When someone decides to make the transition to smaller living in a tiny home, they will often have the choice of living on-grid or off-grid. Living on-grid means the tiny home will be hooked up to the city’s electric, water, sewage and even gas supply—like a traditional home. Living off-grid, however, is quite the opposite. It consists of having to be self-sufficient for water, electricity, gas and sewage needs.
Living off grid may sound like a horrible idea for some while it is the ideal living situation for others. While living off-grid comes with great benefits, it can sometimes be a tricky and complex process to set up.
Here is a list of things to consider before deciding to make the transition to off-grid tiny home living:
The first decision that needs to be made when choosing to live off-grid in a tiny home is the property location. You want to be sure that the location consists of a piece of land that will lend itself to the homeowner’s needs and lifestyle choices. Typically, this will be property in a remote area, quite the distance away from the standard building codes and permit regulations. These areas are also great for finding cheaper land with lower property taxes so that the homeowner gets more bang for their buck.
Water Supply and Collection System
It is critical that a tiny homeowner has a reliable and clean water source for safe use and consumption. Living off the grid means the home will not have access to city or county water sources. Instead, the homeowner must ensure that their land has natural water sources or that they have a feasible method for hauling water.
In addition to receiving clean water, the tiny home will also need a method of collecting water. A water collection system can be very simple or complex depending on the homeowner’s needs.
Power Generation System
This is the utility most people think of when they hear the term “off-grid.” As the tiny home will not be connected to the municipal power grid, the homeowner will need to establish an independent method for generating their own electricity. The homeowner must find a power generating system that is strong enough to provide electricity for all home appliances such as the stove, refrigerator, washing machine, tv, computer and mobile devices.
Many homeowners take advantage of solar panels and wind turbines to generate power. The two complement each other to provide power to the tiny house.
The homeowner must be also cognizant of how much power their home and lifestyle requires. This will be important for determining the best methods for generating electricity as well as how much to generate.
Power Storage System
Powering a tiny home does not stop at generation. There must also be a method for storing power when the sun is not up to power solar panels or when the wind is not blowing to power wind turbines. Without a power storage system, homeowners will find often find themselves without electricity when they need it the most.
The best way to store power generated by solar panels or wind turbines is with a battery power storage system. Batteries are known to be a bit behind in solar power technology. However, the industry is starting to catch up and the prices are increasing as a result. This is where homeowners will have to make a pretty hefty investment. However, if they can afford it, it is well worth it.
It is not uncommon to opt out of having a power storage system. It is all up to personal preference and budget.
Waste disposal is a topic of off-grid living that is sometimes overlooked by homeowners until it is too late. It is very important to remember to establish a plan for dealing with waste. Options include digging a waste disposal system or installing a traditional septic system. Regardless, the homeowner will have to follow local and federal guidelines to ensure community safety as waste can be toxic.
Pros and Cons of Off-Grid Tiny Home Living
Reduced Utility Costs
Arguably the most significant benefit of living off the grid is reducing the utility bill to very little or even nothing at all. This is a great way to go the extra mile and extend the energy and money savings that initially come with tiny home living.
When you are living on the grid, most of your daily functions depend on it. If the community power or water shuts down, it is completely out of your control, and you must deal with it until the community hires someone to fix it.
On the other hand, if a homeowner has their own off the grid system, they will never have to worry about being affected by the grid and continue to live their normal lives even during city wide power outages or water shutdowns.
Going off-grid reduces your carbon footprint benefiting the community and even the earth in the long run. Living off the grid is a great way to do that while saving money.
Expensive Initial Investment
Though living off-grid is a sure way to save money down the line, it is often times off-putting to homeowners due to its hefty initial investment. The cost of everything between solar panels, ground mounts, propane systems, storage batteries and wind turbines can be pretty intimidating.
More DIY Work
Another disadvantage to living off the grid is that the homeowner generally has to put in more work. When living on the grid, the city or county maintains the system so that the homeowner does not have to worry about it. However, with an independent system, the homeowner must constantly stay on top of monitoring and maintaining their water, energy and waste disposal systems.
This is an opportunity for you as a trade pro to market yourself to this demographic. Understanding the unique needs of tiny homes can create a niche market for you to build and maintain these houses.
Living in a tiny home requires sacrifice and a minimalist lifestyle. Taking the extra step to also live off the grid can be daunting and is not for everyone. Those who are mentally prepared and willing may find the benefits of self-sufficiency and freedom make it worthwhile.
In many areas of the county, legislation is changing or updating to encourage homeowners to think differently about their living space. Tiny homes offer the opportunity to own a home at a fraction of the typical price and the freedom to spend time and money living a life of adventure and ease instead of upkeep and maintenance. It’s a great opportunity for trade professionals to widen the scope of their offerings to include the specific needs of tiny home owners.
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