When I tell people that my partner and I live off-the-grid the first thing they ask is: what does that mean?
My usual response is this:
“Living off-the-grid means that our home isn’t connected to the main electrical power grid run by a utilities company. Our home is run purely on solar power – we have several house solar panels on our roof. We don’t rely on an external company to give us electricity. We depend entirely on the sun.”
The usual reaction is one of awe. People don’t often consider running a house in a more sustainable self-sufficient manner.
So when I disclose that we also don’t rely on the town water supply or sewerage because we have several 20,000 litre water tanks on the property and have our own septic system to deal with sewerage, most people start thinking we’re crazy hippies.
We’re not. Well we are – sort of. We have hippie spirits, but we’re definitely not crazy (although it depends on who you ask!).
Anyway, I understand the reaction. After all, I’m from Melbourne. When I bought my first home I wouldn’t have considered running a house autonomously from utilities companies or the local municipality services.
In fact, the first thing I did after the keys were handed over was get in touch with a utilities company and local government owned water company to get the house connected to electricity and water!
But then I moved to rural Queensland in 2010 and got a taste of off-the-grid living. It wasn’t so much a taste either. I lived off the grid for 2 years and then we purchased our off-the-grid home last year. In total, I’ve lived this lifestyle now for 3 years.
So here are the top five reasons why I love living off-the-grid (and why I personally think everyone should!).
Using renewable solar power is more sustainable than relying on coal-dependent electricity. The very fact that it is renewable makes it more eco-friendly. Although there are mined materials used to create the solar panels and its batteries, I feel better for not adding to the environmental problems that mining for coal brings, not to mention coal is a finite resource. It will eventually run out!
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One of the benefits of living off the grid is that we don’t have the ongoing expenses of electricity, water and sewerage. There may be an initial outlay for the equipment, but it’s still more cost-effective than using external utility and water services. Plus, we don’t get those annoying bills that come every quarter so a few less things to worry about.
It’s more ‘real’.
You can’t get any more real than being self-reliant and learning survival skills that you don’t learn when you live a sheltered life. We don’t take our modern conveniences for granted. For example, several cloudy days in a row means that I have to lay off using big appliances so as not to overburden our home solar system. Thus I will wait to use the washing machine until our solar energy reserves are higher. I am also mindful of wasting water because we’re still in drought and every drop of water in our rain water tanks is precious. We’re not cushioned from these harsh realities by cluttered, noisy lives. Because we live off the grid, we are more connected to our natural environment than ever before.
There’s less stress.
Off-grid living gives us the freedom to be more self-sufficient as we’re not dependent on a utilities company or the local municipality to give us our services. When we hear people complain about the increasing price of electricity and water, we feel for them. This is one of the reasons we wanted to be free and independent from external parties. They dictate the price and people have no choice but to accept the terms. Because we live off the grid, we are free from these woes.
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I used to thinking landing a well-paid job, getting a pay rise, being promoted and buying lots of stuff was the ultimate measure of success. However my off grid lifestyle has given me a real sense of purpose, fulfilment and personal accomplishment that no amount of corporate ladder climbing ever gave me.
I’ve stopped glorifying busy, learned to slow down and started focussing on what’s important: my health, my relationships, my well-being and finding a way to make a living that is aligned to my personal values. I know my lifestyle isn’t for everyone, but going off the grid helped me to simplify my life and prioritise my time and energy on the activities and the people that I truly care about.