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What are the pros and cons of living off-grid?

Posted by Jason Ramsdale on 17 December 2015 at 10:30 am

 

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What is living off-grid?

In the simplest sense living off-grid is a life-style choice where you make yourself less dependent on public utilities and national infrastructure such as electricity, gas, water, sewage, phone and internet lines. 

Why would you want to live off-grid?

Motivations for living off grid might include wanting to be less anchored down by wires, cables and pipes and conventional working paterns and concerns - or perhaps just the desire to have an affordable place to call your own.

What does living off-grid look like?

I have to admit when I first think about “Living Off-Grid” I imagine a long-haired, tie-dye wearing, free-lovin’ hippy emerging from a clapped out, hand painted VW campervan, with make-shift solar panels bolted to the roof and an “herb garden” growing on the dashboard.

But, off-grid living doesn’t actually have to mean a minimalist or primitive lifestyle. Many homes are off-grid through necessity; in remote places it is often more economically viable to setup off-grid homes than it is to pay for the installation of utilities. In this respect off-grid homes are very much like on-grid homes. You can still have large TVs, full-sized kitchens and even swimming pools; the key difference is that you need to be self-sufficient in your energy and water usage. The way you achieve this is largely up to you.

The images in this blog are of a modern off-grid home with straw-bale walls and an earth-cement finish. The house is located in a more remote area of California and is energy independent through necessity. It has solar thermal for hot water, PV with batteries for electricity, plus its own well pump to supply water. [1] Clearly this is an off-grid home that has mainstream appeal.

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Pros of living off-grid

  • Independence - not subject to the price and policy changes of utility companies
  • Land Price - off-grid land prices are often cheaper
  • Efficiency - only using the energy you generate tends to force energy efficiency
  • Environmentally Friendly - Living off-grid lets you decide how you generate your energy and dispose of your waste

Cons of living off-grid

  • Start-up costs - purchasing and installing off-grid systems like PV arrays and water treatment equipment can be expensive
  • Maintenance - maintaining and troubleshooting your equipment can be expensive, especially if you can’t do it yourself. Remember batteries don’t last forever!
  • Energy wastage – storing energy causes energy to be lost as it transferred. Surplus energy that cannot be stored will be wasted. Use what you can, when you can.
  • Backup – Off-grid systems often need a back-up plan like a diesel or biofuel generator

Should we all live off-grid?

Living off-grid can teach us to build sustainably, take an ethical and responsible approach to managing our homes and be willing to adapt and try to generate and conserve energy wherever possible. However, there are very good reasons why we have national and regional utilities. It makes sense from an economic, engineering and even environmental perspective to share and pool our resources as a community. Perhaps one of the greatest lessons we can take from off-grid living is how to work smarter to make the most or our common resources.

Source:

[1] Arkin Tilt

Images:

VW campervan - David van der Mark

Off-grid Home - Eric Millette

Overgrown infrastructure - paulisson miura

 

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