Ten Tips for Going Off-Grid, by A.U.

My husband and I recently bought a piece of property with some family members in the hope of transitioning to off-grid living. For those who might not be familiar with the concept, going off-grid means creating a lifestyle that does not rely on public utilities (water, electricity, et cetera).

There are many different reasons people choose to go off-grid. Some of the most popular reasons are:

  • to decrease environmental impact,
  • to prepare for disaster, or
  • a desire to be independent and self-sustained.

We jumped into our endeavor with almost no knowledge or experience. We have had to learn some things the hard way. While I would not trade the experience for anything, there are some things that I wish we had known from the start. Here is a list of tips I can offer to help make the transition to off-grid living a bit easier.

  1. Have a backup plan.When we switched to off-grid living, we thought switching to a solar system would be a relatively quick and easy process. We expected we’d soon have all the modern conveniences at our fingertips, but we were wrong. In the beginning, we had to use a generator to charge the batteries when the solar panels were not collecting enough sun. (I will talk later about buying extra supplies.) A camp cooler was our refrigerator for nearly a year before we had enough solar equipment to run a real refrigerator. We still do laundry at the laundromat. To have a washing machine would require we expand our system And we still do not have a television.Starting small is not a bad thing. However, the key is to be prepared. If you plan to buy property and cannot afford to buy all the off-grid equipment at once, perhaps look into a piece of land that has utility hookups available to make the transition easier. We chose land with no hookups, so our transition was a bit rough. However, starting with nothing has made us realize how much we can live without.
  2. Have a flexible budget.Before we started building on our property, we had a certain amount of money set aside for each expense. Like fools, we thought we had everything figured out and were pretty proud of our budgeting skills. As you would expect, we went over budget on almost everything. Drilling a well? Buying a solar-powered system? That stuff is expensive anyway. However, when you find out you will need more than you thought, it is quite a blow to morale.We live on a mountain that has quite a few natural springs. So, we figured we would not have to drill our well very deep before striking “gold”. (Let’s be honest; fresh well water is as good as gold.) Unfortunately, we ended up having to drill over 100 feet deeper than planned, which added up to several thousand dollars extra. As for solar power, we did our research and found a reputable supplier. They gave us a quote for the equipment we would need to run our appliances. As you might have guessed, we needed more power than our equipment could supply, which meant having to spend more money.
  3. Start small.Given that things usually end up costing more than anticipated, my recommendation is to start small as you build your off-grid system. Also, since there is so much trial and error that goes into the transition to off-grid living, buying all the best equipment right away can be pretty risky. It’s easy to accidentally drain your batteries beyond repair. If that happens, your decision to start with a lower grade setup and requirement to replace certain components will hurt less if you don’t start with a “Cadillac” system.When we switched to off-grid living, we also made the transition to tiny home living. Without a large house to power, the small square footage has helped save money on our solar system and has made it so we can be self-sustaining sooner than if we had tried to go off-grid in a large house.
  4. Get familiar with solar power.Setting up and running a solar system is not too complicated. But there is quite a learning curve, when it comes to planning and buying the equipment. Be prepared to have to buy more batteries and/or panels than you thought you’d need. Cold weather can impact your batteries’ ability to hold power. Obviously, cloudy days will affect how much sun your panels absorb. Having extra of both will help keep your power supply where you need it to be.It’s also a good idea to check all of your smaller appliances for how much power they use, and keep a running total of watts/volts. Anything that has to heat up to operate, such as a coffee maker or toaster, draws more power than you might expect. On the other hand, some televisions and gaming systems draw very little! Knowing all of this before you get a quote for a system will save you a headache or two down the road.
  5. Invest in products that do not use electricity.To lighten the load on our solar system, we bought an off-grid oven that runs on propane and uses a C battery. Regular natural gas ovens can be converted to run on propane. (Please have a professional do the conversion, as it can be very bad if done wrong.) However, most gas ovens will still use some electricity to ignite the flame and regulate the oven temperature. The battery in our oven takes care of those things and will last about three years before it needs to be replaced.We also bought a camping “toaster”, which we use on our stovetop, a portable solar charger for our phones, a French press to make our coffee, and tap lights to use during winter when daylight and solar power are both in short supply.
  6. Do the necessary research on local regulations for human waste and gray water.We moved to a rural area that has pretty lax building codes. But we soon found out that the health department is not quite as forgiving. Most areas have strict regulations regarding runoff of gray water (relatively clean waste water from baths, sinks, washing machines, et cetera) and human waste disposal. We failed to do the proper research and spent weeks in the August heat digging an outhouse that we couldn’t use. Oops!Composting toilets are a good alternative to an outhouse, and they smell much better. Some fancy composting toilets can cost around a thousand dollars, while simpler models run a couple hundred. Or, you can build your own! (LINK 1)
  7. Make friends with the locals.If you are moving to a new area, this is a necessity. If you are not relocating, it is still a good idea to network with people who already have an off-grid system. You want to pick their brains on what has and has not worked for them. We have made some pretty good friends here, who are like-minded when it comes to self-sustainability. They have been invaluable resources.We have received tips on how to garden in the tricky mountain soil and short growing season and how to keep out pests that we never imagined would be a problem. Our new local friends directed us where to go locally for quality supplies and who to hire for labor. When it comes to new areas, there is only so much you can learn on your own!
  8. Dig a root cellar.A root cellar is a hole in the ground where you can store vegetables, fruits, cheeses, and any other food that requires cool temperatures to stay fresh. Since refrigerators only have so much space, and larger models require more power than smaller models, a root cellar can be a way to decrease your solar needs. Remember how I said we used a camping cooler? We would have been much better off having a root cellar from the beginning and not having to buy ice every few days.If you plan to have your own garden, this should be a priority. If stored properly, some vegetables harvested in summer can last throughout the winter in a root cellar! This option for food storage greatly increases your self-sustainability and can also shrink your grocery budget.
  9. Plan on using alternative methods of climate control.When going off-grid, temperature regulation of your home can be tricky. Air conditioning is a massive strain on a solar-powered system, as are electric heaters. Investing in newer, insulated windows and doors as well as window treatments can help immensely.We do not have air conditioning, but we do have strategically placed windows to create a cross breeze in the summer evenings when temperatures are low. During the day, we close our windows and blinds to keep the heat from creeping in. In the winter months, we heat with a woodstove and keep the blinds closed to keep the heat from escaping.
  10. Do It Yourself.The Internet is full of ideas and tutorials to make off-grid life a bit more manageable. Want to heat water without draining your batteries or using propane? Build a solar water heater! (LINK 2) Sick at the thought of how much solar power it takes to run an air conditioner? Build your own! (LINK 3) There are even tutorials on how to make a bicycle-powered washing machine!Not only can DIY projects make life easier, they can also be good for the environment. Plastic bottles, aluminum cans, scrap metal, and lots of other materials can be repurposed in DIY projects. Anything that uses less electricity is good, but recycling materials at the same time is even better!

[1]: https://farmingmybackyard.com/diy-composting-toilet/

[2]: http://www.connect-green.com/a-diy-solar-water-heater-from-plastic-bottles/

[3]: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i2NWr6bRKWU

SurvivalBlog Writing Contest

This has been another entry for Round 70 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The nearly $11,000 worth of prizes for this round include:

First Prize:

  1. A $3000 gift certificate towards a Sol-Ark Solar Generator from Veteran owned Portable Solar LLC. The only EMP Hardened Solar Generator System available to the public.
  2. A Gunsite Academy Three Day Course Certificate that is good for any one, two, or three day course (a $1,195 value),
  3. A course certificate from onPoint Tactical for the prize winner’s choice of three-day civilian courses, excluding those restricted for military or government teams. Three day onPoint courses normally cost $795,
  4. DRD Tactical is providing a 5.56 NATO QD Billet upper with a hammer forged, chrome-lined barrel and a hard case to go with your own AR lower. It will allow any standard AR-type rifle to have a quick change barrel, which can be assembled in less than one minute without the use of any tools and a compact carry capability in a hard case or 3-day pack (an $1,100 value),
  5. An infrared sensor/imaging camouflage shelter from Snakebite Tactical in Eureka, Montana (A $350+ value),
  6. Two cases of Mountain House freeze-dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources (a $350 value),
  7. A $250 gift certificate good for any product from Sunflower Ammo,
  8. Two cases of Meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of CampingSurvival.com (a $180 value).

Second Prize:

  1. A Model 175 Series Solar Generator provided by Quantum Harvest LLC (a $439 value),
  2. A Glock form factor SIRT laser training pistol and a SIRT AR-15/M4 Laser Training Bolt, courtesy of Next Level Training, which have a combined retail value of $589,
  3. A gift certificate for any two or three-day class from Max Velocity Tactical (a $600 value),
  4. A transferable certificate for a two-day Ultimate Bug Out Course from Florida Firearms Training (a $400 value),
  5. A Trekker IV™ Four-Person Emergency Kit from Emergency Essentials (a $250 value),
  6. A $200 gift certificate good towards any books published by PrepperPress.com,
  7. A pre-selected assortment of military surplus gear from CJL Enterprize (a $300 value),
  8. RepackBox is providing a $300 gift certificate to their site, and
  9. American Gunsmithing Institute (AGI) is providing a $300 certificate good towards any of their DVD training courses.

Third Prize:

  1. A Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21 (a $275 value),
  2. A custom made Sage Grouse model utility/field knife from custom knife-maker Jon Kelly Designs, of Eureka, Montana,
  3. A large handmade clothes drying rack, a washboard, and a Homesteading for Beginners DVD, all courtesy of The Homestead Store, with a combined value of $206,
  4. Expanded sets of both washable feminine pads and liners, donated by Naturally Cozy (a $185 retail value),
  5. Two Super Survival Pack seed collections, a $150 value, courtesy of Seed for Security, LLC,
  6. Mayflower Trading is donating a $200 gift certificate for homesteading appliances,
  7. Montie Gear is donating a Y-Shot Slingshot and a $125 Montie gear Gift certificate.,
  8. Two 1,000-foot spools of full mil-spec U.S.-made 750 paracord (in-stock colors only) from www.TOUGHGRID.com (a $240 value), and

Round 70 ends on May 31st, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that there is a 1,500-word minimum, and that articles on practical “how to” skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.


  1. Going off grid is definitely a decision not to be taken lightly and you need full buy in from everyone involved. We’ve been off grid for almost two years. We didn’t run into a lot of problems like these folks because we had foregone some amenities years before (ie. No tv in over a decade). We also decided to go what I call “full Amish” in our approach to being off grid. So we didn’t invest resources in expensive solar equipment. We cook on a wood burning stove, wash clothes by hand, We live a simple lifestyle. We have Amish friends who we get ideas from. And we add things on a pay as you go method. The few electronic devices we have, we charge with our car. The key to making the transition is to make lifestyle changes ahead of time as much as possible. Don’t try to live the exact same way you did when on the grid.

  2. A good, if non specific article on off startup grid living. I did a off grid startup a few years ago. I would suggest emphasizing a few things;
    Batteries are s solar system weak point. Start small as the author says with cheap batteries and learn how to use them. Replace and uy better and more of them when you’ve gained experience.
    A state of charge meter is a must if you want your batteries to last. You cannot possible keep a system alive without one. Put the readout in your kitchen or living room. Midnight makes a good one.
    Starting small with solar is a good idea except for the inverter. No sense buying 2 so get one of decent capacity, say 6kw. if you have a well pump.
    Solar will not work to transfer heat. A propane frig works really, really well as does a tankless hot water heater. Bosche makes one that doesn’t require electricity for the start up.
    Buy a simple and cheap generator. Don’t bother with whole house auto start systems.
    Buy property where you can live without AC. If you must live sown south either toughen up or live in a cave because solar will not drive AC.
    Root cellars work well but you must manage the water that will find a way in, especially ground water seeping in from heavy rains.
    Do get wells and septic systems professionally installed. Best money you’ll ever spend.
    Follow wood stove installation codes to the letter. You’ll lose your house one cold and dark night if you don’t. Read that sentence several times again while installing till you believe it.
    Solar is cheap reliable power and well worth the aggravation if you believe in SHFT coming one day.

  3. Kenmore makes a small refrigerator that only uses 30 watts! Look for it. If I recall, it’s only about $130. Also, almost all ranges and stoves made today are required to be converted from propane to natural gas. It’s an easy process I have done it twice on stove so I have bought.

  4. Love the article, love the site as always. But y’all have seemed to convert over to those shortened links or whatever they’re called, which I’ve been cautioned not to click. I like to see the real link before I click through, myself. I’m sure there’s some reason for it…?

    1. @Big___Al, The shortened links are an effort to reduce the html code to speed up the page loading process. You should only find three sorts here on SurvivalBlog. 1) “amzn.to” which are links to amazon products. This link shortener is run by amazon itself. 2) “youtu.be” which are links run by YouTube.com, and 3) “survivalblog.com/s/” which are links run by us. Those links you can count on because the reputation of the organizations are on the line.
      I would not click on generic shortened links at all. (unless, perhaps you trust the sender of the link.)

  5. Good article, but:

    The first premise is wrong. If someone is really concerned with environmental impact, then they should probably stay in the city or suburbs, where infrastructure already exists. By moving out to God’s country to set-up an off grid, self-sustaining operation, you’re creating an environmental impact where there wasn’t one before.

    Don’t get me wrong. Us Survivalists aren’t necessarily environmental/ecological do-gooders, but we do tend to be better stewards of The Earth than most, especially with organic gardening, permaculture, etc.

  6. Our power goes out from time to time which is a real problem with my CPAP which I require in order to sleep. My first micro off-grid solar system was designed to power the CPAP. It was a great way to learn about solar power on a small scale. I now have two independent off-grid solar systems for redundancy, one for the CPAP and the other for my ham radio equipment. I have learned a lot from building and keeping these systems running.

    In the future I would like to add a third small off-grid solar system to run our refrigerator. It is a large 27 cu ft Samsung with all the bells and whistles yet only draws 60 watts on average (I did not believe the power usage tag so I measured it over 3 months of use and it really does only draw 60 watts on average). You do not have to buy a small fridge to get low power usage if you shop around.

  7. I am a mechanical engineer of 35 years experience, and have lived off-grid for thirty years, twenty with no electricity or running water at all.

    The first step to going off-grid must be WHY. What you hope to accomplish or avoid will define your whole program

    Closely related to this is to understand exactly WHAT you “need” and why. Do you desire conformity, modernity, security, peace, ecological good-conscience, catastrophe survivability?

    I am a cheapskate. My highest values are peace and independence/self-reliance. So before moving to my current remote location 30 years ago, I got rid of my central heat, electricity and running water. I thought it was great! So much less crap to fix, so much less to have to work away from the homeplace to pay for!

    On the new place, I found a good spring and improved it with a pipe filling an old bathtub. carried water to cook and drink in jugs for myself and as time went on wife and 6 kids 300 yd to house. Rainwater off roof did laundry in 80 year-old gas powered Maytag.

    15 years ago I decided kerosene for lamps was too expensive, so got a small solar array and LED lights. 9 years ago I decided I wanted a computer and refrigerator, so built full-scale solar power system (about 1KW of PV)

    The key is to match your desires to your fundamental values to your resources.

  8. I’m not sure where to start with this, but I’ll just plunge right in and accept critique as it comes. First, this was a good article on the lessons learned on living without grid electricity. I would so much like to do just that, but we didn’t start prepping until after we had already built our 5,000 sq. ft. all electric house…sigh. However over the years we’ve added quite a few features that will make it possible to live off grid. Totally OFF GRID, I mean. In my mind that means no forms of energy that require infrastructure to deliver it. No grid electricity, no propane, no natural gas, no solar electricity, no batteries, no nada! (Am I speaking Amish here?) If you can’t provide it, it’s not off grid and you’re dependent on something you can’t recreate on your own (technology, for example). I suppose that some may say that “grid” refers to the electrical grid, but propane and natural gas also depends on a grid of sorts. Therefore when preppers (or anyone) state that they are totally self-sufficient or are working towards that end, but rely on propane to heat water or cook, I cringe.

    I just think that we all need to possibly rethink our idea of being off grid and not relying on a re-creation of the broader based grid to supply our needs so as to live just like we used to with unlimited electricity, propane, and gas. But please, folks, lets change our conversation about sustainability. Reliance on any form of the grid (technology, batteries, solar panels, water panels, etc.) is NOT sustainable. Any takers?

    1. u r so rite .it is even hard for me to be on a computer. at 66 yrs young I still have things that I want to do . the first thing is to be totally self-surporting totally.as I get more mature i find it more challenging Swanders Steve

  9. I love the idea of being all solar. But I love the point raised above, about propane refrigerators. Our 1978 camp trailer has a propane refrigerator w/freezer which doesn’t need any electrical power. And a small propane water heater. All work great! I recommend anyone either prepping or just going off grid to search for old campers or trailers, or just get the refrig/freezer and or water heater components. The water heaters are only about 2 cubic feet in size.

    Some SHTF/TEOTWAKI books drive me nuts about losing power and I yell, “they could have kept their meds/diabetic stuff cool for two months with just two 5 gallon propane tanks and not have to die when the power went out”.

    Our 1978 units with a five gallon tank would work about a month and do light cooking duty and kept refrig/freezer at temp. The twin original tanks on the front hitch are the larger size.

    Caution statement: anything burning like propane should be kept out of your sleeping/living area. Make sure it is securely vented to outside combustion. That’s why we just left our stove, Ref/Freezer, and water heater installed in the camp trailer-they’re already vented. And I just bought another 27 foot camp trailer for $400. Two is one, and this one is a 1993 model with bigger fridge/freezer, has cooking stove and oven, and two small water heaters.

    Best wishes to you all!

  10. I will opine that solar is a viable, sustainable tool for long term use. The problem with typical solar batteries is their shorter life span. If one uses industrial forklift batteries instead of solar batteries, you can expect over 30 years of service out of them it you work off the top 20% of their capacity. The plates in forklift batteries are MUCH thicker than the ones in typical solar batteries. They also cost about 1/3rd as much for equal amp/hour capacity. You’ll have far fewer cells to worry about, and no jumper cables between several dozen smaller batteries.
    I worked for an aerospace company that had an old electric forklift when I arrived in 1980. 30 years later (2010) I left the company, and the same battery was still in that machine, despite decades of abuse and neglect. There are really only two kinds of batteries: Industrial, and all the rest!
    Mine weighs 1960 lbs, and produces 1500 amp hours at the C20 rate. 24 volts. It must be moved with heavy equipment, so is hard to steal. You’ll have to water the cells once in a while. No big deal.
    Buy quality gear and you won’t be replacing components very often. Have spares. I rely on off-grid power to process stream water for culinary use. Cheaper than a 350 foot well.
    All good comments on this thread!

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