How to live off the grid: A checklist of 8 things
Ok, so you’ve had it with people, pollution, noise, and the general hustle and bustle of living in the city. You want to get away from it all, venture into the wilderness of Canada and live off the grid by growing your own organic food, and reconnecting with the Earth and nature. Seems easy enough, right? Cut some trees down, build a cabin, and become a hermit secluded from society with the company of your trusty dog.
While it is fantasized about by many, living off- grid is not for the faint of heart. It’s hard work to get an off-the-grid home up and keep it running to sustain your independence from utilities. Here are 8 steps that can help steer you in the right direction to make this idea a reality.
While heading into the wilderness and building your own cabin sounds great, it’s probably illegal. The first thing you’ll need to do is buy some land so that you can live off the grid in Canada. This should not be the most expensive item since building your home and supplying it with water and power may be more expensive than the land itself.
Look for a piece of land that’s a distance away from metropolitan areas. Usually, they’re a little less expensive and are still within driving range. If you’re looking to live off the land, it should have some natural resources like a water source, wooded areas, and workable land. In addition, it should have easy road access to be able to get to and from wherever you may want to go.
Another thing that you should look into when scouting locations for your off-the-grid life is whether the property has both physical access year round and legal access - whether you have road access directly to and from the property. To summarize, here’s what you should keep an eye out for when looking for land:
- Distance from a city
- Legal access
- Physical access
- Correct zoning
- Off the grid friendly rules
The land you buy may or may not come with what you need to fully realize living off the grid. If someone else has already put the effort in and wants to return to civilization, you’re in luck.
Otherwise, you’ll need to put time and effort into building a shelter with all the requirements needed to make sure it’s comfortable and protects you from the elements. The design of your home is limitless, apart from maybe some city codes.
If the land you’re looking at doesn’t have a home, you have several options:
- Building a new house from the ground up
- Ordering a tiny home from a company that specializes in off the grid, tiny homes
- Driving an RV onto the property and setting up shop
- Ordering a pre-manufactured or modular home
- Ordering a container home
Be sure to match your home to the environment you want to settle down in. For example, if you’re in the mountains or an area that has significant snowfall, a steeper roof is recommended so that the weight of the snow doesn’t cause the roof to cave in.
#3 Electricity Generation
To be self-sufficient out in nature and still enjoy the comforts of the modern world like electricity, you need to be able to generate and store power. Each location will have its own particular way of energy generation. For example, if you have a plot of land with a river that runs through it, you can consider using some kind of hydroelectric equipment. Another very common way to produce your own power is by installing solar panels on the house. If the area gets windy, a wind turbine is also a good option.
The best way to make sure you’re maximizing your power generation is by using more than one source. In case there’s no wind, your solar panel kit can still generate power. Besides, a generator offers an ideal backup power solution.
#4 Power Storage
Most people successfully establishing their off-grid homes use solar generators to harness and store power for daily use or emergencies.
A solar powered generator can be stationary inside the house or can also be mobile. Most are programmed to detect which type of battery is connected to them and adjust the charging accordingly, regardless of whether it’s a 12 volt lithium battery, a 12 volt deep cycle battery, or a 48v battery. Depending on the solar generator you purchase, it may or may not come with solar panels and charge controller- basically, the whole off grid solar kit.
Looking at a more permanent solution, a battery storage system is highly recommended for off the grid setups. Although pricey, they allow the usage of appliances, lighting, water heating, and more when the sun goes down and the wind stops blowing. Ultimately, it’s up to you how much you want to invest in access to electricity. If you’ve grown accustomed to the benefits of modern technology and utilities, it can get uncomfortable without the proper investment.
If you’ve selected the land properly, you’ll be able to grow your own food to survive off the grid. Whether it’s a vegetable garden and raising livestock, or gathering the foods that grow naturally in the area and hunting, providing food for yourself and/or your family is critical if you’re living off the grid. Going to markets defeats the whole purpose!
A normal garden with raised beds is perfect for whatever foods you want to grow. Keep in mind though, as winter approaches, your ability to garden will disappear when temperatures drop. Investing in a greenhouse so you can continue growing during the winter can help maintain a consistent food supply.
#6 Water Supply and Collection
Living off the grid also means that you need to make sure there’s a potable water source for you to use. There most likely won’t be a connection to the city water supply. A small lake, river, or well will be able to supply you with water for drinking, showers, washing dishes, etc. Just like power generators and energy storage systems, making sure that you’re able to store water for an emergency or just to make sure you have enough water supplies for your house daily is just as important. This can be something as simple as catching rain in a water barrel to building a water tower next to your house.
#7 Waste Disposal
Depending on local laws and regulations, you’ll have to either install some kind of composting toilet or septic system. This can turn into a big expense due to the nature of septic system installation - you have to dig a lot! A septic system is basically a watertight tank that holds waste until it gets full and a service has to come and pump it out and into the truck’s tank to take it away. Although you can do it yourself, it’s recommended to have septic systems professionally installed to avoid leaks and contamination of the soil (and potentially drinking water).
#8 The Will to Live Off The Grid
As mentioned before, living off the grid is hard! In the wilderness, there are no similar comforts and conveniences like that of living in the city, that people tend to take for granted.
Living in nature also requires more maintenance than living in a city. There’s more dust; wildlife may decide to burrow into the walls for warmth during the winter; insects and pests can run rampant. It’s important to do a few test runs to see if it is really for you. You can rent an RV and take it to a remote location for a week as a test. If it all works out, being off the grid can be very rewarding. Not only are you reducing your impact on the earth, you’ll be more in tune with nature and enjoy breathtaking scenery, wherever you may be.
More stories about living off grid
At Renogy, we make every effort we can do to reach more people and introduce them our affordable and high-quality solar units. With more individuals embracing green energy, our planet will suffer less from excessive pollution and the drastic reduction of non-renewable energy resources.
Surprisingly, there is an increasing number of daring dreamers taking up the lifestyle of living off-grid. As finding a faraway land and building an off-grid house is not the only way to materialize the green lifestyle, they have built an off-grid home on their van, trailer, and yacht. Here are their stories:
Ryan and Brittni's sailing adventure
Starting in the very year of 2019, Ryan and Brittni have navigated the world on their Beneteau Oceanis 46 for three years so far. All their electrical needs rely on 640 W solar panels which can produce more than 3,000 kWh of electricity in the daytime. Their suggestion, for those who want to live off grid, is “Get a boat, sail the world, and go completely off-grid!”
Mike and Steph's amazing RV traveling
Their off-grid journey started in 2020, traveling in a Grand Design Imagine 2600RB. They have visited the whole U.S. from the west coast to the east coast and occasionally out of the country. “Before you prepare an off-grid system, the first thing you need to do is to figure out what you want out of your power system. For example, you need to make sure whether you would like to live completely off-grid or get 80% of your electricity from self-reliance. ”
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