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Home Forums General Discussion Help me plan to live completely off the grid?

This topic contains 44 replies, has 7 voices, and was last updated by  gordo 5 years, 6 months ago.

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  • #36932

    Let me start by stating the obvious… I want to live completely off the grid successfully.

    This is something I have thought about for awhile now. I am a young lady of 21 years and after having seen my parents struggle through life with never enough money to live like they want to and never having a sense of security I want to make sure that the cycle ends with me and that I never have to go through that myself.

    I think that in order to really live off the grid that you need to plan, replan and plan again to take the time to do things right the first time. Life long sustainable living that is free from debt and the mentality that you must have more than your neighbor or the latest things to be considered successful is what I am looking to get away from.

    I want to own my own home that is well designed and comfortable and not have to sacrifice certain standards of living in order to do so. I want a septic system, internet access, electricity and possibly some other things that I have overlooked at the moment.

    I realize to attain those things that changes must be made to my current lifestyle and that living off the grid will require learning new ways to do things that I currently do not know how to do.

    I have lived in several states with various climates and temperatures and from what I have seen I truly believe that I want to live in a northern state or possibly even Canada. I love certain aspects of nature. I have an idea of a lovely cabin in a wilderness/mountain area with snow and lots of big green trees with lovely views. However good old fashioned common sense tells me that it is not that easy. Cold climates and wilderness areas have special considerations to make. The start up costs are higher. What if something breaks or freezes and I need help to fix it? What if I get really sick? Will help be available nearby? How would I heat my home? How would I be able to get enough food to survive? In really cold areas solar panels may not work or they might be damaged by hail or other such things. There are probably things that I have not even considered.

    How can I plan to live off the grid? I know that I want to but that is not enough. Do I start with designing a small, sustainable home? Is that getting ahead of myself? Maybe I should start with selecting land first and choosing just where I will live. Maybe someone here has a list of things I should consider. I am looking to seriously commit to this change in my life. I just need help from those wiser than I to help guide me through this.

    Your time, advice and wisdom will not go underutilized.

    Thank you kindly in advance for whatever information you can spare to me.

    P.S. On the topic of cold weather home construction is there a way to do it cheaply and sustainably while still maintaining my quality of life? I have done some reading on strawbale houses, cord wood log cabins, earthbag homes, cob homes and adobe homes. Does anyone know if any of these structures is particularly suited to cold weather? Would it be wise to construct a small structure to live in on a site so that I would have a place to stay while working on a more permanant structure or perhaps I should consider building a small structure and then expanding upon it as I can afford it?

    #41861

    chowan
    Participant

    earthships are very well suited to cold weather but take a little longer to build unless you have enough friends willing to help with a pretty big “barn raising” project.straw bale house would be my first choice for a fast cold climate suited shelter this was one of my original ideas to build the straw bale first then the earth ship but ended up finding a good old trailer

    which will do me untill i can build the earthship.

    if i can offer some advice try to develop some form of independant income before making the move does not need to be a lot but you are going

    to need some income.

    good off grid locations are notorious for being very poor locations to find work in

    #41862

    chowan
    Participant

    number 1 develop your independent income

    next find your land then design your home

    if you have certain aspects of a home or business in mind they

    may affect the land you choose.

    often what you can build will depend greatly on the land you purchase

    and what resources are free easy and cheap in a area.even free tyres

    are not realy free when you have to haul them into where you are going to build your earthship.

    you can be learning and practicing off grid skills all the while

    #41863

    In regards of off the grid income so long as I have internet access I can make a couple hundred dollars a month from online gaming. If I could build a home that could power two computers then I would really be in buisiness.

    I like the idea of earthships but I anticipate having to do all of the work by myself and if I were to build an earthship I would want an alternate foundation because I do not like the idea of using tires. Although the tires will be trapped in the walls along with any harmful toxins I still don’t wish to use them by my own personal preference.

    I am hoping to weigh the various pros and cons of the building types so I can make the best choice for a solo project. I am not a physically strong individual but I do know that if I put in enough planning and effort that I can do anything I set out to do.

    In addition to building a nice sustainable home I think it would be pretty amazing to build a home that is burglar proof… or at least as burglar proof as any home can be.

    I also think I should mention that I live in the wasatch area of Utah incase that might help someone here direct me to resources here that can help me learn these new skills before I go and attempt to do this all on my lonesome.

    If I choose my land first and build my home to code then I might not be able to include everything that I like depending on what area it is. If I design a home first then I can try to find land that will allow all of the things that I want in my design but I might not be able to find such land am I correct? It seems to be a double edged sword.

    Perhaps I could build one of those tumbleweed homes that is around 100 – 200 Sq Ft since they can be built cheaply and transported anywhere very easily and can hook up to utilities and such just like a trailer. I think if the design was good enough that they could be completely off the grid buildings and you wouldn’t even need to rely on utilities, thus providing a good place to live while I build my home or even expanding upon that small building and including it as part of the permanent home.

    #41864

    chowan
    Participant

    just looked up wasatch and it looks like you are already in pretty good country

    just get a little further out from the city maybee.

    got idaho, nevada, colorado and wyoming all pretty close so lots of cheap land to choose from not very populated and should be pretty easy going on code and

    permiting if you want to go the full approved building route.

    depends where you go how hard on permitting they are going to be

    yep i agree with you about the tyres in a earthship id rather and probably will do a variation using concrete but then its not officially a earthship lol

    but i do want a below ground home.

    Those tumbleweed/tiny homes are pretty and ready to go so that may be a good choice for you as a start up dont know what the cost is but i thought they were fairly spendy.if you need the computer online 24/7 or close to make a living dont underestimate your alternate energy needs if you are going to go full off grid. and think about internet access costs also if you need internet

    for your work.

    #41865

    chowan
    Participant

    may be a good idea for you to start living off grid slowly get your little tumbleweed set it up with solar wind etc in close to town,work and friends

    untill you get some things sorted out.

    as much as we like to plan for things in my expierience things never

    quite turn out how we think they will and the plans need to change.

    good way to see where the plan is flawed is just to start slow

    #41866

    I was thinking Idaho, Colorado, South Dakota or somewhere in Canada for my range of choices. Maybe Oregon?

    I want to go for a fully approved building. I am not a conspiracy theorist by any stretch but I also believe that the government is WAY out of control in the regulation of what people can do on their own land and the way someone chooses to live their life. I want to be sure that I give them no obvious excuse to shut me down.

    I like the idea of being over prepared. Not only for the event of collapse which I don’t believe would happen but for general living as I am a solitary individual and being a woman who lives alone I believe that I should take every precaution to protect myself should someone or a group of people get it in their heads that they would want to rob me or something else. Better safe than sorry.

    Something else that I think would be harder to adjust to would be complete solitude. Although I prefer to be alone I have always lived near other people and the background noise and false sense of security that provides is an admitted crutch of mine.

    I am thinking of concrete flooring. Perhaps I can find some other form that is more eco friendly. I have always wanted radiant heat flooring although that is a luxury and not a necessity. I am also unsure of what septic system I would want to have. Call me spoiled but I will not compromise on a flushing toilet.

    I like the idea of finding another use for tires that would otherwise end up in a landfill but there are just so many toxins in them that I don’t think I could use them in a garden without contamination of the food and I certainly wouldn’t want them in my home. Perhaps I could find use for them in border fencing of some kind?

    In regards to my energy usage I can live just fine with using lights for only a few hours in the evenings and using only natural light during the day or even using candles or solar flashlights instead. However I want to have the option to use lights when I need them for emergencies. Lightbulbs are not good for the enviornment so I want to keep my usage to a bare minimum.

    I have never used a wood stove but from what I understand they provide good heat which would work for a small home and if I were to buy land to plant firewood I could make it into a sustainable heating, cooking, light source so I am certainly willing to learn.

    24/7 internet is something I require and is something that will be a power drainer for certain. What are the various ways to power a home? I think that in cold climates that are high in the mountains that wind would be my best option since cloudy days will prevail for most of the time and the panels might possibly be overshadowed by trees ect. If at all possible I want a power source that is renewable that will be available when I need it. Rechargeable batteries and storage are also things that I need to seriously consider. I would like to have plenty of backup power and be completely secure in this area. Better to have more power than I can use then to be out of power.

    I would also like to have a small fridge/freezer along with a washer and dryer. The fridge/freezer I would consider a must but I can live without most of the time if I had to since I believe that I could learn to make due with canned eggs, powdered milk and cheeses that would hold up without one but I would like the option of having it if I needed one for something like a medicine that needs refrigeration ect. Better to include it in the plans if I might need access to it then to neglect it and be out of luck later. Ice is a luxury in the summer months but completely worthless in the winter when nature would provide the ability to freeze water naturally.

    I could get used to handwashing and line drying clothing. I used to line dry clothes when I was very little so I could handle that. My concern with even having a washer and dryer wouldn’t be the electricity but the small size of them in the first place. I have huge comforters that would need a large washer and would be near impossible to wash in a tiny sink unless someone else here has a suggestion that I not aware of yet. I think I could live without a dryer although it might be difficult to do in the winter months since it would only freeze your clothing. Perhaps there is a way to line dry inside your home?

    Tumbleweed homes can be built cheaply instead of buying one of those prefabricated ones. I think it would also be a good way to learn basic building skills on a small scale instead of leaping right into the thick of things and not have any idea of what I am doing.

    There are people who live in 89 square foot homes. The bedroom I am living in now is well over 100 Sq. Ft. I could live in a tiny area like that for a time until I could build my dream home. Thomas Jefferson lived in a 648 Sq. Ft. box home with his wife for several years until the completion of his Monticello. I could live in under half that space for a year or two until enough work is completed on my home that I could move into it.

    Another concern for me is trash and waste water disposal. I plan to limit my waste by using foods that have been canned in reusable jars and to store my dried goods like flour in reusable canisters. However foods like canned tuna, chicken packets and other such foods would still contribute to my garbage output unless I can find a way around that. I cannot raise livestock by myself. I know that I could not bring myself to raise chickens to kill them because I get attached to them. Knowing that limitation I may have to give that particular food up but I know that I could do it. However I do need some form of protein that comes from meat since I am not a vegetarian and I do not hunt.

    Another issue for me is guns. I don’t like the idea of owning one but if I am truly going to be able to protect myself on my own and for security if things ever did get bad enough I would need one. While that is a completely different issue from housing it is relevant to where I choose to live because of how gun ownership laws differ by state.

    I expect that any plans I make will need to change or that something will occur that will be beyond my control. I want to be sure that I have enough security on the financial end of things before I go about making this dream a reality. From those who are living the dream already would it be rude to ask how much it cost you to get completely off grid and approximatly how much you spend per year along with with state you live in and which luxuries you have so I could get an extremely rough estimate?

    Again I thank you all kindly for your assistance.

    #41868

    chowan
    Participant

    lots and lots of variables

    part of going off grid is learning what things YOU can do without

    so what it costs is realy going to be up to you.

    as far as a flushing toilet you could always use a septic system as a

    watering sytem for a fuel forest/firewood or even as a methane diester first.

    but water is going to be a big thing unless you are close to a easy natural

    water source many places need deep well systems and these are expensive to set up and expensive to run.The earthship concept is a good one of large amounts

    of rain area catchment and grey water recycleing.

    trash yes this is a problem best idea is like you said to cut down on your

    can usage by using recycleable canning jars chickens and worms etc can easily

    recycle your food scraps. also food on the “hoof” and in the garden can be good best if you can consume as things become ready to eat putting aside ony

    what is over and above your imediate needs and what is needed during winter.

    if you can extend your harvest period in one form or another you will cut down on canning work and wast. a greenhouse, weekly plantings of the same crop

    so that you have what you need each week during the growing season.

    free range small animals like rabbits,chickens,fish that make for a good meal

    or 2 so dont require canning (i read that you dont want to deal with live critters but just saying.)

    maybee fishing and fish raising is a good protein source for you but you

    will need plenty of water for that in one form or another so this may have a bearing on where you go.

    yep a gun is a good thing getting eaten by a mountain lion would totally ruin my day lol Im not as worried about the 2 legged critters dont hardly see them

    but its alway a possibility and often being known to own and carry a gun

    is enough to avoid a lot of trouble in the first place.

    all depends where you go what is the best thing to power your home

    this area of nevada is great both for solar and wind but id have to say wind power is exceptional.

    just my rough thoughts on your power needs you want 1 or 2 computers

    with internet 24/7, a washing machine, a small fridge freezer probably

    need a well and well pump for the flushing toilet etc.

    depending on how you want to ration all these things probably 5 to 10 thousand

    in alternate energy gear in a good area and you will still need a backup generator at times.

    somebody else here can probably give you a better idea

    some things can be improvised like wind and hydro power but they would need to be on a fairly large scale (and a suitable location)to get anywhere near your power needs

    #41869

    I realize that some serious adjustments to my lifestyle are needed. Some are easy choices and others are not so easy. For those things that I am not willing to do without I am willing to pay the price for them.

    Sewage systems are expensive. I have never heard of a methane digester before and I am not sure exactly how they work.

    Water security is a big deal. With many sources of water being polluted I would like to use rain water or snow water if at all possible. A good water filtering system is a key element of sustainable designing and I hope that I can find a solution that works for me. I also want to have hot water available for bathing so that is something else I need to consider in any designs.

    I would like to have a greenhouse but I worry about hail that could break the glass which is also a concern for solar panels. Snow could cover a greenhouse and shade out plants which is also another problem if I have any plants that need to be grown during the winter months although I hope to do all of my harvesting and food growing during the rest of the year to avoid problems.

    I simply do not have it in me to kill an animal. For that reason I would either need to have canned supplies which generate trash or I would need to find someone else who raises them and see about purchasing or trading for my meat needs that way. I don’t have a problem with eating meat or those who kill animals for food. It is just that I know my own personal limitations and what I am willing to learn to do and raising animals for food is not on the list. Although I do admit that I have always wanted to raise sheep. I crochet quite a bit and yarn would be something useful to have that wouldn’t require killing but it would require additional resources to take care of the sheep.

    What kind of energy do back up generator use? Is there a way to get around having to have one? I would rather spend more to ensure that I will have more than enough energy right off the bat and get something this important out of the way first since I do require it. Energy security is a must have for me. Of course it would be good to have a back up power source if something went wrong just to be on the safe side.

    A key concern seems to be location. I am not sure exactly where I would want to go just yet but I think that with my power needs and the type of land that I want to live in I would have to make sure that I pick some really good land.

    I took a look at your YouTube channel Chowan and I must say that you are quite impressive! Your survival skills are something to aspire to without question!

    #41871

    chowan
    Participant

    it would need to be bigger hail than i have even seen to damage solar panels

    but i guess it is possible i am a bit worried about my greenhouse covering though especially once it get old and brittle.

    I think a backup generator is a good idea because otherwise you will need to add large amounts both to alternate energy production and storage just to make up for maybee one or twice a year where its overcast and the wind isnt blowing

    for days on end. 300 dollars worth of backup generator and a gallon of fuel once in a while could save you another 5000 dollars in alternate energy product

    which would 9 times out of 10 be wasted money.by the way a backup generator

    can still run of alternate energy as things get setup.

    the backup generators can be run on gasoline,diesol,propane,woodgas from wood chips etc,methane from the digester i mentioned earlier id like to have a steam engine set up to drive one maybee one day and use the waste heat from the steam engine to heat the greenhouse and animal shed and provide hot water.

    methane can also be used to cook with its basically the same as natural

    gas in energy content.

    sheep may be a good thing for you with your skills in spinning,knitting etc

    not only for there wool product but for meat,tallow and sheep skin i was actually using a tallow and beeswax candle last night.

    you can always get someones else to handle the sheep processing to get you the meat or any other critter that you may want as well so you can can it personally lamb is about my favorite meat.

    sounds like you have more than enough other skills to trade for whatever meat you want to eat.

    #41875

    It hailed here one time and there were chunks as big as a baseball without exaggeration. I like to be over prepared when possible. Perhaps collecting solar during the summer and storing it for winter use is the best option so I can merely cover the solar panels with a covering to protect them during the winter months. I still think that wind energy would be the most viable energy solution for the northern plains states that I want to live in.

    A back up energy source is something that I would like to have just to be on the safe side but if I can find a way to replace it with renewable alternatives that are cost effective then I certainly will. I think these new technologies are still in their infancy and it would be foolish to invest too heavily in them until they become more efficient.

    Call me picky but I don’t eat lambs, ducks, woodland creatures of all sorts ect. I am a steak, ribs, chicken and tuna sort of lady. If I could find a way to trade for or purchase those things that is enviornmentally friendly then I will. If I can’t then I will teach myself how to make due without them. I don’t eat alot of meat as it is so I could go vegetarian if I had to but to be perfectly honest I do like my meat products.

    Maybe I could raise a few chickens for their eggs. That way I wouldn’t have to kill them and with only a few chickens I could have a good supply of protein and the ability to care for them since one person can not run a farm by themselves. However feeding and sheltering both the sheep and the chickens is something I need to factor into my plans.

    Speaking of skills I never really thought about what I might be able to bring to a community. I have interests in various craft work so I could work on those skills in order to increase my contributions. Quilting, knitting, tailoring, basketry, pottery, glass or tile making and maybe even a tiny bit of blacksmithing would all be skills that I could pick up and use to make myself useful to a group.

    #41880

    Dustoffer
    Participant

    Young lady, everything you wish to do requires physical strength and money. If you can save to buy a small trailer that can be hooked up to a septic and electric system, that would be your best bet as a starter.

    If not set up in some sort of camper/trailer park, then you would need the money for the septic system, and for a solar electric system with backup generator.

    You are right to be concerned with hail damage to glass panels. They are rated for 1″ hail when set at a 30* angle. Unisolar panels are stainless steel with textured unbreakable Tefzel surface.

    To run two emachines energy star rated computers with small LCD monitors would require 6-US62W panels mounted at the latitude angle south with 8 golf cart batteries, a C-35 charge control, fuze, and ground rod, with a DR1215 (or greater equivalent) inverter/charger and adequate generator and shelter for them close to the trailer. There are some various size kits for sale, too.

    A propane refer and change to all LED lights would be needed, too, with associated systems maybe already build in to the trailer.

    The trailer could become part of a straw bale house, or one could be built close by after enough money is saved up for the bales, foundation, roof, electric and plumbing systems, and stucco.

    #41881

    chowan
    Participant

    bugger as big as baseball? yep i reckon that might do it basball size would also take out a modern wind turbine also.

    fortunately hail is in many ways like a tornado it has a very small area of

    damage relatively speaking. if it was me and i saw that green hail sky coming at me i would like to have pieces of plywood cut that i could quickly attach over my solar panels that would be quicker and easier than moving in the solar panels.or if i had a tracker it may be possible to quicly turn them into a direction where they are less likely to be damaged

    a link to mother earth news about the possibility of solar panel damage with hail.

    http://www.motherearthnews.com/ask-our-experts/solar-panels-and-hail.aspx

    #41883

    Dustoffer – Money is something I have. Physical strength is what I lack. Hopefully I have enough of the former to overcome the latter although before I go that route I want to learn to do as much as I can by myself. Knowledge is power and off the grid skills are something I need to develop or at the very least be aware of so I can help someone else if they needed to know how to do something. Although it is nice to prepare only for myself I realize that is completely useless if I can’t help my fellow neighbor. I want to not only survive but to thrive and I can’t do that without like-minded neighbors, friends and family.

    I thought about getting a trailer or RV at first but then I realized that if I were to build myself a little tumbleweed house that although the cost would be cheaper it would still be worth alot more in the long run for the skills I would learn in building one myself instead of taking the easy way out.

    The tiny homes from this website here : http://www.tumbleweedhouses.com/plans/

    are something that I would be perfectly comfortable in for quite awhile until I could get my dream place built and other things like a garden set up and secure. Another benefit is that they can be towed anywhere on the end of a truck so if I need to move somewhere else or if I want to do a little traveling it would work like a charm. I also realize that such a small place wouldn’t give me all of the little extras that I want but learning to do without them for awhile would help me realize and be more grateful for what I will have when my place is complete.

    Here in Utah where I am currently at the elevation is 4,700+ Ft. I don’t yet know where exactly what land I will wind up with and in what state or country I will be but I know that I like areas that get snow and that I should prepare for areas with cold weather. I used to live in the deep south of Florida ( Sick of those hurricanes! ) and the heart of Texas where we simply don’t get snow. I guess it is normal to want what you don’t have.

    For a tiny little tumbleweed home I would need to drastically cut my power usage. Portable solar power is something that I would want to look into. I hope to live in the tumbleweed during the spring, summer and fall months and then return to my family’s place for the winter holidays until I can get my dream home completed. With that said I wouldn’t need to have a dryer or a second computer in such a tiny space. I could make due with one computer, a mini fridge and a tiny washer to use once a week or so since I wouldn’t need a huge one for thick comforters and such during the non winter months because I wouldn’t have the space in a tiny place and because I wouldn’t need it.

    I could get by with candles, flashlights and maybe an LED light to use for emergencies for my lighting needs but I am not sure what I would do for my cooking. I have zero camping experience but I can learn to cook on a campfire and such. I don’t think there are wood stoves that would work in such a tiny area without burning the place down so I think that is out of the question unless someone here has any suggestions. Maybe a solar cooker is another option? I don’t know too much about those either. If at all possible I would want the tumbleweed to work completely without the aid of outside resources and be completely self sustaining for long periods of time. I would likely have it hooked up to use a back up propane tank or some other type of portable fuel source for security though. Suggestions in this area are especially appreciated. I should also note that the tiny homes that are on that website run on a small propane tank and since I am trying to eliminate my power usage that is why I am looking for an alternative. It would also be nice to be able to alter the design of the tumbleweeds if I could find an alternate cooking source and use that extra space for more food and supply storage.

    I figure that the little tumbleweed could be used as a shed or a surprise guest house or something when I am done using it. It would also be nice to have if I ever had to bug out for whatever reason.

    #41884

    Chowan – We once had hail here that big. I figure that it was probably a once in a lifetime sort of freak hail storm but it also reminds me that it is best to be prepared for anything then to be out of luck if and when something terrible happens. I don’t know if I will wind up staying here in Utah and I will probably move but since I love having snow in the winter I know that I will likely move to somewhere cold and I should prepare for that.

    Portable solar panels that I could take down and throw in my tiny home and move in the event of an emergency would be a good thing to have. I can work on having the nice wind power generators when I set up my dream place.

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