The true costs of living off the grid are a lot more than you would imagine. While the dream of being energy independent is a worthy goal, the costs associated with off the grid living may not be a feasible solution. With limited resources and even a more limited budget, the majority of people may be better off using a hybrid solution.
While we often complain about the utility services we receive, it is easy to forget that the costs for maintaining that service comes at a higher price than we realize. When going totally off the grid, the majority of these costs for maintenance and upkeep will shift from a utility service to you. Having a backup system in place to in case your current services are interrupted may be a better option. It is also important to remember that sheltering in place will generally be your best option in all but the most extreme circumstances.
The Hybrid Solution
While I would prefer to be totally off the grid, it is not economically feasible in my case. Your income can severely limit monetary resources to accomplish off the grid goals but can be done if you use a combination of current resources with good backup options in place. The best place to start is with satisfying your basic needs.
Normally your home will be the first and best option for shelter. There is a chance that it may become temporarily uninhabitable due to storm damage or other problems. While repairs are being made, even a simple storage shed can solve your needs for temporary shelter. In my case, I have a 12 X 20 storage shed that has a simple solar setup (approximately $600) that provides light and electricity independent of the grid. It also has a couple of sleeping lofts and is well insulated. If necessary, in an emergency it could act as a secondary shelter.
Water will be an absolute necessity. Drilling your own water well may be impractical and extremely costly. It may also be prohibited by your local utility. Fortunately, the simple collection of rainwater can solve most of your water needs. A rainwater catchment system (approximately $500) combined with a good filtration system can solve most of your water needs. In my case, our monthly average of 3 inches of rainfall can completely fill all our water storage barrels and provide us in excess of 500 gallons each month.
3.) Auxiliary Power
There is still a need for temporary power in order to keep certain appliances properly functioning. Your refrigerator and freezer won’t keep your food adequately without a continued source of power. In my case, I keep a small portable gas generator (approximately $400 + fuel) to use for just such an occasion. If a major power outage of any lengthy duration occurs, I can keep my appliances functioning long enough to cook and eat the food items they contain.
There are several other priorities that also need to be addressed in order to have off the grid backup for your current utility services. The easiest and probably the most affordable sources for heating and cooking needs are propane and wood. Gas and charcoal grills or wood stoves are affordable, require minimal maintenance and work extremely well in an off the grid or emergency situation. Most people quite often have one or both already available for use (I have both...can’t have too many backups).
Small propane heaters ($200) can also provide emergency heat if needed during colder weather and are usually extremely portable. Most can even be used indoors with proper ventilation. You may even have a fireplace in your home that can provide an auxiliary heat source.
You don’t have to live off grid but can use simple and low cost options to provide alternatives to help you maintain your lifestyle in the event of an emergency.
Got hybrid solution?
Staying above the water line!