Big cities and luxuries aren't for everybody. If you're someone who enjoys the outdoors and a simple life, maybe its time to consider moving off the grid. Its not just for criminals anymore. The Homes and Garden TV network has a show where regular couples and families looking for an adventure rent or buy a home completely off the beaten path. Moving away from vital services such as indoor plumbing, electricity and garbage pick up may be a nightmare for some, but the benefits and experience is drawing people to consider their options. The cost alone is opening people up to spending some time learning just how easy it is for North Americans compared to some regions of the world.
The term "off the grid" generally means homes that are not on the power grid. They are places that create their own power and are self-sufficient. Generally, people think of hippies when they think off the grid but many families are choosing to make the change because it can save thousands of dollars every year. It is possible to live off the grid but still inside the confines of a city. In the U.S. there are about 750,000 households currently living off the grid and the number is growing by 10% every year, according to Nick Rosen author of Off the Grid: The Inside Movement for More Space, Less Government and True Independence for Modern America. Its easy to see with these attractive homes why people are deciding to give it a chance, whether its the beautiful rural landscapes, gorgeous unique homes, or just to save a few dollars here are some of the most intriguing options.
10. Three Junipers, Arizona
These homes are built by Taalman Koch Architecture, an LA-based group dedicated to designing off the grid sustainable homes. This hi-tech ranch style home is located outside of Joshua Tree National Park in a small community called Three Junipers. Each house is built with solar and photovoltaic thermal technology that power the home exclusively, making them totally self-sufficient. Rainwater is collected in five gallon storage tanks and filtered for regular use and grey water is stored outside to water plants. Even the landscaping is done using only native plants, and despite being off the grid this community is only 20 miles from the nearest city.
In rural parts of Scandinavia sod roofs are popular, and have been the design of choice for centuries. They offer amazing insulation, stabilize the home and look beautiful throughout the different seasons. Some homes even have trees growing from their roofs of beautiful wildflowers and bushes. The practice started long ago because materials could be purchased inexpensively, the installation was hard work, but families were larger and had plenty of manpower and friends helped much like American barn buildings. Some of these places don't have electricity but windmills and solar power are both commonly used for electricity. For a bit of rustic living, Norway could be a beautiful place to move off the grid.
8 Pendleton Co.,West Virginia
West Virginia has plenty of beautiful options for living off the grid, imagine stumbling across this in the middle of the fields and forests. This tree house style cabin is set along the Appalachian mountains and could be a hikers dream. Moving away from the busy subdivisions and into the mountain range has its benefits. Homes can be truly unique instead of the cookie cutter ones we are used to seeing, and who wouldn't want to wake up to the mountains everyday. In the fall, it would be quite spectacular.
7 Yulan, New York
It may be rustic but its pretty cool. This small cabin in New York would be great for a unique off the grid vacation into the backcountry. This beautifully designed cabin is owned by fashion designer Scott Newkirk, who has no traces of modern technology in his home. There are no clocks, computers, running water or even electricity. This 14 by 14 cabin is built of reclaimed wood with a loft, and a small guest room. After dealing with the stress of a busy work week, this looks like the perfect place to unwind and detach from the outside world.
6 Los Angeles, California
Valhalla California is a group dedicated to building an entire off the grid community in the heart of Los Angeles. The homes are not connected to electricity or gas plants and instead use recycled water, solar energy and even have a sustained food forest where they grow their own fruits and vegetables. The eco domes are sturdier than normal housing and capable of withstanding natural disasters. One place can be built by 3-5 people in a month for $15,000. Similar communities have been seen in other states, and are increasing in popularity.
5 Vancouver, British Columbia
This off the grid cabin is set into the side of a private mountain ridge, surrounded by dense forest. The cabin overlooks a river in the valley below and some beautiful scenery and vast wildlife. The Stoltz Bluff home was made of completely recycled and green materials. The walls are made from cob which is a mixture of sand, clay and straw which makes it easy to make curved modern looking edges and is cheap and sustainable. The cabin relies only on solar power and water is supplied from a well.
The small family house in Spain was built by Alventosa Morell using six wooden boxes constructed in a workshop and then later placed on concrete slabs. Once placed on site they were joined by glass walls and a common roof. Half a dozen doors provide easy access to the yard and easy ventilation of the property in this three bedroom one bathroom home. It is eco-friendly and took less than four months to complete. The sun is used for heating and the insulation is made from local wood and recycled materials and uses only a quarter of the energy of a normal house of that size.
This beautiful off the grid hobbit home proves you don't need to be an architect to build a cozy home. Simon Dale built this place with only $3,000, some simple tools and lots of help from friends and his father-in-law. This house has nearly no visual or environmental impact on the surrounding landscape in Wales. The materials were locally sourced which is common practice among Welsh builders. It took some imagination and alternative energy sources, but now Dale can live like a character from his favorite book.
2 Vancouver Island, Canada
Designed by Tom Chudleigh, Free Spirit Tree Homes are built for creative minded people who want to express themselves through their dwelling. They might not be suited to everyone, but they are certainly unique. They are wooden spheres that hang from trees or other surfaces in shapes that mimic the natural world. They are adapted for life in a forest and can withstand the Canadian climate. The house uses a blend of tree house and sailboat technology, using suspension and anchor points similar to those found on a sailboat. The inside is built with luxurious amenities and it isn't as rustic as it appears. There are different sizes, some are small and confined like the inside of a trailer while others are built more like houses with many different rooms and even a second story.
This beautiful home is built by the Justin Capra Foundation for Sustainable Technologies and Inventions. It's off the grid and built using green technology to power the house. The foundation is building other homes and the structure has a flexible nature to be able to make plenty of designs, shapes and sizes. Everything about this place is eco-friendly and it was built using 97% recycled materials. The modular unit is made in a way that if more room is needed in the future it can be easily transformed into a more functional, larger space. The green zero energy 'soleta' home can even be controlled by a smartphone device, making living off the grid an attractive modern concept.