Living Off Grid
As you might already know, living off-grid seems the in-thing for many homeowners seeking to reduce on their
bills - power, gas, and water. Obviously, many people are tired and frustrated with utility bills that have even
shot up in recent years.
Moving out of the confines of public utility companies into the safety of your own sustainable energy is a very
Typically, a house will have several connections for utilities - gas, electricity, water, and telephone lines.
Some homeowners start by going partially off-grid by generating their own power and abandoning their phone lines,
while utilizing the convenient public water and sewage system. Others opt-out of the grid completely by collecting
water from a cistern system, or digging a well. The sewage is channelled into a septic tank and, just like that,
water bills disappear too.
It is not easy to get an actual figure of the exact number of homes that are off-grid in the US, but a 2006
estimate by Home Magazine put the figure at 180000 homes. In addition, 27000 more homes off-set their ‘grid-life’
using wind and solar power, according to USA Today.
Majority of these homes are in remote areas but more people in big cities are embracing the trend. Some do it
for the good of the environment, while for others, it’s the freedom of not relying on the over-worked utility
companies that pulls them.
Wind and solar power
If you’re considering going off-grid, the first thing you should do is to get off the utility power company. The
easiest way to do this is to install a solar or wind electric system. both systems utilize an electric inverter to
convert direct current (DC) to alternating current (AC), which is the usable form in a home. Many homes incorporate
a hybrid system to harness the strengths of either system and, to generate enough power.
In more than 40 states, you will be allowed to sell off
excess power to the utility company, if you generate more than you consume. that also means you are still a
client of the company. You can completely cut ties with the utility, in which case, excess power is stored in a
battery system. Once installed, wind power is the cheapest to generate, and cleanest technology too.
Off-grid water and sewer
Once you’ve got your wind and solar systems installed, the next step is to cut ties with the city water and
sewer line. the beauty with water is that it’s everywhere - beneath your feet as ground water and above in the
skies as rain. one solution is to dig a private well, which is basically a hole dug deep into the ground and a pump
installed to draw out water from the underneath.
There are a number of regulations pertaining to private wells, thus, it’s important that you only use a licensed
well driller. If poorly installed, contaminants can fall into the well. the cost of digging a well varies with
depth; the deeper you go, the more costly. But the deeper the well, the cleaner the water. With a private well,
watering restrictions in times of drought become history.
You can also use a cistern to harvest rain water. This is basically a tank which collects rain water from the
gutters on the roof. A septic tank system will get you off the public sewer line. It consists of a metallic tank
where waste water collects and then released. You’ll need to augment a few things here and there to go completely