What Should You Know About Building Off the Grid?
A lot of off-grid properties have homes ready for moving in. But, if you want to build an off the grid home yourself, you have to address a few things, like:
Where Will You Move To?
Before you start planning anything, you need to think about your location.
Are you going to live in the same state or move somewhere else? It’s up to you to choose whether to live someplace colder or settle down in a warmer area. Once that’s been decided, you can start looking for land. You should keep the following in mind when doing so:
- Available water sources like rivers, streams, or wells
- The plants that dot the place
What Materials Will You Use to Make Your Home?
There are all kinds of building materials out there.
Many people who decide to make the leap to off-grid living choose to build their homes using materials like local timber or reclaimed wood. These materials are cheaper than other building materials. Plus, it’s easier to transport them.
But, for other types of off-grid homes like tiny houses, yurts, and earthships, salvaged and upcycled materials are the way to go. If you haven’t realized it by now, most off the grid homes are built using eco-friendly resources.
Is Construction Legal?
Just because you’re living off the grid doesn’t mean you’re free from the law. The law can find you and track you down, way better than the zombies can, so you’ve gotta stick to it.
Before you move into your off-grid cabin, make sure you’ve checked the laws and regulations for that region, county, and state. There are certain building codes and zoning codes you need to follow.
If you decide to look for off-grid homes for sale instead, check this out:
Where Can You Find Off-Grid Homes for Sale?
You can browse different websites to find potential off-grid homes. We’ve shared some sites below to help you get started:
Yeah, Zillow is a mainstream real estate website. But, you can use its advanced search feature to check out off-grid land and properties. If you know how to use the filters correctly, you’ll be able to narrow down your quest for off-grid land.
To start, try removing condos, apartments, and townhomes under the home type category. Then, set the lot size to 10+ acres. This will take out most of the suburban lots from your search. 1+ acre or 5+ acres can work, too, depending on where you plan on settling.
The last thing to do is to type in keywords under “more filters.” Try adding “grid.” Congrats, you’ve got yourself a custom search. Now, most of the properties that show up will be off the grid.
Sustainable Properties Real Estate Listings
On the Sustainable Real Estate website, it says that they feature off-grid, survival, sustainable, and alternative energy properties. And, since their listings include the entire US of A, you’ll have a lot of options than if you were to check out regional off-grid real estate listings.
From the name alone, you’d know that this real estate website is meant for survivalists and preppers. You can find pretty impressive compounds here and the best thing is most of them are off-grid. The site lists properties from every US state and even overseas options.
How weird would it be to find your off-grid home from some random Facebook group? It’s probably not the first thing that you’d think of, but you’ll never know what you can find.
Just search Facebook for off-grid land for sale and we’re pretty sure a lot of groups will appear. We’d like to put it out there, though, that Facebook listings can be sketchier than an Etch A Sketch, so proceed with caution.
In the next section, we take a look into the different kinds of off-grid homes. Ready? Let’s dive right in:
What Are the Different Types of Off-Grid Homes?
Off the grid homes come in all kinds of shapes, sizes, and designs. Some look exactly what you’d expect off-grid homes to be while others actually look like homes you’d find in the suburbs.
Check out these examples:
Does the idea of paying a mortgage make you wanna pull all your hair out? You’re not the only one. There’s been a trend of people who buy or build houses smaller than the size of your usual living room.
While living in a tiny space is a major adjustment, it’s not impossible. You just gotta adopt a different mindset. Think about it. Looters would likely target big houses when SHTF, so you’ll be happy you decided to downsize.
Another nice thing about tiny houses? Some of them are mobile, so you can hook them up to your car whenever you feel the urge to travel.
You can say that cabins are the rustic siblings of tiny houses. Think pioneers living in the 1800s and early 1900s and you’ll get an idea of what it’s like to live in an off-grid cabin.
Many people like staying in a cabin during the summer season, but there are some who do spend their time in a cabin year-round.
What’s nice about this particular off-grid home is that it’s already built. It’s also secure and easy to transport. And since you’re most likely used to living in square or rectangular-shaped houses, you won’t have a hard time adapting to a smaller space with its shape.
If you want a bigger structure, you can stack different shipping containers together.
Now, you’re probably wondering about temperature in shipping container homes. Well, if we’re being honest, it’s quite difficult to control it since the metal they’re made of can absorb heat and cold well.
This may just be a deal breaker for some, but if you can find a way around it, then go ahead and call it home.
Yurts are like tents, but sturdier and a little fancier. Typically, they’re built with lattice walls, a circular wood frame, and some sort of fabric cover.
What’s nice about yurts is that they’re built on a platform, meaning they have minimal impact on the land. This makes them more friendly to the environment than the average Joe’s home. They’re also much cheaper—you can get a yurt at a fraction of the cost you’d pay for a house in the suburbs.
The downside about yurts? You’ve gotta be ready to make friends with rodents, insects, and other animals since yurts fall somewhere between residing in a modern home and camping. Yurts also aren’t soundproof. Other disadvantages are lack of privacy and storage space.
If you love nature, camping, and living a simple life, yurt living may just be your cup of tea.
Sound like something out of a science fiction movie? In reality, they’re not that out of this world.
Earthships are essentially shelters made of upcycled and natural materials like earth-packed tires. They’re self-sufficient and comfortable, making them a perfect choice for people who want to live off-grid without sacrificing the luxuries of modern life.
If Frodo could live underground, then what’s stopping you from following in his footsteps?
The nice thing about an underground house is its insulation. It can keep you cool in the winter and warm in the summer. Another plus? Privacy. Since you’re underground and won’t easily be seen, people won’t be bugging you much.
The homes above may look unique from one another, but they share common characteristics that make them different from your average home. Read on to discover some of these features:
What Features Should Off-Grid Homes Have?
Off the grid homes need to be very conservative with water and energy. That’s why a lot of things unique to these homes focus on stuff like water collection, heating and cooling, and power efficiency.
That being said, you may want to consider the following features:
Off-grid homes need really thick insulation. The ones constructed for traditional homes simply won’t cut it. This allows you to preserve heat from the sun during winter. At the same time, it keeps your house from getting too hot in the summer.
Since you can’t connect to the power grid, you need to generate electricity on your own. How else will you power up all your appliances and charge your devices?
You need a power generation system (with backups) in place. Depending on the amount of power you’ll be using, a few 250-watt solar panels and a 250-500 watt wind turbine would be enough for your home.
It’s good to have a wind turbine as a backup for the solar panels and vice versa. You’ll never know when the sun decides it doesn’t wanna shine. The same thing goes for the wind. That’s why you need to have both solar panels and a wind turbine.
When you live on the grid, you can take a shower without having to think twice about where your water is coming from. It’s a whole different story once you’re off the grid.
Having said that, you’ll need to decide on an off-grid water system that best fits your needs. You’ll have to weigh in location, budget, and preferences.
Wells are great, though they can quickly get expensive. The more its depth increases, the higher its cost. On the flip side, rainwater catchment systems give you a practically free water source. But this means you’ll have to be dependent on rainfall.
You may need to use a combination of well water, buying and storing water, rain catchment systems, and water filters to ensure you’ll have enough water year-round.
Waste Disposal and Septic System
You can escape from society, but you can’t run away from waste disposal. Your home should have some kind of composting waste disposal in place or you can make a traditional septic system.
Whatever you choose, just remember to follow local and federal guidelines. And aside from the law, it’s simply gross to put all your waste into a hole and wish for the best.
It’s not wrong, but don’t make the mistake of doing it near your water source. Please just do yourself a favor, though, and build a working septic system.
There’s a high chance your wood stove will be your home’s centerpiece. In the harsh winter months, this is one of the most effective ways to keep your home heated. Your stove needs to be heavily insulated to maximize your limited wood supplies.
Tankless Hot Water Heater or Solar Water Heater
Compared to your usual hot water heaters, tankless heaters start the heat only when the water is running. With a heater like this, you get to save a lot of energy without needing to deal with unpleasant cold showers.
Heat Recovery Ventilator (MVHR)
Wanna save even more energy on heating? Of course, you do.
What you’d want to do is move the heat from your outgoing hot air into your incoming cold air when it’s winter. A heat recovery ventilator helps you do this by seizing the remaining heat before it escapes your home.
What Else Do You Need?
Besides the features we mentioned, you also need to factor in the following:
- Food: How will you get food? Are you going to grow your own fruits and veggies? Forage for food? What about raising livestock?
- Money: How will you make a living off-grid? You still need money in case of emergencies.
- Staying Connected: How will you contact the people you want to keep in touch with? You’ll want to consider getting a satellite phone and a ham radio. And, of course, WiFi.
Living off the grid is simple. Just move to the outskirts, build or buy a home, put in some solar panels, gather rain, raise some animals, and what-not.
We’re sorry to say it, but this isn’t Little House on the Prairie.
Ask anyone living off the grid (if you could reach them) and they’ll tell you it’s easier said than done. A lot of planning and prepping will go into making that transition. And even once you’re off-grid, you’ll still need to maintain your home.
But, all your efforts will pay off—whether that means becoming more self-sufficient, saying goodbye to a mortgage, or escaping a pandemic.