How to live off the grid: 8 things to consider for off-grid living
Living off the grid, that great dream of self-sufficiency which burns strongly in many people seems to be coming back into vogue.
Why be reliant on state-run utilities for water and electricity when, with a bit of effort, you can generate your own? Why drive to a supermarket to buy food that has been transported thousands of miles, when you can feed the family from food grown in your own garden?
More and more people are asking such questions and like Tom and Barbara in The Good Life, that iconic Seventies sitcom, they are challenging their neighbours out of their ecological complacencies.
Estate agents have certainly noticed the shift in emphasis, from purely materialistic priorities, to values rooted in a deeper sense of responsibility for the future of the planet.
“The trend to ‘grow your own’ and become more ecologically aware is cascading down into home-buying patterns, from buyers looking for enough land for solar panels and ground source heat pumps, to wildflower meadows and orchards for home produce,” says James Mackenzie, Head of Strutt & Parker’s country house department. “The freedom that the countryside can give you is immense, and it is clear that people are really embracing it.”
Living off the grid is a lifestyle option which some practise religiously while others on a more pick-and-mix basis. For example, relying on a mains water supply but using solar panels to become self-sufficient in energy. Living off the grid is a lifestyle option which some practise religiously while others on a more pick-and-mix basis: for example, relying on a mains water supply but using solar panels to become self-sufficient in energy.
There are eight things which anyone tempted by the off-the-grid option might choose to consider:
1. Find your own land
Land may be at a premium in the UK but there are still areas to buy a parcel of land at a reasonable cost and not be overly hampered by planning restrictions. You will then be well placed to build your own self-sufficient eco home from natural materials.
2. Link up with fellow off-the-grid enthusiasts
Living off the grid can be a lonely and, for those doing it for the first time, daunting experience. So, it makes sense to join forces with like-minded souls and form a mini off-the-grid community. It also makes practical day-to-day tasks such as child care and food production much easier to manage.
3. Become self-sufficient in energy
By definition, nobody can say they are living off the grid if they are still reliant on the national grid for their electricity supply. So be prepared to invest in solar panels, hi-tech batteries and other devices for making yourself self-sufficient in electricity.
4. Find your own water supply
By installing large water tanks to catch rainfall, or making use of water from rivers and streams, you can make yourself independent of a mains water supply.
5. Investigate canal boats
Living on a canal boat topped with solar panels is one of the simplest off-the-shelf options for living off the grid. Thousands of people in Britain do just that and, although canal boats do not come cheap, they are an attractive option with plenty of living spaces.
6. Grow your own food
Forget that weekly shop at the supermarket. Think how much of the planet’s resources are used transporting food around the world. Then roll up your sleeves, start growing your own vegetables, invest in a cow or two, a few chickens and you will be well on the way to complete self-sufficiency on food.
7. Lose that spotless modern loo
An outhouse with a composting loo that does not flush is far less wasteful of resources. So, grit your teeth and do the necessary.
8. Sell your car and discover the joys of pedal power
Even now that cars are becoming increasingly energy-efficient, they will never trump a bicycle. Cycling can also be a great keep-fit option for the entire family. Off-the-grid living is so niche that those who adopt the lifestyle are likely to be envied by their friends. However, they are also likely to end up with far more disposable income. Don’t forget that some energy-saving schemes also produce a significant income stream, which will help with the monthly finances.
By living their dream – a dream that many harbour but are sometimes reluctant to realise – the intrepid pioneers of off-grid living could also end up happier than many who are more cautious.
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