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Home Forums General Discussion Would anyone live without electricity?

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  • #64881
    rustyfingers
    Participant

    I beleive most of us would be capable of addapting to living without electricity should/if/when the time comes that electricity isn’t available for whatever reason. I know that I myself would be fine. However I don’t think that I would voluntarally do so.

    I enjoy having & using it for all kinds of reasons, whether at my home in town or at my acreage in the wilds. While in the wilds though, I know it would have been far more complicated to achieve my “off-grid status” without electricity. It was used to create my solar panels, my batteries, my generator, etc… Without these items, a “lot” of people wouldn’t have elected to be “off-grid” to begin with! It is “only because of these items”, many of these messages are sent &/or received.

    Electricity has made it possible for me to become as efficient as I have. Basically all of the knowledge I’ve gained to date, to maintain my lifestyle now, I owe to the internet & sites like this one. Not 100% of it all, but damn near!

    It wouldn’t hurt my feelings none-at-all though, if the “Grid” system did collapse & our next generation “had to” learn how to survive without the “easy-come-easy-go” attitude most of my generation has come to know & worship!

    #65114
    Cyndi Jenkins
    Participant

    I became a member here just to answer this question. I am able to get on the internet briefly before and after work and was making a post to our website. I searched for something on Google and ended up here. I am glad I did.

    I made the voluntary choice to begin living 100% at home without electricity about 3 years ago. I have not regretted it a single day since. I won’t bore you with information found on our website, but I did want to address the question. It has always been a desire of mine since a young adult to live without electricity. As I was taking my Mother to chemo, she mentioned she had the same dream. When she was dying, not going back to her birthplace and living that dream was her only regret. I had the chance to try it and did not want my dream to also turn into a regret some day. My fiance’ gave me a year. If he could not handle it, we were to get electricity. It has been 3 years now and well….we have no desire at all for it.

    We do not use alternative energy. We have a root cellar, process most of our own foods, we get our water from a spring, we use candles and oil lamps, we use wood heat and I cook on a wood cook stove. We raise farm animals and can and process everything we can.

    I thought my grandkids would never want to come to my house again. I was very wrong, they never want to leave. My grandson named our old farm house The Broken House because it was 100 years old, in bad shape and has no electricity. The name stuck and that is what we call our farm.

    We both work outside jobs and the goal is to get the farm paid off as fast as we can, so we can enjoy more time at our non electric home.

    I chose to live this way from a dream, always wondering if it was as good as I imagined it would be, if I could really do it. It has not always been perfect, trust me. Our first house was a disaster financially, as I never pressured for paperwork and we ended up having to tear it down and move. (that story is on the website). If anything was going to break us, that would have been it. But when we got the old farm house, it was wired for electric and we had to make the decision. It took only seconds to decide we had no desire to have electricity. It has a toilet inside as well. I hated it. We jerked it out, sat it in the barn and got our outhouse put up as soon as possible.

    We have struggles and there are times I wonder “what was I thinking”, but we love our lifestyle. I am 49 and he is 38. It gets tough some days. We are certainly not ready to give it up, not even ready for some solar power or wind power. We are enjoying life as it is right now, so why change it?

    As for why? I don’t know. I am not some freak or anything. I work a 40 hr week job as a social worker for mentally retarded adults. I have daughters who are very modern and love life in town WITH electric. But I always wanted this and feel very fortunate that I am blessed to live it….and love it.

    #65119
    Felix
    Participant

    Hi everyone, this is my first post here. I currently do not live off-grid, but have been planning to do so this year.

    “Can you live without electricity?”

    Yes. Do you really want to, is the hard question. The next question I believe truly depends on your location as to how realistic it is to have zero electricity. In the 90’s I lived on Guam and a typhoon knocked the power out for 2 months. We lost water for 2 or 3 weeks as well. What a great experience!

    A lot of people have said, “Gotta have my TV & internet”, who doesn’t? BUT…when something happens to the grid and there isn’t TV or internet all of a sudden, it will be kind of pointless to be all set up for that and not even be able to use it.

    Once you unplug from TV and internet, you can do without most things relatively easily.

    Refrigeration…this really depends on location. If you live in a colder climate most of the year, you can easily skip having an electrical refrigerator. If the beers cold, the beers cold. Hot climate, I’d try to have a fridge.

    #65121
    moguitar
    Participant

    Living off grid with clean electricity is easy, anyway. It is nice to find out the weather forecasts and be in touch on the internet, and use LED or CFLs for reading and seeing at night. Food storage requires either a Sun Frost or other super efficient electrical refrigerator or a propane one that only uses 1.1 pound of propane daily. Cooking with a solar oven is nice on days we can, but on other days a gas range works efficiently and well. The self heating and cooling of an Earthship is much more preferable than a frame house or tent. Using a compost toilet and composters does not use electricity and rebuilds the soil which has been 2/3rds depleted or more by human flush and forget overpopulation. Low water use and gray water use help a lot, too.

    Backpacking trips are one thing: it is great to be away from people and live primitive for a while. Usually “permanent campers” pollute terribly with trash and excrement/urine buildup, and depletion of wood in the area. That is why Indian tribes were nomadic. By the time they got back to the area, the game had multiplied back and all their trash and excrement had biodegraded. Trees and vegetation had grown back.

    That nomadic camping out permantly type life is no longer possible in this overpopulated world of property rights, and the concept of land ownership, even in common. Permanent camping is not allowed in Nationally owned land, state lands, and on private land in every county,or other local government area that I know of, there are usually two week limits.

    #65124
    woodsworker
    Participant

    Just joined here! I am now finishing a rustic, secluded, but grid-connected owner-built home, certainly have no cash or financing left for PV panels/batteries/controllers etc. after having over-extended myself to build this structure. I am planning to move and build very basic/cheap off-grid shelter with the intent to expand/upgrade as time/money may allow. To answer the question, yes, of course there are folks who would choose to go without any electrical energy in their homestead, I understand this is now being called “off-off-grid” and I support the right to choose it in the strongest possible terms. Sorry if it’s out of line for a newbie to jump in like this, but I am seriously bummed by the prejudice I am seeing on here against it, and the (elitist and authoritarian, IMO) concerns about it being illegal. It is our human heritage to live this way if we so choose. It is in fact the only lifestyle that is possible for much of the world’s population. Also it can be a way for one to simply exist for a time (or permanently, if need be) in what can be a very harsh world when sufficient money is unavailable to set up photovoltaic systems, which are quite difficult for some of us to afford. If the type of collapse that some of the gloom-and doom crowd envisions were to come about, many people living middle-class grid-connected lifestyles at present may be learning to dig pit privies for themselves! Having said all this, let me point out that I would not choose it (voluntarily) for myself, I am fascinated by independant home energy systems and furthermore I am taking a serious look at getting into alternative energy as a career. But I repeat, doing without any and all modern devices is an honorable personal choice, and the ultimate expression of voluntary simplicity.

    #65125
    woodsworker
    Participant

    Forgive me, but I simply must say more: What would you have a low-income person who wishes to provide for their own needs and has somehow managed to purchase, finance or barter a piece of the Earth for themselves do? Would it be preferable to have them stay in the city in subsidized (or substandard)housing? This subject strikes me keenly, my wife broke off a friendship recently in a situation where the friend had reported an unemployed neighbor to the county government for living in a school bus on private property without “utilities”, ironically enough the friend was not really living above poverty level herself. Nothing worse than a snitch. Yes, old-time country folks are often unaware of how so many of their actions negatively impact the planet, yes, with the increased population today we need to be careful about runoff, effluents, etc., and certainly there would be disease if everyone were to return to using an outhouse, but I don’t believe we are talking about everyone doing so. I do not mean to dismiss the concerns expressed above, but over an hour after first having read through the comments, the superior tone remains offensive.

    #65126
    woodsworker
    Participant

    Would like to clarify – rereading this morning I find that the comments that drew my attention were primarily located on the “how long have you been living off-grid? thread, and in particular were responses to the posts of member Cyndi Jenkins (above and whose choices I, again, strongly support). I may appear a little off for reacting so strongly to most of this thread’s posts. Check the other one to see what I am referring to, please. There is actually a lot of good information on this thread. I would, however, take exception to moguitar’s statement “Living off-grid with clean electricity is easy”. Easy if you have a good income, maybe. Yes, I am aware of the existence of incentives and tax credits for alternative energy installations. Don’t you have to have the money (or financing) up front then get re-imbursed later? I should already know the answer to that, but I don’t. All I am saying is alternative energy, while of course not like driving an Escalade or some such garbage, is nonetheless a bit of a rich man’s club, and I don’t appreciate the condescending attitudes to those who can’t afford the price of admission or who would choose something simpler..

    #65127
    WrethaOffGrid
    Participant

    Well said woodsworker. :)

    Wretha

    #65129
    woodsworker
    Participant

    Thanks TreasureGift.

    Saw the logo depicting the tiny house with left-over paint and the modest little Samurai next to it and thought I had found my kind of place. Got on this forum and feared I had made a mistake. Guess maybe I was right after all.

    I would recommend those fortunate enough to have an independent energy system to consider having a contingency plan for living without electricity. No telling what may lie ahead.

    Peace, Matt

    #65131
    WrethaOffGrid
    Participant

    Matt, don’t let that one person run you off from here, we want all sides, all opinions, there are no right or wrong ways to live. My place is small, off grid, rough around the edges, many would not be comfortable living like we do, but it’s our choice and we aren’t bothering anyone else.

    For us, it would be a small adjustment but we could live without electricity just fine.

    Wretha

    #65134
    freeman-on-the-land
    Participant

    our family is prepared to live without electricity,if we have no money we sometimes have none,but we have lamps and a wood burner in our council house.

    #65139
    moguitar
    Participant

    Woodworker took exception to my saying “Living off grid with clean electricity is easy”. I think it is, red positive, black negative, and don’t let them touch!!!

    He said he self built a secluded cabin grid connected. I wonder how much it cost to bring in grid electricity…. With me, the power company, from coal fired plants, wanted $4,975 to bring grid electricity to my house. The rules were such that anyone spending less than $5K to get power could not share the cost with a tap fee to others building nearby. I was a “hard corps” Real Goods member and wanted to walk the talk, and this cinched the deal. I spent $9,300 for a full tracking glass panel array, charge controller, twin DR2424s com linked for 232VAC for my deep well pump, and 8- L16 batteries in two 24VDC banks. Subtracting what I would have spent left $4,325, with average area electric bills at $100+ per month, the break even point was 43 months, and another 24 months for energy of manufacture. People with the illusion that solar power was expensive and necessary, devalued the lot next door from 18K to 3.5K which I bought it for. Getting absolute water rights meant that anyone within 600 feet had to use a cistern with bought water. So, in reality, going solar and getting water rights paid for both the well and the rest of the solar from day one in savings on the lot I later bought and annexed. The initial loans were high interest until I got refinanced. The low mortgage payments (from sweat equity, too) and no electric bill allowed savings to build up and lump sum big payments to get rid of the mortgage 8 years after we moved in. Sure, being a carpenter foreman and remodeling multi-tradesman helped a lot. Sweat equity buildup is variable with each person’s strengths and learning ability. Initial loans are dependent on a person’s history of financial responsibility. Note that I got no government help at all. This area just did not have incentives at the time I built.

    The initial small frame house was followed by a rammed earth tire retaining/bearing wall for a garage/BR/Bath addition. This was concurrent with more rammed earth/tire/soil cement retaining walls and the Earthship outbuilding. What took me 15 minutes of envisioning while looking at the initial lot became a reality after 3 years of working weekends and after work. I worked smarter, not harder, when I could, but it was a ball buster. I felt it was God’s Will for me. My wife and young son were my helpers, along with a little labor trade, and the all important spiritual help.

    Being a former flight instructor/combat aviator, whose initial career was ruined by affirmative action’s reverse discrimination, and the fallacy of the promise of veteran’s preference, lead this combat disabled (from being shot down flying unarmed medical evacuation, with compressed back and broken lower 2 lumbar cartilages) to my first job as a carpentry slave at 15, and A++ drafting student who drew the plans used for a 5 bldg. 60 unit project at 17.

    I was in a great deal of pain, starting this place two years after I quit drinking (which I used to kill the pain for many years).

    Do God’s Will, as long as it is not delusion. Find out the local laws and conditions (like radon in the rocks, real water availability, etc). If you want to live without electricity, go ahead(and don’t poison yourself with lamps that give off carcinogens/CO). If the state allows personal use of rainwater, or your local stream—it is sure cheaper than a well, as long as you know your water(no pesticides, mercury, septic organisms, etc). Compost toilets work great and don’t require electricity as long as they are at room temperature. For outhouses, understand your soil’s characteristics for subsurface effluent flow. If you are really poor, work hard and save. Learn as fast as you can, use the public library. Ask for help. Many places have active orgs to help build for the poor. As far as alternative energy systems, shop around to avoid the rip-offs, and remember that about half the cost is “professional” installers when the laws may allow the owner/builder to do it.

    #65140
    woodsworker
    Participant

    Quick reply for Moguitar…This little place had a power line right-of-way already running through it, I had just 140 feet to go through the woods to connect to my service entrance, I would have gone solar “straight out of the box” otherwise as I am 3/4 mile from the road. You certainly do have a lot of good advice above, for example, I agree constant use of oil lamps can be problematic, I don’t want to breathe the fumes either. Still confused how someone who has basically nothing to spare at the end of most months is going to be able to save enough money for a major project. Many people will never earn a decent wage, way too many jobs simply don’t have a path for advancement, and it is getting worse not better. In my case, the only reason I have my own place at all is having inherited my parent’s place years ago, feel I got it fair and square, gave over three years as caregiver to my Mom while she was on a respirator at home dying of emphysema. Anyway, sincere congratulations on what you have achieved, believe me when I say not everyone is up to that level of effort, I certainly am not, that’s why I stress the value of simpler and cheaper choices. I don’t believe off-grid and self-reliance should be only for middle income folks, I for one don’t aspire to ever be in that club.

    #65141
    Dustoffer
    Participant

    Actually, my wages as a foreman stagnated because of the invasion from 1983 on. I HAD to design and build my own place, ALL of the trades, legally through owner-builder regulations. I HAD to take out a high interest loan and max out several credit cards, and live only on sale items. I had to sacrifice to live green.

    Those of even lower income, or less talent, or less energy, will have even more of a difficult time.

    As a general contractor for Earthship/straw bale independent homes with “variable owner involvement”, I found that most people want everything done for them, and thus much less affordable housing. The old can-do pioneer spirit is mostly gone, unfortunately.

    It is still alive and well in us off-gridders. The independent spirit and hard work attitude is prevalent here.

    I had a new awakening when I first read the “Realgoods Solar Living Sourcebook” and “Earthship” from the public library in 1993. I found kindred people, and a dream was born.

    I never planned on getting involved with the internet, and it took my son’s urging 4 years after building the initial house, to add on one more power sucker. The solar electric expanded with sales, faster than foreseen. The garage/addition became independent and so did the Earthship. Then the prices went up substantially.

    If I were in a situation where I built my own house with close by grid electric instead, and was on a tight budget, I would get the how to book and DVDs for $37 lowest price, on building my own high quality panels for 1/6th the cost. Noting, of course, the disclaimer below.

    #65146
    woodsworker
    Participant

    Feel like I subverted this thread, sorry for that. Anyway, I sympathize/agree with all you are saying in that post, Dustoffer. Most people won’t do much for themselves these days, I did do all of it, (it’s a pole house on a steep slope above a creek) I cut down the trees, skidded them with a little tractor, ran them through a Woodmizer I got in a trade years ago, framed it, designed/built hardwood interior, did all plumbing and elec too. Am in debt at 51 for the first time in my life, and am willing put up with pretty crude living conditions if necessary in order to avoid debt next time. That’s what I was getting at in my posts above. And it has been a lot more work, a lot more time, than I want to have wrapped up in any one single material thing in my life, again I am looking to be happy with a very small off-grid cabin and no bills. Another thing, in this East Tennessee county, at least when I started in 2002 there were no building codes at all. Septic permit/inspection, same for elec., nothing at all for the structure. I will probably have to go through all the BS in order to be legitimate where I intend to be building next time (out west), don’t want to worry about them coming down on me at a later date. But I would rather risk “camping” indefinitely than pay interest again, I just can’t afford it. Lastly, need to point out we were only about 6 months into this project when we realized this part of the country wasn’t right for us, I have been struggling for years to complete something that might hopefully sell for enough money for us to realize our dream somewhere else, and it is (almost) done now. While I could never see myself as a foreman of anything, I very much want in the near future to work on the kind of projects you mention, something that tries to make a difference.

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