Whether you’re planning to move to the Alaskan frontiers or want to live in a cabin the Vermont mountains, these off-grid living conditions will disconnect you from water and power sources.
To live off the grid, you need to know how to generate your power, collect and filter water, and even live without a sewer or septic system.
The following off-grid projects are necessary for survival in the great outdoors:
1. Collect Rainwater
Collecting drinkable water is a vital survival skill. When living off the grid, this is one skill you must master very quickly. There are a few rainwater collection projects you can set up to gather drinking water. For instance, your collection system may include roof gutters, a large capacity stacked system, a rain barrel, or a large water tank that’s buried or above ground. The amount of rainwater you can collect will depend on the amount of rainfall in your area and the size of your roof.
2. Greywater Treatment System
A greywater treatment system can route wastewater to your yard and irrigate non-food plants. What are some sources of greywater? Greywater refers to any wastewater collected from washing machines, showers, tubs, and kitchen sinks. Most of this water will contain grease, food particles, dirt, some cleaning products, and hair. You can set up a grey water treatment in your yard to ‘treat’ these contaminants. There are several types of grey water systems. Generally, gravity-based systems that don’t require filters or pumps are easy to maintain and last the longest. In case you produce excess waste water than what is required for irrigation, set up an artificial wetlands on your property. This will absorb and filter the water naturally.
3. Root Cellar and Low-tech Fridge
A root cellar is an ancient way of conserving vegetables and fruits throughout the year. The earth has a stable temperature underneath the frost line which provides ‘natural refrigeration’. This temperature keeps items like onions, potatoes, and apples, fresh throughout the year. When you move off the grid, you can set up your own root cellar using reclaimed and recycled materials. Simply bury a trash can or chest freezer into the ground.
If you prefer to be without a fridge system altogether, consider zeer pots. These are also called pot-in-pot fridges. To build one, you need two basic terracotta pots, some water and sand. One pot must be smaller in size than the other. Contents placed inside a zeer pot are cooled by a damp sandy layer between two terracotta pots. As the moisture from the sand evaporates, the inner pot is cooled. You have to keep this sand moist at all times to keep the contents of the inner pot cool. This system can keep vegetables fresh for nearly a month. It’s also effective at deterring insects. You may also store cool water in a zeer pot.
4. Mini Wind Turbine
This off grid project may seem out of reach, but it’s actually not! A mini wind turbine is an effective solution when you want to supplement your solar power. With a mini wind turbine kit you can generate up to 250 watts of energy.
5. Solar & Outdoor wood-fired oven
In the summer, temperatures can soar when you’re living off the grid. It’s too hot and humid to cook indoors, so the best way to prevent extra heat build-up in your home by cooking outdoors. Although grills are superb, a solar cooker or a wood-fired oven will allow you to bake your favourite treats as well.
You can build your own solar cooker with a windshield sun reflector or some aluminium foil and a cardboard box. With a dash of sunlight, you can prepare your food. Cob ovens are another good outdoor cooking solution. These are built using straw and mud. They get very hot and are capable of churning out pizzas in three minutes.
6. Composting Toilets
Each day, billions of litres of drinkable water is flushed down the toilet. If properly maintained, a composting toilet can transform human waste water into healthy soil. Composting toilets are easier to care for that what you expect. When you move off the grid, you can easily purchase a commercial composting toilet. If you prefer to build one yourself, you need a bucket, some carbon-dense composting materials such as shredded oak leaves, cedar chips, and sawdust, and a toilet seat. This is emptied out into a special outdoor compost bin that’s separate from a regular compost bin which produces compost for your herb and vegetable gardens.
7. Solar-powered Gadgets and Appliances
There are several opportunities to separate from the grid. You may build your own solar charger or hand-cranked gadgets like blenders and gadget chargers. You can also build your mason jar solar lights, a solar food dryer, a parabolic hot water heater, and even a solar-powered Altoid tin.
If you’re planning to live in a colder region where the winters can be long and harsh, it would help to have a greenhouse. This will provide you with food throughout the year. A greenhouse is a superb off-grid project because it can also generate power for your home. You can use this energy to power your drip irrigation unit or even heat your home.
9. Washing Machine
Washing clothes by hand is a tough job. There’s a lot of scrubbing, wringing, and soaking involved. If you plan to live off the grid, you’re going to have to build a washing machine to facilitate this task. You can easily build a washer with a net bag, a container, and a lever-driven shaft that’s held in position with a wooden frame. The net bag is the key component because it will squeeze, agitate, and hold the clothes. A DIY washing machine requires zero electricity and relies solely on hand-cranking. After your clothes are washed, simply wring them out and hang to dry.
10. Solar Power Charger
While living off the grid, you may face a situation where your home loses complete power. In such cases, it would help to have a solar power charger. You can easily build one using a solar panel and a rechargeable battery.
11. Portable Solar Generator
A moveable solar generator is a handy tool to have when you live off the grid. Not only is this a back source of energy, but you can use it anywhere on your property, i.e. the shed, garden, backyard, etc. To build a small scale portable solar generator, you need two, 8-watt panels, an inverter, and a marine deep cycle battery. The power generated by this simple system is enough to operate a television set, a few power tools, and even a laptop.
12. DIY Humidifier
When you’re living off the grid in a cool climate region, you can expect your home to feel dry. Over time, dry air will cause sore throats, coughs, and even the flu. You can also develop dry skin, teary eyes, and allergic reactions. This generally happens in the winter when temperatures drop below zero and you turn on the heat. Once the heat goes up, the moisture dries up.
To prevent this dryness, you need to introduce humidity. A humidifier is the best solution to add moisture. To do this, place numerous house plants in your home. You can also take a large car sponge and soak it. Put it in a large ziplock bag with holes. You can place this ziplock bag in any room. The sponge will release moisture into the room. You may also opt for a fish tank. The open fish tank will release humidity into the room and generate a cool atmosphere. In addition, you get a beautiful view not to mention adds character in your home.
13. Rooftop Garden
If you don’t have room to set up a garden on your lawn, consider a rooftop garden. The concept has been around for centuries, but it was popularized just a few decades ago in Germany. A rooftop garden is basically a living plant surface on a roof structure. In this garden, there is less than 1 foot of soil is applied to your roof along with some support structures. This will enable you to grow a variety of herbs, fruits, and vegetables on top of your garage, shed, or house.
14. Passive Window Solar Heater
This simple solar heater is an excellent source of heat during the cold winters. All you need to build this off-grid project is a few pieces of Styrofoam, a can of black spray paint, and some aluminum foil. You may cut the Styrofoam to fit the window or a bit smaller so that some light will still get through. The former option will give you more heat.
When the sun is shining, the black painted portion will absorb much of the sun’s heat. Hot air has a tendency of expanding and rising. Once the hot air rises, it will leave from the top vent of your heater. This prompts a vacuum action and pulls cold air into the bottom vent of the heater. The cooler air is warmed and continues to do so until sunset.
With these 14 off grid projects for survival, you can live comfortably in your new surroundings.