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Escaping Suburbia: What is Living Off the Grid?

what is living off the grid?

Short on Time? Here’s The Article Summary

Off-grid living, embraced by over 250,000 Americans and expected to grow to 12% of the population by 2035, involves disconnecting from public utilities like electricity, water, and waste services. This lifestyle can vary from completely primitive to simply generating power from renewable resources. Off-grid homes typically rely on solar, wind, or water energy and may use wells or rain-catching systems for water.

People choose this lifestyle for various reasons, including sustainability, resilience to extreme weather, love for the outdoors, and a desire for energy independence. While off-grid living offers long-term savings on utilities, the initial costs can range from $50,000 to $150,000 for land, home modifications, and energy systems.


Off-grid living remains a mysterious and intriguing notion to many. Since human society began, adventurous and rebellious people have sought to escape civilization and enter the wilderness. This is no less true today, when over 250,000 Americans are currently living off-grid lifestyles and up to 12% of the American population is expected to be off-grid by 2035. 

But what is living off the grid exactly? Is it as dramatic and primitive as it sounds?

What is Off-the-Grid Living? 

The term "off-grid living" has no single definition. Some view it as completely disconnecting from modern amenities like electricity, sewerage, public water, and the Internet. Others see it as breaking free from the electric grid and generating power from renewable resources instead.

Generally, the answer to the question, "What is off-grid living?" is that you've unhitched your wagon from public utilities, such as electric, water, and waste services. Though some people forego electricity altogether, most off-grid adventurers instead install a renewable power system, such as solar energy, to power their off-grid home and its appliances. The same goes for other utilities. 

So, living off the grid simply means finding a way to provide the following resources independently:

  • Public Water: Giving up reliance on public water for an off-grid method, such as a well or rain-catching system.
  • Sewerage: Installing a septic tank, field bed, or outhouse. 
  • Energy: Using solar, wind, or water to harvest energy rather than being on the public grid.
  • Food: Choosing to farm, fish, or hunt for food instead of relying on stores and vendors.

Find out more on how to live off-grid.

Remember, going off-grid doesn't require you to transition in one big shot. For most, it's a gradual process, beginning with just one utility, rather than going the whole hog. 

What is an Off Grid Home?

When going off the grid, many invest in an off-grid home, either by building one themselves or converting an existing house. So what are off-grid homes? And how are they different than regular houses?

It's simple. Off-grid homes are disconnected from public utilities, meaning they're not set up to rely on the electric grid or public water and waste. These homes might have solar panels or other systems that promote an autonomous lifestyle. They're often very simple and minimalistic. 

Why Do People Want to Live Off-Grid?

People break away from the grid for a few major reasons. Sure, there are those looking for complete isolation, but more and more people recognize the financial and environmental benefits of relying on renewable energy. 

Below are some of the most common people that choose to go off-grid:

  • Sustainability Nuts: People looking to live eco-friendly lifestyles.
  • Extreme Weather Warriors: People living in areas that experience frequent power outages due to weather.
  • Outdoors Lovers: From people who love to travel and camp to those who live in desolate areas without access to public utilities.
  • Energy Independents: People who are tired of paying monthly utility bills or relying on failing and unreliable grid energy. 

There are many reasons to go off-grid, but independence is at the heart of it. Off-gridders simply see more benefit in securing resources independently than in being reliant on public utilities.

What is the Cost of Living Off-Grid?

Off grid tiny home with the lights on

Now that we've answered the question, "What is off-grid living?" we have to discuss how much damage that off-grid house will do to your pocketbook.

Going off-grid is a great way to save tons on utilities and resources over the long term. But it's not without an upfront cost. As a result, it's typically necessary to make a few major financial investments to drop the grid entirely:

  • Land: Alternative sources of energy are more land-intensive than a public utilities connection. 
  • Home: If you want to go low-budget, you may want to do a camping setup, live in an RV, or create a living space from a shipping container. You can also spend more to convert your current house or buy a new off-grid home. 
  • Energy System: The more power you need, the larger the energy system you require. To take a home fully off the grid, you'll likely need to invest $30,000-$60,000 in a solar energy system. However, if you install the system yourself using solar kits, you can save $12,000-$25,000 on installation costs

Depending on how far off-grid you're going, you may also need a water supply and a system for expelling waste. Though there are tax incentives to lower upfront costs, It's estimated that going fully off-grid requires anywhere from $50,000-$150,000 before it's all said and done. 


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Article by

Cody Oehm

Cody is the Head of Marketing at Shop Solar, and joined the company in spring of 2022. 

He has an entrepreneurial background and has been in the ecommerce industry since 2015. With 4 businesses under his belt and a drive to make a bigger impact, he decided to team up with Shop Solar on their mission to make solar simple and affordable. You can browse best seller's here.

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