Living Off The Grid Tips and Advice
Welcome to Maximum Off Grid! This website is devoted to teaching others what living off the grid is all about. I give you tons of vast knowledge over an array of topics, such as water systems, solar power, off grid gardening, and even survival skills and gear.
What is it really like living off the grid?
We all have different visions about what off grid living really is like. For some of us, we envision a beautiful, pastoral setting where we grow our own food, have goats, cows, and chickens, and sip percolated coffee on the porch of our rustic log cabin.
Others envision off grid living by planning all the systems that must be setup; the parts and pieces for plumbing, solar panels, cabling, and batteries, fencing, gates, outbuildings, and the list goes on and on.
I have found that idealism gives way to necessity very quickly.
Yes, I've had all of those dreams of the beautiful homestead, frolicking around with a basket full of carrots and tomatoes, and petting adorable baby goats in the sunshine. And I do get to live those moments from time to time.
But the reality is that off grid living is all about the systems you build, it is all about the strong foundations that you set up, so you can achieve self-sufficiency. And those systems take time, money, and engineering to correctly deploy.
The main off grid systems that must be addressed are:
- Waste Management
Living off the grid is all about the quality of life you want to have. Many people forgo a lot of the niceties that we have become accustomed to in municipal dwellings. Air conditioning is one of the biggest comfort systems most off-gridders live without. Another big one that folks tend to do away with is traditional waste management, such as sewer systems and trash pickup.
These are all the unsexy topics that are not talked about that much but must be addressed.
Others choose to live a very simple, cheap off grid life. This could be parking a conversion van on a small parcel of property, living in a tent or a shed, and basically roughing it. A lot of people that go off grid start in these types of situations and slowly build their systems up over time.
How to get started living off the grid
This is the reality of the situation: you either have the money to hire people and buy the materials and supplies necessary to build out your homestead, or you have the strength, time, and knowledge to build it yourself.
Going off grid can be VERY expensive and drain your bank account quickly, especially in the economic environment we are in. When we went off grid in January 2021, the cost of building materials, solar equipment, and supplies skyrocketed to the moon. Lumber was the worst, followed by steel, fencing materials, and appliances.
We were shell shocked by the amount of money it took for us to build a simple barbed wire fence, let alone our solar power system, chicken run and crop cage.
Our bank accounts depleted so fast in the course of the year, that we are literally in a position that we can no longer afford to take on any new off grid projects, at least for the meantime.
Luckily, we arrived at a comfortable position with enough systems before we ran out of money.
The moral to the story? Expect to pay three times more and expect it to take three times longer than you have planned to build up your off grid systems!
So not only will you pay an exorbitant amount of money on building up your homestead, you will also have to be very handy to build these systems, or expect to pay someone a lot of money to install those systems for you.
You will need to have knowledge of plumbing, electricity, lots of handyman experience, building experience, and also the strength to execute these plans.
If you do not have these skills or the strength to build these systems by yourself, expect to pay a professional a ton of cash to install the systems for you.
There are ways around all of these costs. If you are good at upcycling, salvage, and using scrap wood and metal for building, you can build things for practically free. You can collect dirt cheap and free building materials from job sites, garbage bins behind hardware stores, and listings on Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist.
Check out my article on Off Grid Hot Water Heater Systems for DIY ideas on how to build wood burning water heaters and solar water heaters for pennies on the dollar.
You can ask friends and family for help with labor intensive building projects. There are also work-away websites where you can find workers in exchange for food and boarding.
Buying Off Grid Property
Beginning your off grid journey starts with the land. And with land ownership comes challenges and responsibilities.
There are so many factors to consider when purchasing off grid land, but there are a few factors that stand out among the others. In my opinion, the biggest factor to consider is your water source.
There are so many ways to obtain water while living off grid. The question is how much money you want to spend obtaining the water and how much convenience do you want to have. I go into more depth about off grid water below.
Another factor is how far you are from basic services. There are lots of amazing properties out there at rock bottom prices, but you may find yourself having to travel for hours to get basics like fuel, groceries, and vehicle maintenance facilities. I personally prefer being no more than a half hour away from basic amenities.
One huge thing to consider is if you are in city limits, and how strict the local government is about building codes and permits. I recommend staying out of city limits, so you do not have to deal with both city and county building restrictions. There are many properties available that fly under the radar, away from intrusive prying eyes of inspectors and neighbors. You can also search for counties that offer an off-grid building permit that allows you to build freely on your property.
Other things to consider are natural resources, such as timber, natural disaster concerns such as flooding or drought, if there is enough sun for solar, wind for wind turbines, how dusty it is, if the soil is rich or sandy or rocky, and if there are natural water sources, road access, the seasons and weather, and so much more.
No matter what, you will have pros and cons at each and every property you consider for your homestead.
Building Off Grid Shelter and Buildings
We are in a day and age where non-traditional homes are becoming very popular. The mcmansions and cookie cutter suburb type homes are becoming less affordable for the average middle class family, and are not off grid friendly at all. Alternative style housing is the way to go when living off the grid.
When getting started out, you may opt for a temporary living situation while working on your permanent structure as it can take years to build out your homestead.
I have heard of several stories about off-gridders plunging head first onto their property and living in a tent or shack for several months while building up permanent living spaces. We live in our camper on the property which we may never even decide to actually build a permanent structure.
The cabin is the usual go-to dwelling for off grid living. But you can also pursue a tiny home, earthship, teepee, yurt, walled tent, shipping container home, underground home, barn, and the list goes on.
You can also look into alternative building materials such as cob, mud, straw, tires, bottles, brick, stone, or materials you can find on your property like wood, if you are so lucky.
This will offset the exorbitant price of traditional building materials that you find at the local construction store.
Off Grid Water Systems
Building an off grid water system is no small feat, but once it is built they are usually pretty autonomous.
Many off-gridders drill a well on their property out of convenience. Lots of properties do not have a year around water source, so this is a good way to have consistent flow of clean water.
Read my article about off grid water systems for more water system ideas and advice.
However, I don't think wells are all that. First off, you are relying on a pump which is a machine that can, and eventually will, break down or need to be replaced. Most well pumps rely on AC power, which is grid power. There are pumps that are specifically built to run off solar, which is DC power, but you will need to have a well battery bank to ensure that your pump has access to power all the time.
Wells dry up. Water tables are important. A well can dry up or the water table can sink, and you are left with having to drill a new well, as most drillers will not risk deepening a well.
Installing a well is very expensive. The cost can range between $10k-$30k depending on your location, and that doesn't include the equipment!
Wells may require maintenance and troubleshooting. It is not a "set and forget" system, although it really is luck of the draw. Some wells will last decades, others will give the owners troubles, such as silting up. That is the issue we are currently having with our well. It provides fresh, clean water for a few hundred gallons, and then it silts up.
Water pumps are an essential component to most off grid water systems, unless you have built a gravity fed system. Learn about the different types of water pumps in my article.
If you have a natural artisan spring, that is absolutely the best water situation possible. Artisan springs do not require a pump and usually do not need to be filtered.
Another option is hauling in water from a municipal source. This makes it possible to live on property with no water source, and is so much cheaper than drilling a well. It is inconvenient, but some areas have water hauling services at an affordable rate.
If you have a stream, creek, river, or lake, you can pump water into a holding take for household use. Just be sure to clean it up with a filtration and purification system. I have written extensively about
You can catch rainwater as a supplement for your water usage; in some areas it rains enough that it can be your main water source! But depending on rain is iffy, in my opinion.
Off Grid Electricity
Oh, the joys of off grid electricity!
The best thing you can do is learn to live with less energy needs. Energy is very expensive in an off grid setting. There are so many creative ways to generate energy, but acquiring the materials and setting up the systems are usually quite expensive and require professional knowledge or at least good, deep research to get things right.
Solar power is probably the most commonly known off grid energy source, but it costs a fortune to put in and the parts break down. Solar controllers, inverters, battery banks, cabling, and panels all can break down, come loose, and requires cleaning and maintenance. We had a mouse get into our inverter and destroy the motherboard. It's a $3,000 part that is sitting in the shop. It has been three months since the mouse incident, and we are still waiting on the board because it is sitting on a slow boat from China. Plan to store extra parts for solar equipment, as shit happens, I can assure you!
You have to put in a whole lot of solar equipment to run appliances, air conditioners, TVs, computers, space heaters, etc. You will quickly find that adapting your life to use less power is essential in off grid living.
There are plenty of clever options to generate off grid power. Wind turbines are amazing in windy areas, water turbines are very efficient if you have year around running water, and you can always use a generator for temporary or intermittent energy usage.
Off Grid Waste Management
We create a lot of waste in America, and its kind of annoying.
Plastic is my biggest pet peeve. It doesn't break down, it stinks when you burn it, you can't compost it, and it takes up so much space.
Again, using less, consuming less, really helps in the waste department. The chances of you having access to a standard trash dumping service at your remote property is pretty low. And even if you do have this access, do you really want to afford it?
No matter how much you minimize consumption, you will still end up with bottles, cans, and rubbish over time.
I sort out all of my organics and use it for compost in the garden. Any meat scraps, dairy, grease, and things that cannot be composted go out to the wild javalinas and coyotes. It may not be the best idea to feed these critters, but they are very efficient at eliminating the waste.
I have written a pretty great article about how to start an off grid composting system.
Cardboard and papers get burned, and glass is getting stored for earthship materials. Cans, aluminum, and plastic end up in a bag, and taken to the dump about every other month.
As far as human waste goes, the need to poop in a bowl of water to be flushed into a sewer system is just out. Composting toilet is a pretty good choice, or use a camping toilet with pine shavings and make a human waste compost pile. Pee outside. Better yet, build an outhouse like they did back in the good ol' days!
Our whole modern luxury of traditional flushing toilets is just silly. But if you really want that modern flushing experience, you can build yourself a sewage drain field that eliminates waste with enzymes. The underground tanks then disperse the liquids deep underground that finish breaking down over time.
Growing and Raising Food
Although it is not an essential off grid living system, many consider it to be so. Growing your own food and raising livestock is the ultimate homesteading experience and brings back ownership of how your food is made. Factory farming, GMOs, and cruelty to livestock is literally making us sick. Being dependent on the profit driven modern day food system is also very expensive as prices continue to soar, all the while the quality of our food is deteriorating.
Nothing beats the deliciousness of organic, homegrown produce. And eating meat that you have raised is simply out of this world. Having the control over the systems you design to produce your own food is empowering and much healthier than anything you can buy in the store at a reasonable price.
Building these food systems is very front loaded. Pens, fences, gates, coops, barns, cages, etc. cost a small fortune. Purchasing starter livestock is getting even more expensive, and feeding the livestock has also gone up. Gardening is a serious commitment, and you must consider how much water you are producing to keep all of these things alive.
I suggest building a solar powered drip irrigation system, that I go over in detail in my comprehensive article.
Thinking about taking a vacation while owning livestock and maintaining a garden? Think again! It is very hard to get away from the homestead once you have live animals and plants to take care of. Even getting away for a day can be hard.
Growing and raising your own food is a huge commitment in both the time and money aspect, but the results are priceless when achieving a fully autonomous lifestyle away from the system.
Is Living Off The Grid Worth It?
The conclusion we can all draw is that living off the grid is a journey. Systems do not go up overnight; they are constantly evolving into being more efficient and productive. And this process takes time, experience, and some learning.
Starting is always the hardest part. Taking the plunge into the off grid lifestyle is intimidating. There will be mistakes that can be costly and time consuming. You cannot plan everything to the tee. And you will never find that "perfect" piece of land that checks all the boxes in every season.
Alas, even after exploring all the hardships and questioning everything about off grid living, it is absolutely worth its weight in gold!!! Why? Because being fully independent on yourself instead of crumbling, obsolete, and overpriced systems is the ultimate experience. It is the ultimate way to know that you are going to make it, no matter what happens in this crazy world we live.
Please, feel free to explore my website and discover all the knowledge and value I give as an off grid woman.
Here are links to my most popular articles on the website!
50+ Wilderness Survival Skills Using Primitive and Modern Techniques
Microgreen Farming Ultimate Guide [+5 Actionable Steps]
The REAL Benefits Of Shungite Backed By Science! [3 Case Studies]
Build a Solar Powered Drip Irrigation System EASILY and Affordably!
The Ultimate Bug Out Bag Checklist for 2021 [PDF Download]
The 9 Best Emergency Water Filters for Survival [Bonus DIY Methods]
4 Steps To Sizing Your Bug Out Bag Backpack Correctly
Build an Off Grid Water Pump System [+10 Real-Use Methods]
How to Install a Solar Backup Generator [12 Resources]
5 Best Submersible Sump Pumps On The Market [2021 Product Reviews]
About the Author
Regina is an experienced off-grid woman that is currently residing on 30 acres in the high desert of Arizona.
She is an accomplished gardener, handy-woman, off grid systems designer and wilderness survivalist.
In her spare time, she loves to metal-detect, rockhound, prospect and explore old mines, ghost towns, homesteads and discover natural and wild places.
Regina single-handedly built Maximum Off Grid from the ground up. The website contains over 100,000 words of valuable off grid and survivalist advice.