Every one of us, when we first thought about going off grid, wondered how much it would cost, and whether we can really afford it. Off-Grid Living has been researching and has found an accurate picture of what it really costs to move off the grid. In this article you will find the costs to move off grid, and reveals five hidden costs that almost no one accounts for when they are getting started going off the grid.
The following values reflect the cost of land, housing, off grid solar system, heating systems, well, septic, transportation, gardens, livestock, and misc expenses. Moving off the grid can cost about $12,000 to $450,000 for common off grid living situations. Average monthly expenses run from $35 to $2,200. This accounts for housing, heating, water, and gardening expenses, that are unique to off grid living,
Hidden Cost 1 — Driveway Building
The USDA tracks land price averages throughout the United States for farm real estate. The most recent data shows Rhode Island as having the most expensive land at an average of $15,600 per acre, while New Mexico has the cheapest averaging $570 per acre. So, that makes the average cost for agricultural land in the United States to a $3,160 per acre.
The climate where you live very much impacts how much land you need. As well as how what type and how many animals you intend to raise. Unproductive or try areas call for larger homesteads. And pasture raising cattle requires many 10s or 100s of acres to support.
We generally recommend between 5–10 acres for a single household if you intend to grow your own food and live sustainably. However, some people get by on much less, less than an acre in some cases. While others prefer much more.
Importantly, the largest recurring cost for property that you own is yearly property tax, which ranges from 1.89% in New Jersey to 0.18% in Louisiana.
When you buy off grid property, there often isn’t a useful driveway in place. In most states, any driveway connected to a public road must meat certain conditions like angle, width, and visibility.
Additionally, if you would like to get an address assigned, which makes you eligible for emergency services like fire and ambulance, then you will also have to comply with state codes, which usually require a sufficiently wide road with a large turn around area at the end.
All together, long driveways that meet code can be very expensive to have installed, requiring heavy machinery and large loads of gravel. Off grid driveways can cost $1,000s or $10,000s depending on terrain and length.
Hidden Cost 2 — Home Insurance
Housing costs are highly variable, depending on the situation you are looking for. On the low end, we considered options for portable shelter and temporary structures. Popular options for low cost off grid accommodations include yurts, campers, RVs, vans, and tents.
Most people going off grid are interested in a more permanent structure. Be aware that having a home built in a remote location is generally much more expensive than having one built in town. So costs may be greater than you are used to.
Estimating about $250,000 in home value on average, making the whole property worth about $300,000. But there are also occasionally tiny house kits or prebuilt homes available in the neighborhood for $50,000. There is a possibility of getting a traditional mortgage, if you don’t intend to or aren’t able to pay for everything up front.
Be aware that off grid homes tend to be farther from fire rescue and other emergency services and tend to have wood heat. This makes home insurance much more expensive than you might be used to. We have seen cases of people paying more than double what the usual rates are.
Most importantly to know, is that If you intend to get a mortgage, then homeowners’ insurance is mandatory. A typical monthly mortgage for a $300,000 value, 10% down, $1,000 per year in home insurance, and an average interest rate. This number is just for comparison purposes. A Realtor in your area or even sites like Zillow can estimate what a typical home mortgage would be in your area.
Hidden Cost 3 — Fire Wood
Heating and cooking off grid is most commonly accomplished with wood or propane. If you have access to wood, it is usually cheapest to cut it down yourself. You can also pay for pre-cut wood by the cord. But, it is difficult to beat the convenience of propane so long as you don’t minding driving to town now and again for a refill.
Many people going off grid anticipate cutting their own firewood, but underestimate the effort and cost of buying firewood. Depending on how cold your winters are, the quality of your stove, the type of wood you have access to, and the insulation of your house, you could end up using anywhere from about 3 to 10 cords of wood per season.
Typical wood prices are about $100 per cord in the spring to $300 per cord dry and delivered in the fall. This can lead to some serious expense that most people aren’t aware of. Cutting your own firewood is not entirely free. You will need gas, a chainsaw, extra chains, oil, and miles on a truck or ATV to help transport the wood.
Hidden Cost 4 — Temporarily Carrying in Water
Most off grid homesteads require the use of a deep water well to get their household water and for use with irrigation. Average installation for wells range from $3,750 to $15,300.
Most of the cost variance in well installation is due to well depth. It is not possible to know exactly how deep a well will need to be on your particular property. There isn’t even any guarantee that you will hit water with the first hole you drill. And since installer charge by the foot, wells can turn out to be a huge unexpected expense.
Another possibly that some off gridders are using is rainwater collection systems. Most states allow rainwater collection in some form, and with an appropriately sized cistern and collection surface — usually the roof of your dwelling or structures — you may be able to collect all the water you need without drilling a well.
Plastic cisterns cost about $1/gallon. How big a cistern you would need depends on your needs and the rain patterns in your area. Short rainy seasons require larger storage capacity compared to areas with rain year round.
Temporarily Carrying in Water
Many people get started off grid on a dry piece of land, expecting to carry in water for a while until things get set up. This can very quickly become an expensive practice, because you need to go to town just to get water. Sizing up your carrying capacity helps, but in the end, you will spend hundreds of dollars some months just getting water.
Most off grid homes use a septic system to handle waste water. However, in some states other options exist including composting toilets. Average installation costs for a septic system typical 3–4 person home system is between $3,280 and $5,040.
Hidden Cost 5 — Fencing
Setting up a garden can be a major expense, but is yet to developing a level of self-sufficiency. Garden fences need to be tall enough to prevent deer from entering need to be about 10’ tall. They also need to dug in to the ground to prevent digging critters from entering.
A typical garden fence at homestead scale costs around $5,000. Most homesteaders go for a tall wire fence of this kind. Good quality fruit trees run about $60-$80/each. Berries – $15-$20/each. If you are buying seeds each year, then a large family garden would usually cost $100 – $200 per year.
After the first few years, more dedicated gardeners might opt for seed saving or seed sharing programs where they produce their own seeds without the need to buy additional packets every year. Planting a self-seeding permaculture food forest is also a popular option.
While the figures above serve to give you an estimate of what it might take to move off the grid, we recommend you need to do your own budgeting and research that accounts for your own needs and the costs in your area.