A lot of people do not know but you can actually live off the grid in a city, although in most areas this can be fairly difficult. Most cities will not allow you to disconnect from utilities, especially from sewage and water as doing this is an actual health hazard. Some people who do not have the possibility to go completely off the grid in the city, tend to live partially off the grid. This means that they are still connected to the grid and the utilities, but they also generate their own power and heat for the most part.
Living off the grid in a city is completely different than living off the grid in a remote or rural setting. Not only you do not have the possibility to disconnect from the grid entirely but you most likely will have a hard time growing your food as well. However, if you live in a suburban area then you have a far easier time living completely or partially off the grid, on the other hand, if you are in the middle of an urban area then you will have to figure out a lot of stuff.
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Although living off the grid in the city is possible, but you are limited to a house or an RV at best, some people manage to live off the grid in an apartment but this is extremely hard and if you are not the owner than the landlord will probably not be happy. Some people who do not have the possibility to disconnect from the grid think that if they stop paying the bills the electricity company will cut them off the grid.
Do not do this, sooner or later the property will have to be reconnected and guess who will pay for everything, you… and in some areas reconnecting to the grid comes with a massive fee. My personal recommendation is to first find out if there is a possibility of you going off the grid and if not then your best option is to live partially off the grid, for more information check out my recent article How to live partially off the grid? ( In 9 Steps ).
Know the laws which prohibit you from living off the grid in the city
Living in a city means that you are connected to the power grid, sewage system, water system, and trash collection system. Cutting all of these off in the middle of a city is asking for trouble, in most cases, you will not be able to disconnect from any of the previously mentioned utilities. The problem is that most people think that if they set up a septic system and generate their own power they can prove to the city officials that they can live off the grid while respecting the local laws.
The problem is that this doesn’t work like that, if an inspector comes by to check why you are not connected to the power grid and you show him that you generate your own power, he simply won’t care, all he will see is that you are not connected to the grid, and from then on your problems will start with the local authorities. If you want more information about the legal aspects of living off the grid then check out my recent article Is living off the grid legal? ( 11 Rules to Follow ).
You can live partially off the grid in a city
You most likely will not have the option to live completely off the grid, in this case, your best option will be to live partially off the grid. This means that you are still connected to the utilities but you generate your own power, heating and if possible you can even grow your own food. You do not have to go completely off the grid to enjoy the benefits of it, keep all your utilities and just use them when you need them, just think of it as a backup system.
Some states offer generous rebates, for renewable energy, which means that the excess electricity which you generate goes back into the grid and you get paid for it. Although most companies will not pay you cash but they will offer a type of credit. Generally speaking, these rebates do not pay well, the company will sell your electricity to other users at a 10x times higher cost than what they are actually paying you. In some provinces in Canada these rebates can be extremely generous, so if you live in Canada then make sure to check them out.
Own the property to live off the grid in the city
The first and most important thing if you want to live off the grid is to own the property. If you do not actually own the property then it will be extremely difficult to disconnect from the grid, most landlords will not allow it and you might even get evicted. Once you own the property you can think of several ways you can either go completely off the grid or at least partially. The closer you are to urban areas the harder it will get, so you shouldn’t get your hopes up.
If you own a plot of land in a suburban area and you plan to live off the grid there, in a tent or in an RV then you will have some problems. Even if you do own the plot of land you can not actually camp on it for more than a couple of weeks, and this law is present in all states.
You can generate your own power to live off the grid in the city
Your best option for generating your own power is by using solar panels, although generating power with solar panels in an urban area has its own drawbacks. Cities tend to be fairly polluted, you can see in your home how much dust can settle in a matter of just a couple of days. If you are near to a road which has a lot of traffic then this will be a massive problem. Solar panels do need constant cleaning, but the dust in urban is not like dust in some remote areas.
The dust in cities tends to be filled with heavy metals and different particles, which will actually cause problems to the solar panels, especially when you wipe them off. Sooner or later you will notice some small scratches on the solar panel and with some time they might even start to malfunction. So your best option is to set up the solar panels as far away from the road as possible and make sure it has direct sunlight, also don’t forget to clean the panels once a week.
You can grow your own food to live off the grid in the city
In most cases, you will probably not be able to grow enough food to live off all year round but you can supplement your food with a vegetable garden. A lot of people love the notion of eating as organically as possible, and as organic food tends to be fairly expensive some people decide to grow their own organic food. Growing food in an urban area is not ideal, to say the least, it can be potentially dangerous.
Urban areas tend to be extremely polluted, no matter what you do the pollution will affect your crops. The chemicals and metals from the pollution will settle on your vegetables where they are absorbed, and eventually, they will be eaten. If you are planning to make a small vegetable garden in an urban area then I highly recommend you to make a greenhouse, this way you will keep out at least the pollution which is in the air. A lot of people living off the grid also make a nice profit by selling their vegetables, even on the roadside, for more information check out my recent article Selling vegetables roadside ( In 9 Easy Steps ).
You can make compost even if you live off the grid in the city
Generally speaking, most people who live off the grid make their own compost, however, you will have to be extra careful making compost in the city. Compost which is not properly made will start to smell and attract a lot of rodents, the last thing you want is a pack of rats to move into your compost pile. If you want to live off the grid in the city then my personal recommendation is to avoid making a compost, just buy some organic fertilizer and you should be fine.
Harvest rainwater while you live off the grid in the city
Most people who live off the grid do harvest rainwater, although harvesting rainwater is not ideal in an urban area due to the pollution. Moisture tends to trap a lot of chemicals and heavy metals which all can be found in the air. You might think that if you filter and purify your water then it would be safe. The truth is that water filters will only filter out to about 0.02-micron particles, anything smaller than this gets through.
The main role of water filters is to filter out bacteria and protozoa and they do a great job at this, but they simply can not filter out chemicals and heavy metals. If you also purify the water by boiling it you will just have boiled water with chemicals and heavy metals. My personal recommendation is to take a sample of harvested rainwater and get it tested in a laboratory, just to be safe.
You have to follow the law if you want to live off the grid in the city
It is extremely important that you follow the law, no matter if you want to live completely or partially off the grid in a city. In remote areas, you can get away with some things as nobody cares, but in urban areas all it takes one nosey neighbor for you to get a visit from some random government official, and these people do not have a sense of humor. If you want to go off the grid in the city then you should probably keep it to yourself, and only ask the local authorities what is possible and what is not possible.
A lot of people simply do not understand what is living off the grid, and some people are simply mean and would do anything to hinder your progress, just out of spite. Make sure to also ask around for solar incentives and rebates, as these are valid in urban areas as well.
As you can see you have fairly limited options when it comes to urban off grid living, my personal recommendation is to live partially off the grid, this way you can live as frugally as possible but also keep some of the modern-day comforts.