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Living Off The Grid In Style: Off-Grid Homes

The phrase "off the grid" often brings to mind those who abandon the comforts of modern-day society for reasons of economic hardship, love of adventure, off-beat political or religious philosophy or sadly, mental illness.

Beach house with solar panels

However, it’s not just individuals or groups like survivalists, the poor, or "kooks" who go off-grid. There are increasing numbers of reasonable people choosing to go off-grid for more pragmatic reasons: an emotional need to give up the sometimes-overwhelming stresses of pressure-packed city living and ever-present technological advances, a heartfelt desire to go "back to basics," or an environmental and philosophical commitment to reduce carbon footprints and become energy self-sufficient.

Cleaning Solar Panels

The latter group is growing rapidly, in part due to the well-publicized off-grid living experiences of celebrities like Ed Begley Jr. (whose program on HGTV promotes the lifestyle) and Daryl Hannah. It’s estimated that nearly 200,000 people live off the grid by choice in the United States alone, and nearly one-third of energy executives in Europe believe that by the year 2020 it will be common for Europeans to be off-grid for their energy and water needs. They credit rapid growth in the number of solar-powered homes, as well as advanced developments in batteries and electric-powered vehicles, for those beliefs.

grid house

Going off-grid doesn’t necessarily mean living a monastic life, however. Many people have built their own inexpensive yet comfortable homes in rural areas (to avoid the vagaries of building codes) where they have access to reliable self-sustaining water sources such as rainwater, clean streams or wells, power from wind turbines or solar panels, and septic systems to handle waste. Of course, if someone uses a loose definition of “off the grid,” propane generators or large batteries can also go a long way toward meeting basic needs.

But more and more companies are now creating and selling prefabricated off-grid homes for those who want to cut the cord without lugging rough-hewn logs through the woods and digging a latrine behind their cabin. Most of these options are quite small yet more than sufficient to live in comfort.

solar home with a row of photovoltaic solar panels

For example, Foundry Architects offers the “Minim House” which is only about 200 square feet in size, but features an open floor plan with solar power collectors and battery storage, rainwater collection and filtration, LED lights, a refrigerator, a composting toilet – and even an LED home theater. A green company in Romania, the Justin Capra Foundation, sells light and airy homes ranging from around 500 to 1000 square feet, with geo-thermal water heating, solar or wind power for electricity, and rainwater collection.

For those who simply want a self-sustaining weekend getaway cabin which isn’t prefabricated, there’s the Pump House from Branch Studio Architects of Australia which is made from timbers, plywood and corrugated sheets and includes rudimentary furniture; it has a wood-burning stove, solar collectors and tanks for rainwater. On the other side of the scale, there’s a choice which combines off-grid living with luxury: the tiny yet stylish Freedomky House created by a Czech architect. It is available at either 250 or 400 square feet and features large glass windows, attractive wood siding and an outdoor deck; electricity is supplied by a photovoltaic system, solar thermal heating for water, a waste treatment unit – and the units can be completely assembled in just four hours.

The advantages to using this cable in conjunction with your personal device should be just as obvious for professional settings: taking a factory tour and then quickly sharing the photos or video with your management team when you get back to the office, taping instructional videos which can then be displayed on a big screen in a company classroom or conference room – you probably have more ideas than we do.

Off-grid may be somewhat offbeat for now, but it may very well be the wave of the future.

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