Living off the Grid: An In-depth Guide to Everything You Need

tiny house off the grid

As we’re becoming more and more aware of our carbon footprints and how our lifestyle choices can impact the environment, useful information about how to live off the grid is also becoming more accessible.

And for those of us who are interested in living off the grid, getting started and making a plan is now easier than ever.

The key to living off the grid successfully, though, is preparation. Many folks love the idea of going out into the wilderness, or “living off the land,” but off-grid living involves a huge amount of planning.

From choosing the right place where you’re going to live off grid, to having the right tools and energy setup to tackle any kind of weather and climate, the list of things you need to know about and have is, to put it lightly, extensive.

So, in this guide, we’re going to break down everything you need to start living off grid:

Let’s get started.


Disclaimer: This article contains affiliate links through which we may receive a small commission at no cost to you, if you choose to purchase anything after visiting a link on this page. That being said, these tools were curated from extensive research and consideration of reviews of the best options we’ve found.



5 essential things you’ll need to start living off grid

When most people talk about living off grid, they’ll most often bring up three “basic” necessities: water, food, and shelter. 

Which are important, for sure, but this list is not very useful because they’re just basic necessities for anyone—any human regardless of whether they’re living off-grid or not.

So we’ll cover these three, but also look at energy. Assuming you plan to have a cell phone still, or internet access—or at the very least, lighting while you live off grid—how you power all these things will be a top priority.

Water

The big essential that all humans need: water.

And in off-grid living, you can’t just turn on the faucet to get clean water. And just how much clean water will your household need?

There’s drinking water, of course, but what about showering and bathing? Cleaning your home? Cooking? Washing your clothes? We’re going to look at two main options that apply if you’re planning to live off grid on a long-term basis.

(If you’re only doing a short off-grid trip, then you might be fine just bringing large portable water jugs and storing enough water for the duration of your trip.)

Harvest rainwater

In many tiny homes that are off the grid, collecting rainwater is a very popular solution for getting water. And the way to do that is to hook up a huge barrel (we’re talking at least 55 gallons, depending on how big your family is and how much water you need) to collect your rainwater.

How to start harvesting rainwater:

  1. Check if your state allows rainwater collection. (Not all of them do! Some states are very encouraging, while other states have outright made it illegal.)
  2. Figure out how much water you need. (Remember what we said about the need for planning?)
  3. Figure out how much water you can collect. (What’s the monthly rainfall like in your area?)
  4. Choose your rainwater harvesting setup. (Most people collect rainwater from the roof of their house, which gets piped into the giant barrel or cistern where it gets filtered and stored until you need it.)

Out of all the options, this is probably the simplest one.

But what if you’re in an area that doesn’t get a lot of rainfall? 

Dig a well

You could always go the traditional route and dig a well. The disadvantage of digging a well for your water supply, though, is that not only is the actual digging of the well a bit difficult, but there are other considerations as well.

Not all land is good for digging wells, you’ll need to be familiar with the water table you’re living on top of, you may need permits… the list goes on.

How to start getting your water supply from a well:

  1. Find out what the water table where you’re at is like. This will help you determine how far down you need to dig. Which leads into…
  2. Decide whether you’ll drill by hand or not. (The farther down you need to dig, the harder it’ll be to dig a well by hand.)
  3. Find out if there are regulations and rules for your well—sometimes you need a certain distance between your well and the nearest septic system, you may need a permit, and so on.
  4. Unless you know the land extremely well, we’d still recommend getting a professional company or consultant to check it out and provide recommendations and make sure that digging a well is a good idea. (Any potential contaminants in the soil? Are there any underground service lines that might be going under your land?)

Whichever option you choose to gather water, you’ll need some way of filtering that water so that it’s safe to drink.

There are many portable water purifier options out there—that use solar energy too! For example, GoSun’s Flow is a solar water purifier fits right into your backpack and uses solar power to filter 99.99% of pathogens and viruses from water to give you water that’s safe for drinking and handwashing:

gosun solar water purifier

If you like hot showers and find yourself wondering how you’re going to get hot water off the grid, the Flow has a model for that too—the Flow Ultimate comes with a sink and heater too so that you can have not only clean drinking water, but also hot water to take a relaxing shower.

And yep, it’s all powered by the sun—no gas or other source of power needed:

gosun-flow-ultimate-filter-sink-shower-heater

Power or electricity

To live off-grid, you’ll most likely need some form of power.

From charging your phones to powering your lights, to cooking and keeping your fridge running, electricity is going to be essential for most people.

Here are some of the basics to consider when you’re trying to calculate your energy needs:

  • Lights
  • Charging devices like phones, tablets, and computers
  • Fridge
  • A range / oven (or portable stove top if you want to save electricity here)
  • Electric kettle
  • Coffee maker
  • Heating/cooling

Once you’ve got this inventory, you’ll be able to plan out how you’ll generate electricity off the grid. (Do you really need that toaster oven? You might need to leave it behind.) 

Here are a few common energy options for off-grid living. 

🛠 Pro-tip: Regardless of which energy options you’re learning toward, remember to always have a backup. Solar energy is one of the most popular energy sources for folks living off the grid, but it won’t always be sunny! Even Arizona, the sunniest state, has fewer than 200 clear days a year, (and you’ll face a similar situation with wind power as well), so make sure you have an alternative option or backup—just in case one source can’t give you enough electricity.

Solar power

When it comes to powerful and renewable energy sources, solar power is definitely up there. Even with their relatively high up front costs, they’re very much worth it since they pay for themselves eventually.

And solar panels (aka photovoltaic, or PV, panels) don’t just get installed on houses’ roofs anymore either. You can also mount them on top of a tiny home on wheels, and even mount them on the ground.

The added benefit of using portable solar panels is that, as you can tell by the name, they’re flexible and easy to transport. Many are foldable, some are bendable (usually up to a 30 degree angle)—and they range in weight from less than five pounds to around 20 pounds.

Portable solar panels are also relatively easy to maintain. They’re durable (make sure to choose waterproof or water-resistant panels), and all you really have to do is give them a good wipe once in a while to remove debris and dust in order to make sure they’re absorbing as much sunlight as possible.

🛠 Pro-tip: Of course, one key thing to remember when it comes to solar power is that you’ll need—well, sun. If you’re planning to live off-grid in a sunny area of Australia or a state that gets a ton of sunny days, you’ll especially want to give solar a second look. It could very well supply all your electricity needs—and then some.

But even if you’re not in a particularly sunny area, that’s okay. Make sure you have a battery and generator to store all the energy you do create. 

Other than portable solar panels, you’ll also need:

  • An inverter (because solar energy gets harvested as DC power but our appliances mainly use AC power)
  • A solar battery or generator (also sometimes called a power station) to store energy for when you don’t have the sun (like at night!)
  • A charge controller (to protect your battery from overcharging and maintain a more even energy flow), which sometimes comes built into portable solar panels
  • *Nice to have – A system monitor that helps you track and measure how your solar panel system is performing (How much electricity are you generating? How much energy is being stored in your batter?)

There are also smaller and more mobile options for charging smaller devices, like solar backpacks and portable chargers, which means you can save your actual solar panels’ output for the big stuff, like appliances.

Hydro power

This source of energy is a bit of a special one. It’s great—but you can use hydro power only if you actually have a source of running water where you live. 

(Think of a stream or a brook.) If you do, then you might be able to use a micro hydropower electricity system for your electricity needs.)

Micro hydropower systems are pretty much like non-micro systems—they harness the running water and turn it into rotational energy that gets directed through a turbine, water wheel, or pump in order to become electricity.

The perk of having hydropower is that it’s relatively cheap compared to the other forms of energy here, but again, you can only use it if you actually have a flow of water somewhere on your property.

Just like with solar power, you’ll still need to budget for a battery bank and a generator. Unlike with solar power, you’ll need some form of piping to carry your water through your micro hydropower system.

🛠 Pro-tip: Similar to harvesting rainwater, harnessing hydroelectricity will require you to check with your county or area to find out if you’re permitted to have a hydropower system.

Wind power

Like with hydropower, you’re a bit restricted by the climate of where you live if you’re interested in powering your off-grid life with wind power.

According to Energy.gov, your home will most likely need, at the very least, an average minimum annual wind speed of 9 miles per hour—and a turbine that’s rated for 5 to 15 kilowatts.

Now, for the type of turbine that you’re probably thinking of, you’ll typically need at least an acre of land on which to place your turbine.

But thanks to advancements in technology, today, there are weathervane-style wind generators too. These are smaller and still very efficient—though it’s unlikely that most people would be able to get their entire electricity supply from wind power alone.

💡  Further reading: See how this family uses a hybrid solar and wind power system to keep the house flush with a robust electricity supply.

Biogas

Now, compared to the other forms of energy, biogas tends to be used more for cooking and heating.

It’s created when you (or more specifically, a biogas digester) break down organic matter like animal waste and food scraps in an environment that has no oxygen (also called “anaerobic digestion”). 

This resulting gas is essentially methane with a bit of carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulfide. These will need to be filtered out so that you have “clean” methane to, say, cook with.

Not only do you get some amazing slurry fertilizer (that doesn’t smell or contain harmful bacteria) out of a biogas system, it’s also a convenient way to process and make use of your household sewage!

🛠 Pro-tip: When you’re shopping for a biogas system, choose one that has a filter built in so that it purifies the resulting fuel.

One thing to keep in mind, though, is that does take time for this process to create the methane you need. (Usually at least four or five weeks.) 

Another limitation of biogas is that it doesn’t fare well in colder climates. Some people try to get around this by getting a heater or putting it in a greenhouse type environment, but just make sure that it’s worth the effort.

Food

When it comes to food, your options really vary. You can:

  • Fish (if you’re located around a body of water where fishing is allowed)
  • Farm (relatively simple for gardening, but it can take quite a bit of planning if you want to eat meat—maybe start with a chicken coop?)
    • If you want to nurture a thriving garden, look into composting tumblers, which will speed up the composting process a lot compared to regular compost bins:

example of a composting tumbler

  • Hunt and trap (but you’ll most likely need a license)
  • Make a trip into town or to the store once or twice a month to stock up on what food you can’t grow yourself

And on a related note, how will you preserve the food you have? If you have a fridge, great, but it might also be a good idea to learn how to cure and dry meat, do canning, and preserve food in other ways. 

Shelter

Now, let’s look at shelter. 

Where will you live? Some people choose to live in a cute cabin, while others have built literal (and very beautiful) tiny houses on wheels to travel the world in:

But deciding what kind of home you’ll live in is only one half of the equation. The other key consideration here is where you’ll make your home off the grid.

Depending on if you’re living in an RV or a cabin, you’ll be affected to a different degree by the elements. (We’ll get more into off-grid-friendly states to reside later.)

If you live in a cold area, you’ll need to be prepared with heating for your home (and vice versa if you’re living off grid in a hot or humid place)—and don’t forget about other residents you might be sharing your home with. (We’re talking about the four-legged kind.)

A general knowledge about sustainability

And finally, our last key essential. One of the most overlooked qualities of successful off-the-gridders is that they have a general knowledge about—and dare we say, an enthusiasm for—environmentally conscious and sustainable living (more on that here). 

It’s pretty much impossible to overstate how much hard work and preparation you need to do before you take your first concrete steps to living off the grid.

We’ve already amassed a set of questions around how you’ll generate energy for off-grid living and collect water—and we haven’t even gotten to your other essentials yet!

Off-grid living is very much a journey and a continuous learning process, and that’s the beauty of it and what many people find so rewarding. We’d go out on a limb and say that this is arguably the most important essential on this list if you’re going off the grid, because it’ll be the driving force behind your success in all those other areas.


Off-grid living supplies: A shopping list

A toilet

Now that you have a rough idea of how precious water is and how hard it can be to come by, that might have made you reconsider what kind of toilet you need.

Practically speaking, if you can collect enough water, in most cases you’ll be fine with either a compostable toilet or a flush toilet. But to help you make that decision, here are a few questions to ask yourself:

  • Do you have a septic tank? (Or are you willing to get one?)
  • Do you live in a reasonably warm climate? (If it’s too cold, the microbes that work their magic in composting toilets can’t, well, work their magic)
  • If you don’t want to go with compost toilet, there are also other options like your good ol’ flush toilet, or if you could install a septic tank—but you’d have to pay someone to come empty it regularly 

Portable solar panels / system

As we’ve mentioned earlier, many people consider this an essential for powering your off-grid home’s lights and other small electronics. 

Typically, you’ll find the most portable solar panel options in the 100-watt range. For convenience, we’d recommend looking into portable panels that fold up or come with durable bags, like the Jackery SolarSaga 60W Portable Solar Panel—which is super light and integrates easily with Jackery’s other generators and power stations:

jackery solarsaga 60w panel

And don’t forget to have a solar battery—or to be on the safe side, a power station—to store your saved energy for the not-so-sunny days.

If you’re going to be prepared, you might as well go all the way, especially if you have larger appliances that need to stay online (like a fridge).

For these, a power station (basically a super powerful battery) will come in handy. They come in a range of sizes, depending on what you need. For example, Jackery’s Explorer 300 lets you charge up to six devices at the same time (very convenient) and charges to 80% in just four hours (full charge in about 4.5 hours):

jackery explorer 300 power station

(If you need something with a little more oomph, they also have an Explorer 1000 which gives you—you guessed it—1,000 watts of power. It weighs only 22 pounds, which isn’t bad at all for a portable generator. Oh, and it can keep a full-sized fridge powered for seven hours, just in case.)

If you really want a portable power station that’s another step up, the EcoFlow DELTA 1300 gives you an additional 300 watts of power:

delta 1300 power station

But the real kicker is that it charges from zero to 80% in not four hours, not three hours, but one hour. Plus it can power a whopping 13 devices at the same time. Based on its outsized capacity and power, this would be a good option if your household has lots of appliances or just wants a solid store of energy.


Disclaimer: This article contains affiliate links through which we may receive a small commission at no cost to you, if you choose to purchase anything after visiting a link on this page. That being said, these tools were curated from extensive research and consideration of reviews of the best options we’ve found.


Water heater or hot water tank

Yes, just because you’re living off the grid doesn’t mean you’re destined to take tepid, lukewarm showers for the rest of your life.

If you’re just washing clothes, it’s better to wash them in cold water anyway usually, but for showers (especially in the winter), you might want to look into a hot water tank or solar water heater. You could also go the traditional route and go with a wood-fired water heater, which is a super simple route—but it’s not ideal in terms of efficiency. 

Portable laundry—or hand washer

When it comes to laundry, another luxury that you sacrifice a bit on in off-grid living, you have two options: get a portable laundry machine, or do it by hand.

There are actually many great portable laundry options and environmentally friendly detergents out there (learn more about these here), and a big reason for that is because in many cities in Asia, space is tight—so companies like Panda and Panasonic have really innovated and come up with small, mobile laundry machines that are efficient and get the job done.

Of course, they’re not the same as having a full-size laundry and dryer, but hey, you won’t have to do all your laundry by hand. (We’d say a blend of both options would be ideal—wash your delicates and other easy-to-wash clothes by hand, and throw the rest in your portable washer.)

A generator

Now, even if you do have a great solar panel system and wind power set up, it’s still wise to have a generator—just in case. (You’ve probably noticed that there are a lot of “just in cases” when you’re living off the grid.)

Traditionally, generators typically use diesel or propane, but nowadays, there are some great solar-powered generators that can do the job. Yes, even if you need to power a bigger appliance like a refrigerator or you’ve got a big project where you’ll need power tools.

Goal Zero, for example, makes some great generators that are more transportable than traditional generators, and can charge fully via solar panels within a day or two:

goal zero solar generator and panel

Lights

It’s easy to overlook lights because we’ve never really had to think about them—they just come with our apartments and houses.

But when you’re living off the grid, you’ll have to be much more strategic about lighting. Energy-efficient bulbs, light placement (inside and outside your home), every step has to be well thought out.

For example, you might want to set up string lights outside your home for when the nights start getting longer. This SiteLight by BioLite is dimmable and can even be charged by plugging into a USB port:

biolite solar lights

We also really like the Bloomio Gem by LuminAID (famous for receiving offers from all five Sharks on Shark Tank), which is not only solar-powered, it also lets you set a lighting schedule and is collapsable and waterproof:

luminaid solar lantern

🛠 Pro-tip: If you have an outhouse or anticipate needing to be out and about at night, headlamps and flashlights are a good idea.

Cooler or fridge

This one isn’t technically a must-have, since some folks try to preserve as much of their food as they can and just avoid buying stuff that needs to be refrigerated, like yogurt and cheese.

But, if you’re like most people, you’ll probably want a fridge to keep some of your food cold. (Also, it’s just nice to have a cold beer on a hot day.)

A fridge is an important item to consider in your off-grid living plan because unlike other appliances like washing machines, your fridge is running 24/7. All day, every day. Even your lights don’t get that much of a workout.

When it comes to fridges, you have a few options:

  • Solar fridges! Yes—you don’t have to suck up that precious electricity… there are now solar-powered fridges.
  • Traditional propane-powered fridges – These are the old-school kind of fridge. They work fine, but the downside is you’ll need fuel to keep them running.
  • Ice boxes / coolers – If you live somewhere where you can easily access snow or ice, this one is a no-brainer, even if it’s just as a second option to complement another fridge. For example, the (aptly named) Chill is a solar-powered cooler with a built-in powerbank (you can also charge it from your car, boat, RV or just a regular outlet) that keeps your food frozen and dry—without any ice:

gosun-chill-electric-cooler

  • Thermoelectric coolers – They don’t take a lot of power, and they’re a little pricey, but they can keep your produce cold (and your ice cream frozen) for at least a week or two. Think of these as a step up from your basic cooler.

A cooktop

If you enjoy cooking, this is one item that you’ll want to take your time choosing as you’re going through your off-grid shopping list.

This is the one place where many people choose to use propane, for propane-powered stovetops. But compared to newer technology, like induction stovetops, this isn’t super efficient and can really heat up your home (which is nice in the winter, but not fun in the summer).

Choose wisely!

And other than stovetops, there are of course, grills—and even wood-fired ovens—which work perfectly well for both camping and living off-grid.

A woodstove

This is another item that’s not technically a necessity. Actually, most people might think of it as a luxury that you get to enjoy when you go to the cabin for the weekend.

But a wood-burning stove can be a very functional and useful piece of an off-grid lifestyle. Not only can you cook with a woodstove (bread, pizza, yum), but it’ll also come in very handy in the winter when you want to keep warm inside your home but you don’t want to waste electricity on your heating system.

The big caveat here, of course, is that you have ready access to straw bales or timber (we’ll talk more about later about which states have particularly rich supplies of timber)—and are physically able to chop it up to feed your stove.

 


Where to live off grid: 6 key elements to consider 

Now, let’s look at choosing the best place for off-grid living. Spoiler alert: You have to choose wisely. Not every pretty piece of wide open land is going to give you what you need to survive off grid. 

First, let’s look at some of your key requirements when deciding on where to live off-grid.

1. Climate or weather

For us, this is the top consideration when living off grid. Yes, it’s important to choose a place with forgiving laws and all that, but when you’re off grid, you’re pretty much at the mercy of the elements. It’s the most unpredictable element of off-grid living, and the best you can do is really just to prepare.

And weather is one thing—you also have to think about the extreme end of the spectrum: natural disasters. How will you deal with living in a hurricane zone? What about flooding? Or drought?

The logical place for us to start here would be to choose a place that minimizes this unpredictability, at least in the beginning (and then if you like travelling, you can move onto somewhere more adventurous), to help make your transition to off-grid living easier.

For an off the grid homestead to be successful and sustainable, you will need adequate growing seasons.

2. Soil and land quality

Closely related to our first note is something that is huge if you’re planning to grow your own food or start a little farm. This is an absolute essential if you’re planning to dig a well and harvest water that way, but even if you don’t, this should be something to check out regardless.

How arid is the land? Will it be good for gardening? 

3. Laws

Depending on what country or state you’re living in, you’re going to be either somewhat limited, severely limited, or not really limited at all to what you can do to survive off the grid.

As we mentioned, permits are often a must-have for things that most people don’t think would require permits! From harvesting rainwater to putting in septic tanks, to hooking your place up with power, there are laws for pretty much everything. (More on off-grid-unfriendly states in the FAQs.)

Make sure you’re familiar with the zoning laws in the area you’re interested in. Vermont, for example, has counties that have zero—yes, zero—zoning laws. That’s why it’s on our list of best states of off-grid living below!

4. Prices 

Cost is always going to be a significant factor in any decision we make, and off-grid living is no different. From property taxes to land prices—and don’t forget the cost of permits—the location of your off-grid home will influence the cost as well.

It’s possible to get around this by making friends with a landowner who might be willing to rent out a space for you to have a tiny home off the grid, but that requires happy coincidences and a bit of luck.

Otherwise, you’ll have to look for cheap land for sale.

5. Neighbors

This isn’t as important as some of the other factors on this list, but it’s still something to think about. What kind of neighbors do you want to live near? Do you even want any neighbors?

Either way, you most likely won’t have a lot of them, so if you do happen to live near other humans (and we personally would, because complete isolation isn’t fun), it’s probably a good idea to get to know them. You never know when you—or they—might be in a pinch (say, if your generator breaks down one day) and need some help.

6. Proximity to town

Even if you plan to be totally (or mostly) self-sufficient, for the most part, you’ll still need to go in town to pick up supplies once in a while. 

What main supplies or ingredients would you need to pick up the most often? 

Will you be okay driving a few hours? Or would you prefer to live a bit closer to make those trips easier and less time-consuming?

What states are best for off grid living?

Okay. Let’s look at the best states for off-grid living. As we curated this list, one thing we made sure of was that all the states had to have off-grid-friendly laws. 

Everyone has a different tolerance level of what constitutes “bad” weather, but laws are forever(-ish) and tend to be more universally restrictive.

Montana

The nice thing about Montana (Spanish for “mountain”) is that not only does it have very off-grid-friendly laws, it also has many resources you need to live comfortably off-grid.

There’s lots of wood, water (perfect for building that micro hydro system) and wind (perfect for harnessing wind power), and not too many people around to crowd you.

If you’re interested in having a farm, there’s lots of pasture and land for livestock.

The cons: Winters are long and cold. What that means is that not only will you have to endure the low temperatures, but so will your garden. If you want to grow your own food, we’d suggest looking into building a greenhouse, so that you have more than just a few months to grow your crops. It’s also a bit expensive in terms of property taxes, but for all the other benefits, we think it’s worth it.

Maine

Maine is similar to Montana in a few ways—you’ve got lots of water and timber, and the regulations and laws are good for living off the grid. 

Again, the winters are long and you’ll want to invest in a greenhouse if you’re an avid gardener or want to grow your own food.

Unlike Montana, however, Maine isn’t as expensive. If you’re willing to get out of the popular areas and tourist zones, buying a small parcel of land is likely going to be more affordable.

Texas

Now, let’s look somewhere that’s more gardener-friendly.

Texas, of course, has a longer growing season, and is great for growing crops—if you choose the right area.

The hot, dry, desert-y places? Stay away from those, because not only will water be hard to come by (no hydro power for you, but hey, solar power will be a great option), it’ll also evaporate quickly once you do get your hands on some.

Again, like many of the other states on this list, you’ll find an abundance of timber to build with.

Tennessee

What makes Tennessee unique among all the states on this list, is that not only does it have an awesome music scene (hello, Nashville), it also lets you experience the range of all four seasons.

Speaking of options, Tennessee allows you many different ways to obtain food, from raising livestock to hunting to fishing.

Oh, and you’ll have a long growing season in pretty much every area of Tennessee along with mild, comfortable temperatures.

As if that wasn’t enough, Tennessee also boasts some of the lowest property taxes around, especially in the rural areas where you’ll be likely looking to build an off-grid lifestyle.

But of course, with so many amazing perks, there has to be a small (well, it depends on your own preferences) downside: Tennessee does get tornadoes. It’s not frequent, but best to keep that in mind if you’re narrowing down your shortlist.

Oregon

It’s no surprise that Oregon is a great state for living off the grid.

It has a rich history of creative off-the-gridders living in an exciting variety of homes. Like this amazing Japanese-inspired tiny house, for example:

In fact, Oregon has not one, but two significant and robust off-grid communities already: the Breitenbush Hot Springs, and the Three Rivers Recreation Area.

Why is this important? Well, the Three Rivers Recreation Area actually already has a solar setup and even a water supply system, which will lighten the load on you a bit.

And as most people know, the Pacific Northwest is rich in natural resources. From tumbler to fishing and hunting, there’s no shortage of options for enterprising off-the-grid enthusiasts.

The Cascade Mountain region and the western area of the state offer quality and readily available natural resources. 

It’s not quite as cheap anymore as Oregon is becoming one of the more popular areas to live in general, but still relatively affordable.

Missouri

If you’re concerned about your toilet options, you’ll be happy to know that Missouri has no requirements around septic systems. (Some states do require homes to have septic systems)

Missouri also allows you to harvest rainwater (again, not always allowed), and the winters are, unlike in Montana and Maine, relatively brief and not too cold.

That means you’ll be able to farm without building a greenhouse and raise livestock, and have an easier time being self-sufficient.

Ohio

Even for an off-grid-friendly state, Ohio has remarkably relaxed laws. Other than the typical septic tank requirements that you’ll find pretty much anywhere, you won’t find much else really restricting how you choose to live off-grid.

(It might be because of the history of Amish communities living in the state, which helped contribute to reducing these barriers and restrictions.)

Other than this, Ohio is great for growing crops since it has a long growing season, and land is inexpensive too. Taxes are also low, and natural resources are plenty.

But, like Tennessee, you do have to sacrifice a bit of peace of mind for all these amazing advantages of living in Ohio: there’s a chance of the occasional earthquake and flooding. (So if you were fantasizing about living in a yurt, skip Ohio.)

Arizona

There are few states that are as stunning and beautiful as Arizona.

From Monument Valley to the Grand Canyons, you could explore Arizona endlessly and still come across sights that’ll stop you in your tracks.

But other than the aesthetic side, Arizona is also the state that gets the most sun—which means you should be able to power your off-grid home with solar energy alone.

Land is cheaper compared to many of the other states on this list, and so are taxes. However! Water can be tough to get access to, and Arizona isn’t rich in timber like Maine and Texas.

There are ways to get around both problems (hauling water regularly, digging a well), but it’ll take extra planning.

Vermont

Legal to harvest rainwater: ✅ 

Hunting and fishing allowed (with a license): ✅

Beautiful natural setting: ✅

Cheap property prices: ✅

Sounds great, right?

The big disadvantage about living in Vermont—and this isn’t a knock on living off the grid; this is for living in Vermont in general—is the high property taxes.

The other thing about Vermont is that the days tend to be quite short in the winter, which means if you’re relying on solar, it’s best to have options on hand.

It’s also a good thing that you can hunt and fish with a license here, because like Montana and Maine, the winters are harsh and make it difficult to rely on growing crops for food without a greenhouse. (Vermont also tends to flood once temperatures start rising again after winter, so watch out for that.)

All in all, it has its perks (especially if you have family in Vermont that you want to stay close to), but you’ll need to do a little extra prep work to make sure you have enough of a buffer in your budget. 


FAQs about living off the grid

Is living off grid worth it?

We’d say so! 

That being said, this is hugely dependent on you being willing to put in the work to research and prepare to live off grid. It’s a process, and to build a comfortable home off the grid does take time and perseverance. 

But for those who actually make it to the other side, not only do they get the benefit of lowering their cost of living, the rewarding pleasure of being able to live off the land and be self-sufficient is a feeling that not too many people get to experience and, dare we say, priceless.

Is it illegal to live off the grid in the United States?

Technically, it isn’t illegal to live off the grid anywhere in the US. But, some states will make life very difficult for you as you’re trying to build your off-grid home. 

For example, Nevada has really restrictive laws (they didn’t even allow rainwater harvesting until 2017), and you need to get a few permits before you can disconnect from the electric grid

And in Indiana, the utilities have really made it difficult for solar power to get a foothold. (Generating your own solar power off-grid is actually illegal in many parts of Indiana.)  

Can you live off grid without owning land?

Yes! You don’t have to be a landowner to live off grid. There are many folks who have mutually beneficial arrangements to rent the land that they’re on, or even work the land for the person who owns the land in exchange for staying there (usually in a mobile home).

Is it safe to live off grid?

Generally, it’s pretty safe. The states on our “best states to live off-grid” list above in particular have low crime rates, and even if you do, on the off chance, have a neighbor that you’re worried about, there are alarms designed for off-grid homes and even solar-powered security cameras to secure your home.

How much does it cost to live off the grid?

It really depends. Here are some of the big costs of off-grid living to keep in mind:

  • Land – For comparison, a five-acre parcel in Ohio will cost you about $25,000, while in Tennessee that same amount will get you about seven acres)
  • Building your home – You can easily build your own tiny home for twenty or thirty thousand dollars if you’re handy, but to contract someone to build a more convention home can easily run you $100,000 or more 
  • Your energy source – This is the other “big” cost of going off the grid. Will you go with solar? Or wind? Or both? Solar panel systems can cost from a few thousand to twenty or thirty thousand dollars, but the upside is you can offset these costs with tax incentives and grants.
  • Other fees – From getting permits to survey fees to insurance and more, set aside a buffer of a couple thousand dollars (at least) just for the administrative side of things.

Ready to start living off the grid?

Now that you’ve got a solid foundation of knowledge about the basic requirements of off-grid living, it’s time to start planning.

Start by taking an inventory of your current day-to-day life and energy requirements, then check out a map and start doing some research about where you’ll take this exciting next step to a self-sustaining lifestyle!

Living off the Grid: An In-depth Guide to Everything You Need
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