Making the Switch from City Living to Living Off the Grid
When my husband and I found our small homestead (just under 3/4 acre) a few years ago, here in the mountains of Southern Nevada, we were SO excited! Actually, we still are! It's in a beautiful place, the neighbors are generally like-minded and amazing people, and best of all---it's OUT of the city---about an hour to be exact. Ironically, the one sticking point, however, was that it was Off the Grid!
Now that's not exactly a sticking point, but for us, who have always relied upon city water, city electricity, city gas, basically city everything for over 50 years (106 between us!)---this was a BIG step. Especially since the solar system we inherited was quite old and definitely not the best. Now, after three years of living off the grid---I KNOW I could never go back to being beholden to "city utilities."
There are a lot of ways to live off the grid. Since we have only been doing this for three years now, I will just tell you a bit about our experiences.
From Electrical Lines to Solar Power
Our solar system was an ancient and often disabled thing for quite some time. And trust me, when you are just coming home from work in the dead of a cold, dark, snowy winter evening and discover there is no power....major BUMMER. Our solar system is away from the house, so in order to get it going again (with a gas generator or by making adjustments), we had to actually brave the winter night and elements. However, we made it work, sketchy as it was.
In the past few months, we have been fortunate to have had some help from a couple of neighbors in setting up a new system with excellent panels and ion batteries that are supposed to last 100 years---I won't be around to find out if that is true....but for now, that is hunky dory dandy with me! It was expensive, but so very worth it.
The electrical set up in the house is similar to what you find in your typical on the grid city homes. The difference lies in how the power gets into the house and other areas on the property. Basically, the sun hits your solar panels, then channels that energy to an inverter, which then channels the energy to batteries that store the power for use. It's truly a magical process, I can tell you. I admit I do not fully understand it. My husband (and a really great neighbor) are the masters of that arena.
Not having electricity or just having to be so careful with the electricity stored in the batteries we had was the hardest thing about going off the grid for me. It seemed it was out for about 2/3 of the winter! But we are good to go now with the new system!
Natural Gas to Propane
The heating system in our home is a combination of propane gas and (soon) wood-burning stove. Being used to having the gas man come out and hook things up from a pipe in the earth to having to have a very large propane tank in the yard was also a big change.
It's our responsibility to keep the propane tank filled up! Nobody is out here checking on us to make sure we have enough propane to make it through the cold winter months (here the temperature can get down to the single digits). Plus, the price of propane in this area of the country is not that great (in my opinion). That's why we are moving toward the wood burning stove and a pellet stove in the garage---it will save money, and we have heard they actually work far more efficiently. AND I can actually COOK on the stove! :) Excited about trying that! I'll let you know how that goes!
From City Water to a Community Well
I grew up in Las Vegas, Nevada on an acre of land. My dad always had a huge garden, plus we had our horses. It was a great life growing up there! Las Vegas wasn't even "all" that big back then--about 200,000 people when I was 10. But....that was before the water restrictions. With the population growth in Southern Nevada, the immense and ever increasing casino/hotel industry, new golf courses....and on and on...., water restrictions have been in place there for literally decades. How frustrating is it to finally grow up and own a home and not be able to plant a decent sized garden because it is just too cost prohibitive? Sure, I was able to plant my container gardens, and I became a master at planting my garden plants into the beds that held our fruit trees and landscaping, but it wasn't like...a garden.
Out here in our small community, we are allotted a certain amount of water per month to use, and it is plenty to keep up large gardens (herbs, veggies, flowers). We didn't plant any grass out here in our yards because I feel it is just not using space wisely. Instead, every bit of land possible at this point (and more in the future) is planted with healing herbs, spices, and warm to cool season vegetables. I LOVE water! I have such an appreciation for what we are given here.
Nobody Wants to Talk About Sewage
Yep, well, I saved the best for last! Just kidding! :-) What on earth would we do without a system to contain our waste? There is no city sewage system out here. We have a septic tank. This wasn't a huge change for me, because back in the day in Las Vegas, where my family lived (in the Boondocks it was called back then), we were on a septic tank too. So I knew what that was like.
What I wasn't prepared for, though, was a sewage back up on New Years Day, which also happened to be a Sunday! YUCK! Now that was awful! We couldn't get anyone to come up from Las Vegas, I had to work the next day, so it was a REAL emergency! To me, at least. We finally found a man who came all the way around the mountain to drain it for us. It cost a pretty penny, let me tell you.
We just have to be careful about how much water we use in the house. Luckily, it's just my husband and myself these days, since we are empty nesters, so worrying about the septic system is not a big deal.
The Final Word:
I love living off the grid. Although the electrical power was truly frustrating at first, I would never, ever have traded the small inconveniences to go back to the city. EVER. One day, husband and I will be able to buy our dream homestead with some actual acreage, with some pasture land and more space for livestock and an even larger garden, but it will HAVE to be off the grid, maybe even more so than we are now!
Do you live off the grid? What are your experiences with well water, septic, and solar power? I would love to hear your advice, experiences, and questions!
Hugs & Self-Reliance! It's a Journey!
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