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Home Forums General Discussion What does off-grid mean to you? only off power grid? or more

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    When I first began thinking about all this off grid stuff I was seeking some kind of freedom that I didn’t feel I already had. I first began to look for more inexpensive alternative archtecture and construction designs. This lead to looking more at energy efficiency in design. This lead to more conservative living arangements. Then to how to live off the land.

    Ahmish and Mennonites are pretty good examples for all this. But I like technology and welcome it for the most part as a tool. I expecially like my computers and internet and radio.

    One way to look at it is that you have levels of existance and any thing you expect out of a home might satisfy a given level.

    1. Survival

    2. Camping

    3. Homesteading

    4. Semi Modern

    5. Modern

    5. Rich

    Might be one breakdown for this. At any time you might need to drop back to prior levels of existance for periods of time. Other times you can move on up to a more rich lifestyle for a period of time. A scalable home.

    One problem in this is that it can be more expensive overall. The home might have options which are rarely used but cost a lot. Some options never used. Things boil down to the fact that you must pick and choose carefully the options you want from a home or homestead. And you may have to pick or choose a lifestyle option. Less can be better. Poor can be richer.


    People around here chuckle when I talk about off grid. As my meighbor puts it.

    He and his wife were born off grid lived much of their life off grid so why would they want to go back to it. They recently celebrated their 40th anivesary and only during the last seven years have they had television. My wife was born off grid and her uncle now owns the family homestead. Its still off-grid. But he has a jacuzzi tub in the en-suite bath room a 42″ TV with a full surround sound home entertainment. His wife has every possible kitchen aid appliance you can name.

    I suspect some additional definitions and clarification of the term OFF-GRID as it relates to point #3,#4,and #5 will be required.

    Semi modern and modern?? Would this be defined by whether or not the home has indoor plumbing? Suppose it does have indoor plumbing but gets water from a well and ues a septic bed for waste disposal. Is it semi or fully modern?

    Does the presence or absence of electronics denote modern? Again look at our uncle’s example.

    I live 50 miles from the nearest town but recently read a letter to editor by a town resident complaining about their taxes going up. They live on a dirt road with no sidewalks no street lights no garbage collection or town water and sewer. The only thing they have is utility power.

    By all accounts these people are practically off-grid. Yet they are clasified and taxed as if they were in town residents. Where does a new mobile fall in the classification?. The newest models would fall in ‘rich ‘catagory by my standards. But then again some mobiles are no better than a camping.

    If only they knew it, the cost of running a generator with inverter and battery bank is about the same as what some people pay for utility power. Around her we pay $5.00 per gallon for diesel. More for gasoline. A lot less for propane.


    We had a thread on this before, but it was for just off grid on alternative energy, and no city, county, or local sewer and water hookups.

    Off grid in general can include those without any power at all. They can be green or not green. >>I would usually think of the term meaning for permanent dwellings.<<

    Camping with tent or RV is almost always off grid, but not permanent.

    Then there is the off grid green eco-homes, and “modern” living that was put in there.

    To me, eco homes must have as many of these characteristics as possible;

    1)Low wood use, 2)a lot of thermal mass,3) use of indigenous materials,4) solar thermal gain, 5)solar power and/or wind power, 6)water catchment and/or recycling/minimal use,7) use of recycled/re-used materials, 8)super insulation and 9) interior year around gardens that grow food.

    The Earthship is the “Holy Grail” of eco-homes because it can have all 9 characteristics. Others can be designed to have all nine also, like straw bale homes with trombe walls and interior gardens. An A frame could have up to 7 out of 9, and a dome maybe up to 6 out of 9 with difficulty.

    Modern living would entail an eco home with a composting or low flush toilet(and septic system), bath/shower, communications system whether ground line or wireless, LED TV, heating system, with solar and wood stove backup, cooling by earth contact walls, computer/internet(with LED monitor), energy star appliances with no dead loads switching or unplugging. Either a high efficiency electric or gas refrigerator, gas stove with would stove backup. Pure running water, whether from a well, or cistern from rainwater or stream catchment.

    I suppose “rich” would just be more of everything, and maybe not so “eco”(because big houses are less green from a resource standpoint). “Semi-modern” would be less of those things, and maybe not so “eco”. “Homesteading” even less, not necessarily “eco”, maybe with no electricity, oil lamps, outhouses, wood stove or fireplace only.


    LOW wood use. Seems to me this is very geographically dependent.

    I live in the northerrn woods and we are surrounded by trees now mostly dead due to pine beetle infestattion. Log homes are still very common and many people outside built up areas still heat with wood. If they don’t burn it for heat the wood just rots there.

    On the other hand I can see where wood use in the southern deserts would be problematic.

    Likewise dependence on continuous sunlight may not be practical for those who live in coastal climates with lots of cloud cover. Yes I realize the better solar panels produce some power even under cloudy but it may not be sufficient. We just finished a five day stretch of no sunshine but had heavy cloud ccover all the time


    Playing devils advocate for a moment. The earth ship construction I saw by following a link moguitar provided showed a wire form covered in a spray on foam insulation. We have seen examples where these foams turned out to be not so environmentaally friendly. So the question becomes is this foam any more environmentally friendly than using wood? If so why?


    I think I would fall somewhere between homesteading and semi-modern, I’m not hooked up to any utilities, there aren’t even utility poles on my property. I generate all of my own electricity (solar panels and batteries), I haul water, I use small propane tanks (I take them to town to fill about 2-3 times a year), no sewer systems, no phone… I do take advantage of the local wireless internet. We heat with wood, and sometimes cook with it. I’m looking at making a rocket stove and a solar oven. Our life is very simple, we think of ourselves as modern day pioneers :) I enjoy not having monthly utility bills and not being at the mercy of the local public utilities, we have lights when the power is out to the neighborhood. We don’t have TV, that’s a real blessing, though I can get what I want on line (for entertainment). Some might think we live sub-poverty, but I feel like we are rich, we don’t need much money to survive or live.



    Yes, some foams are not environmentally sound. Because of wall burial, the insulation must not be something that can easily rot.

    Part of the 9 characteristics is indigenous material. In places of plentiful low or no bentonite clay gravel compactable subsoil, then that can be used. If there are plentiful supplies of kaolinite clay, that can be used. Rocks, flattened by characteristics and weathering, or round from glacial moraines of river deposits can be used. Logs with plentiful timber can be used, either for log homes with thick, sealed walls, or rock and log combos. The low wood use is from structural and weather resistant species that have been over-cut for 60 years. I suppose there could be non-government land within what few structural wood forests are left. Eskimos used snow and ice blocks, indigenous materials. Northern (or far southern) climates generally are least suited to getting all 9 characteristics of eco-homes, but can still be off grid homesteads (with higher carbon footprint, and lower nutrition).

    Styrofoam with 6 mil plastic over it is usually used with the buried sections of Earthships in colder climates. It can be made by non-petroleum methods, too, and is meant to be a permanent barrier of insulation from cold earth. Spray urethane, and cyanogenic foams are not environmentally friendly in my opinion. Of course neither is PVC in any use(a whole other subject).

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