So we know what it takes to live off grid and how you generate off grid power, but what does living off grid look like? It might be a surprise to some, but some off-grid homes are totally indistinguishable from other houses in the neighborhood (except for the lack of power lines and electricity meters).
Above is the Van Geet Off-Grid Home [pdf], sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy's Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) Agency. Near Denver, Colorado, the home takes advantage of 300 days of sun to produce lots of its power from a couple of solar arrays, and the home's careful siting makes the most of passive solar and daylighting to minimize the energy needed to run the home. Does it look "off grid" to you?
Don Ryan / AP
Off grid living in Oregon
This home, in the Three Rivers community near the central Oregon's Lake Billy Chinook, also uses solar for the bulk of its power needs (as pictured), and one home in the off-grid community went over seven months, from February 11 to September 15 (in 2006) without using their generator; it was all solar.
Nancy Palmieri for USA TODAY
Living off the grid in Vermont
The Doucette family, of Wilmington, Vt., uses a combination of 10 solar panels and an 80-foot tall wind turbine to power their 3,200 square foot plaster-and-tile home; the setup gives them plenty of juice for a home-based business (and the computers, peripherals and lighting required to keep it going), in addition to the rest of their "regular" day-to-day needs.
Off grid with straw bales in the UK
This straw bale double-wide mobile home, built by Richard and Carol Atkinson of East Yorkshire in the UK, uses solar, wind and solar hot water, in addition to a host of green building materials. And, because straw is plentiful and locally available in the UK, it produced just a fraction of the carbon footprint of an average UK home, 50 tons of carbon dioxide, during construction.
The future of off grid homes in Toronto
There is a confluence of ideas happening that will generate the efficient, green house of the future. Prefab offers the promise of replication of proven, tested designs with factory controlled quality; digital driving of CNC machines offers tighter tolerances, more effective use of materials and less waste. This example is an off-grid cottage, designed by Toronto architect John Bowron, is so energy efficient that "the mice in the kitchen cabinets generate enough heat to keep it warm".
With all of these ideas, the point is simple: you can have any kind of house you want and still live off the grid. Of course, bigger houses need more electricity, so it'll be more expensive, but if bigger is better for you, it can be done. And, if it's good enough for Dilbert, perhaps it's good enough for you, too.
More off grid homes and reading in TreeHugger
::Home Grown Home: A Straw Bale Off Grid Double-Wide
::Irresidence: Off grid Downloadable Design
::Generating Off-Grid Power: The Four Best Ways
::Is Living Off-Grid Right For You?
::Off the Grid: Modern Homes + Alternative Energy