The cost of living off-grid now in the U.S.
Living off the grid can mean differently to different people. For some, it can mean establishing a life in the wilderness and detaching oneself from the city’s honks and buzz. For others, the off-grid life means going sustainable living and staying away from modern innovation and technology.
However, keep in mind that as you transition yourself to going off the grid, it entails the costs of purchasing the essential things that you will need, such as your land, house, electricity source, water, and food.
This article will give you a good idea of how much these basic needs would cost if you live off-grid.
Source of electricity
The solar panel is a widely used electricity source for those living in places out of reach of electric supply. Aside from their sustainability, solar panels are easy to assemble and durable. The price of solar panels may vary according to the number of wattages your home appliances need.
There are several ways to calculate the wattages you use. One is to multiply the wattage of each appliance you have or plan to have in your home and the number of hours in a day you are using them. Some devices may indicate yearly wattage use when you encounter them; divide that certain number into 365 days to know the average daily consumption.
Usually, each panel is producing 250watts and costs an estimate of $1 per watt. For an average-size home in the U.S., it costs an average of $11,144 to $14,696.
Another environment-friendly source of electricity is hydroelectric power. You are lucky enough to plan to live in a place where there is a strong water current and an existing electricity supply built on it. Globally, most especially in the U.S., hydropower remains to be one of the low-cost electric supplies.
It averagely costs 0.85 cents per kilowatt-hour, and it costs around $1,500-$10,000 to install a line to your home, depending on the distance from the source.
Some off-grid houses or cabins may not be suitable for solar panels or hydropower supply due to their location. If this happens, you can consider putting up a small wind turbine or what they call home-wind turbines to power up your home. However, one of the considerations in installing a wind turbine is the strength and wind in your location.
The preferred wind speed to operate a small wind turbine must be less than 5 meters per second. A home-wind turbine costs $3000-$5000 per kilowatt of power capacity. Most of the homeowners install 5-15kW capacity wind turbines to power up their homes. It costs about $15,000-$75,000 for a wind turbine project to finish.
For an individual to survive, food is essential. However, food when living off-grid may not come in handy — no fast foods or supermarkets.
Your main options include growing your food or bulk buying. On the other hand, these options will increase your source of protein, grains, and fruits and vegetables. You can also go healthy while saving money and enjoy growing your backyard garden.
In an American diet, grains like corn are always present. Growing your corn for consumption will cost around $100, including the seed, fertilizer, water supply, and chemicals like pesticides or insecticides.
Other easy to grow vegetables are lettuce ($3.95/seed packet), peas($4.50/ ¼ pound package), garlic ($16/pound), broccoli ($3.95/packet), pepper ($4.25/packet), tomatoes($5.25/packet), onion and leeks($3.95/packet), potatoes($1/pound), and berries.
You can also raise free-range chickens for your daily egg supply, which costs between $850 and $2,000 for 25 chicks until the time they lay their eggs. The cost of raising them may vary from one process to the other in terms of food, process, and supplements. The more complex the raising setup, the more costly it will incur.
There are more things to consider in the living of a grid than food and electricity. It would be best if you also viewed land prices. Some of the good places in the U.S. to establish an off-grid life are New Jersey, Florida, Arizona, Hawaii, and North Carolina.
A vast land area is a must in this kind of living since you will need space for your crops, veggies, and other fruit-bearing trees in your backyard garden and poultry chicken. An average lot of 1-5 acres costs $20,000-$30,000.
There are different ways to gather and store water when living off-grid. You can store rainwater in large drums, install a pump if living near a water source like the river, or dig up your well. However, most people opt to dig up a well and install underground piping that leads to their homes for convenience.
Water drilling costs between $15 and $25 per foot. If you desire to have a complete installation of a well may cost an average of $3750 – $15,300, yet if it includes a septic system, it averagely costs $6,000 – $20,000. You can also drill a well yourself, and it is cheaper than calling a company specialized in doing such, but it requires expertise, and some states require a permit.
Having water is not enough. You must also check if it’s potable or not. There are available water test kits in the market for $10-$30 to test whether your water is suitable for drinking.
You can practice calcium hypochlorite water purification instead of using regular bleach. Calcium hypochlorite’s effectiveness lasts longer than the regular bleach when opened and stored at room temperature. A ton of calcium hypochlorite may cost between $650 and $1200.
The cost of an off-grid house depends on the material used and its size. Cabins and shelters cost around $70,000 to $150,000. However, if you plan to build the house yourself, most people say that you can save a lot of money.
However, building your off-grid home by yourself may entail a lot of money if not planned well. Materials could go off to waste when measurements and results fail the expectations. The process of curating a home is not easy; for you to save yourself from wasting time and money, planning is essential.
There are real estate companies that offer pre-made off-grid houses in different states. The usual prices of these houses range from $320,000 – $1,500,000.
No matter how far-flung your house could get, you cannot exempt yourself from paying taxes as a citizen—your properties, most especially the land where your home stands, incurs property tax as well. If you produce livestock and crops for selling, your income from those is also taxable. Taxes may vary its cost from one state to another.
It is essential to have a heat source for cooking and most especially for the cold winter days. An average off-grid house that uses propane for heating, cooking, and drying clothes, may refill a propane tank three times a year. A 1,000-liter propane tank costs $3,200 including installation plus a three-time refill of $1,200.
On the other hand, having a wood stove and woods operational during the winter may cost $4,000. If you plan to install underfloor water heating, it costs $10 to $20 per square foot.
Planning to live off-grid?
As you can see, the process of starting to establish a life off-grid can charge a lot of cost to your pocket. The average amount that living off-grid requires is about $300,000, to begin with. It already includes a sustainable backyard garden, a house, and land, a decent water supply, a source of electricity, and other living essentials.
Primarily, it may not be as economical as you imagined. Yet, you can save a lot from growing your food and having your sustainable personal electricity supply in the long run. Living off-grid can be a luxury or a need for different people. And, this kind of lifestyle needs commitment and passion.
Story by Tobias Dimmit