If you are contemplating the idea of opting to live off the grid, the chances are that you are either tired of the utility bills that you are bombarded with every month, or you want to do your bit to save the environment. In either case, it surely seems to be the best way out. But is it really feasible? Is it really as easy as it seems? What do you need to do?
Living Off the Grid
In a technical sense, to live off the grid means to live without depending on the electricity grid for power supply. In a broad sense though, it means 'to live in a self-sufficient manner without depending on public utility services such as electricity and water supply'. Is it really possible to carry on without being dependent on the electric grid and water supply? It definitely is, if you can tap alternative energy sources and produce power for your individual use.
You will have to depend on alternative sources, such as solar energy and wind energy, to generate electricity. Similarly, water can be arranged either from some natural sources, such as spring or lake, or you can dig a well for potable water. You will have to give up on most of the electronic gadgets which are more of a luxury than a necessity. In simple words, a true off the grid house or autonomous building would be the one which is not dependent on electricity grid, municipal water supply, and other such utility services.
How to Go Off the Grid?
To start with, you will have to disconnect from the electric grid and resort to some alternative source of energy. As far as electricity is concerned, you have two alternatives: solar energy and wind energy. You can either resort to readily available solar panels, which can be planted on your rooftop, or build a wind generator for your home.
The solar panels tap energy from the Sun, convert it to Direct Current (DC), and store it in batteries. The DC is eventually converted to Alternating Current (AC) using an inverter for home use. As for wind power, the rotation of turbine powers the generator and produces DC, which is converted to AC using an inverter and used to supply power to homes.
Both are ideal for electricity generation (and both have their own pros and cons), so you can either use any one of the two, or use both simultaneously for efficient power generation. That being said, you need to note that the amount of energy produced by these means will be limited, so you will have to limit your energy consumption by sacrificing on quite a few electronic devices.
While cutting off from the electricity grid is the main attribute of the off-grid lifestyle, other aspects also need to be taken into consideration when opting for the same; water supply is one such aspect. After you cut off from municipal water supply, you will have to arrange some source of water.
Even though you have the option of natural sources, a better option will be to have your own well or resort to water conservation measures such as rainwater harvesting. Construction of a private well will cost you between US$3000 to US$10,000 depending on how deep you need to dig to reach the ground water level. Rainwater harvesting is an ideal option in regions with decent rainfall.
You will also need to take care of the waste produced at your home. A septic tank will be ideal for disposing waste water, while biodegradable waste can be used for composting. For cooking, you can resort to solar cooker, wood, or propane gas. The best place to live off the grid will be a region where there is no dearth of resources.
Ideal Place for Going Off-the-Grid
Before you go off-grid, you need to make sure that you are prepared for the same in terms of resources. One of the foremost things to decide will be whether you have to relocate, or you can carry on with the same house. Opting for the same in a city can be a bit difficult, unless you intend to implement a few attributes of off-grid living in your lifestyle instead of resorting to true off-grid lifestyle. That will definitely help you cut down on your utility bills.
On the other hand, if you intend to relocate to a new place, you will have to make sure that you choose a region which has no dearth of resources that you will require. Extreme weather can make it difficult for you to carry on if you are used to a lifestyle wherein the brunt of extreme weather is minimum owing to the use of heaters, air conditioners, etc. If you are relocating to pursue off-grid lifestyle, you can also resort to energy efficient homes to make things easier for yourself.
The entire concept of green living may seem to be a bit difficult, especially with you having to sacrifice on quite a few things that you can't imagine living without. However, once you get into the flow, things will be a lot easier. At the end of the day, it will be your commitment and determination, along with the availability of resources, which will have a crucial role to play in spelling s-u-c-c-e-s-s for you.