What exactly is off grid?
Off grid will mean something different to each individual but most will agree that it is an attempt to be as self sufficient as possible. That is, not relying on public utilities or "the grid". By default this makes off-grid living a spectrum ranging from the minimalist living off of plants in the woods to someone who incorporates portions of sustainable practice into their life. That is not to say either end of the spectrum is wrong, but rather each individual must find their niche along the spectrum.
People go off grid for different reasons. Perhaps they want to reduce their impact on the natural world or they want to be self reliant on the event of a catastrophe.
The reasons to go off grid often lend themselves to different methods of going off grid. Going off grid can be done completely or in different parts. Electrical, plumbing, gas, food, transportation; all of these components of the home and of your life can be done sustainably and without relying on others.
Most people know how to go off grid electrically; you use solar panels or wind turbines. These methods of power supply are a lot more common today with the federal tax incentives allowing some people to even get solar panels installed with no money out of pocket. Less people know about and even less implement plumbing off grid practices. The first thought may be, "why go off grid with my plumbing? My water bill is only $40 a month." This may be true but in areas where water boil advisories often go into effect or supply is limited, it can be possible to catch your roof runoff to be filtered and used as your homes water supply. This may be limited by local regulations in certain areas of the country. Over time, a water treatment system will pay for itself depending on your rainwater's initial quality before filtering. In areas with poor rainwater quality, the system may cost more than buying your water from the utility company, but you can still have the advantage of no chlorine and more control over your treatment methods.
People don't usually think about where their waste water goes, but water treatment plants really take a toll on the environment and cost civilians millions of dollars in tax money per year. In addition, a high amount of clean water is used just to flush waste down the drain. Composting is the most eco-friendly option to deal with toilet waste and uses bacteria to break down the waste into basically soil that can be used for fertilizer after about 6 months to a year. Grey water can often be reused for outdoor nonpotable use or even to do laundry with some filtering. Septic systems are an option where drain fields can be installed if local code permits.
If your electrical system is not large enough to run all of your needs, you will need to supplement with gas. To be completely self reliant, you would need to make your own gas for cooking, which is possible through a bio gas chamber. To create the gas, you feed the chamber with food byproducts and while it breaks down, it produces methane which can be captured and used to cook or heat. Producing enough gas can be an issue with these systems unless you obtain additional biomass to feed your system. Combining gardening with the bio gas system can increase your output by using more of the plant byproducts in your bio gas chamber.
Wood stoves are another method for cooking and heating that does not rely on fossile fuels. Of course burning any gas or wood will produce greenhouse gas, so if the environment is your main concern, you can increase your solar system to produce enough electricity to supply all of your needs.
Many components of off grid living can be incorporated into tiny homes or the entire structure can be designed to be self sufficient. This is of increased importance if you intend to move often and park in places without hookups. See more of our blogs for additional information on how to good off grid. Also see our rainwater filtration system design for sale in our shop.