I’ve mentioned before that when we decided that we wanted to try our hand at off grid living how not being prepared almost made us give up. We jumped in head first without having the slightest clue what it was that we were getting ourselves into and this is a recipe for disaster no matter how you look at it.
I’m sure that our story is a common one. As a matter of fact, a couple of years ago, a really nice father and son couple bought a parcel of land right next to ours and showed up on the mountain with not much more than a little two wheel drive pickup truck, a motorcycle, and a pocket full of money. They, like many others, thought living off grid was just going to be a big adventure. We tried to help them by sharing the mistakes that we had made with them but no matter how hard we tried, they wouldn’t listen. They ended up blowing through all of their cash that summer and about five minutes after the first snowflake fell, they high tailed it back to Arizona and we haven’t seen nor heard from them since.
Going Off The Grid Is A Big Commitment
No matter how you slice it, learning to live off the grid will require a major commitment. This is a commitment that everyone in your family must be prepared for. Fortunately for us, our children were young enough that making this step for them was like living an adventure in a fairy tail. They had a blast but I really believe it was because they were young. If we would have uprooted them as teenagers to go live like hippies in the mountains, I have a feeling that they wouldn’t have been near as enthused.
The most important advice I can give anyone who is considering following in our footsteps is to make sure that this is something that you really want and that you have both moral and financial support. That’s right, I said it; getting off the grid isn’t going to be cheap! You may be thinking the same thing that we thought when we first embarked on our adventure and that was that we would spend less money than we spent when we were living in the city because we wouldn’t have to pay a monthly power bill.
If this is the only motivating force behind you wanting to get off the grid, you’re in for a big let down because living this kind of lifestyle isn’t necessarily going to end up saving you money. Because we decided to set up our little off grid cabin about 40 miles from town, our vehicle fuel bill went through the roof.
Some Words Of Wisdom About Going Off The Grid
- Learn everything you possibly can about renewable energy power systems. The time to learn how to install a set of solar panels is not when you arrive on your property with a load of shiny new PV panels in the back of your pickup truck. Knowledge will be your best friend! One thing I wish we would have done was seek out people who had already traveled our intended journey to pick their brain and learn from their mistakes. Unfortunately we didn’t do this and it cost us a lot in terms of both money and frustration.
- Stockpiling reference material can be really helpful. Most of you who are thinking about going off the grid will spend a lot of time learning from the Internet. If you really go all in like we did, you won’t have access to the Internet for a while. If you try and rely on your memory, you’ll be setting yourself up to fail. We found that we spent a ton of money buying gas to drive to town everyday so we could visit our local library and have access to the Internet. We would have been much better off if we would have printed out the material that we would later need access to before we arrived on the mountain.
- Save more money than you expect you’ll need to get everything set up. Even with meticulous planning, you should expect to have expenses that you didn’t plan for. It’s easy to forget things that are going to cost you money. For example, when your electricity goes out at your house, the power company employees rush out and get you back up and running. If a component of your alternative energy system fails, you’re going to have to foot the bill for the repair. Even top quality equipment can fail so expect it to and make sure you have the money to deal with any issues that might come up.
- Be meticulous in the way you maintain your equipment! Going off grid means that you’re going to be the one who is responsible for maintaining things like your backup generator, your battery bank, and other components of your off grid power generation system. If you’re the lazy type who tends to forget things like paying your power bill, the worst that will happen to you is you’ll go to switch on a light one day and nothing will happen. If you’re lazy about the way you maintain your equipment while learning to live off the grid, you won’t have any power but in order to get the power turned back on, you could end up spending thousands of dollars to replace something like a bank of batteries that would have lasted for years had you properly maintained them.
- Get in shape before you wish you had because once you’re trying to live an off grid lifestyle, you’re going to find that there is more manual labor that comes with this than you anticipated. Unless you’re flush with cash and you can afford to hire someone to clear brush, split wood, and move rocks, you’ll have to do these things yourself. Being fit will make this much more manageable for you. We weren’t when we arrived on the mountain and every day our bodies made us pay for our lack of preparation.
Off grid survival doesn’t have to be something that scares you. If we can do it, anyone can do it. Just make sure that you come prepared mentally, financially, and physically and you’ll be fine.