Quick Steps to Start Living Off the Grid

Going off the grid can sound a lot scarier than it actually is. With many people seeking ways to shrink their carbon footprint and reduce their energy usage, off-grid living is becoming more popular. If you’re interested in getting off the grid — either partially or entirely — follow these steps to get started.

Identify Your Needs

The first step to living off the grid is to separate needs from luxuries. Needs are things like food, water, sanitation, and shelter — things you absolutely can’t live without. Amenities like cable, Internet, television, video games, and electrical appliances, on the other hand, are luxuries.

Before you make the jump away from technological dependence, make a list of priorities for your situation. Whether you’re moving to a rural homestead or staying in your downtown apartment, leaving the grid will be easier if you do it bit by bit. Look at your priorities and start paring down until your lifestyle more closely matches that minimal list of needs.

off-grid-powerlines
Photo by Oran Viriyincy/Flickr

Collect Your Essentials

Once you’re confident you can make the move, it’s time to address your basic needs.

Water
Water is the most important survival necessity, and there are several ways to bring water to your living space. In rural areas, your first option is to simply haul water from a nearby source and boil or chemically purify it. Another option is to dig a well, though you’ll need to check with local geological services to identify the best places to dig.

off-grid-water-storage
Photo by SuSanA Secretariat/Flickr

If a well is out of the question, storing water in a tank and using an RV water pump can also quickly provide water. Once the water is clean and properly purified, you can use it for cooking, cleaning, and bathing.

Pros: You won’t have to deal with municipal water services anymore.
Cons: Setting up an off-grid water system can cost up to $13,000.

Food
Food is another survival essential. To truly live off the grid, it’s recommended that you invest in at least a 6-month supply of dry food. Learning to grow and can food is wise, too, as it gives you the ability to cultivate fresh foods and preserve your own food supplies.

Whether you buy or can your foodstuffs, always make sure to store them in a cool, dry place.

Pros: Most cities are supportive of urban gardening, and if you’re living rurally, you’ll have plenty of space for cultivation and storage.
Cons: Obtaining or growing food and using from-scratch recipes can be time-consuming and challenging.

Protection from Elements
After securing your food and water supplies, focus on mitigating extreme climate changes.

Wood stoves or propane heaters make good heat sources, though you’ll need to gather enough fuel to last a few months. Another way to increase warmth is by layering clothing or using blankets. Insulating your home through window coverings and sealing open spaces will also protect you from cool weather.

For hotter climates, you can run an AC unit on a generator or invest in battery-powered fans. Building an ice-chest air conditioner is another way to further reduce your link to the grid while keeping warm temperatures at bay.

Pros: Building off-grid amenities to heat and cool your home can be as cheap as $30.
Cons: Off-grid temperature control won’t be as fancy as normal HVAC systems — it may take time to adjust.

Add a Few Luxuries Back In

Once you’ve secured your basic necessities, you can start focusing on creature comforts. While analog entertainment is the easiest to procure — think books, cards, board games — you can actually bring some technology back into your off-grid lifestyle.

Electricity
Most aspects of off-grid living will be easier with electric power. Generators offer a reliable way to convert fuel into electricity, but there are greener options available. Installing solar panels, wind turbines, or water turbines are all eco-friendly options for harnessing power.

off-grid-solar-panels
Photo by Rob Rudloff/Flickr

Pros: Electricity allows you to make use of electric lights, computers, and other devices.
Cons: As with water systems, the upfront costs for alternate power can be steep.

Internet
If internet access is important to you, several grid-free connection options exist. From mobile hotspots to satellite internet, there are many ways to stay connected to the Web. And if you want a truly off-the-grid experience, you can build your own internet connection into a HAM radio.

Pros: It’s fun (and safe) to have some way of contacting other people.
Cons: A DIY Internet system will likely be significantly slower than an on-grid version.

Moving off the grid will be a radical lifestyle change for many. It may seem daunting at first, but practice makes perfect. Start small — take camping trips and learn how to procure and maintain things like food and water without the help of electricity. And as you adapt to your new lifestyle, don’t forget to stop and enjoy the peace it offers.

Featured photo by eLKayPics/Flickr

About the author

Jonathan packed his whole life into a backpack and two years later needed an entire moving truck for everything. He enjoys traveling, getting lost and laughing way too hard. Contact him at jonathan.deesing@imove.com.

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