Off the grid in Canada
by NICK ROSEN on JANUARY 17, 2012 - 22 Comments in community

David and Sally Cox - Escaping the rat race

Until now, this site has spent too little time reporting on the active off-grid community across the border in Canada. From Ontario to Vancouver, BC, the Canadians have been leading the way, doing what many of us dream of, and doing it in comfort and style.
Over the next few months we will be running regular stories and photos of Canadian off-grid men and women. Please send us your photos and videos.
The Glennon family’s retirement home might just look like a stack of shipping containers of all different colours, just outside Rimbey, 140 kilometres southwest of Edmonton . But once complete, it will be a sprawling, 5,000-square-foot, four-storey building – two levels above ground, a walkout basement and another level below – with four bedrooms, five bathrooms, a games and media room, garage and workshop, and two enclosed decks.
Or take David and Sally Cox, and their dog Megan. For the last 7 years, they have lived in a remote part of British Columbia with boat access only, in a home they hand-built that has running water from the nearby stream. Neighbours number one household per square mile.

They have dry wall, refrigeration, DVD player and two computers plus some mod cons. They live on a very small pension, but that does not mean compromise. “Living off grid does not have to mean hippy, rustic, back-to-the-land or anything truly revolutionary” says David. “We just have much too much reliance on motors to claim otherwise. But we grow our food, limit our carbon output and generally live on a smaller planet, so to speak. We are locavores.”

The reasons Canadians go off the grid are many and varied, and we will be exploring some of them in future articles (please mail news@off-grid.net with any story suggestions).

For David Cox it was simple: “the rat race. It is a Machiavellian trap. When I took my family traveling for four months (year 2000) …I had to leave $1700 a month not to live in my house!

“ In Canada that means making $2500 before taxes NOT to live in my house If actually live in the place, the costs just climb.

That is why we are off grid. Being on-grid is like being one of the human batteries in the Matrix. The system lives off me as much, if not more than I ever lived off it. The system is a giant leach on life. Just a more subtle form of being a serf.“

Over the next few months we will be running regular stories and photos of Canadian off-grid men and women. Please send us your photos and videos.

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22 comments

1 Deb { 01.17.12 at 7:30 am }

Sounds like an interesting series. Look forward to it.

2 elnav { 01.17.12 at 1:33 pm }

Aw gee ! there you go giving away our well kept secrets. Now everybody will want to come here. Living off the grid is very much a way of life in many places of Canada. The country is simply too big for the grid to have reached everywhere. ( fortunately) So people simply adapt.

3 otropogo { 01.17.12 at 4:44 pm }

Sounds idyllic, until you turn on the imagination and picture yourself watching your other half die of something that would be trivial to remedy with a hospital nearby. Even without such tragic, but absolutely normal mishaps, it’s important to keep in mind that life off-grid as described above is not sustainable without the continued existence and support of the high-tech on-grid community. When that fails, then one must start thinking about defending one’s family and property against marauders. And that’s probably impossible for a community of less than several hundred adults.

I’d like to achieve a measure of off-grid capability (heating, light, power) while living in a gridded community, but find frustration at every turn. For example, I like the idea of geothermal heating and cooling, but find that the manufacturers and vendors of such systems have not even thought of providing a power-backup option for this very expensive scheme, so that after investing tens of thousands of dollars, the purchaser just as apt to freeze for lack of current for the pumps as if he’d stayed with the propane furnace or electric heat. Solar power and/or wind just isn’t a viable option in most developed residential areas.

If anyone has a solution to this (for instance, geothermal systems that can generate at least enough power to keep their essential pumps operating), I’d like to hear about it.

4 Kenton { 01.19.12 at 12:24 pm }

Living off grid in rural Canada, is easier than most think. My parents’ house never has had gas, everything is electric. It’s far easier to plan for off grid, not relying on a fuel source. It’s an R2000 house design, with an electric furnace, and a main wood stove.

If a household/farmstead creates more electricity than they can consume, they should be able to inject the excess into the electric grid. Reversing their electric meter, and getting money back. Paying those who are helping generate electricity.

I’ve been reading how appliances are helping create a “Smart Grid.” Wouldn’t this be a great addition to it?

5 elnav { 01.20.12 at 11:20 am }

I endorse Kenton’s comments. My wife was born on an off-grid homestead and half a century later the place is still off-grid. A friend checking the real estate listings found half a dozen off grid properties listed in my neighborhood. We recently moved to an area where approximately 1/3 of the residents live off-grid. The village of McBride has one resident whose property includes a tall waterfall. He is busy installing his third water turbine. He can power the entire village and still have enough to export to BC Hydro. so he is grid tied.

6 Kenton { 01.20.12 at 3:43 pm }

Did I say off-grid? Sorry for any misunderstandings. What I meant, is it’s easier to become off grid not relying on fuel. Is home made fuel better versus creating electricity? Carbon impact?

Creating your own electricity is, in my opinion, easier to do, then to try to create your own fuel/gas source.

7 elnav { 01.22.12 at 11:23 pm }

It depends on which home made fuel you refer to. Electricity requires sunlight or motion. In northern latitudes or frequently cloudy areas anyh PV installat6ionb will need to be over built to deliver enough electricity. Most places would require auxilliary generation from a fuelled motor or hydro-electric source. Wind is an option in some areas. Creating your power with a mechanical generator has a lot of options. That in turn depends onavailable raw feed stock. The guy in McBride has a waterfall which given him a huge surplus of potential energy that he can convert to power. His latest turbine will produce 50 megawatts and cost nearly a million dollars to build but his first one was more of an experiment and proof of concept, and cost only a few thousand buying everythinjg new.
If you live in grain country some kind of ethanol fuel makes sense. Our best local natural resource is trees so a wood gas converter would be a good bet. The are several companies providing wood gassification equipment or you can buy the book and build your own. Methane digesters are finally becoming more popular and here again either read the book or buy factory made equipment. A Jean Payne pile would work if you had a lot of bio mass feed stock. New steam engine designs may be good enough to compete with petrofuelled generators. If someone would build small scale Stirling engine power in the under 10 kW size then it also would be a great power source but prfesent DIY plans for Stirling engines require lots of precision machining olr else a lossy engine of questionable utility.
I calculated that with proper energy management it would be cost effective to power an off-grid home with a generator burning methane or propane.
I am not trying to be coy but I have seen enough installations of various designs that its not easy to present one solution that fits all applications.
I haven’t even mentioned co-generation.

8 elnav { 01.22.12 at 11:34 pm }

Kenton wrote: “Creating your own electricity is, in my opinion, easier to do, then to try to create your own fuel/gas source.
The answer depends on how you calculate your costs. If you include ‘carbon footprint’ into the equation it get a lot more complex. From what I can tell all the experts agree that burning wood os carbon neutral. Environmentalists complain that hydro-electric dams may be clean and green but the diesel fuel consumption during construction is a bad thing. Well what about the fabrication of solar panels? Its worse.
The reality is North American consumers have been immersed so much in PV advertising they have lost sight of aother alternatives most of which are thriving in the rest of the world. Electricity is probably the most versatile energy form that we can convert to heat, light, and motion easily. We can also store it.
Any choice for an alternative power source needs to be tailored to local conditions and available resources. No one solution fits all situations. I pay 8.5 cents per kilowatt hour so it really hard to find a cost competitive alternative for light. But wood heat wins hands down.

9 timby { 02.01.12 at 1:15 pm }

I think the thing that bothers me the most is the hypocrisy the US has for renewable resources. If it can’t be implemented for everyone, yesterday, at a small cost them it’s not done.

Look at the efforts for bio fuels and ethanol. They should have their place but they have infrastructure and location problems. Yet they still should be implemented where they can. Why not make the automakers manufacture E85 vehicles?

Here in the sun belt there is little done to reduce energy consumption. This is because the local as well as feds don’t really want it. They can’t rape the folks if they have renewable resources that don’t go up every time there is a problem in the middle east.

You can buy solar panels but the local utilities don’t have to buy the excess. They’ll take it for free and charge you a ton when you need it. The PUC allows the energy producers to pass on price hikes yet when the oil/NG/etc goes down you never get to reap the bennifits of lower electric bills.

So here we are many states are in need of a cheap/clean sources of energy and all they can think of is nuke. Yet we are pumping tons of chap NG out of the ground.

What it boils down too is that there are groups in the US that want to make sure that any cheap/clean resource developed has to be made more expensive to pay out the bonuses and bribes to the politicians.

It would be wonderful to go off grid however, what are you going to do when some government agent shows up and wants a ton of tax money? Here they can take your home from you for back taxes.

Currently I pay 4 times my house payment each year in house & land taxes. These will continue to go up as less and less pay into the pot. Even though my house has gone down in value I still ay the same amount in taxes. They just up the rate per hundred.

10 Hey, It's Bill! { 02.05.12 at 5:09 pm }

Great site here! more people should be coming here to
learn how to be more self reliant.

I can be a great help for those who want to become more energy independent, but don’t wanna build solar panels or turbines themselves.

I own an alternative energy company and would be happy to provide my services to the members here. check out the site and give us a call to learn more.

11 elizabeth { 04.12.12 at 7:13 pm }

I would like to know any people living off grid in southern ontario, I’d like to join, (mom with 2 children.)

12 Bill&Sue Beatty { 04.20.12 at 5:15 pm }

We are a couple who are looking to go off grid in Canada with like minded people.

13 A & K Vandette { 06.03.12 at 10:37 pm }

Trying to find a location in Ontario that we can at least try to be self-sustaining as much as possible and unfortunately feel very inadequate to try on our own – are there any locations that support a community living environment where we could live but learn by sharing or by being mentored? We have made some baby steps but really not confident or sure what to do next? Signed hopeful newbies :-)

14 Jenn { 06.07.12 at 12:25 pm }

I lived two years when I was younger with my parents and siblings in a house off the grid. Water pump out side…out house and two wood stoves. Some of the best times in my life! And as kids we did the very best in school those two years. My mom read to us every night….and funny how neighbors started showing up each night knowing my mom was reading to us to catch the next part in the book. I am not off the grid now but plan to be asap. Hate how every one is like a Hoover in your pocket inventing more ways to take a piece of what you earn. My boyfriend lives off the grid in a cabin in the bush. I love to escape there…..feels like home, no phones ringing just simple peaceful sanctuary. Was hoping I could build a cob house but think our climate is too cold so am now back to thinking about a log cabin….also like the idea of sod roof.

15 George Duncan { 06.18.12 at 11:58 pm }

I’m currently building an off-grid place in the Drumheller, Alberta badlands. I have a small cabin constructed mostly from recycled materials. I recently got a development permit for a cord-wood studio. I do mixed media sculpture & functional art furniture from mostly found objects & re-purposed materials. Combing my art with an off-grid lifestyle is a dream come true for me.
I invite you to visit my facebook artist page…George Duncan Design.

16 p and l { 06.26.12 at 2:27 pm }

Girlfriend and I want to live off grid. Mid twenties southern ontario. If there any communities or if anyone has any suggestions please let me know and reply to this comment

17 Pat { 07.15.12 at 2:55 am }

“From Ontario to Vancouver, BC” ???
That’s Canada? Which country is it east from ON?

18 Doug { 09.18.12 at 12:51 pm }

timby, you make good points, so why are you still in the US?

19 Doug { 09.18.12 at 12:55 pm }

myself and my girlfriend are wanting to get off the grid ASAP. but obviously in way we can sustain long term. I have various building skill sets and experience from operating plants to scaffolding etc and am keen to work within a pre-existing off grid community to gain experience of this way of life and hopefully make some friends along the way. Please reply to this message if interested or with any info that you feel I may find useful.
Thanks

20 Steve.S { 01.07.13 at 10:40 am }

I want to live off the grid in Canada due to the lack of faith in America and a failing marriage. I’m just sick of what the US has turned in to and I want to just get away from it all. I will make this happen somehow. Even if it kills me . At least I will die happy. I hunt and fish for food already so all I need to do is figure out a location and find a shelter. If anyone can give me a tip ,please let me hear from you. I am serious and will make this happen.

21 sarah { 04.15.14 at 5:37 pm }

I am interested in joining an off grid community. I have the capital and do not want to make the wrong choice. To the person who said that US is turning basically a nightmare , I feel you and it scares me to death. I have 2 young boys and I feel so sad for there future if I don’t do something about it fast. I can’t believe that they are kicking people off there land for being off the grid. I am so confused, weren’t we all taught that we are killing the planet so here’s the solution and we’re not allowed to do it. Please someone contact me and let’s talk. The children are our future and we have no choice but to protect them. I saw a lady holding a sign that says ” Let it be in my time that the war happens so that my children can be free” we are all willing to do what it takes to change this and fight for our rights of a normal free life. I stopped watching the news for 2 years and 6 months ago when I started to learn what was going on I haven’t sleep a decent night since. I just do not get why it has to be this way. There’s no good reason for it. I am a woman of peace and love. I don’t want to think any other way !!! E mail me please so we can talk. Babbym71199@hushmail.com :) thank u with ALL my heart.

22 Christian { 09.11.14 at 1:17 am }

I am interested to join 100% off the grid communitie in BC Canada if exist at all. IM a very handy man type of man with allot of cunstruction experience. Please email me if interrested.

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