Living off the grid

Published on 3 December 2023 at 10:01

Does the idea of living off the grid sound appealing to you? Are you seeking to disconnect from the rigors—and utility lines—of traditional spaces and forge ahead on your own?

Living off the grid has an allure of peaceful stress free living, freedom from utility bills, and personal autonomy -- doing things YOUR way.

Living on the grid gives you access to unlimited electricity, heat, water, and were free water, and sewer processing. When you choose to live off grid, all of those things become your responsibility.  

What does living “off the grid” really mean?

To live off the grid means to subsist outside of the confines of traditional utility structures—including municipal electricity, water, gas, and sewer systems.

The provision of the conveniences of modern life provided by traditional utility services becomes the complete responsibility of the occupant(s). Off the grid dwellers must find their own means of providing essential services. Some means of procuring and storing electricity and water must be employed, or in many cases, those who are living off the grid simply go without, particularly when it comes to things such as home Internet services and phone lines.

I discovered there are both benefits and drawbacks to the off the grid lifestyle. It's all well and good to want to live more sustainably and purposefully. It's often an opportunity to form a deeper connection with nature and to reduce your perdonal carbon footprint. It seems like a way to save big on energy expenses  

In order to truly survive off the grid, it means having to do without all the modern conveniences made possible by  having unlimited access to electricity. Washing machines, air conditioners and microwaves Use a tremendous amount of electricity. You won't have the professional support system that comes with being connected to municipal utility systems. If your well dries up or your solar system fails, there won’t be a city department automatically dispatched to fix it. Off grid life put all of the responsibility (and cost involved) in setting up your infrastructure, and running your household far more judiciously with regards to electrical power and water use. 

How much does it cost to live off the grid?

Living off the grid will set you free from monthly utility bills, but there are a lot of infrastructure costs to consider, and it’s not as easy—or as cheap—as simply unplugging from the grid!

Off the Grid Solar System

To outfit the average family home one might expect to spend between $45,000 and $65,000 For the components of an off-grid solar system. There are programs which offer pre rebates, tax credits, and federal incentives, but the requirements to qualify, for these generally cannot be met by someone living outside of a Municipality. Living within a municipality, and setting up your own off grid, system is generally not allowed unless your system is hooked up to the local utility company. In such an arrangement as this, you sell your surplus power to the utility company and buyback power when your system isn't providing what you need. This is a kind of hybrid off grid system, which allows you to take advantage of the best of both worlds. It doesn't usually free you however from a monthly utility bill.

To truly live off grid, most people have to move outside of the municipality and into a rural area.

The cost of your personal utility infrastructure will go up the more electricity you need to power your home, so if your property is larger or you have more people living in it, you’ll likely end up needing to spend more.

Most people need to include a generator in their infrastructure as a back up to their solar power system, to charge the batteries on those days when the sun is above a substantial cloud cover, reducing the capacity of the solar panels to produce electricity to be stored.  

Private Well

On average, it costs Between $5000 and $100,000 to drill a private well, depending on how deep your well has to be dug, to reach your water table. On average, it costs between $30 per foot and $50 per foot to dig a well. 

You can, of course, set up water, catchment systems with cistern to store the water that you catch during the rain season, or to hold the water that you haul in, or have trucked into your property. Water storage totes and cisterns Will cost you between $150 and $4500 depending on the size of the cistern or water tote. The greatest cost of having water trucked in to fill your water cisterns/totes is the transport cost, not the actual price of the water. 

Septic System

The average cost for a complete septic system, which would including a leach field, tank, and piping Is between $25,000 and $100,000 Depending on the quality of your soil, the size of your leach field, and the type and quality of your septic tank. There are alternatives, including composting toilets with greywater systems, but you’ll have to be a bit more involved in the disposal of your graywater and composting matter. 


It can be difficult to procure off grid home insurance, and in some cases can be very costly, depending on your choice of home heating methods -- a diesel, gas or propane furnace or heating stove, or a wood powered stove, and other heating solutions each create different insurance implications.

All of these costs don’t mean that moving off the grid has to be cost prohibitive. It’s important to budget carefully and to know what you’re getting into, especially if one of your main intentions is to transition to a more affordable lifestyle.

Is it LEGAL to live off the grid?

There’s nothing illegal about living off the grid so long as you have the proper permits for any improvements that you set up and are paying property taxes. Where things can get tricky is if you’re living on land that you don’t own or actively rent, if your house doesn’t meet proper building codes, or if you’re using the land in such a way that isn’t supported by current zoning or use regulations.

Do you pay TAXES if you live off the grid?

Some things are unavoidable regardless of how and where you live, and that includes taxes. If you own your property then you’ll have to pay property taxes on it, and you may also face income taxes if you are producing anything on your land that you are also selling, such as crops or crafts.

Do off-grid homes need insurance? 

Yes, but you may be able to get a special discount for “going green” and investing in alternative energy sources. Keep in mind though that there are certain risks involved with living off grid that make standard providers hesitant to offer insurance—or at least to offer it cheaply.

Are you prepared and able to do the work required?

You will want to consider your lifestyle expectations and your budget, as well as what you can and can’t live without. There are other in-between options too, as evidenced by the rapidly growing popularity of van living.

Living off the grid isn’t easy by any means, but it can be incredibly rewarding. Do a lot of research, particularly research that takes into account where you live and the rules and regulations in your municipality. Some municipalities are more friendly for off grid enthusiasts than others. 

Will you put in a well or haul all your own water? Will you use solar, wind, or Hydro method to power your system? Do you know how much power the electrical conveniences you enjoy actually use?

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