Energy security and the energy transition has been catapulted into the limelight over the last year, and the idea of living off the grid has grown to become quite fashionable.
People like to talk about it, but few actually go ahead and do it. Why? Because it's a challenge. Actually, it's a series of challenges, and while a challenge or two adds spice to life, not everyone is ready to tackle the multiple challenges of off-grid living.
Be that as it may, off-grid living is a great way to put the principles of sustainable living into practice. If you care about sustainability, off the grid is where you need to go. Especially since the challenges off-grid living presents are also a major opportunity to regain your independence.
Just think about all the bills most of us pay every month: electricity; water; gas; cable TV and streaming services we just can't seem to give up. If you go off-grid, you'd need to be more frugal with everything, but people who have done it swear it's made their life much better.
So, where do you start if you've decided to get off the grid? If you already have a piece of land, you've completed step one. If you're an urban dweller determined to get off the grid, you'd need to buy a parcel of land and make sure it's the right kind of land.
There are lots of instructions about this online that will help you choose the best location depending on whether you've decided to go all-in on the off-grid adventure or just partially while you remain part of a bigger community.
After the land comes the house. According to people who have done the transition from on-grid to off-grid living, it's best if you build your own house so you can make sure its design corresponds to your off-grid plans. Related: U.S. Drilling Activity Slips Further
For instance, if you're going full-renewable, you'd want your windows oriented in such a way as to be able to collect the most heat and light from the sun as it travels the sky. You'd also want a small house rather than a sprawling old mansion because it's a lot easier and cheaper to heat a small house.
Speaking of heating, a solar installation is a must if you're going off the grid for environmental purposes. You can have a rooftop system installed and couple it with a solar water heater and a battery for when the sun goes down. It won't be cheap, but it's the only investment you'd need to make in your energy supply. You're off the grid now. No more monthly bills.
Some people who move off the grid are not doing it strictly for environmental reasons. They do it for energy security reasons—for instance, when they live in storm-prone areas. In that case, solar could be part of your energy system, with the other two parts being a diesel generator and a propane tank.
Remember, it always pays to have a backup, especially if your chosen place for off-grid living is in a temperate rather than a tropical climate zone. No amount of battery power can save you from freezing in a proper Midwest winter.
Some consider a wind turbine a good backup for the solar panel system, but that's a risky one. Times when neither the sun shines nor the wind blows do happen, and if you're entirely reliant on them, you're out of power. If you're fine with that, then you have no problem, but if you do use electricity on a daily basis, you might want to consider a more reliable backup.
The other thing we all use on a daily basis is water. Water's a bit more tricky than electricity because if you're totally off the grid, you don't have access to the pipeline network. This means you'd need to make your own sewage system—a septic tank or an outhouse (like in the olden days!)—and find a source of drinking water for your daily needs, such as a private well.
Rainwater collection is one way if your area gets sufficient rainfall. There are plenty of rainwater collection system options out there, which is great. If you're short on rain in your area, however, you might need to invest in drilling a water well (if it's allowed) or find a nearby spring, which is not really optimal. Off-grid living is fine, but going 100% back to the 18 century? Not so much. That's why it's important to pick your location well.
Perhaps the best part about off-grid living is the food part. When you have a patch of land, you can grow your own food. It may sound romantic and healthy, but you should be prepared for a lot of work because that's what growing food involves. The work is often of the back-breaking kind. It never really ends, but the rewards are worth considering.
First, homegrown food is healthier – you know exactly what's in it, so to speak, and what's in it is whatever you have put in the soil, whether compost and organic fertilizers or synthetic ones, if you so choose.
Second, the more self-reliant you are for your living basics, the less vulnerable you are to inflation trends in the economy. This is valid for both energy and food.
Third, depending on the size of your land and your own ambitions, you can turn your self-sufficiency into a business.
By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com
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