Sidestep off grid failures – 15 essential tips for off grid living
Do you crave to live a life off-grid? Saying goodbye to reliance on the system is the goal we all have in sight.
We will help you pave the path to feeding your soul without the carbon footprint BUT don’t let it be a short lived dream, all because you didn’t take precautions.
One of the most important things to accept before you start your journey is to acknowledge there will be failures, and things you wish you have known prior to starting your journey. They are all part and parcel of any adventure or new challenge.
If you’re reading this post, you are half way there to minimising your mistakes as you are already in the right frame of mind and are acknowledging the things that might go wrong. Here is our list of 15:
- Master one area at a time
- Know your batteries!
- Solar reliance
- Don’t go cold!
- Think about electrical appliances
- Beware of unwanted visitors
- Money, money, money…
- Collecting Water
- Heating Water
- Growing your own food
- Food Storage
- Getting around
- Be prepared for hard work!
- Watch this!
- Life is a journey
Follow our essential tips for living off-grid to minimize your chance of losing the fight for freedom. Learn through the following tips and mistakes that seasoned off-gridders made when embarking upon their self-sufficient dreamboat.
1. Master one area at a time
Tip: Be realistic. Going off grid and becoming completely self-sustaining can take a long time, you should allow for this so you don’t set yourself up to be disappointed.
There are lots of new skills you will need to learn, don’t expect to learn them all at once. Take them one at a time or you will be left feeling overwhelmed and underprepared!
2. Know your batteries!
Mistake: I messed up by first batch of batteries!
Tip: Get a voltmeter and remember to check your batteries regularly, this will help you to understand the level of maintenance your batteries need.
Try and maximize your solar power and storage capacity by opting for large solar panels and battery banks, do not undersize them!
High efficiency solar photovoltaic panels and battery banks are now a lot cheaper than they used to be. If you can’t afford many, you can always add to them over time.
3. Solar reliance
Mistake: I relied purely on solar and during darker days in winter, there was not enough sun to keep our batteries charged.
Tip: Have more than one energy source.
Make the most of the elements around you, if you live in a windy climate, have a wind turbine too.
As well as making the most of the elements around you, ensuring you site your systems in appropriate places to maximise energy efficiency.
As a last resort, you could also have a propane generator for emergencies for times than renewable energy sources fail you.
4. Don’t go cold!
Mistake: Our first winter was COLD!
Tip: Don’t rely solely on your renewable energy sources for heating purposes!
Make sure you insulate your walls and ceilings and place large windows in areas that will make the most of the sun.
Have a log burner or something similar in your main living area, you could also double this up as a cooking appliance and kill two birds with one stone!
Make sure you place your home in a sheltered place, but you may also want to ensure trees don’t block the sun light.
If you just can’t resist choosing a sun-sheltered location to protect your cabin’s external building materials, or simply for the view, minimising window size will be the warmer choice.
5. Think about electrical appliances
Mistake: They can use A LOT of your energy!
Tip: LED lights can save a lot of energy. Try and buy energy efficient tools and run them using renewable energy, for example, a battery powered saw.
It is worth investing in energy efficient appliances to reduce your amount of energy consumption, or even better, replace them with manual equipment.
If you can avoid using electric appliances for things, don’t. For example if you have a fire, heat your water over it rather than boiling a kettle!
What do you really need? What can you go without? Prioritise.
6. Beware of unwanted visitors
Mistake: Wild animals love food waste; it’s an easy meal for them. We created the perfect environment for animals to move in with us!
Tip: Think about ways you can make your site safe. To do this, you will need to have somewhere secured that you can put your waste.
7. Money money money…
Mistake: We assumed money would have no part in our lives and we would live completely off the land.
Tip: While there are people who have managed to achieve this, it can take a long time, especially if you haven’t yet built your home.
You may still need money to replace things that break and to feed your family while you are waiting for your crops to grow.
You will become an avid recycler and there are lots of ways to do things without having to spend money.
You will find uses for things that you had no idea they could be used for, and you can also swap things that you know longer have a use for, so goes the age old adage:
One man’s trash is another man’s treasure!
If you live in an off grid community or amongst other likeminded individuals, the chances are you will be able to offer your services in exchange for something you need for example building materials.
While we are on the topic of building materials, you may even find you’ll be able to build your whole home using reclaimed, recycled materials therefore eliminating the need for spending money.
8. Collecting Water
Mistake: We had to collect and carry our water which is hard work!
Tip: Make sure your home is close to a water source, or even better, install a well if local laws allow it.
If you are pumping your water, I’d advice that you do it in large batches as the most energy consuming part is when you first turn your pump on.
You could also collect and recycle rain water.
9. Heating Water
Mistake: Heating water uses a lot of our energy
Tip: Use different methods to heat your water. Install a pipe-system, or otherwise, to heat water using solar power directly.
Heating water using direct solar energy is much more efficient that using solar power to make electricity.
You could also heat water over a wood burner or stove.
10. Growing your own food
Mistake: Our first crop was a disaster!
Tip: Plants need good soil; they won’t grow well in just any old soil. Enrich your soil by adding organic material and prepare it properly.
Research what to grow in different seasons, and also companion planting to make the most of your space.
You don’t need huge amounts of space, you just need to learn how to be clever with it and get the most out of the space you have.
You may also want to consider having livestock, such as a cow or goat as a source of dairy. If space is limited, it may be best to stick to chickens, they are quite easy to care for and you only need a few to have a good supply of eggs.
11. Food Storage
Mistake: We wasted food in our second year as our crops were growing well but we had nowhere to store them.
Tip: Grow vegetables that store well. The best option is to leave fruit and vegetables on their tree or plant until you are ready to use them.
Alternatively, there are other storage options depending on the climate you live in.
Vegetables store well in sand boxes or you could dig down to make a cool basement where food will keep for longer in the right conditions.
There are many other options of ways to store food without using energy such as an evaporation based cooler or solar cooler.
Alternatively, you could dehydrate foods, tin, or sun dry them.
12. Getting around
Mistake: We have to rely on fossil fuels to run our car which to me, felt like it defeated the point of being off grid and self-sufficient!
Tip: There are a few other ways to get around using transport, most of which are expensive though so it depends on your position.
You could use an electric car which you can charge with your renewable energy, or a cheaper option would be an electric bicycle however you won’t be able to carry or transport much.
13. Be prepared for hard work!
Mistake: I knew living off grid wasn’t the easy option but I didn’t appreciate just how much hard work it would be!
Tip: Be prepared for how much work you will need to put in to get your off-grid home and lifestyle set up and maintain it. It is hard work, but don’t let this put you off! Off-grid homes demand a lot of work and attention to keep them running but this can be extremely rewarding.
Many people who want to live off grid, do so in search of a simpler life, and to be more at one with their surroundings, do not be fooled into thinking that your life will be completely stress free though, you will face challenges which you will need to be open to embrace and learn from.
14. Watch this!
Tip: If you’ve done your research, you will have most likely come across this off-grid couple who live in a yurt with their three children. If not, I would strongly recommend heading over to their YouTube channel about their off-grid lives. They have made a light-hearted video documenting the ten things they wish they would have known before they went off grid.
15. It’s a process
Tip: Remember, most importantly, ‘Life is a journey, not a destination.’ So enjoy the process of building your off-grid home and working through any challenges that arise.
We would love to hear about any challenges you faced during your journey to a self-sustaining, off grid life.
Please do post below if you have any tips or advice for people just starting out their adventure.