While complete up-to-date statistics are hard to find, the general consensus appears to be that around 1.7 billion people are living off the grid across the world right now. While it is true that many of these people are not necessarily doing so through choice, but lack of facilities, others are choosing to embrace a different lifestyle.
Currently, there are around 250,000 people in the states who are living off-grid by choice. This number has been growing for years, and one estimate may put the figure even higher. Back in 2017, it was estimated that there were 180,000 families, not individuals, in the US living an off-grid existence.
If this is true, then the figure of 250,000 people living this way now seems woefully low. While this lifestyle may appeal to many, there are plenty of concerns to look into.
Can you live off-grid anywhere?
In essence, it could be possible to live off-grid almost anywhere, but there may be areas more suited to it. Some rural areas come naturally to living off the grid, while it will be much harder for a city dweller.
The World Population Review lists the best states for living off-grid in the US. These are based on certain factors such as laws based on composting toilet codes, and even on rainwater collection.
One of the biggest factors is how you will source your energy. And there are laws around solar power and other alternative energy sources.
What are the considerations when choosing to live off-grid?
As you have just read, one of the problems with living off-grid is being able to generate energy. There are plenty of other concerns such as how to disconnect from the sewer system and collection of drinking water. Not to mention how to make a sustainable vegetable garden and food source.
There are many advantages, and benefits from living off-grid, with a few problems too. Out of the most common pros and cons of living off-grid is based around installing an off-grid solar system.
While you and the environment will ultimately benefit from using renewable energy, the initial cost is one of the disadvantages of off-grid living. Over time, this investment can be made back though.
What is an off-grid solar panel system?
The principles behind both on-grid, and off-grid solar systems are the same. Solar panels capture and absorb sunlight. This is then converted into energy – in this case, electricity, and an inverter is also necessary.
An inverter changes the electricity that solar panels generate from a direct current to an alternating one. However, it is at this point that the two different types of solar panel systems differ.
An on-grid solar system will use a utility meter, and of course, be connected to the grid. This allows energy to flow from the grid, and the inverter. Whereas, all off-grid solar systems will require batteries for their energy to be stored and routed from and to the inverter.
Off-grid solar systems have nothing to do with utility companies and are dependent on batteries to store all electricity that they produce.
Why would you want to be off-grid?
Living off the grid may be convenient for some. In certain highly rural areas, it would be easier to live off the grid than try to connect to main power supplies, etc. For others it might be about the environment, removing themselves from the rat race, or for other reasons.
For many, living off of the grid may be for freedom. You can take an RV and travel the road while living off-grid. One of the great tips for living off-grid in an RV is to install solar panels on the roof. This is becoming more popular, and of course, an RV can be used to park up anywhere that allows it.
For plenty of people, it may be about reconnecting with nature and living a self-sustainable lifestyle. This means, though, creating a sustainable energy source.
What are the benefits of an off-grid solar panel system?
For anyone living in a truly rural area, an off-grid system can mean not relying on generators or other energy sources.
These solar systems allow more freedom, especially if you have an RV, as mentioned above. They are also environmentally friendly when compared to fossil fuels, and standard electricity supplies.
They also mean never having to suffer from a power outage. When the power goes down through a technical fault, or from a storm, an off-grid solar system will continue to work.
Off-grid solar systems could be used to provide power to poorer countries, and areas where there is no continuous electrical source.
Are there disadvantages to off-grid solar systems?
If you have an on-grid solar system, you may be able to make some money from it.
How Stuff Works explains how to sell electricity back to the grid in some detail.
In the US, you will need net metering, and in the UK there is something called the Smart Export Guarantee. However, if you are off-grid, you will miss out on this benefit.
Also, if you are off-grid, you are completely reliant on your energy source. The average solar panel system will subsidize a home’s electricity usage, but it may not completely power it. Being off-grid means being self-reliant, and using only what energy you can capture and store.
This self-reliance may be exactly what you are seeking. However, an off-grid solar panel system may require a generator occasionally to produce energy. If the panels aren’t producing the power you require, you might need another energy source.
Off-grid solar panel systems could definitely fit into a sustainable lifestyle. For many they already do. The negatives include the initial investment, which can be steep. But, there are plenty of benefits to using solar power also.
For anyone who wants to live off the grid, or simply has no choice, then solar systems that are independent of utility companies are one practical option. Wind and hydropower are also truly renewable energy sources, but solar panels are easier to install in most off-grid situations.