The Cost of Living Off Grid
Living off the grid is beginning to morph into a mainstream way of living. And why not? After all it’s not just for hippies and mountain men anymore. There are so many benefits to living off the grid. Reasons to live off the grid might be to be greener, a financial decision, self-reliance, fear of instability within the grid. Whatever the reason you are considering it, it’s important to figure out the factors; the biggest of which for most would be the cost of living off the grid.
Solar Energy Cost
Solar Power is the first thing we think about when we consider living off the grid. The cost of solar power systems is decreasing all the time. 10 years ago a panel would easily cost you several thousand dollars; today panels that create a single kWh average about $660. A new panel will create about 14,000 over its lifetime. However, you can’t just buy the panels, you need a system. A system might include batteries, charge controller, power inverter, circuit breakers, disconnects and maybe even a combiner box. With that said, the average modern solar system cost about $18,000. A unit of that cost generally creates 4.5 to 5 kWh on a sunny day.
Is 5kWh enough for your family? Well according to U.S. Energy Information Administration, the average family uses about 30 kWh in a single day. Bummer. However, of you adopt the off the grid lifestyle, you don’t have to sacrifice much to live within those boundaries. You can still have a big fancy TV, Wi-Fi, and a microwave; you just have to have energy efficient versions of those things. You may only want to vacuum when it’s sunny outside for instance, or have a solar powered clothes dryer (aka a laundry line in the backyard). The bottom line is, making smarter choices can allow you to live off of solar power.
Wind Power Cost
Wind power is a great energy source if you have the winds for that. In an urban setting, you’re probably going to run into zoning restrictions of a wind turbine. It’s also suggested that your location average wind speeds of about 10mph. Wind turbines also require a generator, inverter and a tower of other small components. The average cost of a wind power system cost is $30,000.
Hydro Energy Cost
If you have a nearby creek or a river, you might can take advantage of hydroelectricity. They are extremely cost efficient, but the cost is extremely varied. You would need an expert to come out to analyze different factors in order to get you a reasonable quote. If you have a viable water source that can maintain enough power, this may be a solution for you.
Water Wells Cost
A well is a great water source that can help with your off the grid lifestyle. Average well depth is 30-200 feet. To drill a well, it usually cost about $12 per foot of soil. For materials, machinery and labor, it can cost on average $10,000. A well is a well thought out solution and will help your wellbeing.
Gray Water Disposal Cost
What is gray water? Gray water is the relatively clean waste water from sinks, laundry lines, baths and other kitchen appliances. It can be dealt with differently from its evil cousin, black water. The idea of gray water disposal is to use that reuse the relatively clean waste water and use it for things like toilets. Simple low tech solutions can be setup for $1000-$3000.
Septic Systems Cost
Septic systems aren’t just for rural living any more. A lot of people are moving towards septic systems for a number of reasons. If there is a break in a city main line sewer line it’s very possible all that icky stuff could end up coming out of your bathtubs and other drain lines. A septic system allows you to get off that system. The average cost of a septic system is $4,800.
Waterless Toilets Cost
A Waterless Composite toilet system break down human waste into a harmless end product that can then be safely recycled back to nature. They use different natural agents to break down your waste in such a way where there is no odor. These waterless toilets are becoming pretty valuable in areas where water supply is an issue. $1500 is a decent price for a waterless composite toilet system.
Geothermal Heating and Cooling System Cost
This type of heating/cooling system uses the earth to keep you home at a comfortable temperature year round. The way it works is that you bury pipes around your home and a heat exchanger multiplies the effect of temperature gradient producing quiet source of heating and cooling. These units are also used to heat your water (Not having a hot water heater can save you $500 in annual energy cost). In general you will also save around $1600 in the cost of energy used to heat/cool your home. The cost to a geothermal heating and cooling system will run you upwards of $40,000.
Propane is great for heating and cooking. A tank will on average cost about $3200. However you will need acquire the propane; refills will cost you (based on 3 refills a year) $1200. You would have to rely on getting propane from somewhere which with the uncertain future could become an issue.
Wood Stoves Cost
Wood stoves work great in the right places. A wood burning stove can cost (and install) $3700. If you have a reliable source for wood the annual cost are much cheaper. However, in cold places chopping wood could become a daily duty.
Other Additional Cost to Consider
There are energy efficient appliances, and then there are products like a 12v refrigerators and solar powered water heaters. In general, the more efficient your appliances get the more effective your energy solution will be. Other ways to ensure energy efficiency are effectively insulating your home. A properly insulating your home can save you up to 50% of your energy consumption.
Your time is another cost you will have. It takes more time to hang your clothes on the line then it would be to toss them in the dryer. You may even have to become a daily wood chopper. There will be a number of additional daily chores you will have to take on.
In order to make the off the grid lifestyle work you might have to make dramatic changes to your lifestyle.
So in short what does it cost to life an off-grid lifestyle? I will break it down further for you.
Cost of Living off the Grid
Solar Power $18,000
Wind Power $30,000
Hydro Power ???
Water Well $10,360+
Gray Water $1000 – $3000
Wood Stove $3,700
As you can see, the cost of living off the grid adds up quick!
Can you get cheaper than this? Absolutely! These are prices I found from companies and industry standard rates. I am sure with some tenacity you can get better prices. In addition to that, there all sorts of do it yourself guides. There are also other great tax rebates out there.
The federal government will credit you 30% for geothermal heat pumps, small wind turbines and solar energy systems. You can also receive an additional 10% credit for the following as long as they are energy star qualified: biomass stoves, HVAC, Insulation, Roofs, Non solar water heaters, windows and doors. In addition to the federal government tax credits, all 50 states have other tax rebate programs for high efficiency products.
Will living off the grid save you money?
During the initial startup? Probably not (especially if you go into debt trying to get there). In the long term it can absolutely save you money. If you adopt the off the grid lifestyle and become more energy efficient you can save thousands. Energy cost in the future are going to rise significantly.
Like the idea but don’t wanna marry it?
Well what if I told you could have your cake and eat it too? It’s possible to have an underground bunker that will allow you to live that off the grid lifestyle when you need it. It can be built in your very own backyard so you could retreat to it whenever you desired. Rising S Bunkers can build an underground bunker on your property that it’s totally off the grid. The bunkers (unlike your house) are built with the off the grid lifestyle in mind, so it’s actually a lot more cost efficient.