Off-Grid? No Way - I LOVE Technology!

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The majority of us that read this page, are here because we either love the idea of an off the grid life, and dream of living this life, or we are actually already on this path and living the dream. This article tackles the question that now days has become that elephant in the room "Technology".  Let's read this article and see if we agree with her points.

Over the past two years, I should have have been collecting quotes from people who tell me that they could never go off-grid because they love technology, or they are completely befuddled that we could be off-grid while still using computers and the internet. Plenty of people think that should not be possible.

It’s time to clear up some misconceptions and set some definitions!

The Grid

A lot of people think that “the Grid” means the interaction between human beings in our society. If that were the case, then going off grid is a ridiculous concept. Who wants to live in complete isolation from all other people?

I’m an extrovert, so definitely not me! It is normal and healthy to want interaction with other people.

The Grid actually refers to the power grid. If you can remember the Eastern Seaboard’s Blackout in 2003, you know that our electrical system is an intricate mesh in which actions in one station can affect power hundreds of miles away. There are far too many problems with the power grid for me to deal with today.

The Extended Grid

Few people today refer to simply the electrical grid, but I think it is important to remember that the electrical grid – that is, electrical power supplied by the public network of plants, stations, wiring and so much more – is at the heart of “the grid”. At its simplest, public electricity is “the grid”.

When people talking about going off-the-grid, though, they rarely mean simply public electricity. Let us then define the extended grid as public utilities in any form – public electricity, natural gas, water, sewage, communication (mail, phone, internet).

Sometimes, depending on where a person lives, these can be very difficult, or even impossible, to unhook from!

Going Off The Power Grid

The first step to going off the grid for most people is going to be electrical power. This rarely means eliminating electrical power in the home, because electricity is a very useful tool.

Instead, going off grid power means generating your own electrical power through:

solar panels
wind turbines
micro-hydro systems

However, it is true that drastic cut backs in electricity usage are almost always necessary. Few people have the $100,000 or so that would be required to power a typical North American household with renewable energy sources.

The average household uses 30-50 kWh per day. Our off-grid home, with six people in it, uses about 2 kWh daily. Since we create our own energy, we are constantly aware of our usage.

Going Off The Extended Grid

This tends to be location-based.

A person living in a city is going to find it practically impossible to disconnect from public water and sewage. No city planner is going to approve a septic tank or outhouse in your back yard, nor will they allow you to dig a well in the hopes of finding water.

On the other hand, rural residents often have no option other than a private well and septic tank. (Or even, depending on the region, an outhouse!) They are not connected to parts of the extended grid out of necessity, but they are still generally connected to the power grid and communication grid.

Going Completely Off-Grid

This does not include communication as long as you are, in any way, involved with human society. We tried it and quickly found that it was impossible. Even the Amish, considered by many to be the epitome of off-grid, use the mail service and telephones (although they won’t have a telephone in their homes).

If you are looking to disconnect only from the power grid, that can usually be accomplished anywhere, but most people who want to go completely off-grid are going to move to a rural area.
Be sure to check all building codes and bylaws, though. Sometimes an existing building can be occupied, even if it is not connected to the grid, while a new build would not be approved unless it is connected to the public power grid.

Rural areas generally allow or require private septic and water, but again, it is important to know your local bylaws and building codes.

But You Are …

We are completely off-grid, except for communication and the occasional garbage drop off at the bottom of the road.

Our property is five miles up a really bad dirt road.

We have a private well. That is normal for our region.

Our home is powered by a very small solar array, and we heat with a wood stove.

The one “powered” item is an old propane stove. We did have a propane fridge, but it stopped working and we’re not replacing it.

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