So, just what does that mean? I can tell you from personal experience and from the responses I have received from people over the years that it definitely has different meanings to different people. From living completely without any utilities, no electricity, water or gas (think hunter’s cabin, wood stove, candles or kerosene lamps, no running water…), to generating one or more of these items on site yourself (think solar panels, wind power, methane digester…), I even had one person say that for him, living “off the grid” meant living so remotely that the government couldn’t find you, essentially hiding from the world. For some people it brings up a picture of a hermit living in a shack on a remote location, others envision a state of the art home that independently takes care of the needs of all occupants from food and water to electricity.
Main Entry: off the grid
Part of Speech: adj
Definition: not requiring utilities such as electricity, water, etc.; also written off-the-grid, also called off grid, off-grid
Etymology: referring to grid, electrical interlocking system of transmission lines and power stations
The term off-the-grid (OTG) or off-grid refers to living in a self-sufficient manner without reliance on one or more public utilities.
Off-the-grid homes are autonomous —they do not rely on municipal water supply, sewer, natural gas, electrical power grid or similar utility services. A true “off the grid” or “off-grid” house is able to operate completely independently of all traditional public utility services. The idea has been recently popularized by certain celebrities including Ed Begley, Jr. who stars in Living With Ed television show on the Home & Garden Television network. Actress Darryl Hannah also promotes “off-grid” living and constructed her home in Colorado according to those principles.
As for myself, and I believe most people out there, generally living off grid means not being hooked up to the electric grid, that can also include not being hooked up to city water supplies, sewer, or gas. For us, my hubby and I, we are not hooked up to ANY utility, we don’t even have utility poles on our property, it came that way, we didn’t do anything special about it one way or the other.
I also hear words and phrases like ROI (Return On Investment), people want to know how much it would cost to convert their existing homes to alternative power like solar and such. Well, for most people, to convert their existing homes, especially those who are grid tied now, with all the energy hogs inside, it would cost more than they have to spend. That’s not to say that it can’t be done, it just can’t be done cheaply.
Now if you are willing to make some changes, perhaps some hard changes, it’s quite possible to live comfortably with a lot less, it’s just a matter of your mindset. You have to lose the “I have to have everything, every toy, every appliance, every energy sucking gadget” mindset. Do you really have to have that huge refrigerator and freezer? Really? Do you have to have a huge home theater system, TV, stereo, receivers, mega speakers…? Really? Do you have to have that big computer system with the huge monitor and all the energy sucking accessories? Really? Do you have to have __________? You fill in the blank. Really? What about your washer and dryer, all your electric kitchen gadgets? Really?
I’m not saying you should throw all of these appliances and electronics away, maybe it’s time to think about some backups that don’t rely on electricity. It can be as simple as a good set of knives with a sharpening tool to keep them in tip top shape, how about a charcoal hibachi or grill? How would you do laundry if you had no power?
What would you do, right now, if the power went off in your house, neighborhood, city, town, state? What would you do if it didn’t come back on? What good are all your toys now? All of your expensive foods in your giant freezer is thawing, you probably can’t even cook what you are losing because your electric range doesn’t work, your gas stove will not work either if you have the kind with an electric ignition, forget about the microwave. You can’t turn on your TV or stereo to find out what is going on, what’s worse is eventually your water will stop flowing, what do you think runs the pumping stations? Yes, electricity… As you sit in your now quiet house or apartment, or wander out into your quiet neighborhood, you see your neighbors walking around, chatting with each other, for many of you, it may be the first time you have met… how sad.
Now what, do you wait for the government to save you? Do you wait for the Red Cross, or some other agency to come in and hand out bottled water, flashlights, food, blankets if it’s in the winter, hand held fans if it’s summer… or maybe it’s the military, coming in to make sure none of you get out of hand, how long do you think it will be before people start rioting and looting when they are hungry, thirsty, scared, mad… think it can’t happen?
We are just one disaster, either man made or an act of God (as the insurance companies call it) away from a major catastrophe. With so many people crammed into cities, urban, suburban and even some rural areas, we would quickly run out of resources, food, water, fuel and the like.
Now what would happen if you were prepared for an emergency, whether it be local or global? What if you had some food put back, food that didn’t need to be refrigerated or heated to consume? What if you had some water put aside? How hard is that to do? Not hard at all. You don’t need to go all commando or live like some hermit in animal skins, eating worms.
What you do need to do is start now, don’t wait, start buying a few extra cans of food, start buying a few extra gallon jugs of water, have a source of lighting that isn’t dependent on the grid, get a regular, plug in phone, not a cordless one, get one that doesn’t rely on the electric grid to work, this way if the electricity goes off, as long as the phone service is still working, you can use your phone.
If, each week or payday, you put up just a little extra each time, you will be surprised at how much you will end up with. Be sure to rotate your food and water, after you have a good deal put aside, start using what you first put up, just be sure to continue adding to it.
You can also do this to eventually get off grid, start slowly, you don’t have to buy everything at once. You can purchase one component at a time, buy 1 solar panel, buy 1 inverter, buy some wire, do it a little at a time. If you run across a good deal on deep cycle batteries, buy what you can, just remember with the batteries, they need to be exercised, they don’t like sitting idle. You can purchase a trickle charger to keep them charged from the grid until you need it later.
Start small, consider taking one room or even a shed outside off grid, this will teach you a lot about how a larger system will work. A friend of mine added an extra circuit to his garage, one original set is for the regular grid tied system, the other system is a different color (outlets and such) and sit side by side with his on grid system, the secondary system is his off grid system, solar panels, deep cycle batteries and such. This way he has a choice to which one he wants to use, and he still has power if and when the electricity goes off. He is starting small, adding one component at a time. This is not expensive at all.
I can already hear the murmuring, what about those who live on a shoestring now? How can they do this? Well, I answer, how can you not? Who do you think is going to take care of you? Who will come to your rescue? Ok, maybe you can’t go out and buy solar panels and such, but you CAN buy a few extra cans of food, an extra bag of rice, beans and things like this. Go to the dollar stores, you can find cheap canned food, cheap rice, cheap beans, powdered milk, cheap seasonings and the like. Buy foods that don’t need to be refrigerated, one hint though, anything that runs the risk of being infested with bugs (weevils, beetles…), place in your freezer for a few days, then package it well so that it will not be re-infested. Unfortunately many of the things we buy from the store already has insect eggs in it, all they are waiting for is an opportunity to hatch and ruin your hard earned food. Freeze them when you first get them and they will not have the chance to decimate your food.
This will be your insurance against hunger, this isn’t just for the SHTF scenarios, perhaps you lose your job, or maybe you encounter an unexpected bill, how nice would it be to have one less worry, how you will eat… Unfortunately we live in a society that is becoming more and more socialistic in our thinking, we believe that there is always going to be a safety net to catch us if things go bad. Well, think about those countries that have recently had natural disasters, namely the earthquakes, think about how long it took for them to receive assistance from the wealthier countries, their own governments in shambles and unable to help. Now if one of those so called wealthy countries had a major disaster, who would come to our rescue? How long would it take if it happened at all? Would you be prepared to survive for a few days, a few weeks, how about months?
Instead of thinking about what you can’t do, start working on what you can do, the time to prepare is before it’s needed, don’t wait, do it now, for you family, for yourself, before it’s too late. Hope and pray for the best, prepare for the worst and you’ll survive nearly anything that might be thrown at you.
Read more by Wretha: http://www.www.off-grid.net/section/wretha/
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