Does the idea of living off the grid sound appealing to you? You’re not alone. An off the grid lifestyle has become increasingly popular among Americans, many of whom are seeking to disconnect from the rigors—and utility lines—of traditional spaces and forge ahead on their own.
It’s important to note however that going off the grid is not all cottage core and rugged individualism. There’s a lot that goes into living off the grid, and a lot that you need to consider before you decide once and for all that it’s a good fit, including some big cost factors. Here’s a quick look at what off the grid living entails, including answers to some common questions that you might have about this unique way of life.
What does living “off the grid” mean?
To live off the grid means to subsist outside of the confines of traditional utility structures—including municipal electricity, water, gas, and sewer systems.
Off the grid homes are completely autonomous, and include their own means of providing essential services such as solar powered electricity and private wells. In many cases, those who are living off the grid simply go without, particularly when it comes to things like home internet services and phone lines.
As you might expect, there are both benefits and drawbacks to this type of lifestyle. In terms of advantages, off the grid living is a way for people to live more sustainably and purposefully. And not only is it an opportunity to form a deeper connection with nature and greatly reduce your individual carbon footprint, it’s also a way to save big on energy expenses (though as we’ll get into in the next section, living off the grid isn’t exactly a cheap endeavor, at least not at first).
The disadvantages of going off the grid? For starters, in order to truly survive on your own you have to forgo a lot of modern conveniences, from washing machines and air conditioners to Wi-Fi and microwaves. You also lose out on the professional support that comes with being connected to municipal utility systems. If your well dries up or your solar system fails, there won’t be a city department automatically dispatched to fix it. You’ll take on most, if not all, of the responsibility and cost involved in running your household, and that can be a tough gig for even the most impassioned of off the grid enthusiasts.
How much does it cost to live off the grid?
It’s true that living off the grid will set you free from monthly utility bills. However, there are a lot of upfront costs to consider, and it’s not as easy—or as cheap—as simply buying a plot of land and setting up shop.
Here are some of the cost factors that you’ll have to keep in mind as you figure out whether an off the grid life is in your budget:
You can’t set up an off the grid home without the land to do it. Real estate accounts for a big portion of what you’ll spend to start this type of lifestyle, with many people choosing to buy land and build rather than convert an existing house. That being said, it is possible to buy an already off the grid house, but it’s still going to cost you in the tens of thousands of dollars, or even hundreds of thousands.
Off-grid solar system
Based on the average amount of electricity you might need, you can expect to spend about $45,000 to $65,000 to set up a brand new off-grid solar system (pre rebates, tax credits, or state incentives). This number will go up the more electricity that you need to power your home, so if your property is larger or you have more people living in it, you’ll likely end up needing to spend more.
On average, it costs $5,500 to drill a private well—or about $15 to $30 per foot, though this can go a bit higher depending if your soil isn’t the ideal quality for digging.
The average cost for a complete septic system, including a leach field, tank, and piping is between $10,000 and $25,000. There are some alternatives, including composting toilets with greywater systems, but you’ll have to be a bit more involved (and it might not be all that much cheaper either).
There are plenty of other costs to consider as well, including backup generators, off grid home insurance, and costs related to your heating method, be it a diesel or gas powered stove, a wood powered stove, or another heating solution.
All of these costs don’t mean that moving off the grid has to be cost prohibitive. If you’re selling your home and moving off the grid from scratch, then this may be comparable—or even a lot less—than you’d spend to buy a new home that’s not off the grid. Still, it’s important to budget carefully and to know what you’re getting into, especially if one of your main intentions is to transition to a more affordable lifestyle.
FAQs about living off the grid
Have more questions about off the grid living? You might be able to find your answer here.
Is it legal to live off the grid?
There’s nothing illegal about living off the grid so long as you have the proper permits for any improvements that you set up and are paying property taxes. Where things can get tricky is if you’re living on land that you don’t own or actively rent, if your house doesn’t meet proper building codes, or if you’re using the land in such a way that isn’t supported by current zoning or use regulations.
What are the most popular states for living off the grid?
The ten most popular states to live off the grid (starting with the most popular) are: California, Texas, Washington, North Carolina, Tennessee, New York, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Virginia, and Colorado.
Do you pay taxes if you live off the grid?
Some things are unavoidable regardless of how and where you live, and that includes taxes. If you own your property then you’ll have to pay property taxes on it, and you may also face income taxes if you are producing anything on your land that you are also selling, such as crops or crafts.
Do off grid homes require insurance?
Yes, but you may be able to get a special discount for “going green” and investing in alternative energy sources. Keep in mind though that there are certain risks involved with living off grid that make standard providers hesitant to offer insurance—or at least to offer it cheaply.
So, is an off the grid life right for you? To decide, you’ll want to consider your lifestyle expectations and your budget, as well as what you can and can’t live without. There are other in-between options too, as evidenced by the rapidly growing popularity of van living.
Living off the grid isn’t easy by any means, but it can be incredibly rewarding. Do a lot of research, particularly state-specific research that takes into account where you live and the rules and regulations in your state. Some states are more friendly for off grid enthusiasts than others, as are certain towns and counties within them.