For some, living “off the grid” will fulfill a dream of self-sufficiency. For others, it’s a way to show love for Mother Earth. It can be an investment in long-term affordable living, or a way to disconnect from some of the bustle and bother of modern living. Whatever your dream, whatever your reason, living off the grid is actually more doable than many people think.
Building a home disconnected from public utilities like electricity and water doesn’t mean living in isolation or sacrificing all the comforts of modern life. With modern technology and thoughtful planning, many people who are choosing to build on reclaimed ranchland can generate everything they need.
“We’re here because of the freedom and atmosphere,” says Jake, who built an off-grid home on 40 acres
with his wife, Jennifer. “We’re proud of what we built together. We like feeling connected to nature.
We’re not granola tree-huggers, but we care about the land.”
Read Jake and Jennifer’s story
Here’s a look at some of the considerations some modern homesteaders have made that might help you as you plan your dream of living independently:
With increasing power and decreasing cost, solar and wind power generation solutions are attainable by more and more people.
These can run from simple, low-power arrays used to power critical appliances during the day to large, whole house systems with battery backups that provide power through the night.
Some people choose to layer technologies. “It’s windy in the winter and sunny in the summer,” says Jake of his home near Casper, Wyoming.
Just as important as the technology is how it is applied. Families need to be conscious about which appliances use power, and when they run them.
By angling homes to warm up in the morning sun while providing cooling shade from afternoon heat, building into hillsides where possible to insulate from extreme temperatures, and using windows and skylights for daytime light, off-grid homes can be exceptionally efficient.
The landscape can also provide food. By raising compatible vegetables and fruits in their gardens, and raising chickens for eggs and meat, residents can still enjoy having part of their diet come from the land, even if most comes from a nearby grocery store.
Even though the West has a reputation for being dry, there is water underground. Many full-time residents choose to drill a well, and while depths can vary, the water they enjoy is clean and pure.
Some residents instead choose to build a cistern and truck in water for pennies per gallon. Whatever solution they choose, every home is adequately supplied.
In the 21st century, “off the grid” doesn’t need to mean “cut off from the world” – unless you want it to mean that. But with wireless technology as advanced as it is, even high-speed internet is available to remote locations.
An off-grid homestead may be served by a repeater tower placed on a nearby hill to collect and boost wireless signal. As a result, the owner can enjoy streaming video and shopping over the internet as easily as anyone else in the country.
For many people, “off the grid” is meant to refer mostly to power and utilities. They still value their real-life connections with friends and neighbors. Fortunately, ranches are served by maintained roads that mean shopping and medical care are often less than an hour away (although it is possible to get more remote.)
“We wanted privacy, we wanted lots of peace and quiet … and we wanted to not see our neighbors. We
like having neighbors, not seeing them,” laughed Phil, an off-grid resident in the Southwest.
“Almost every day, I get up in the morning, I come out here on the porch and look out and say ‘this
is so great.’”
Read Phil’s story
Residents form friendships with their full-time neighbors and occasional visitors. And for those who keep jobs in nearby towns and cities, access continues to allow them to earn their livelihood while also living on their own terms.