We often hear about people going “off-grid.” What does that mean exactly? In fact, what grid are we even talking about?
The grid originally referred to the power grid. During the late 19th century, power systems were extremely localized. A generator might be connected to a few hundred lamps within a neighborhood.
As these localized systems began popping up around the country, the government began consolidating the small systems. By the 1930’s, the large electrical grid that many of us rely on was born. It is a system that consists of power plants, transmission lines, and distribution channels.
What is Off-Grid Living?
Our current definition of the grid also includes other public utilities such as water, sewer, and natural gas. Living off-grid is an attempt to declare independence from public utilities. Every year, more people choose to live off the grid. Some of the reasons why people choose this lifestyle include:
- Self-Sufficiency – The inconvenience of losing power is enough for some people to choose an off-grid lifestyle. This could be as simple as installing a standby generator for short-term power outages or a more thorough approach that addresses long-term needs as well.
- Preparedness – Some people want to be ready for the end of society as we know it. It could be a zombie apocalypse, EMP, or nuclear war; either way, these people are prepared for life after a catastrophic event.
- Cost Savings – It’s no secret that the cost of living goes up every year and utility power is no exception. Although the initial costs of setting up an off-grid household can be steep, government rebates allow most homeowners to reach the breakeven point in 3 – 5 years.
- Environmental Impact – The power plants that generate electricity for the public grid produce lots of harmful byproducts that are introduced into the atmosphere every day. Many people look to alternative energy as a way to reduce their reliance on fossil fuels and other environmentally-harmful fuel sources.
Off-Grid Living – What to Consider
Unfortunately, going off-grid isn’t as easy as flipping off a light switch. There are quite a few important factors that should be considered before you make the jump into an off-grid lifestyle.
Cost is one of the most important elements of off-grid living. For some people, it makes perfect sense because they live in remote locations that are not currently serviced by public utilities. In these cases, it actually costs less for them to adopt alternative energy solutions.
For the rest of us, it can be difficult to justify the initial costs of going fully off-grid. For this reason, many people choose to incorporate alternative energy from a modular perspective. A little bit here, a little bit there, and then a little bit more as the budget allows. Unless you are planning on imminent global disaster, this may be the best way to reach your goal from a financial standpoint.
Feasibility is also a factor. If you live in a suburban or urban area, there may be rules and regulations preventing you from going fully off-grid. For instance, authorities are unlikely to allow you to install a septic system in your backyard within the city limits.
The feasibility of going off-grid is also tied into another factor. Most people who live off-grid successfully have resolved to modify their lifestyle to accommodate alternative energy. If every room in your house has a 70” flat screen TV, you may have to consider the feasibility of alternative energy and off-grid living. That said, if you think you can reduce it to one (or maybe two) 70” TVs, generating enough power is definitely achievable.
Off-grid living is a great way for survivalists to take that extra step of becoming energy independent and attaining a more self-sustaining lifestyle.