We’re building a cabin. The cabin is going to be off grid. Off grid may have slightly different meanings to different people. I think some people think that an off grid home or cabin would have nothing electric. I’ve seen comments on off grid bloggers posts asking how they can be off grid when they are on the internet. I can understand the confusion. A few short years ago I had very little idea what off grid meant.
Before we moved to Wyoming, we planned to move to Northern California. My husband had lived most of his life in one area in N. Cali until he moved to Oregon to marry me. I loved Oregon but he had a hard time getting used to the rain. So after much consideration we decided to move back to his home area in Cali. We started looking for property to purchase in a rural area in the foothills. I was shocked to find many of the home sites listed as “off grid”. At that time, with my limited knowledge, off grid sounded almost foreign. And beyond overwhelming. I had visions of Little House on the Prairie! Even so, we did look at the off grid home sites and there was one that we really liked. During our deliberation time, the bottom fell out of the economy in California and the job my husband had lined up (a return to his old employer) fell through. That change resulted in us considering Wyoming and here we are six years later.
During these past six years (five of which we’ve lived in Wyoming) our knowledge and understanding of things as changed. And the our desires have changed. Now off grid makes much more sense to us and is something we are ready for. I’d have to write several pages on HOW we got to this spot so I’ll skip that. After all the title of the post is Going Off Grid not Why We’re Going Off Grid.
In a nutshell, off grid is just like it sounds. Not connected to the grid. What’s the grid? Usually public utilities. Electric companies, water companies, city or area sewer systems, natural gas, and telephone companies.
At our cabin we’ll not be connected to the electric company or the water company or the gas company or the city sewer. We will, however, be connected to the phone company.
When I’m cruising social media I’ll sometimes see a post sharing off grid information and someone will almost always comment that the person isn’t really off the grid if they are using internet. That’s probably true. For us, being connected to the phone company allows me to continue to work from home via an internet connection.
What about electricity?
In the beginning we’ll likely only have our generator and a DC to AC inverter (that’s an affiliate link) supplying our power. The inverter will provide power from the port in our pick up truck (you know, the thing that looks like a cigarette lighter). What does this mean? It means we won’t be using much stuff that requires electricity! My computer and other work related items will pretty much be it. We’ve purchased a couple of antique oil lamps for lighting and will also use individual solar lights. We will had a wind and solar system as time goes on but that will not likely be in place when we first move in. Since we do plan a ‘proper’ power system in the future we’ll be wiring for power and adding light fixtures and all those good things.
What about water?
Like many people that live out of the city limits, we currently have a well. That’s what we’re planning for the new place too– eventually. We had a water witcher come out and have a spot picked for the well. The cabin is being built near this spot to save on the costs of hooking everything up. But in the beginning we will likely be getting our water from other sources. We’re setting up water catchment on all of the buildings. Considering that each 100 square feet of roof surface can collect up to 60 gallons per inch of rain we could collect quite a bit with our annual rain fall of 10 inches. This water will be great for gardens, animals and even drinking once filtered. We’re planning a cistern near the cabin that will collect the water off the cabin roof and that we can also fill with water hauled from town. 50 gallons of water from the water fill station is 25 cents. The price is reasonable but does require pre-planning to make sure we don’t run out of water before refilling. As a child I lived in a home that had water using this system. There were many days when we were on “water rations” due to not filling up. 😉 In the beginning getting the water from the cistern into the house might be a little rough but eventually will be as simple as turning the faucet. However, the electric does need to be functioning in order to pump the water from the cistern to the faucet.
How about the sewer?
This one will be pretty normal. Due to county regulations we’ll have a fully functioning septic system. We’d love to use an alternative system that used less water but that’s not an option. This will work without electric and will be fully functioning from the day we move in.
What about gas/propane?
At our current home we use propane for the cook stove/oven, furnace and water heater. At the new place we’ll (eventually) have propane for the cook stove/oven, water heater and refrigerator. There is that pesky word “eventually” creeping in again. Because we want items that operate without electricity they tend to be specialty items and are more expensive. The oven and stove top need to light without power, that’s not an easy thing to find. I did find a propane fridge. It’s an apartment size fridge/freezer combo and costs $1500. The water heater is easier to find, it’s one of those on demand things (tankless) that only work when you need them. They are great but once again in order to get the water heating through them we go back to needing electricity so the water can pump through. So in the beginning, for cooking we’ll use our outdoor kitchen as long as the weather permits. We’re also going to install a special wood stove that is works on the rocket stove concept but has a cook top and a small oven while also heating the house. Our fridge will be a cooler filled with store bought ice when we need it. Most likely we’ll be following the same method this off grid family uses for refrigeration- especially #3. An ice house is something we are seriously considering. We should have zero trouble making ice during our cold winners. Water heating will be done using our solar water heater and our wood stove.
I have to admit, some days the extremeness of the off grid plans scare me. It will be more work than now. The convenience of flipping a switch or turning a faucet won’t be there. We’ll have to plan ahead for things. Not having everything set up the way we eventually want it from the beginning is necessary for us since we don’t want to incur any additional debt while building our new place. We also would to know that we can have things set up to function in a truly off grid manner if needed. Author Michael Bunker wrote a book about this idea called Surviving Off Off Grid (affiliate link).
Is off grid or off off grid something you’ve considered?
Update: The shell of our cabin is complete! Get a tour here.
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