Create Your Own Beautiful Off-Grid, Energy-Efficient Home

island home with solar panels
  • Sep 7, 2016

If your image of off-grid living is a ramshackle cabin with a wood stove, you should explore the changes new technology has brought to architecture and building systems.

Generally, a house is considered to be off-the-grid when it is not connected to public utilities, including electricity, natural gas, sewage systems, and water supply. All of these utilities must be available on-site, but this isn't as difficult as it sounds.

It’s now easier than ever to build a beautiful, highly efficient home that's not connected to public utilities, even in urban areas. Read on to learn how.

Run Your Home on Solar Power

There are many ways to power your off-grid home. Improved solar, wind, and geothermal technology have joined the more traditional propane gas and diesel-powered generators as power sources. Not only are these power sources quieter and cleaner, they're much easier on the environment.

Solar power is the electricity source of choice for most new off-grid installations. This is because solar technology has advanced so much that relatively small solar panel arrays can provide enough electricity for an entire home.

Two examples of beautiful homes run almost completely on solar power are this home off the coast of Maine, and this 1,157-square-foot country retreat in Arkansas. 

Consider Built-In Energy Efficiency

While building practices have improved immensely in the last decade or two, buildings are not naturally energy efficient. It takes careful consideration of where to place the home on the site to get the most heating and cooling directly from the home’s natural environment. The choice of building materials, insulation, ventilation and natural lighting also contributes to passively reducing energy consumption.

This house in rural Colorado embodies these choices. The builders analyzed the sun's path to determine heat gains before siting the home, and they chose window designs and exterior cladding to reduce solar heating. In a cold climate, south-facing windows can let in the sun's heat but keep out the cold. 

Try Rainwater Harvesting

Off-grid water sources include wells and freshwater lakes and rivers, but rainwater collection has made it possible to provide water in the remotest locations. Sewage is usually handled by septic systems, but composting toilets and gray-water systems have even less environmental impact.

Even more than access to power, access to water is probably the most important consideration when building an off-grid home. When groundwater isn't available, rain could provide all the water a home needs. The StampHouse in Queensland, Australia, won numerous awards in 2014 for its sustainable design, including a water-harvesting system that collects rain from the entire roof area and stores it in a 250,000-liter in-ground tank. The site also has an advanced sewage treatment system to handle waste.

As you can see from these beautiful houses, it is indeed possible to have your dream home in an environmentally sustainable way. Tap into the sustainable builders and utility providers in your area to find out how to create your own off-grid dream home.

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