Living off-grid with no municipal services, like water, electricity, and sewer, seems so radical but, when you think about it, all Americans were living off the grid less than 150 years ago. Electricity, running water, telephones, and flush toilets were still novelties at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th. Still, choosing to live without modern conveniences, like early pioneers, may seem extreme. The reasons for this lifestyle change are varied but, believe it or not, they aren't giving up as much as you'd think.
1. Solar Power: Like many new inventions, solar panels were once extremely expensive, but have dropped in price considerably. There are even videos on YouTube teaching you how to make your own from scratch. Solar panels can power a refrigerator, a television, or even a microwave oven. Better still, any excess energy that you do not use is simply stored in batteries for future use.
2. Wind Turbine: Another option to have electricity while living off-grid is wind power. Once relegated to massive wind farms, simple wind turbines are now available for home use and are excellent at harnessing the wind's energy to power your Grey's Anatomy addiction. The excess can also be stored in batteries as well.
3. Rain Water Collection: Some off-grid locations are too rural for a well, but water is easily obtained from rain water collection. A simple set-up that collects water as it runs off your roof is cheap and easy to install on your own. While it may not seem like one could gather much water from a quick rain storm or two, the University of Arizona states that a mere inch of rainfall can net over 600 gallons of water from a 1,000 square foot roof.
4. Satellite Dish: Can't live without your internet? You actually do not have to. Satellite dishes can provide internet service and, ironically, you may actually get better service. Connectivity issues and slow speeds are greatly reduced compared to internet that uses traditional DSL or cable lines.
5. Potable Water: For the times when rain water collection is unavailable, you can also have potable water delivered. With the use of storage tanks and hoses, you can easily have an outside company deliver fresh potable water, suitable for drinking, to your remote location. This is a great solution for desert regions where months can go by without the promise of rain.
6. Generator: Another way to power up your electronics and live a modern life while off-grid is to purchase a generator. They are available in both small, solar-powered models as well as larger, diesel versions. Depending on the make and model, generators can run for several days at a time, and are great back-up power solutions.
7. Greywater Treatment: Greywater is the water that heads down the drain after we run the dishwasher or take a bubble bath. It isn't dirty, per se, but it is not clean enough to drink. Municipalities usually require that all greywater be treated, either through a septic tank or through the local wastewater treatment plant. The whole point of living off-grid is to avoid hooking up to such government-run systems. There are several do-it-yourself ways to recycle that water and create your own filtration system. You can read more about greywater recycling here.
8. Composting Toilets: Let's face it; no one likes to use a stinky latrine. Enter the composting toilet. There are simple, homemade versions that involve a 5-gallon bucket and a supply of sawdust, and there are self-contained units that oxygenate and dehydrate the waste in a multiple-step process. Both are effective, non-stinky alternatives to the outhouse.
9. Manual Laundry Machine: Yes, you can live off-grid and still do your laundry. Often there simply isn't room for a full size washing machine in a rustic cabin. Manual laundry machines are small and operated by a hand crank, but they do work. You can watch a demo video from a tiny house lover here.
10. Root Cellars: If you have ever read the Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder, you know that a root cellar is a great way to store root vegetables and fall fruits throughout the winter months without the need for a refrigerator, freezer, or even extra storage space in your home. Root cellars come in a variety of shapes and sizes. The basic idea is to store fruits and vegetables underground and draw on the insulating power of the earth to keep everything fresh.
Living off-grid in the 21st century is a lot easier than you think because you can use all your modern conveniences in eco-friendly ways. You could say that it is like having your cake and eating it, too.