If you want to know the true price of off grid living then you are in the right place. Far too many people who do not actually live off the grid throw around numbers like $100 000 – $200 000, the actual number is not even close to that. Most people who want to live off the grid want to do it at an affordable price, and not by spending copious amounts of money, the whole point of living of the grid is to spend as little money as possible.
The cost to live off the grid is around $38,095, the cost of agricultural land is around $8k for 4 acres, the cost of building a homestead is between $10k-$30k, the cost of the solar panels is around $7k for 3kW before the tax incentives, the cost of water is around $10 if you can harvest rainwater, the cost of a 1,000-gallon tank septic system is around $800, the cost of a greenhouse is between $50-$200 if you build it, the cost of building a chicken coop is $50 and the cost of gardening is around $35.
A fully set up septic system will cost you a lot of money, this is why most people who live off the grid use a composting toilet, my personal recommendation is to use one that comes with a 5 year warranty and has plenty of space for composting Click here to check it out on Amazon.com
If you have an unlimited budget and you want to buy an off grid property in a high priced area for a couple of millions then you can do that, but the average person who is on a budget doesn’t need all that much money to have a nice off grid homestead. There are a lot of ways on how you can reduce the cost of the homestead, and most people who actually live off the grid build their own homesteads.
An off grid home is not like a home in the suburbs when the budget is tight then the house will be smaller, although you should keep in mind to always follow the local building code. Also, you should keep in mind that you do not have to get everything in the first year, off grid living takes time and you can add to your comforts down the line when you have the basic necessities to be able to live in the homestead.
Most people who live off the land move to the location as they start building the homestead until the homestead is ready they live either in an RV, a small improvised shelter, or even in a tent. Although camping on your own land for more than a couple of weeks is illegal but if you have a building permit then you can live on the site without any problems. If you want to know what kind of skills you will need to live off the grid then check out my recent article ( Top 22 ) Skills needed to live off the grid.
Off grid agricultural land costs $8k for 4 acres
One of the biggest costs for living off the grid is the plot of land, but trust me, the land isn’t that expensive. Land in urban and rural areas can get fairly expensive, especially if all the utilities are already connected. Land which is meant for housing is the most expensive, followed by undeveloped land and farming land. A lot of people who do not live off the grid and write about it will tell you that the cost of land will be extremely expensive.
The truth is that if you want to live off the grid, grow your own crops, and raise livestock then you will need farming land. A lot of people buy some undeveloped land just to find out they are not allowed to raise livestock and grow crops. Most people who live off the grid know that you can build on agricultural land. According to the USDA, the average value of farm land is around $3,160 per acre.
This number is somewhat inflated by a large number of industrial-scale farms, so a more realistic approach would be around $2000 per acre, this can be higher or lower, depending on the area where you want to purchase the land. Generally speaking, if you want to grow some crops, livestock and also have a homestead on your plot then you will be looking at a plot of around 3-5 acres. There are even some towns which offer free land where you can live off the grid, as long as you will build a house on it, for more information check out my recent article ( Top 25 ) Places to live off the grid for free.
Building a homestead costs between $10k-$30k
When it comes to the actual house you have 4 options, build the homestead, buy one, buy a prefabricated house, or live in an RV. Just keep in mind that in not all areas you can live permanently in your RV, not even if you are doing it on your own land. The actual cost will be determined by several factors, how big will it be, what kind of insulation you will use, how many windows there are, how many rooms, and so on.
Established homesteads which already have a garden tends to be more expensive, although this also depends on the location. Generally speaking, if you want to build your own house then you will have to take into consideration the cost of transport, especially if you live in a remote area as this will cost you a lot more. Most people after they get their building permit they will make the foundation and after letting the foundation rest for some time they start slowly building it, in most cases, they build it from timber, I am talking about people who live off the grid.
You will also have to calculate in the budget if you hire a contractor, but if you know what you are doing you can manage without one. Generally speaking, a timber home can be built for $10k-$30k, but only if you are building the house yourself.
Generating power with solar panels costs $7k for 3kW without incentives or rebates
Most people living off the grid generate power with solar panels, wind turbines are mostly used by off grid communities as these tend to produce plenty of power. As for how much will the solar panels cost you that depends on how much energy you want to generate. A normal house needs between 4kW and 6kW, but a homestead doesn’t really need that much power. If you want to live off the grid then you will have to do it by using less power, this means no freezer, no electric heater, and no air conditioning.
If you have a high budget then you can set up a large enough solar panel system to power everything you want, but if you are on a budget you will have to limit yourself. Most people who live off the grid tend to use it for a small fridge, powering their devices, and for illumination. The average cost of a solar panel system for 2 kW is around $4.3k, for 5 kW is around $11k, for 10 kW is around $21k.
Generally speaking for an off grid house you will need around 3kW-5kW although most people who do generate their own power tend to stick to the lower end of this number. Some people who live partially off the grid will generate more power as they sell the excess power back to the utility company.
Do note that you can apply for the Federal Tax Credit which is around 26% of the total cost, you can use it in any state and you can use it on top of a local incentive or rebate. Some states do offer generous rebates and tax credits on top of the previously mentioned tax credit. Overall the cost of a solar panels system for an off grid home will be around $7k for 3kW power, and this is before the incentives, with the incentives you can reduce it by up to 50%.
The costs of harvesting rainwater are around $10 if you DIY
Most people think that people who live off the grid use a well, the truth is that there are few off grid homestead which do actually have a well. Not all areas have access to groundwater, and in some areas, it will not be economically viable to dig a well. Most people who live off the grid tend to harvest rainwater and store it in water barrels or in water cisterns. Some states have strict regulations when it comes to harvesting rainwater, and not so long ago there were some states where harvesting rainwater was illegal.
In my recent article, What do I need to live off the grid? ( Top 15 Items ), I point out how important it is to choose an off grid location that has plenty of either water or rainfall during the year. There are some people who live off the grid in arid areas, and generally speaking, most of them buy water and store them in large cisterns, by buying them I do not mean that they buy bottles of water, there are some companies which fill these water cisterns. So in short if you are able to harvest rainwater then all your water needs will be around $10 which is the cost of an average water barrel.
Gray water is reused in most cases
This is the water that flows down your sink, there are some specialized systems that allow you to reuse the greywater although these tend to be expensive. The truth is that you won’t be hearing a lot about gray water from people who live off the grid. They use a small after tank which collects all the water and they either use it in the garden or they just dump it on the ground. There is simply no need to set up some expensive system.
A 1,000-gallon tank septic system costs around $800
Septic system is just a fancy word for an outhouse, back in the days these can be set up anywhere you wanted. However, nowadays you will need somebody to perform a percolation test, which basically measures the absorption rate of the ground. If the septic system is well made then this can last you for a couple of decades. There are some people who set up their septic system without making any percolation test, but I wouldn’t really recommend it.
You also have the option to use a composting toilet, I personally do not know anybody who uses one and they tend to be extremely expensive. The cost of the septic system will depend on the size of the tank, a 1,000-gallon tank is around $800, and a 3,000-gallon tank is around $3.5k
Building a greenhouse costs $50-$200 if you DIY
A lot of people think that building a greenhouse costs a lot of money, the truth is that it can be done for little to no money. All you need is some transparent plastic covered and some metal or plastic tubes which will be the frame of the greenhouse. There are plenty of guides on how you can make a greenhouse cheap and easy, so I won’t be going into much detail. Generally speaking the materials for a greenhouse, namely the plastic covers and the metal tubing will cost you anything between $50-$200.
Building a chicken coop costs around $50 if you DIY
People who live off the grid tend to have a couple of chickens if you are searching online for a chicken coop then you might find that these can get expensive. Building a chicken coop is not rocket science, just make sure that it is on an elevated platform or on legs, to avoid water getting in and make sure that the chickens have a couple of areas to rest and to lay their eggs. You will also have to build a small fence in order to keep them from running off.
Generally speaking the materials to making a chicken coop and a fence will be around $50. If you want to buy one which is already built then it could cost around $200.
The costs for gardening are around $35
You can spend as little or as much you want on gardening, the seeds are fairly cheap, the tools will cost around $35. Some people use fertilizers which will raise the cost of the garden but I personally use my own compost, and you probably also should do so.
As you can see living off the grid is not that expensive if you know what you are doing. If you want to buy everything ready-made then you will spend a lot of money, but if you want to live as frugally as possible then you can live off the grid without spending all your money.