Like many things in the greater green sphere, living off the grid -- that is, without reliance on public utilities for things like electricity and water -- has jumped into national prominence over the past few years; if Daryl Hannah is doing it, we should all be aware of it. There's an awful lot to like about living off-grid, and it's a little different for everybody, but in many cases it requires a few lifestyle modifications and a different day-to-day routine. So, how do you know if you should live off the grid?
First, figure out if you want to. If you can answer "Yes!" to questions like, "Do you want to stop receiving electricity bills, or receive a bill that'll make you smile?", "Are you willing to spend money to make money?", "Do you want to have things like electricity and hot water at any time?" and, "Do you know a lot about (or want to learn a lot about) alternative energy?" then going off the grid might be for you.Why live off the grid?
There are lots of reasons to think about living off the grid. Geography -- if you've found your little slice of heaven here on earth that's too far to feasibly plug in to the grid -- is often a good motivator, but ethical, environmental and altruistic choices drive many an off-gridder to unplug from conventional power sources; producing and using your own clean energy can be a wonderfully empowering, liberating experience, and it sure can be nice to not receive all those bills.
Whatever your reason for living off-grid, your quality of life can be as good, or better than, it would be living connected to the grid. You'll have to be more familiar and more involved in the inner workings of you energy system, and planning to use appliances and gadgets that use the electricity you create. Rule #1 of living off the grid: the electricity you produce must be greater than the electricity you consume, so being smart and thorough about energy conservation is the key to doing so without really breaking the bank. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure: when living off the grid, one dollar worth of energy conservation can save three to five dollars in energy generation equipment costs.
A few considerations for living off the grid
When it comes to whether or not you can reasonably expect to produce all of your own energy, it's all about your lifestyle; everyone will be different, depending on different individual needs. Have a home office or computer? Like to watch television? Do you have carpets that need regular vacuuming? Have a family of five, or is it just you? If you want all the latest bells and whistles (like an off-grid home with its own climate-controlled wine cellar, which actually does exist) and aren’t in to being an energy miser, then you can expect to pay more for a larger energy system (but that's another post).
With nearly 200,000 people unplugged from the grid, the movement is still in its infancy (at least in the mainstream), but is gaining in popularity as energy prices rise and the costs of off-grid technologies falls. Stay tuned for more on living off the grid, in the meantime, check out Darryl Hannah's take on it and see also: ::Off-Grid Man Jailed For Confronting Utility Company, ::Solar Baby Steps: Take One Room Off-Grid and ::Off-Grid Media Players