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Ever Thought About Living Off the Grid? Here's What You'll Need

Once thought to be a lifestyle reserved just for the tinfoil hat crowd, “living off the grid” is becoming more mainstream, especially during periods of upheaval such what we are currently experiencing. It’s estimated that more than a quarter of a million people have packed it up and headed for the hills over the last decade. While you may not be contemplating such a move right now, you might be curious as to what it might entail – just in case. Here’s what you can expect:

Why They Do It

Off-grid living, or homesteading as it is sometimes called, has come to mean different things depending on the motivation of the people who pursue it. The vast majority of these people are simply choosing to live a life of self-sustainability for environmental reasons, financial reasons, or to seek the protection of a solitary life. But then, there are those who believe that black helicopters are swooping in on American citizens and that anarchy will prevail once the citizenry catches on.

For all of these homesteaders, their first priority is to get off the electric grid and create their own renewable supply of energy. That is followed by the creation of a renewable water source and sustainable food source for total self reliance. And, for the doomsday preppers and conspiracy enthusiasts who want to get totally off the grid, the ultimate step is to remove any and all links with identifying institutions including bank accounts, credit accounts, DMV, and even Social Security. For now, we’ll limit this discussion to those who still feel the need have access to an ATM or a valid driver’s license.

What it Takes

Across America you can find millions of people who are attempting to reduce their exposure to the grid by reducing their energy consumption, planting gardens, and generally trying to live simpler and greener lives. But, if you really want to get off the grid, it does require an almost uncommon commitment, and the willingness to invest a good amount of money. Which raises some questions that most people have about off-the-grid living: Is it financially viable? What if you aren’t as wealthy as some well-known homesteaders, like Daryl Hannah (off the grid in Colorado) or Johnny Depp (off the grid on his own island in the Bahamas)? Does living off the grid also mean living watt-to-watt or radish-to-radish? Or can it pay off in the end?

Here’s the skinny on setting yourself up with a completely self-sufficient, self-sustaining life in the boonies:

Land with unrestricted building codes – 10 acres minimum

Remote locations in Montana, Idaho, Oklahoma, North Dakota, Utah, etc.

< $20,000

Energy efficient home. 1500 sq feet

Wired and plumbed for low voltage use and water pipe heating.

$100,000 to $250,000

Renewable energy source

Wind, solar, geothermal, etc. Including battery storage and generators

$50,000

Sustainable food source

½ acre garden; 1 acre fruit trees, farming equipment; farm animals, food storage

$30,000

Renewable water source

Well, rain collection, septic tank

$10,000

Total

< $380,000

That’s not a small amount for anyone, but, assuming the cost of housing (land, development, building) is built into everyone’s budget anyway, we’re really looking at the additional investment of $90,000 for renewable energy, food, and water that must recovered.

Your Return on Investment

The key to the investment return is the “sustainability and renewability” of these resources, because, once the investment is made, there should be no further payments made towards those resources. So, it comes down to the cost savings realized by not having to pay gas and electric bills, water bills, and grocery bills for as long as you remain in your homestead off the grid. What’s that for a family of four? $1,000 to $1,500 a month? That’s better than a 15 percent annual return.

Just with the electricity, if you consider the savings realized with no monthly bills, no power lines or grid link, and the federal tax credits available, the net cost or investment is close to zero. For the people who invest their heart and soul into self-sustained living the psychic return is incalculable.


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