Whether you’re looking for a lifestyle change or simply looking to create a remote weekend getaway option, going off-grid means looking at your systems, appliances, and habits to eliminate reliance on public utilities like power, water, sewer, natural gas, and heat.
When you think of ‘off-grid,’ the first thing that likely comes to mind is ditching the energy bill. Most tiny homes achieve this primarily through the use of solar panels. There are myriad types of photovoltaic panels to collect energy from the sun, which you can store in batteries inside the tiny house. Some homes can also support geothermal systems. If located near a river or creek, hydropower might also be an option. Wind power is often difficult to create for a single home, but it may be an option as part of a community that shares resources.
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Along with how to create power is how to use power conservatively. Since your appliances use power, decide which are must-haves. For example, do you need a washer and dryer? Solar ovens and propane refrigerators, and water heaters are a common solution.
A wood stove is a great option for heating and can also be used for cooking. Situating your tiny home to take advantage of natural wind current goes a long way in passively cooling the place too.
Perhaps even more important than electricity is water. You must have a source of freshwater for your off-grid tiny home. This can come in the form of storage, a nearby water source, or rainwater collection. Location is a big factor in your decision. Remember, when collecting rainwater, it will need to go through a filtration system to be safe to drink.
Conserving water is another piece of the puzzle. Equip your tiny home with low-flow faucets and showerheads. Also, install recycling systems that pull water back through the home, so you can use it again after it’s forced through a filter.
Tiny home living almost requires a minimalist lifestyle. Not only is there limited space for belongings, but when you’re off-grid, you’ll need to figure out what to do with any waste you create. For human waste, a composting toilet is a reliable answer. Plant-based food waste can be composted in an outdoor compost pile.
Non-natural, artificial garbage will need to be handled differently, so limit waste at the source. Take your own containers to the store, buy in bulk, grow a garden, or buy from a local farm, and look for paper rather than plastic packaging. Most people who live off-grid gravitate towards a plant-based lifestyle to make it easier to achieve these goals.
Live as close to zero waste as you can. With the waste that’s left, recycle what you can, repurpose useful containers, burn waste if it’s an option in your area, and take the rest directly to the landfill depot.
While there are some well-established options for electricity, water, and waste management, there are many other things to consider when planning for your specific circumstances.
Start by evaluating whether you will build a tiny home or purchase a prefab or custom option. Then consider your location. You may want the tiny home to be on a trailer, so you’re mobile. On the other end of the spectrum, maybe you have land where you can live in the tiny home and homestead with a complete farm.
The weather and climate will also dictate your needs. After all, mountain living is much different than perching on a coastal hillside. There are even off-grid communities that share resources and have systems in place, so all you have to do is find a parking spot.
You’ll also want to check into the zoning laws and required permits before you get too far in your planning. Some areas have strict limitations when it comes to tiny homes. When you’re ready to make a move, get a post office box in the nearest town where you can receive mail. If the tiny home is on a property, you can likely hammer in a mailbox at the end of the road for delivery.
Finally, consider your internet needs, if any. You’re not going to have access to a local provider, but you can rely on a hot spot through your cell phone. Choose a service that offers good coverage in your location if this is a priority for you.
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