Off-grid living without connection to public utilities like water and electricity is as challenging as it is rewarding. And with so many things to prepare for the transition, it can be overwhelming for many.
If you want to learn about how to start an off grid homestead, you’ve come to the right place.
In this guide, we simplify the starting an off grid homestead process for you. Follow our step-by-step guide to learn the right way to transition to this new lifestyle.
What Is Homesteading and Self Reliance?
Homesteading is a lifestyle characterized by self-sufficiency. It can mean different things to different people, but generally, it centers around living off your land.
This lifestyle has seen a steady rise in adopters in recent years, largely thanks to the rising cost of living in many areas, the effects of climate change, and issues related to health and wellness.
How to start an off grid homestead? It can include growing your own food, sourcing your own water and power, and even making your own clothes. It might also involve building a house from the resources around you.
Some people choose to continue on grid power to some extent, while others give it up entirely.
Thoroughly planning your transition to off-grid living will help you avoid uncomfortable situations later on.
Here is how to start an off grid homestead while avoiding major hurdles.
1. Pay Off Your Debts and Start Saving
Debt is one of the biggest obstacles preventing many from going off-grid. You must pay everything off before you can make the big transition.
Calculate your overall spending and find ways to save some money to pay off debts more quickly. Begin downsizing and cutting down on expenses that will not help you with starting an off grid homestead.
Limiting your expenses to the bare necessities will also help you prepare for the homesteading life ahead of you. You can begin doing the following:
- Hand washing clothes
- Cooking without electricity
- Baking your own bread
- Creating your detergents and cleaning solutions
- Starting an herb or vegetable garden
- And more.
Once you’re done paying off your debt, start saving money for when you’re ready to go off-grid. This will come in handy for setup, construction, installations, and other future expenses.
2. Prepare for Off-grid Homestead Life
While paying off the debts and saving money for the first step on how to start an off grid homestead, start reading up on the topic. Learn and practice some of the easier homesteading skills that you will need in the future.
Learn daily life activities like:
- Long-term food storage methods
- Foraging and hunting
- Building a grid home and maintaining it
- Bushcraft skills
- Preparing off-grid homestead supplies and equipment
- Home maintenance and repairs
- Basic woodworking
- Basic first aid skills
- And more.
3. Find Land to Build an Off-grid Homestead
Choosing a plot of land for starting an off grid homestead is one of the most important decisions you’ll make in the process. You must consider natural resources, road access, legal access, local property taxes, zoning restrictions, and many more.
Here are some of the factors to consider when checking a piece of land:
Building Code Requirements
Building code regulations are guidelines for accepted structures and structural developments. They are typically locally managed and controlled.
These regulations control elements such as wall assemblies, staircase design, fire safety requirements, floor plans, roof structures, plumbing, drainage, lighting, and more.
Local and state governments impose zoning restrictions that control permitted uses of land. These laws may restrict the purposes you can use the property for.
Make sure to learn the zoning restrictions for the land you’re buying before making any floor plans.
How to start an off grid homestead locally? You must consider all local environmental regulations for the property you’re buying. These regulations outline prohibited activities that may deplete local resources or pollute the environment.
They may restrict some of the activities you can perform and power sources you can use. For example, there may be limitations on groundwater sourcing and firewood burning.
Make sure to account for other space and property requirements:
- Access to natural resources
- Soil health and soil types (for growing a farm)
- Climate conditions (for growing a farm and keeping livestock)
If you plan to commute regularly for work or other purposes, you need to buy a vehicle that can handle the local terrain.
4. Build an Off-grid House
The region’s climate should help you narrow down some options for the best off-grid homestead to build.
Here are some things you should consider as you explore how to start an off grid homestead:
- Do you prefer a permanent structure or something mobile?
- How many people will live in the house?
- What are the weather and the seasonal calendar like in the region?
- What building materials are readily available and affordable?
- Do you need to build your own home heating and cooling systems?
Prepare a list of non-negotiable requirements, so you can begin calculating the time, money, and resources you need to build your home.
Make sure to consider the cost of transporting building materials and professional help, if you choose to hire any.
5. Find and Connect to a Water Source
How to start an off grid homestead cut off from most local utilities? You’ll need access to water throughout the homestead prep process. An essential part of sourcing water is ensuring it is reliable throughout the year.
Here are your options to source your water, depending on your location and budget:
- Water delivery/hauling from nearby water sources
- Drilling a well
- Pumping or hauling water from a nearby body of water
If you get enough rain during the year, you can set up rain barrels to harvest rainwater. However, processing it for drinking purposes will require more work. Additionally, you must check local regulations and follow guidelines on rainwater harvesting.
Sourcing water is not where it ends—you’ll also need to filter it to make it safe for drinking, washing, and most everyday uses. You can use the cleanest source for drinking purposes and filter only that. The rest of it can go towards watering the plants or washing animals.
You must also plan water storage according to your requirements. How many gallons of water you need to store depends on the ease of access to nearby water sources and how many people live in the house.
If you have livestock on your land, you must plan for their water requirements as well (for both drinking and animal care purposes). And, of course, you need to have a stockpile for emergencies.
6. Build a Waste Management System
If you want to learn how to start an off grid homestead, you must find a way to manage waste properly. Make sure to read up on waste disposal regulations for your region before setting up any of these waste management systems.
Some of your options for waste systems include:
- Septic tanks
- Greywater tanks
- Composting toilets
A greywater tank will help you recycle wastewater used in sinks, dishwashing, showers, and more. It treats this water for use in the toilet or for irrigation purposes.
Installing septic systems or greywater tanks on your property requires quite an investment. And septic tanks need regular emptying by a vacuum truck.
Composting toilets are more suitable if you plan to maintain a farm on your property. The work associated with one may seem daunting, but it results in quality compost for your crops.
A temporary outhouse is more suitable for homesteaders planning to move around frequently. An outhouse hole will easily last a family of five for about five years.
7. Find and Install a Natural Power Source
Installing an independent source of natural power is one of the most significant undertakings of your off-grid homesteading journey. And with the benefits of no longer paying utility bills and reducing your carbon footprint, it’s all worth it!
If you’re wondering how to start an off grid homestead away from traditional power sources, you can harness natural resources through the following:
- Solar panels
- Wind turbines
- Micro-hydro turbines
- Geothermal energy
Location is the first factor you must consider when choosing the best energy sources. The second is your budget.
Installing some of these setups can be quite expensive, although they will pay off in the long run.
Solar energy is one of the best energy sources, especially if your region gets lots of sunlight throughout the year. However, you must factor in cloudy days and maintain a backup battery power storage system and generator as well.
Another benefit of a solar setup is that you can sell excess energy generated to a local power company. It is a smart additional income source.
Wind turbines work by collecting kinetic energy and converting it to usable power for electronics.
Harnessing wind power has a slightly more affordable installation process. However, getting enough strong winds to generate power for your household is a bigger gamble.
Micro-hydro turbines are another renewable source of power. They are similar to a wind turbine in operation. The only difference is they utilize the flow of water instead of wind to generate electricity.
Micro-hydro energy seems the perfect fit in terms of energy generated and installation costs. It is less likely to experience seasonal challenges but requires a steady source of water that fits flow-related requirements.
Geothermal power utilizes the earth’s heat to generate energy. It also works similarly to turbine-based energy generators but uses heat instead of wind or water.
The biggest benefit of geothermal energy is it is accessible year-round regardless of seasonal or environmental changes.
However, it only works in certain locations and comes with high installation costs for individual homestead projects.
If you prefer a less stationary alternative, portable solar panels are the way to go. They’re easy to set up, work efficiently, and you can bring them wherever you go. They will work well if you start an off grid homestead in a sunny region and continue to live in sunshine-rich areas.
8. Grow Food and Manage Livestock
Depending on how much land you have, you can check out options for starting an off grid homestead garden or small farm.
But before you plant any seeds, get a rough estimate of your daily and annual calorie requirements. The USDA has an acre-by-acre estimate for crops and livestock based on different needs.
Doing a little research on what grows best in your region and climate will also help.
Take a careful approach when planning to have off-grid homestead livestock. Start with something manageable and small, like chickens. As you gain more experience and if you have available space, you can make animal additions like goats, cows, or pigs. Rabbits are also a great option; they multiply quite quickly.
Here are steps to help you prepare:
- Cultivate the soil
- Put up fences and beds
- Plan and build irrigation systems
- Build a barn/coop and paddock fencing
- Create a sowing and harvest calendar
You must account for your livestock’s requirements as well, along with some extra animal feed for emergencies.
Winter/Emergency Food Storage
Growing food and livestock is EASY when the weather is sunny and warm, but you also need plan B for harsh winter months and even natural disasters. This is where an emergency food supply will come in handy.
Learn more about how to start an off grid homestead storage space to safely store your emergency food supply. Here are some tips on storage prep:
- A damp, underground root cellar at 50 degrees Fahrenheit is great for apples and root vegetables.
- A dry storage room at 50 degrees Fahrenheit is suitable for grains and canned goods.
- A dry storage or pantry is useful for items soon-to-be-used.
- A heavy-duty refrigerator to keep food cool.
Read our complete guide to long-term food storage.
9. Develop Your Mindset
Learning more about how to start an off grid homestead will help you tremendously in developing your mindset.
You can start while you’re still in the planning stages to ease into the transition. As you move away from the trappings of modern life, you can adjust your mindset as you tackle activities for a more self-reliant off-grid life.
It helps to meet other homesteaders nearby or talk to experts to educate yourself on starting an off grid homestead.
The more you learn about people who’ve embraced off-grid homestead living, the stronger your mindset will become.
Wrapping up How to Start an Off grid Homestead
Now you know how to start an off grid homestead. The ultimate goal of starting an off grid homestead lifestyle is to live sustainably while giving back to nature. We hope this guide will help you strategize to build the perfect grid home.
If you’d like to learn more about living off grid, check out our Off-Grid Survival section.