Disadvantages of Living Off the Grid
Living off grid has a ton of advantages that draw people to this lifestyle, such as sustainability, reduced cost of living, and better preparedness for disasters. But as with any alternative lifestyle, there are also some downsides to living this way, and that’s what we are here to talk about today.
So, let’s discuss the 10 biggest disadvantages of off grid living.
10 Disadvantages of Living Off Grid
Some of the following disadvantages won’t apply to every off-grid lifestyle, and there are people who may not look at all of these as disadvantages. In the end, I believe that there are fewer disadvantages of living off grid than advantages, but you can make up your own mind after reading about the top 10 disadvantages of living off grid.
1. There’s a Long Learning Curve
Anytime you learn a new skill, there’s a learning curve during which you’ll make a lot of mistakes. And every lifestyle change brings along an adjustment period while you’re getting used to your new living situation.
When you start living off grid, you’ll be at a major disadvantage fighting both of these at the same time.
Off-grid living requires a myriad of skills, and if you don’t already possess at least some handy DIY experience, then you’ll be stumbling through several long learning curves simultaneously.
Let’s face it, disconnected living is vastly different from living in a home that’s hooked up to endless pressurized water, electricity, and even sewers to transport your waste away. It takes some time to get used to the huge differences, like being extremely frugal with your water usage or not being able to run all the electronics you want because you have to monitor your battery bank.
Having said that, it’s important to note that many of these inconveniences can be solved in one way or another.
You could install a septic system for your off-grid home to take care of your waste.
You could also purchase dozens of solar panels, wind turbines, and high-end LiFePO4 batteries until you had a big enough set up to cover any electricity use you desire.
However, both of these solutions would bring us to our next disadvantage of off grid living…
2. It Can Be Expensive to Get Set Up
One of the reasons many people are considering disconnecting from the grid is that it’s a very cost-effective way to live, but that’s only once you’re completely set up. Getting there takes a lot of work and a lot of money.
For those who are trying to start an off-grid lifestyle on a low budget, it’s still possible, but you’ll have to make some sacrifices.
Spending less on your setup means foregoing certain modern luxuries. For example, if you have an extensive budget for your off-grid home, you can have a septic tank installed. But if you’re building on a budget, you’ll probably have to go for a composting toilet instead, which will likely mean emptying your toilet by hand regularly, something we’ll come back to shortly.
The more luxuries you want, the more it’s going to cost to begin.
You could do without electricity, for example, but you’ll be living very primitively. If you want the luxury of lights, running water, and the ability to charge electronics, then you need to spend quite a bit on an entire solar setup.
Now, you could purchase a budget-end solar setup, but you won’t have much capacity in your battery bank, and your solar panel might not be sufficient to recharge your battery each day. You can purchase more batteries and more solar panels, but now the cost is steadily rising.
None of this is even to mention installation. Having someone come and install your solar setup, build your home, install your septic tank, or anything else is going to cost. Since off-grid homes tend to be a good distance from town, you’ll have to pay extra for installers to come that distance, and these installations can already be rather expensive.
Don’t forget that your home won’t have standard electricity if it’s not plugged into the grid. Contractors working on your home, especially while doing the initial build and setup, will have to bring generators to run their tools, which will increase your labor costs even more.
Of course, you can keep these costs down by doing all of the work yourself, which brings us to the third of our disadvantages…
3. Off-Grid Living Takes More Work
It’s very easy to romanticize the idea of off-grid living, but the reality is that if you aren’t extremely wealthy, then living this way takes more work than a conventional lifestyle where you’re plugged into the grid.
The extra work begins right away. You’ll have to build and install a lot of your off-grid appliances and components yourself. Even finding installers for many of the items used in an off-grid home can be difficult, as these are often considered specialty items and they’re not the same as what gets installed in standard homes.
Even after finishing your home’s initial setup, there will still be extra work for you to complete.
Repairs will generally have to be handled by you since paying a repairman will be far pricier than usual and they may not have answers for the specialty equipment in your home.
You might have to bring in water on a trailer if you don’t have a well or empty your composting toilet into a larger holding tank if you don’t have a septic tank. These things will need to be done on a regular basis.
Speaking of which…
4. Unless You Have a Septic Tank, It’s Never Fun Dealing with Your Waste
When applicable, a septic tank is generally the best manner of waste disposal for a home that’s connected to public sewers. Not having one leaves you at a disadvantage, but a septic tank is not possible for all forms of off grid living.
First, not every property will be approved for a septic tank.
Second, septic tanks are not an option for anyone practicing a mobile off grid lifestyle.
Third, not everyone who can get a septic tank will be afford one or install it themselves.
So, many people practicing this lifestyle go without a septic tank, but this means that you’ll have to figure out another way to deal with your waste, and it will likely require emptying at regular intervals, which no one enjoys.
Let’s face it, dealing with your doo-doo is one of the biggest disadvantages of living off grid.
For those practicing a mobile lifestyle, black tanks and cassette toilets will hold your waste until you reach a suitable dump site.
Self-sufficient homesteads might prefer a composting toilet, which can be built or purchased. However, it’s worth noting that the regulations and legality of composting toilets can differ by region, leading me to off grid living disadvantage number five…
5. There Can Be Legality Issues
Though it is a legal way to live, one of the most pressing disadvantages of living off grid is that certain aspects of this lifestyle are often regulated. Regulations vary in different regions, so you’ll have to do a little research to determine what the laws are in your area.
Here are a couple examples:
As already mentioned, some counties have regulations regarding composting toilets such as dictating how long compost must remain in the container.
Some places also have laws about rainwater collection, limiting the amount you can collect in some places and outright banning it in others.
In some counties, certain improvements must be made to your land before it’s eligible for full time living, such as a septic tank or electricity.
On the whole, off grid living is legal, but you should still be aware of the regulations surrounding such a lifestyle where you live. In fact, differing regulations may be a good reason to purchase property in favor of one place instead of another.
Another good reason to choose one place over another for your off-grid lifestyle is…
6. Your Electricity Can Be Affected by Weather
When your electricity is dependent on the sun, a few days without seeing the sun can drain your batteries without any opportunity for them to recharge. If that happens, you could end up without enough electricity to run your appliances and lights.
Of course, there are precautions you can take to avoid this.
You could include a few wind turbines in your off-grid energy system.
Generators also make a great emergency power source, allowing you to keep the lights on and power your appliances no matter how many days the sun stays hidden.
While both of these options are available, they lead to the next disadvantage of off grid living…
7. This Lifestyle Can Be Inconvenient
There’s almost always a way to get what you want and need while living off the grid. It won’t always be convenient though!
When the bad weather prevents your solar panels from recharging your batteries for days and you can’t use your appliances it’s inconvenient.
Then, listening to the generator run in order to keep the lights on is inconvenient.
While you’re driving to get gas for the generator to keep the lights on, you’ll be thinking to yourself “this is really inconvenient!”
Emptying your toilet out or dumping your black tank is inconvenient.
Being forced to learn a bunch of skills before you can build your off-grid life is inconvenient.
And in the end, all that inconvenience means…
8. Off-Grid Living Often Equals Reduced Comfort
You can have an incredible life completely disconnected from the grid, but it’s likely to be less comfortable than your life was when you were plugged in.
Some folks can afford to buy their way into supreme comfort, even off grid. If you can afford to have your disconnected home built with a septic tank, water well, and extensive solar system, then you probably won’t experience any reduction in comfort when living off the grid.
For everyone else, one of the major disadvantages of living off the grid is the nearly inevitable decrease some in comfort, however minor it might be.
Not everyone is bothered by that though. Some people won’t mind carting up a water trailer every few weeks, chopping wood by hand to fuel the wood stove, and emptying the toilet into the larger composting bin when it’s full.
Don’t forget that there are tons of advantages to living off the grid, which I discuss in another article.
9. Without Community, Life Can Get Lonesome
For many, off-grid life is a lonely life. Living away from the cities without any neighbors right beside you can cause you to lead a life of solitude.
Even off-grid nomads, life can become very lonely.
It pays to find a community to help keep you mentally healthy and provide that ever-important social interaction. The off-grid lifestyle doesn’t lend itself towards community or social interaction so much though, so you’ll have to make a concerted effort to seek out these opportunities.
10. You Must Be Self-Sufficient
Ultimately, when you’re living off grid, you can’t count on anyone else to show up when you have problems. You’ll need to become self-sufficient and able to diagnose and repair most problems on your own.
It’s not just problems either. For most people hoping to transition into an off-grid life, self-sufficiency will be required just to setup your off-grid home.
If you put together your own solar system, then it’s a relatively affordable process. Paying someone else to take care of it can multiply the price several times over.
And consider this; if you pay someone to build it, will you learn the skills you need to repair it when something goes wrong? I’d say no, which means paying more to have it fixed.
Off grid living is best suited for someone who’s already self-sufficient. But if you aren’t now, then you should be willing to learn self-sufficiency or be willing to pay an awful lot to remain dependent on others while living off the grid.
FAQ – Disadvantages of Off Grid Living
Let’s answer a few of the most common questions related to the disadvantages of living off the grid.
What are the cons of living off the grid?
Although there are ultimately more pros than cons to living off the grid, there are still many drawbacks to this lifestyle. These include the long learning curve, high cost to get started, it takes more work, it’s less comfortable, less convenient, you’re at the mercy of weather, there are regulations you need to be mindful of, and you need to be self-sufficient.
Is Living Off Grid Worth It?
Everyone has different priorities and living off grid isn’t the right choice for everyone. But many people find off grid living to be an extremely rewarding way of life. If you’re a self-sufficient person who likes to build and repair things and you generally take problems into your own hands, then you’re likely to think that living off grid is worth it.
Is Living Off the Grid Hard?
Living off the grid is quite a bit different from living on the grid. It’s certainly less convenient and comfortable. The less self-sufficient you are and the fewer skills you have, the harder living off the grid will be for you. But if you already possess plenty of DIY skills and like to conquer problems head-on, then the rewards can outweigh the benefits.
What Happens When You Go Off the Grid?
When you go off the grid, you’ll have to go through a learning curve before settling into your new lifestyle. There are certain considerations you must make when living off the grid that aren’t necessary when you’re plugged into the grid, like being conscientious and even conservative with the amount of electricity and water you use. Additionally, you’ll see some changes to your finances since living off grid is easier on the wallet in the long term.
Is Off Grid Living Sustainable?
Off grid living is one of the most sustainable modern lifestyles since you’re ending your dependence on the grid and other systems that have the potential to fail. When living off grid, your energy is green and sustainable, your carbon footprint is smaller, and you’re no longer reliant on the overstressed electric grid. People who take off-grid living even further grow and hunt their own food, so their lifestyle is many times more sustainable than the average person.
The Final Word
Though there are a few disadvantages of living off the grid, even more advantages overshadow these few drawbacks, making this lifestyle appealing to many people. Plus, you can often overcome the few disadvantages associated with living this way by implementing the helpful knowledge you can find in our Beginner’s Guide to Living Off Grid. It will prepare you with the know-how you need to get your new lifestyle started right away. You might just realize that a disconnected life is closer than you expect.