Staying or living off-grid has a lot of meaning to different people. For some, staying off-grid is a temporary vacation from the hustle and bustle of city life, staying in remote places for a long time before returning to the grid. Meanwhile, some people only get themselves off the public electrical or water systems but still involve themselves in other activities, to what is called the “car grid”, “supermarket grid”, or “bank grid.”
Basically, there are three types of getting off-grid based on how extreme the situation is. Staying 100% on the grid means the majority of people. No solar power facilities or equipment. Partial grid-reliance is living connected to the grid but with solar power and batteries as energy sources. Finally, total self-reliance is when an individual totally cuts off-grid connection and sources out the lifestyle.
Statistics show that more people are opting for an off-grid living for its financial benefits.
So, let’s talk about money. A typical off-grid living needs around $70K to launch. This depends on the equipment and resources you intend to purchase and install. This also covers the first year of living off-grid, so there would still be spending here and there.
If you wonder how this money is spent, here is a rundown of the expenses you need for off-grid living.
You need a 24-volt system for the solar power energy sourcing, with 6×220-watt solar panels, which includes a pole mounting system, an OutBack custom power center built around a 3,500-watt sine-waiver inverter, a 60-amp MPPT charge controller, and 8x Trojan L-16 batteries. All these cost $14,000. For the professional set up, that would be $20,000 off your budget, plus a backup generator that costs $4,000.
This is where the area choice comes in. Solar power sourcing is best in areas with more than enough sunlight to be converted to a power supply. In arid environments, the solar power facility can produce 7 kilowatts per day, 6.5 kilowatts per day in a sunny environment, and clouder areas, 5 kilowatts per day. There are different means to outsource energy source when living off-grid, with one source better than the other, and that all depends on which area you are in.
To reduce power usage, you can replace 60-watt incandescent bulbs with 15-watt fluorescent bulbs, as this reduces electricity use by 75%. Additionally, a large TV can consume 1kw/h in 5 hours.
To install a well, you need $7,000. A septic tank then costs $5,000. So to install a reliable water source, that would be a total of $12,000. Other considerations may also come to play. Installation of a waterless composting toilet costs $1,000-$2,000. Take note that blackwater contains fecal matter and urine. Therefore, it must be taken care of separately. However, installing a waterless composting toilet can avoid blackwater. Another consideration can be the greywater system. This is when water from laundry, dishwashing, showers, and bath is treated and reused for irrigation, washing, or toilet water flushing.
To keep you comfortable throughout the year, you need a stable and reliable heating system. Of course, there are different means to warm up your off-grid home. For a typical heating system, you need a 1000-litre propane tank which costs about $3,200, from purchasing to installation. Refill costs $1,200, and this is done thrice a year. Woodstove purchase and installation cost $3,700, and another $300 is needed for the wood in the first year as the woodstove only supplies 20% of heat in winter.
However, the $70,000 budget does not include one essential resource: food. Off-grid living nowadays requires a minimum of half an acre to be toiled and utilized. But half an acre can sometimes prove to be such a toll to be utilized, especially when running your own water source, power source, and food source. The good thing is you can already tend to a variety of crops and vegetables for consumption. Other off-gridders opt to function as a community to share the labor of tending to the food sources.
Another possible addition to the expenses is the usage of transportation. While some off-grid individuals have totally managed to function without vehicles, some still opt to use cars, but not as often as they were on the grid. Some off-grid individuals only use the vehicles once a week or once a month.
Both the production of their own food sources and the reduction of vehicle usage are environmental advantages to reducing the carbon footprint. For this reason, living off-grid also helps the environment, as much as it saves people money.
All in all, one should really consider all these factors when deciding to go off-grid. It may be quite an investment in the start, along with the remaining expenses for maintenance every once in a while; however, the cost of expenses reduces over time, depending on the lifestyle and resources. The financial advantage of living off-grid can be appreciated in the long term, especially when the lifestyle gradually decreases its reliability on resource purchasing.