There are 3 Main things to address:
Water and Septic
The total cost suggested for a family of four to build a new home off grid is $69,400* (*all costs are estimated. Actual costs varies depending on various factors.)
Living off the grid simply means having a self-sustaining domicile that is independent of outside utilities. While “preppers” and survivalists may initially come to mind, for many, the goal of living off the grid is simply to live healthier and leave a smaller environmental footprint. For example, Brad Waters, a contributing writer to Psychology Today, writes about two normal and healthy households who are doing what they can to be energy independent. These families are far removed for those who are preparing for doomsday or a zombie apocalypse. So would you start to move off the grid?
Utility bills vary widely, depending upon where a person lives, services available and the amount of use. The average household in the United States, despite the variance in costs, still spends about 54 percent of their utility bill just for electricity. Simply put, if you can reduce or cut-out the need to buy electricity, you can save a large amount of money every year. Here’s how you can do it:
While solar power can currently only produce about 7 kilowatts of power a day (in sunny and dry environments), the technology continues to improve every year. For a professionally installed 24-volt system, including a back-up generator, the total cost is estimated at $38,000. However, costs are expected to go down as solar panel use increases. Swedish retailer Ikea now sells solar panel kits in the United Kingdom and chances are there kits will be available in the United States soon enough.
Wind turbines might be a useful backup to solar, especially for stormy days. For the low estimated cost of $11,000, the choice is obvious.
Long before electricity, people used water for milling grains. If you’re close to a powerful river, why not add a water-powered generator? The cost can range from $6,470 to $55,400.
Water and Septic Are A Must
No one can live without water, so the importance of a good and clean water system is of the utmost importance. For drinking water, digging a well is the simple solution. In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency estimates that 15 percent of Americans already use wells for their drinking water. A simple solution for septic? Septic tanks are the tried and true method. Combined, expect to spend about $12,000 for both. Or if you are more adventurous, greywater systems or waterless composting toilets might be worth considering.
Once you have electricity and water, the next step is heat. Heat is needed not only to stay warm in the winter, but for cooking, heating your water and many other tasks. Wood has worked since the beginning of time, is relatively inexpensive and easy to find. A complete instillation of a wood oven will run about $3,700 and a years’ worth of fuel (if purchased) will average about $300. While this may seem like a natural option, the downsides of wood include the amount of heat produced, the space needed for storage and time needed to use it. Propane heat burns cleaner than wood, uses less space and costs about the same per a year.
Is that a price worth paying? What do you think? Is living simply and healthier, leaving a smaller carbon footprint something you would consider doing?
We are lucky in that we can do a lot of the work ourselves and so the only cost is buying materials and hiring equipment to set up. Plus there is only the two of us and not a family of four! We will most likely heat with propane and wood (we have a lot of trees we can get firewood from). We want to use solar (our friend is going to help us with installation) and we plan to have a water well, fingers crossed from a natural spring water source.
What’s the true cost of setting up Off Grid Living? We’d love to hear from you if you’ve done it or are planning to set up your own off grid home.