There are some people who live off the grid in an apartment, however, there are a lot of challenges for it. The main problem with apartments is that they tend to be small, generating power with solar panels, harvesting rainwater, and growing your own foods needs a lot of space. Basically, the more space you have for the solar panels and for your garden the more you can produce, both in terms of energy and in crops.
You can live off the grid in an apartment but you will find that it is simply impossible to go completely off the grid in an apartment. People who tend to live off the grid in an apartment tend to do it in a semi off grid way, meaning they do keep their utilities but still generate power and even grow crops in pots. If you want to live off the grid in a rented apartment then you have to ask permission from the landlord, and oftentimes they will not allow it.
You can even grow your own food in the apartment as long as you know what to grow, my personal recommendation is to use a raised garden bed which is also self watering Click here to check it out on Amazon.com
Most people live in a rented apartment, which could complicate things. Even if you own the apartment you will still not be able to disconnect from the grid completely, either the local authorities will not let you or your neighbors won’t. You will definitely not be able to disconnect from the sewage system and set up a composting toilet in the middle of your living room. If you want to live off the grid in your apartment then your best option is to live partially off the grid.
Even if you live in an apartment you can still generate your own power, harvest rainwater, and grow some food. Most states offer rebates and incentives for using renewable energy, although there are strict requirements for accessing them. So don’t get your hopes up as you most likely won’t be able to access these incentives for setting up a solar system in an apartment. You will definitely need to think about the logistics, like how you will store everything.
Most apartments tend to be fairly small, now add the solar system, with the batteries, regulators, water storage containers, and a place where you can reliably grow some food and you will find yourself living in a corner of your apartment. If you need more info about what it means to live partially off the grid then check out my recent article How to live partially off the grid? ( In 9 Steps ).
Ask permission to be able to live off the grid in an apartment
If you want to live off the grid in an apartment then the first thing you need to do is to ask permission. If you have access to the roof of the building then this is by far the best place to set up the solar panels, rainwater harvesting system, and growing area. You will have to ask permission from the local administrator and from the neighbors. If the roof is not used for sunbathing, or other activities then you most likely will get approved.
If you do not have access to the roof then you still have to ask the administrator if it is ok to set up solar panels below your window. A lot of fo building administrators are fairly strict I mean just look at the doors in an apartment complex, everybody has the same door. So if the administrator considers the solar panels to be an eyesore then he will probably not allow them. Just make sure to ask around before you start doing anything. If you are from Canada and you are wondering what are your options for off grid living then check out my recent article Best places to live off the grid in Canada ( 1-13 Best to Worst ).
Don’t cut off the utilities in the apartment
In most places you will not be able to get off the grid in an apartment, so you will be permanently hooked to the grid when it comes to electricity, sewage, water, and trash collecting. Although this doesn’t mean that you can not live partially off the grid, far from it. This way you will still be connected to the utilities but you will not rely on them, and if you are lucky enough to live in an area where there are generous solar rebates then you can even make some extra money.
Setting up solar panels in an apartment
Your only source of renewable energy will be solar, although you could set up a wind turbine in your living room coming out of the window if you do please send me a picture. The good news about solar panels is that every year they are getting cheaper and more efficient. The problem is that all solar panels will need direct sunlight, although they still do work in a shade but they tend to generate a lot less power.
There are some online calculators with which you can calculate how many and what kind of solar panels you need to generate enough power. Do note that you most likely will not be able to generate all your power from solar panels alone, unless you cut back significantly on using some devices like air conditioners and freezers. Make sure to get solar panels that do not reflect light, as these can be a serious eyesore if they shine on somebody’s apartment directly. If you want to check out one of the best off grid states then take a look at my recent article Off grid living in Texas ( The Lone Star State ).
- Solar panels on the roof: If you have access to the roof of the building and you also have the approval of the administrator and the neighbors to set up a couple of solar panels then this would be an ideal setup. Just keep in mind that if you store the batteries on the roof to make sure that they are in a closed area where no water can get in, water and batteries are not an ideal combination.
- Solar panels on the balcony: If you do not have access to the roof but you have a balcony then this is your best option to set up the solar panels. My personal recommendation is to place the solar panels below the balcony’s railing, there are certain types of solar panels that blend in extremely well and most people won’t even know that you are using solar panels.
- Solar panels below the window: If you do not have access to the roof, and you don’t have a balcony then your best option is to set up the solar panels below your window. Make sure to talk to the administrator first if this is even possible. In no shape or form obstruct the light coming into your window as this is against the rules in most places. Your best option is to suspend the solar panels right below the windows.
Harvesting rainwater in the apartment
Harvesting rainwater will be tricky, the main problem is that you will need a large surface area to harvest rainwater. If you have access to the roof and you also have the approval from the administrators then you can set up a rainwater harvesting system, although it is fairly unlikely that you will be able to do so. You could connect to the gutters but in most cases, this will not be allowed, and you will definitely not be able to set up a water cistern in the middle of the living room.
For getting water with little to no cost you will either have to use tap water, although I do recommend you to set up at least a carbon filter if you use the water for drinking and cooking. On the other hand, if you do not want to pay for water at all then your best option is to use spring water if there are some springs in your area, and if not then fill a couple of water jugs at a truckstop. Although you probably shouldn’t worry too much about water in an apartment.
Growing food in the apartment
You will be fairly limited about how much food you can grow in an apartment. Generally speaking the bigger the space where you can grow food the bigger the yield will be. Realistically speaking you will most likely not be able to grow enough food to feed yourself, but it will definitely make living off the grid in an apartment cheaper. First, you will have to find out what types of vegetables are suitable for your local climate, and find out if they can survive in an urban area, some plants are extremely sensitive to pollution.
- Roof garden: In some areas, roof gardens have started to be increasingly popular, although most of them are community projects and the crops are divided between the people living in the building. For setting up a roof garden you will have to get permission from the administrators and your neighbors if you do have their permission then make sure to speak to people who already have a roof garden as they are more complicated than you might think.
- Balcony garden: If you have a balcony then you will be able to grow some food. Although the space is fairly limited you can still manage. First, you will need to make a couple of wooden boxes and fill them with soil. The most ideal plants to grow are the ones that grow vertically, this way your yield will be a lot higher, plants like cherry tomatoes, peas, and so on.
- Window garden: Although not an actual garden, but you will still be able to grow some types of vegetables in a well-lit room right next to the window. For this, your best option is to use vertically growing plants, like the ones which I have mentioned above.
While you can live off the grid in an apartment you will be extremely limited on what you can actually do. Most people who want to live off the grid want to also save as much money as they can, and you can certainly do this in an apartment, although you should probably save up some money to buy your own off grid property or plot of land.