Why You Shouldn’t Go Off-Grid With Your Tiny House

Somehow there is a disconnect in the tiny house world. It seems that in past years living in a tiny house has become synonymous with going off-grid. This is not the case though. There is a large percentage of tiny houses that are still very much connected to the grid. In fact, when we lived in our tiny house on wheels we didn’t even consider going off-grid. The task seemed far to daunting. “Off the grid” doesn’t just mean having a solar setup from Harbor Freight. In fact, there are two notions of living off-grid and neither are all that easy. So in short, stay on the grid. Make your life easy. Wait…that doesn’t sound right. Should I be advocating staying on grid? Well, I’ll let you decided. Let’s talk about the two paths.

“Off the grid” used to be used literally referring to a life that is void of grids: power, gas, water, telephone, etc. Lately though it has come to mean a disconnection from anything you object to. Some tiny housers want to live debt free and disconnect from the “big bank” financial system. Some people want to stay off the surveillance grid so they ditch any digital device that is tracked, they discontinue anything that documents location and timestamp (i.e. the use of your debit card, etc). But before you commit to either form of off-grid living you have to understand the two systems, pros and cons.

Off-Grid Analog

To live off-grid 100% means to become self-sufficient. You produce all the things you need for daily living. Unfortunately though this is only kind of, sorta possible. It has to noted that all of the tools needed to live off-grid are very low-tech. They are archaic to some in fact. But there are problems to that.

PROBLEM 1: IT IS HARD

Imagine the life of a subsistence farmer. It first takes capital in the form of land and tools. You can subsist off a 10’x20′ plot in your backyard. It just isn’t possible. Once you have the land and tools you still have to work the land for years in order to create a revenue of any sort. In fact, you can live at a much higher standard if you work for money (either at a job or for yourself) and then use that money to buy the things you need. Even flipping burgers at the local greasy spoon will net you more money that most subsistence farmers are able to make. Granted you are allowed the feeling of satisfaction and success for providing for your needs with hard-work and sweat equity you still have to face a life void of many things you once enjoyed. Oranges in December? Not unless you live in South Florida or Mexico. Instant pudding? Nope. Refined sugar for your favorite recipes? Not likely. Oh, and did we mention meat? Yep! Meat. If you want that as part of your diet you either have to raise and process animals or you have to learn to be a bit of a hunter/gatherer. Of course that depends on where you live. In eastern North Carolina we are able to enjoy venison, dove, quail, rabbit, and even turkey. But that isn’t the case everywhere.

PROBLEM #2: YOU ARE STILL ON GRID

In order to farm you need land. In order to keep land you need to pay property tax. In order to pay property tax you need to earn some money. Earning money requires you to file income taxes. You may also need a tractor, a truck, and other tools. All of those keep you tied to the grid.

If you have children they will need to go to school to get a good education. Sure, you can homeschool, but you need to be on-grid to register your “school”, your students, and take mandatory tests.

Oh, and please don’t forget that in order to learn to farm properly without wasting years trying to learn from unfortunate situations you either need a mentor or you need YouTube. I guess by now you understand and realize you can forget YouTube as that would put you on-grid to have Internet access.

Off-Grid Digital

I say digital because this is the real deal. This is the advanced section of going off-grid. This is the idea where reality meats ideology. If you get real with yourself and admit that in today’s world there is almost no way to live totally off-grid (even solar power requires purchasing the panels and batteries). Abandon the utopian aspect and realize that you can go off-grid as you wish. You can treat off-grid living like the local K&W Cafeteria, grabbing only the dishes you wish to eat. To do this successfully though you need to look in the mirror and ask “Why do I want to live off the grid?” So?

Why do you want to go off the grid?

By Andrew M. Odom for the [Tiny House Blog]

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David Contreni - September 6, 2017 Reply

I’ve actually given some thought to this. “Off the grid” wouldn’t work for me. I live in a Long Island suburb town that has a “walkability rating” of 95%. I don’t own a car and only rarely need one.

But stuck in the woods away from my internet connection, mail delivery, and supermarket a quarter mile away wouldn’t work for me.

On the other hand. . .If I could cut utility wires–along with the bill. . .

David - September 6, 2017 Reply

It is very obvious that you do not understand how homeschooling works, or its requirements.

    Andrew M. Odom - September 8, 2017 Reply

    As a homeschooling parent, I am pretty aware of how it works. Please feel free to elaborate though.

Thomas Clarke - September 7, 2017 Reply

Off Grid means off the “power” grid. Disconnected from public utilities. Your talking about homesteading. not the same.

    Andrew M. Odom - September 8, 2017 Reply

    I respectfully disagree. I am very much talking about off-grid in its purest sense and I believe you are as well to some extent.

    One can live a life of off-grid electrification, which means off the electrical grid but still connected to utility infrastructure in some way. However, true off-grid is an autonomous idea, wherein you do not rely on municipal water supply, sewer, natural gas, electrical power grid, or similar utility services; complete independence of all traditional public utility services.

    Homesteading is an entirely different concept and can, in fact, be completely on-grid.

Robert Kortus - September 8, 2017 Reply

When I refer to “off-grid” I simply mean getting off of city utilities: heat, water, electricity, etc. This is relatively easy to do in a tiny home as they do not require utilities to be livable.

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