What Does Off the Grid Mean? What Is Off Grid Living?

There has been a steady trend toward sustainable living and alternative lifestyles in recent years, and off grid living has been getting a lot of attention because of it. 

But what does off grid mean, and what is off grid living? Are these just buzz words, or is this something worth looking into?

In this post, we’re going to define the grid, explain what off grid means, and discuss this way of living so you can decide if it’s worth your time to learn more about this alternative lifestyle. 

What Does Off the Grid Mean?

Before we can define off grid living, we have to understand what off grid means. 

So, what does off grid mean?

Off grid means being disconnected from the grid. 

What Is the Grid?

The grid is our electrical grid, which is a massive infrastructure of connected transformers, generation facilities, and transmission lines that ultimately provides the energy resources powering the homes and businesses across North America. 

What Is Off Grid Living?

Off grid living is a lifestyle based on self-sufficiency and sustainability. Rather than relying on pre-existing societal infrastructures that provide our needs like electricity and water, people practicing an off-grid way of life find more sustainable ways to provide for themselves. They aren’t reliant on the external entities that most people are tied to, such as the water or electric company.

Put simply, off grid living is living disconnected from the electrical grid. But most people who lead such a lifestyle consider it to be far more than a lack of connection to public electricity. It’s a lifestyle about sustainability and self-reliance, whereby you generate your own resources, rather than being dependent on the fragile modern infrastructure that most people are engulfed by. 

What Does it Mean to Live Off Grid?

Everyone will have their own interpretation of this lifestyle, and not everyone who lives this way is 100% disconnected from the grid. 

A purist would tell you that living off grid means you generate all of your own resources, starting with water and electricity, but also including harvesting your own food like livestock and crops. 

On the other end of the spectrum, a person who generates 100% of their electricity from renewable sources and has no connection to the electrical grid whatsoever will certainly tell you that they are in fact living off grid, whether they choose to produce their own food or not. 

It all depends on your point of view, and each person has to decide what it means for them and how far they’d like to take this lifestyle. 

What’s Different About a Disconnected Life

There are three main pillars of off grid living that separate it from a more mainstream lifestyle, sustainability, self-sufficiency, and preparedness. 


One major problem with the current state of our energy grid is that it’s simply not sustainable as it stands now. Just 18% of US energy is currently produced by renewable sources. 

When you’re generating all of your own energy via renewable resources such as wind and solar, you’re living in an entirely sustainable manner. You’re at no risk of running out of sun or wind!


For most people today, when a problem goes wrong, the solution is just a phone call away. But when you live off grid, there’s often not help available that easily. 

Most homes that aren’t grid-tied tend to be located in more rural areas where there aren’t lots of people to come aid you in your time of need. Instead, you’ll need to be very self-reliant when you’re living this way. 


Did you know that the energy grid is at constant risk of attack

Not only that, but the electrical grid is extremely overburdened right now, and it’s worse in some states than others. 

California, for instance, is known for their blackouts, which can leave you without power during the hottest part of the day, in the sweltering heat with no way to cool your home, no lights, no refrigeration. 

Of course, none of that applies to you if you’re off grid since you’re not tied into that overtaxed public grid and those blackouts don’t affect you!

What Is an Off Grid Home?

An off grid home is a home that is not connected to or reliant upon the public utility systems that power most residential homes. Instead of being connected to the electrical grid, this home produces its own electricity, primarily through wind and solar. They will often get have septic tanks for dealing with waste and wells for providing water without the need for public waterworks utilities. 

Renewable Resources

The primary difference between a disconnected home and a standard home that’s grid connected is that an off grid home utilizes renewable resources. 

Most electricity on the grid is still supplied from non-renewable sources like coal and fossil fuels, but off grid homes use primarily solar and wind for their energy needs, and you’re unlikely to ever run out of either.

What Is Off Grid Electricity?

Off grid electricity is any electricity that is produced through renewable means and not reliant on the current energy grid. For example, wind turbines and solar panels both fall under this category as both produce usable electricity without the need to form a connection to the existing power grid. 

Do Solar Panels Make Your Home Off Grid?

Simply having solar panels on your home does not make it an off grid home. Most homes that have solar panels are still tied into the grid, their solar panels just provide much of their electricity during the day. For your home to be off grid, you’d have to be disconnected from the grid altogether, using renewable energy exclusively to power your home. 

The Next Step

If you’re interested in the more sustainable and practical approach that this style of living provides, then you might want to check out these 12 decisive advantages of off grid living to see what else this lifestyle has to offer. Don’t forget to read about the 10 disadvantages when you’re done so you have a realistic understanding of what this lifestyle entails. 

For those who are ready to disconnect and start their off grid journey, read the complete guide to off grid living for beginners so that you’ll know how to get started in your new lifestyle.

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