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August 15, 2013 at 4:10 am #47447
Living off the grid carries different meanings for different people. Ultimately, it is the strive of independence. The degree is what is open to interpretation. It can range from simply reducing household bills by using solar energy to completely living off the land. Those who want to live off the grid also have different reasons for doing so. Say I wanted to erect solar panels and wind generators and connect them to my existing home. I’m technically off the grid and independent of the power company. Am I helping save the environment? No. I’d be saving money, though. At least I will be after the savings pays for the cost of the equipment I bought. The same concept applies if I drill a well for water. Eventually, I will save money.
Some people want to do more than that or have no choice. Some are simply overburdened with stress from the obligation to make more money. I will tell you right now…I HATE money. I have to have it and I HATE it. Some people have no choice as they have been laid off and face foreclosure and homelessness.
Whatever your reason for wanting your “independence”, I would like to make a suggestion. Buy an RV or camper. Take your time looking for the perfect one if you can. You can pick up an older used one for $1000 or less. The 31′ gooseneck camper that I’ve been living in for 2 years only cost me $200. It needs some work but I know how to fix stuff. Go camping! With a camper, It’s like a mini, self-contained house that you can take anywhere. There are campgrounds all over the place and they aren’t that expensive. Go ahead and cheat by hooking up to water and electric. Just get a taste. If you don’t like it, going completely over the edge may not be for you. Worst case, you sell the camper and get your money back and go about your life as it was.
If you are reading this, however, you’d probably LOVE being surrounded by trees and having campfires and feeling the freedom only found in the presence of nature.
Well, you want to go the next step?
Give up STUFF. For a short time, I made extra money by helping people move by using a large stakebed truck and trailer that I had. One phrase that I heard from everyone was “I didn’t realize I had so much STUFF”. I bet you that 90% of all that stuff consisted of items that they didn’t need and they paid me to move it to their new home. If you want to successfully live off the grid, get rid of it! You know that camper you bought? THAT could easily be your new home! You don’t need furniture. It already has it. All that STUFF you have will NOT fit. Have a yard sale. Put up ads on Craigslist or EBay. Sell all of your STUFF. Some of it will be painful to part with but you can use the money to invest in things that will help you more effectively.
The first time I moved into a camper, I rented a lot at a trailer park. It was relatively inexpensive. One flat price covered lot rent as well as water and electric. I learned how to live on 30 amps. I quickly discovered that running the AC, microwave and coffee pot at the same time was liable to make everything go dark. Power consumption became of utmost importance. Did you know that EVERY electrical device has a label on it that displays it’s power consumption? It is either in watts or amps. Here has been one of the most useful formula I’ve ever used:
VOLTS x AMPS = WATTS
Now, you could chose a campground or find a kind soul who will let you park it on their property. If you don’t have the means to buy alternate forms of energy, you can use the “grid” which will be very useful when your tin can of a home starts boiling in the summer heat. You can still maintain your current employment. Despite what many might perceive, you don’t have to save up a fortune before drastically changing your life in one fell swoop. You can do it gradually. It would be like slowly entering a frigid pool versus just diving in.
The next step requires some soul searching as it pertains to removing yourself from public utilities. You have to determine what you can and can’t live without and with that there must come much research. There are 3 main problems to contend with. 1.Water 2.Electricity 3.sewage. Although there are more, such as heating, cooking and cooling, they can possibly be solved in the solutions to other issues.
The reason I listed water as number one is that it is truly a pain in the groin. I have been living without a water hookup for 3 years. I use the awning of my camper to catch rainwater into buckets and pump it into my camper after applying a small amount of bleach. As a side note, if you over-bleach your water, just wait a day or so and the chlorine will evaporate to an acceptable level. A good rainstorm will fill a 35 gallon tank in less than an hour. You can get about 3 showers out of a tank that size if you do it right. It really isn’t much. I have to admit, I have cheated. I’ve taken showers at friends’ houses or filled my tank from the local gas station water spigot a number of times (with the owner’s permission, of course). Sometimes, weeks may go by without rain. Water is truly a pain.
Electricity is another problem. If you are living in a camper. it really isn’t too bad. The worst need for power is an air conditioner. Rooftop units are notoriously power hungry. Other power devourers are microwaves and coffee pots. There are all sorts of alternative ways of making electricity. The most common is solar energy. The system can get pretty pricy. There are other ideas that I have that include the use of a wood gassifier and /or HHO generator to run a generator. For a 30 amp service you’d need about a 4000 watt generator to handle all your power capacity. In reality, you will likely average 1/2 or less of that.
Sewage is also a problem. I admit I have never dealt with it. At the park, I piped it to the sewer system but when I moved to an empty lot, I just let it dump out on the ground. I did some research into this problem and the closest solution I came up with was a series of composting tanks that would actually manufacture natural gas while treating my sewage. The natural gas could be piped into the camper and used for cooking and heating water. It may even run the gas fridge or a power generator. Unfortunately, I have not progressed past research to buy the materials to actually experiment to see what capacity it may have. It could theoretically be the solution to cooking, heating and power.
All of these systems can be constructed and tested at your campground before you disconnect from the grid.
Once you get your “home” completely self sustaining, you can literally go anywhere. You can park it in the middle of a field miles away from humanity if you wish and have the comforts of home. You don’t like where you are living? No problem. MOVE! You Don’t even have to pack your stuff since you’re taking your whole house. The only reason you’d need to buy land is to raise food although I might have an idea of how to get around that but I can talk about that another time as this post is probably too long already.
If you are still reading, I commend you on your patience. The end result of this rant is that I recommend getting a camper. They come in various sizes to suit your needs and already have systems in place to help you make your transition to true off the grid living.
Thanks! Please comment. Is this a viable option for you? For those readers thinking about going off the grid, I’d love to know what your situation is such as how you feel now and what you want as your goal. For those who have done it, I’d love to know how you did it and how you started.August 15, 2013 at 4:10 pm #47453
You may also want to get a book “Total Money Makeover” By Dave Ramsey. http://www.daveramsey.com he also has podcast. You may enjoy many of my articles http://blog.larrydgray.net I have some on various types of modular construction, where you build with cash as you go. I also talk about all other off grid issues, food, water, energy etc.
I have a camper and I like it, but campers have their drawbacks. A camper is not exactly an energy efficient solutions in summer for example. And in winter you have to worry about pipes and water freezing up. However the mobility is the major plus. Unfortunately structures of any type cost a lot. From Pole barns at $20 a ft2 to used mobile homes at $20 ft2 to moderate small homes at $60 a ft2 to larger middle class homes at $120 a ft2. In home construction a rule of thumb might be 1/3 materials cost, 1/3 labor cost and 1/3 contractor cost. And that didn’t count the interested over 15 years or 30 years. In certain special situations you might get by cheaper.
I’ve been trying to figure out how to do things cheaper for years now as I drive down our nations roadways. I’ve seen unconventional designs here and there around the country. I’m not afraid to think out of the box. If you want to get by without banks and build what you want using your own labor then I suggest you find a location that is no where near city limits, in the county, not in a housing development. Check on county and state codes that might apply. Then you can build modular with cash as you go. And you can get away with some things in green design that you would want.
For starters I recommend paying cash for a used mobile home and cash to have it moved in and setup. Live in that while you work on the real dream home. I do recommend financing the land if you don’t have cash for it. Another alternative is to buy a used school bus and make it livable while you build the real home. An advantage to that is that it can be moved from shade to sun and sun to shade. A camper is yet the other alternative we already mentioned. I wouldn’t recommend building a home without being debt free first except for maybe the land.
I’ve been wanting to do this for years and ye t I’m still several years away from getting started. So “I feel your pain”.August 15, 2013 at 4:28 pm #47454
Depending on where you are talking about camp grounds are expensive, I mean RV parks, in my area $200 to $350 a month. My camper is on a friends lot right now. I pay him some for electric sometimes. I don’t pay him any lot rental. Instead I work on a garden where I hope he will get some food from.
When in comes to energy efficiency, energy production, water and septic off grid is an investment. It cost you more up front and pays you back over time. The average debt laden person wouldn’t be able to consider it, trapped by the grid.August 15, 2013 at 10:01 pm #47459
you left out those of us that just grew up off the grid and prefer it that way…lolAugust 21, 2013 at 11:19 am #47500
In my area, a basic apartment with utilities is at least $1000/month. There are a couple RV parks here that include all utilities for $500. That’s half the price. In comparison, that’s inexpensive. As you point out, the average person has more debt than assets. Unfortunately, we are in a debt based economy. The more debt you are in, the harder you work (in theory). There are gobs of people out there who would love to free themselves but don’t know how. There are only 2 ways I can think of. You either increase your income or reduce your expenses. It’s not so easy to increase your income. Typically, everyone’s main expense is the place where they lay their head at night. If you can figure out how to reduce that expense without ending up in a place riddled with crime and violence, you are making headway in your quest.
Yes, there are some who are off the grid. They always have been and love it. What I’ve noticed about the posts on here is that the majority of people here are not in that position. Most are in the planning stages. For me, a camper/RV is an integral part of that plan.August 31, 2013 at 3:35 pm #47504
Been off grid with my own solar, generator, battery bank system. been back in the box for some time now and looking to get back into been off grid , right now just getting security and food set up, next free energy transportation. all the same time i have been looking at different locations in north central wa right now. realstate needs money that i dont have a whole lot of to make such purchase right now but working on it….
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