The Ultimate Resource Guide to Living off the Grid

Living off the grid is gaining popularity rapidly in the United States and many other countries. While off the grid living is a challenge, especially if it’s not something you’ve done before, there are more resources than ever to help you get started. There are also more families choosing to live off the grid every day that are blogging about their journey in hopes of inspiring others! We’ve put together the ultimate resource guide to off grid living from getting started to making small changes to your fully-developed off grid property.

What does living off the grid mean?

Living off the grid means different things to different people. For the sake of our guide, living off the grid means to live without public utilities. No public water, no public power and no public sewer. Off grid homes are more or less “self sustainable” and have systems to make up for the use of public utilities. Such systems include solar power, wells or cisterns, natural springs, septic systems, composting systems and more.

This is what “living off the grid” means according to Wikipedia:

Off-the-grid homes are autonomous; they do not rely on municipal water supply, sewer, natural gas, electrical power grid, or similar utility services. A true off-grid house is able to operate completely independently of all traditional public utility services.

Is living off the grid illegal?

There has been a lot of hype recently about off-grid living being illegal. One article that discusses such thoughts is “Camping on Your Own Land is Now Illegal“. The truth is that due to government regulation, it is becoming more and more difficult to live off the grid.

In some counties, it’s illegal to do such things as collect rainwater or have a solar power system that is not tied back into the grid. Some counties do not allow you to camp on your own land or living a travel trailer on your own land. Some counties have really strict building codes making off-grid living almost impossible. Other counties have building codes that are so expensive that it’s not affordable to build an off grid home. Banks are not quick to lend on off grid homes. So while the answer is “no, it’s not completely illegal to live off the grid“, it is becoming increasingly difficult and parts of it can be illegal in certain areas.

Is living off the grid the same thing as self sufficient living?

While living off the grid and self sufficient living may not always be the exact same thing, there are a lot of similarities! Just because someone technically lives off grid (doesn’t rely on public utilities), doesn’t mean they’re self sufficient. Self sufficient living involves a lot more than simply not using public utilities. It means that you really don’t need to rely on anyone for your needs of food, shelter, power, protection and more.

Many people who choose to live off the grid also strive to be self sufficient, which is why they chose to live off the grid in the first place! We personally live off the grid, but we are not yet self sufficient. The transition to living off the grid and self sufficient living is so complex (especially if you’re starting with nothing as we are doing) so it’s all about having high goals and taking some steps to reach them. We still go to the grocery store twice a week and the laundromat once a week. However, over the years we hope to become more and more self sufficient. Self sufficient living is all about practice!

An example of self sufficient living according to Wikipedia is:

Self-sufficiency (also called self-containment) is the state of not requiring any aid, support, or interaction, for survival; it is therefore a type of personal or collective autonomy. On a national scale, a totally self-sufficient economy that does not trade with the outside world is called an autarky.

The term self-sufficiency is usually applied to varieties of sustainable living in which nothing is consumed outside of what is produced by the self-sufficient individuals. Examples of attempts at self-sufficiency in North America include simple living, homesteading, off-the-grid, survivalism, DIY ethic and the back-to-the-land movement.

Practices that enable or aid self-sufficiency include autonomous building, permaculture, sustainable agriculture, and renewable energy.

The term is also applied to limited forms of self-sufficiency, for example growing one’s own food or becoming economically independent of state subsidies.

Who are we and what do we know about off grid living?

First off, we’d like to do a quick introduction of ourselves and our homesteading blog! We are a young couple (27 and 33) living off the grid on our 5 acre property in Idaho. After a lot of soul-searching and long conversations about what we wanted to do with our lives, we decided to quit our lives in the city, sell our business, sell our brand new car and start an off grid homestead 100% from scratch.

the ultimate resource guide to living off the grid
We purchased 5 acres of land in the Pacific Northwest in September of 2015 and will be working to develop our off grid homestead!

We are choosing to do this with as little money as possible as we want to avoid going into debt. We’d rather learn the skills to develop our homestead and home on our own, learning self-sustainability along the way. As an example, in our third month of living on our land, we were able to build an off grid cabin for pennies using reclaimed materials.

We are blogging about the entire journey of starting an off grid homestead from scratch in hopes it helps others who are interested in taking a similar journey. To learn more, read our full about us page! If you’re interested in following along our journey, be sure to subscribe at the top of the page!

How to use this resource guide?

To follow along this Ultimate Resource Guide to Living off the Grid, we’ve organized the page by topics. Simply use the table of contents below to click on the topic you’re interested in to find a host of resources. If at any time you wish to visit a new topic, simply scroll back up to the table of contents.

Getting Started with Living off the Grid

When you make the decision that you would like to try your hand at off grid living, it can be overwhelming to say the least. We remember those days. There were a million things to do and even simply finding property to buy and moving to our land seemed like a stretch of the imagination. While more and more people are transitioning to an off grid lifestyle, it is also becoming increasingly more difficult.

We’ve put together these resources in hopes of providing valuable education to off grid living. These are resources we’ve used ourselves when doing our off grid homework.

Septic & Black Water

When living off grid, you have many decisions to make on how to dispose of your waste and black water. While the most traditional and widely-accepted waste disposal system is an underground septic system, there are many other options to consider as well. All have their pros and cons. Not all are possible in all areas, especially those that have a strict septic permitting system.

Traditional Septic Systems

How a Septic System Works – This guide gives a great overview of how a traditional septic system works.

The Cost of a Septic System – A traditional septic system can run anywhere from $3,000 to $10,000, depending on the complexity of the system, size of the system, and also the area.

How to Install a Septic System – This is a great guide to installing a septic system from start to finish, including the obtaining of state permits.

Composting

The Humanure Handbook & Instruction Manual – This is a great guide to the concept of “humanure” which is turning human waste into something usable. This is also known as composting. This idea is “out there” for some but many are practicing the art of humanure and are loving it, and loving the nutrients they are able to add back into their soil!

Off Grid Solar Power

Batteries

Coming soon!

Solar Panels

Coming soon!

Off Grid Water

Coming soon!

Wells

Coming soon!

Rain Collection

The Rainwater Harvesting Community – HarvestH2o.com is dedicated to the advancement of sustainable water management practices for individuals, families, communities, and businesses.

Off Grid Food Storage

Coming soon!

Timber Framing

Coming soon!

Gardening

Survival

SurvivalBlog – This blog is managed by survivalist author James Wesley, Rawles (“JWR”). He is a former U.S. Army Intelligence officer and technical writer. In addition to being a full-time novelist and blogger, he is a retreat consultant. On this blog you can find a wealth of information on various aspects of survival including home power, hunting, disaster preparation, homeschooling, self defense, sanitation, firearms, gardening and more.