the need of such outside assistance as unnecessary doctor visits and prescription drugs. Living this way also requires you to be quite active so staying in shape will help you keep up with all you need to do. 

Mental preparation is another consideration when living off the grid. It’s not just about convenience but also about survival. Make sure you educate yourself on what it means to truly live off the grid. You can do so by attending workshops on topics such as gardening or composting. Or even rent an off-grid tiny home or cabin for a week to give yourself an idea of what it will be like. 

Is Living Off the Grid Right Now a Good Idea for You?

So many people today are ready for real and proactive change. Financial ability, property logistics and general willingness all factor into whether or not you should consider off-grid living. If you can check all these boxes in the yes column, living off the grid might be the next move for you to become self-sufficient

Living Off-Grid FAQ

  • Is living off the grid a good idea?
    • Off-the-grid living can be a dream for many people, but it's not for everyone. You should consider some self-reflection to determine if off-grid living is right for you. If you aren't someone who could do without modern amenities and technologies, it might not suit you. But if you love the idea of living a simpler life without the complications and distractions of modern living, it might be an excellent choice. It's also a perfect way for many people to save money. It's important to know what you're getting into by choosing to live off the grid before diving in completely.
  • How much money do you need to live off the grid?
    • First and foremost, off-the-grid living requires land. Depending on your region, land might not be cheap. For example, here are average farmland values per acre, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture:
      • Northeast: $5,710
      • Northern Plains: $2,210
      • Mountain region: $1,240
      • Southeast: $4,120
      • Pacific region: $5,910
  • What states let you live off the grid?
    • Technically you can live off the grid in any state, however, certain states make it easier based on cost of living, access to water, ability to grow food and access to energy. Examples of states where these factors are easier to navigate are:
      • Alabama
      • Arkansas
      • Colorado
      • Georgia
      • Hawaii
      • Indiana
      • Louisiana
      • Missouri
      • Tennessee
      • Texas
  • Can you truly live off the grid?
    • Living off the grid can be challenging. It's not for everyone. Knowing yourself, what your comforts and living preferences are, and what an off-grid life requires is important before making this life-changing decision. For many people, living off the grid is an excellent way to save money and live simpler, more sustainable lives. You'll be responsible for food, shelter, water and power. For those with a pioneer spirit, this life may be a dream come true. But there are several upfront costs to pull it off, so you should carefully weigh those costs and decide if off-grid living is right for you.

Scott Jeffries contributed to the reporting for this article.

Information is accurate as of Nov. 2, 2022. 

Our in-house research team and on-site financial experts work together to create content that’s accurate, impartial, and up to date. We fact-check every single statistic, quote and fact using trusted primary resources to make sure the information we provide is correct. You can learn more about GOBankingRates’ processes and standards in our editorial policy.

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About the Author

Caitlyn Moorhead has written content for a variety of businesses and publications. After graduating from Central Michigan University cum laude, she moved to NYC where she wrote columns, articles and plays for several years before relocating to Austin, Texas in the fall of 2020.
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