Nova Scotia bans new off-grid homes

Dear Off-Grid,

I live on the south shore of Nova Scotia and I want to build a tiny, off-grid homestead. So far, it is proving to be a near impossibility.

The building inspector says I have to have 3 radiators and an air exchanger and these must be powered by electricity (as per the National Building Code). He says I must be able to maintain a temperature of 22.5 degrees Celsius in my home at anytime during the year! Who keeps their heat that high anyways?

What if the power goes out for an extended period of time? I lived through the 1998 ice storm in Montreal, so I know it can happen.

I absolutely do not want electricity in my home. I am content to cook over a wood-burning stove (which I already have), read by kerosene lamps and generally live a self-sufficient lifestyle. Why does the government get to decide how I live? When did my rights as a Canadian citizen get taken away? If I don’t want electricity, I shouldn’t be forced to have electricity. Don’t you agree? If the old-order Mennonites and Amish can go totally off-grid, the rest of us should also have that right.

My dream is to grow my own food (no more chemicals), raise chickens, sheep (for wool) and teach others how to live off-grid, green and self-sufficient. Is that now a crime?

I’d like to hear what your readers think of this and if you think it is something you might be interested in pursuing. If I have to, I’ll even haul my own water (doesn’t that sound like fun in the middle of January)?

Cheryl Smith

25 Responses

  1. I am hoping to live off-grid somewhere near Bridgewater (Lunenburg/Queens county) in Nova Scotia, and would like to connect and chat with like-minded people in the area. I grew up off-grid and would like to return to this lifestyle. I also believe it will be necessary to be self-sufficient and to be off-grid in the near future. If there is a group in the area that I can connect with where one can trade info/ideas or have discussions, please leave me a comment.

    1. Well well,lets see,okso I have lived off-grid in Nova Scotia
      for years,first run was up in the Rompkey Hills overlooking Crecent beach in an old bus styling a 5 watt
      panel and run and get it water.
      Now living on a salt water farm in Hants co.Had NS power remove there equipment and found this site while
      doing comparitive shopping for a new battery bank.
      As to building inspectors,they have no real authority,there is a requirement for light(candles are acceptable) and water, and a dug well and a bucket are again acceptable.
      I have been through many iterations of navigating the
      beurography and now know the ropes and have a home built off-grid system with wood heat, a mortgage and insurance.I can also testify to the fact that “da woods” is
      full of rugged individualists happily going about there business .
      Nova Scotia is blessed with many many perfect sites for
      living off-grid,countless south facing slopes, with water on top of the hill for gravity fed water and passive thermal
      heat for just down hill.
      There are lots of good suppliers of gear and an active nfp
      “novascotiasolar” who have some goo.d print publications and web site.
      Anyhow back to finding a new(er) 400amp/hr 48volt battery,chickaching……

      1. HI there!
        I would love to know if i can Disconnect my home from the grid in a subdivision? How did you have NS remove their equipment? Can it be done ?

  2. I currently live out of the country but within 2 to 3 years I want to return find a place in Nova Scotia to live off-grid. I have been looking at land and different off-grid systems. As far as I can see, the easiest way to get around red tape BS is to build a tiny house on wheels. However, I don’t necessarily want to build a house on wheels. I have been looking at earth bag houses, hempcrete, yurts, and other kinds of homes. I am interested rocket stove heaters, rain water systems and other off-grid resources. One of the issues for me is being able to maintain an off-grid electrical system. As previously mentioned, I think the pioneers of this movement face more difficult hurdles but in the end everyone will benefit – people, community, environment, animals and the rest of the world. I wish you well in your journey and hope I will be joining you in the future.

  3. i just saw this on my ctv app. Have you considered a solar panel, to keep the smoke and CO2 detectors? They’re available to keep lights on inside a shed… Shouldn’t be difficult to modify it for the detectors, with battery back up, should satisfy their requirements, and yours.

  4. Regarding Cheryl Smith’s home, I do think that the local building guys might be way off base. The National Building Code… does it really say that you can’t live off-grid? There are a lot of us who are. My house is tiny so I did not need a permit where I am – I have a tiny 12 volt system for some LED lights and to charge my phone.
    I would be calling the National Building Department I have called them before on the tiny issue and they are very helpful. I think if you find out REALLY if there is a code. I highly doubt it. Here is my blog post with the contact.

  5. This is still possible to do there are numerous off-grid communities around nova scotia. Contact me if youd like to talk i plan on doing the same thing but am starting a community because of the many advantages over going it alone, some others and i are meeting up soon to exchange ideas on the matter and brainstorm email me if youd like to join us

  6. I want to build a container tiny home in Eastern Passage, Nova Scotia. . . I wonder what I’m getting into. . . does anyone know the building codes around dartmouth?

  7. most townships set a minimum value of a building they will allow you to be built so that they can get what they consider a fair tax and not effect they values of that area most have a minimum sq footage, minimum insulation, minimum air exchange etc.

    you want to find an unincorporated township
    if there is any in your area

  8. One way around this is to make your property a private camp ground. A privately owned camp ground must have a clean water source and septic. The size of those limits how many people are allowed to use the camp ground. With out those the property is considered unimproved and you can only camp on it. Many people use this loop hole building the tiny houses on wheels which are untaxable. The goverment trys to force us to install basic standards so you reach a base tax rate. The more they force you to install the higher the taxes they can hit you for. I am not sure about sharing links here but here is a list you can google for more information about how it can be done. I suggest for starters; “Smart communities Ontario”, “Tiny house community”, and “Beyond off the grid”. I was looking at property down Baccaro Point so I am grateful to be reading your experience before buying. Hope you can sort it out.

  9. Hi,
    Eliopoli is an ecovillage in South west NS, we are off-grid and we faced similar issues.
    To maintain the temperature constant we built a earth sheltered dome. The system is awesome: last winter we got +16 C inside with no heating while outside were – 20 C.
    We do have air circulation, we use a very efficient system.It requires 2 Amp 24/7.

  10. Is there any way you can just put in 3 very small radiators, and either connect to to the mains or to a generator just for the duration of the inspectors visit? Incidentally, why on earth would you want to heat your house to 22DegC, as soon as any room in my house hits 18DegC the windows are opened to cool it down. All other considerations apart it is totally stupid to say you have to heat your house to this completely illogically high temperature. Why would you want to be wearing a t-shirt and shorts in the middle of winter, which is what they are telling you you should be doing.

  11. I’ve read other stories where people are forced to pay to support maintenance on the grid, though they live off the grid. Is it possible in this person’s case to just call his electric company a few months down the road, and tell them that he’s traveling the world and to shut off electricity, if he’s forced to install it, and just live off the grid instead?

  12. If you make a temporary building I think the inspector can’t say a word or even need to be involved. It all has to do with your building foundation.

  13. Yep I’m getting in on this. It has been and always will be about money.We just did 3 months without electric and it was the best 3 months of my life,my hubby has other plans. There are several countries now that won’t let you live off-grid.What will happen when you can’t pay your electric bills or the power grid fails? As for Florida there are some people who live off-grid there with kids and I am so happy for them. The Seminoles there were told they could not live in the traditional manner for their tribe and had to go modern. You are right Gail,remember southern bell when the cell phones came out the independent phone companies took over,southern bell went under. Solar?yeah just wait when people go just solar for their homes I guarantee we’ll be taxed on that too. They are going to get their money one way or another ONLY if we don’t fight them.

  14. You have to go rural, with as few codes as possible. In some places the “tiny” means you need to find a pre-existing small cottage or cabin (which is how we managed to do this in Ontario). You won’t legally be able to add rooms, though, if the min dwelling size req is in the county code. RV Living as a nomad (in any mobile type house) may be a better option unless having land is important to you.

  15. My sense is that as the utility companies get undermined by the off-gridders there will be more of this. It’s got nothing to do with codes, not those kind of codes anyway, but more about the money that Utilities feel entitled to. I think the best way a lot of us can make changes is to get involved with your community and vote out the people who have these building inspectors in their pocket. Be a part of the voice that helps to make changes by starting from where you are. Gather others of like mind and circulate petitions. The power of ‘One’ can and does make a difference! Keep on keeping on your have support from like minded individuals all across the world who are sick and tired and just won’t take it anymore!

  16. was this posted by Nick or Cheryl……just wanted to say good luck…with code…they defiantly have their own agenda….here in Florida , you can forget about building anything yourself…..impact fees…contractors for elec…water…solar….site maps…set backs….flood zones….wind load…..totally imposable ……take care….Bob

  17. This practically begs people to simply install the very Basic bare minimum equipment local Code requires, to get the place permitted—then don’t use them unless you absolutely need to.

    IF you are NOT connected to the Grid, relying on creating your own power supplies:
    What If you simply put those minimums in [use recycled if you can, to cut costs], then point to your generator, for instance, and – imply – that is the electric source for those bits of equipment?

    Some Counties/Municipalities try to use “you must have…” bits to discourage individuals from building an off-grid home or business.
    SOME make it so hard, the place simply has to be made as a Grid-connected building, then the owners can do as they please to disconnect from the Grid, or use as little of it as possible.

    Check how your Building Codes are actually written! It can be frustrating, time consuming and complex, but you learn much, and may just find sections to help your case.
    See if other sections could be made to apply to getting your project done as you wish it, by labeling something differently or classing it under other sections.

    IF you still can’t find something, WRITE your legislators!
    ASK them about the letter and spirit of the existing Code Laws; does the State mean to obstruct environmentally clean housing, or obstruct low-income people from owning their own place [pride of ownership], which are energy-independent?
    ASK for help from local officials, and even legislators, getting your project permitted as you wish it.
    Have plans in hand, be passionate, be succinct and educational: you are teaching them new ways to view economics as a whole, and how those are deeply affected by the high rates of poverty, unemployment, homeless rates, etc.

    Writing letters to the editor in local papers and publications, question the benefits of limited building Codes, and who is really benefitting from those limitations?
    All that causes people to reconsider…officials who are voted into office, do NOT like to be seen in a bad light, if they are seen to be obstructive, or treating constituents badly.

    It is fairly common for Building inspectors and permitting agents to make mistakes, too, knee-jerk telling people they must put in certain items, or configure things certain ways, that no longer apply, or not in their case, or, they are ignorant of other sections that do cover what you want.

    People should be Encouraged to build something that Exceeds Code minimums, it just can’t be less than Code Minimums.

    ALSO, there usually is a process by which anyone should be able to get “Variances” for things that are non-standard. You might be required to keep records of monitored nonstandard systems, to show officials you are paying attention, and to help educate them.
    You might need to pay higher fees.
    You might need engineering documents showing that the systems you prefer are viable, and how they are viable, in engineering terms, paperwork that gets filed with your property information in permitting offices.

    Steps you take to get good changes made, help others down the road.
    “Early Adaptors” must work harder and pay higher prices to get good changes faster. Worth it in the end!

  18. Cheryl, I live on the south shore as well. You might want to take this up with Municipal Affairs or someone above that inspector in your local gov’t. Maybe call your MLA or MP. That’s ridiculous.
    Maybe talk to someone at EfficiencyNS as well, they might know someone you can talk to.

    1. sorry to use a reply on this comment but I couldn’t figure out how to leave a reply! Just wondering if there are any updates on this…looking for a community to join, my boyfriend and I have been searching forever and have just had it with the control over our lives, looking to join a community of like minded people and be self sustainable! Ideas anyone?

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