Having your abode tied to the grid can definitely leave you vulnerable if things go wrong, but it also means having to abide by rules set by whoever’s in charge and often using resources in a less than environmentally friendly manner. Living off the grid provides independence from these problems. The term “grid” is derived from the electrical grid, but it includes a wide range of utilities such as water, sewage, food, and heat.
The idea of being tethered to the grid in general comes from the power grid. Two popular means of achieving of gaining independence in electricity are solar energy and wind turbines. Because the power produced by either method is intermittent, a backup energy source along with storage batteries are a necessity. Successfully living off the grid also involves getting by with less electricity consumption. Relying on technologies like LED lights and clothes lines is just as important as self-sufficient power generation.
Since living off the grid is practically synonymous with living in a rural area, a self-contained supply of water is often unavoidable. If there’s a surface water feature like a pond or creek on the property, everything’s set. More likely, a well needs drilling, and this will cost thousands of dollars to accomplish. The deeper the well, the more it costs, but the cleaner the water. An alternative with an ancient history is the cistern. This structure consists of a large storage tank, either above or below ground, that collects rainwater or snow melt. This method will require filtration and probably a pump.
Like water, rural lots are expected to deal with their own means of handling sewage in the form of septic tank. Having a septic tank on the property is a good reason to have the water well drilled as deep as possible. Along with the collection tank, septic systems need a large patch of ground to serve as a drainage field. Porous pipes are placed underground that distribute liquid wastes from the tank so they can be absorbed by the surrounding soil that neutralizes the contaminants.
Supplying your own food goes beyond just growing a garden and orchard. Along with fruits and vegetables, other staples like meat, eggs, and even milk are vital to well-balanced nutrition. Once food items are harvested, they’ll have to be stored. Everything from canning equipment to a root cellar are going to be part of a self-sufficient operation.
The biggest sources of home heating off the grid are liquid propane and firewood. While the price can be high, propane has the advantages of being odorless and amenable to co-generation. This technology kills two birds by using the fuel to run a generator while collecting the resulting heat to warm the home. For someone building a new home off the grid, supplemental heat can be supplied by passive solar heating. Basically, a south-facing house is designed to take in sunlight and have masonry or another thermal mass absorb the heat for later release.
Originally published at medium.com