A lot of people live partially off the grid, either for convenience or because they do not have the option to go completely off the grid. Living partially off the grid means that you keep using some utilities, but at the same time, you disconnect yourself from unnecessary utilities. There is no rule on what should you keep and what should you renounce, every home or homestead is different and you will have to take a look at what you actually need.
You can live partially off the grid by renouncing some utilities and keeping the most essential ones. You can generate your own power, find alternative sources for heating like a wood stove, renouncing on cable, phone, and internet. On the other hand, there are certain utilities without which everyday life will be extremely difficult like water, sewage, and trash collecting. Before deciding which utilities to cut make some careful calculations on what you actually need and if you are even allowed to cut these utilities.
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Going off the grid completely in urban areas will be difficult, in some areas they will simply not allow you to cut off your electricity and water. This is why so many people wrongly think that living off the grid is illegal. However off grid living is not meant for urban areas, generally speaking, you would set up your homestead in either a rural area or in a remote area. There are a lot of people who live in a semi off grid fashion in urban areas but they can simply not disconnect themselves from every utility.
In some states like Colorado, harvesting rainwater is illegal, so people tend to buy water and store them in water tanks, while others who have the possibility to connect themselves to the water and sewage choose to do so, it is simply a lot easier than storing water in water tanks. In most of the states, the laws and regulations regarding sewage are very strict, if you live in a populated area where everybody is connected to water and sewage then you will find it extremely difficult to disconnect, the local authorities will simply not let you.
The main point of living off the grid is to be as self-sufficient and self-reliant as possible, and you can do this even if you are partially off the grid, completely off the grid, and even if you keep all your utilities. There are a lot of people who have access to all the utilities, and they still generate most of their power and heat with solar panels, and they grow some of their foods. Basically, they get the best of both worlds, the comfort of living with all the utilities but paying as little as possible for them as they do generate most of their power. If you want to know how off grid living is in one of Canada’s best off grid provinces then check out my recent article Off grid living in Prince Edward Island ( Million Acre Farm ).
Living partially off the grid in some areas
There are certain things that will determine if you can go off the grid or partially off the grid, and the most important one is location. Not only every state is different in this aspect but also in every county. In some states where the population density is fairly low, it is a lot easier to go completely off the grid. If you already own a house that is connected to the utilities then you will have to find out which ones you are allowed to disconnect, in most cases, you can not disconnect from the water and sewage systems.
On the other hand, if you are planning to build an off grid homestead in a remote area then you most likely will have no other option than to live off the grid. If this is the case you should have to be extra careful with the local laws, regulations, and building code. If you want to take a look at one of the best states for off grid living then check out my recent article Off grid living in Texas ( The Lone Star State ).
Generating power while living partially off the grid
When most people imagine off grid living the first thing they think of are houses covered with solar panels. Generally speaking, most people who live completely off the grid tend to generate their own power and most of them are not connected to the local electric grid. Some people who live off the grid do not even bother generating their own power, either because in some areas generating their own power is fairly difficult or they simply do not need any electricity.
People who live in remote areas do not need that much electricity, in most remote areas there is no cell phone reception, and no internet connection. If they generate their own power they tend to use it for lighting or other small comforts. If you would want to keep all your comforts like TV, radio, fridge, and internet then your best option will be to go semi off grid, generate some of your power but be connected to the grid.
What most people fail to realize that generating power with solar panels is not meant to run all your household appliances, it will simply not able to do so. Some items like the fridge need a lot of watts to run, the average household uses around 901 kilowatt hours per month, which will simply be impossible to generate with solar panels. There are some high-end solar panels that can generate a lot of power, but these tend to be extremely expensive. If you want to take a look at one of the worst states for off grid living then check out my recent article Off grid living in Florida ( The Sunshine State ).
Using gas while living partially off the grid
Not all areas need gas, some places have already switched to electric heating, while others due to the mild climate do not need heating during the wintertime. If you want to live off the grid in an area where winters are harsh then you will have to think about how you will heat your home. In some areas most of the houses have chimneys, but most modern houses do not have chimneys which will not let you heat your home with a fireplace.
If you are lucky to have a chimney then you can use your fireplace to heat your home, and you can install a wood-burning stove to heat both your home and your water. The problem is that a lot of people think that heating their house with a fireplace is romantic and fun, but trust me that wears off quickly when you have to wake up in the middle of the night several times to refuel the stove.
Disposing of sewage while living partially off the grid
This is where a lot of people start making very costly mistakes, especially the ones who build a new homestead. Most states have very strict laws and regulations for sewage if you are not connected to sewage then your only possibility is to make a septic tank. These septic tanks need to be emptied once in a while, and if you live in a remote area where there is a problem with road access then you will start facing some problems.
Usually, people who tend to live partially off the grid will keep the sewage, and in some areas, they will not let you set up a septic tank in your back yard especially if you live in a populated area. For some people setting up a portable toilet will be an option, but in the long run, this is not an ideal setup and in some states, there is a time limit on how long you can use a portable toilet before needing to upgrade to a septic tank.
Ways to get water while living partially off the grid
Without water you will not be able to live off the grid, you will either have to find a source of water, harvest rainwater, dig a well or stay hooked to the local infrastructure. In some states where the climate is arid or semi-arid, you are not allowed to harvest rainwater, so you will either have to be connected to the local grid or you will have to buy water and store them in water tanks. In other states, you are allowed to harvest rainwater but there are strict regulations on how much you can store and for what you can use it.
If you want to grow your own food then you will have to think about how much extra water you need, and if there is any possibility to store water especially if the summers tend to be fairly hot. Most people who live off the grid tend to pick a place where they have access to fresh water, like a creek, and most of them make an improvised water supply system. You can always use buckets to transport water but in the long run, this will be a nightmare.
You can go partially off grid with water as well, keep your home connected to the local grid, and set up a rainwater harvesting system. Just use the local grid for your daily necessities like cooking, and cleaning and use the harvested rainwater for watering your crops.
Getting rid of the trash while living partially off the grid
Most people bring out the trash and they simply forget it, but if you do not have a contract with a trash-collecting company then you will quickly notice how much the trash can pile up in a matter of weeks. In most urban areas you will have to use some trash collecting company, you simply have no other option. In some remote areas where it isn’t possible to dispose of trash, people tend to burn their trash which might cost you a lot of money if the local authorities find you.
People who live completely off the grid tend to recycle a lot of their trash, making fishing line from plastic bottles, and compost from organic materials. The main problem with trash is that it attracts a lot of rodents like rats and mice, these, in turn, attract predators and you might find a bear on your doorstep the next day. How you dispose of trash in bear country is extremely important.
If you want to partially live off the grid then your best option when it comes to trash is to recycle as much as possible, you will still have some trash but not that much if you wouldn’t recycle. By recycling, I do not mean to put the plastics in the plastics bin, but to actually reuse the items.
Cell phone reception in off grid areas
There are some places where people are still using landlines, although they are kind of obsolete. No matter if you live off the grid or partially off the grid you will have to find a way on how to communicate. Not all areas have cellphone reception, although even if this is the case you will still need a phone just for emergencies if you live in a remote area. You can call the emergency services without having an active subscription to a phone service.
Living partially off the grid with cable TV
At this point, if you want to live as frugally as possible then you will have to cut your cable TV service. It is up to you if you want to keep the cable or not, all you need is access to the local grid, although you will probably be better off with having access to the internet rather than cable TV.
Living partially off the grid with internet
Most people who live completely off the grid or partially off the grid will keep using the internet if this is an option. In remote areas where there is no cell phone reception, you will have no access to the internet. If you are used to using the internet every day, then it will be extremely difficult to live without it. Generally speaking, the internet is not essential, but it is extremely useful, no matter if you live off the grid or not.
Living off the grid partially is not that far off from living off the grid completely, just think of it as off grid living with a lot of comforts. Living completely off the grid is a lot of hard work, and if you have a steady job you will find it extremely difficult to keep up your daily chores at home and to also work, if this is the case for you then your best option is to go partially off the grid.