Think an off grid cabin means living as the pioneers did – without any modern conveniences at all? Think again.
When we bought our off grid cabin seven years ago we planned on a simpler life living off the grid. Yet the house came with several luxuries we weren’t expecting.
True, in many typical homes these “luxuries” are just regular features or conveniences. But when it comes to off grid homes, things are different. In fact, one of the things that appeal to some off-gridders is the lack of modern conveniences and all the associated costs and problems they bring.
Our off grid cabin was about 35 years old when we bought it. Each thing here was already in place -we did not add any of them….although we did replace a couple of things.
Here are seven modern conveniences we have at our home, and why we use them…or don’t.
When we moved to Canada’s Northwest Territories seven years ago, we knew we wanted to live outside of a town. What we didn’t know was that this meant buying an off grid home. And around here, many of the off grid properties do NOT have modern plumbing and regular flush toilets.
Instead, they come with outhouses, honey buckets, propane or composting toilets. Learn more about how these work in our post on off grid toilets.
Our home has three flush toilets and an above-ground 1500 gallon sewage tank that gets pumped out several times a year.
Getting internet when you live off the grid can be tricky. Yet it’s an important part of our life for two reasons. Firstly, I make money off the grid as a freelance business and finance writer and blogger.
Secondly, we homeschool and live in a pretty remote part of Canada’s far north. The Internet helps us connect to our homeschooling community and our friends and family down south. While there are several different ways to get online when you’re off the grid, we use a portable wireless hub with two 30-minute backup batteries.
Unlimited Hot Water
Unlike some of the other off grid families we know, we not only have indoor running water, but we also have unlimited hot water. This is one of the modern conveniences we use all the time. When we returned to our off grid home after three years away, our water heater wasn’t working. So we boiled water in stock pots for bathing and dishes for about a week.
In the spring we replaced our old boiler with a VMAX NTI propane-powered combi-boiler for heating our home and water. So now we have hot water on demand. And if you’re wondering where we get our water, we pump it from the lake behind our house, year-round.
Read More: Our Off Grid Water System in Winter
This house came equipped with not one, but two jacuzzi tubs. Yup, multiple jets and everything. However, I rarely have time for a bath – I prefer showers.
Also, jacuzzi tubs (or more specifically, jacuzzi motors) use a ton of power. And that’s hard when you depend on off grid electricity. So unless it’s a very sunny day, we have to run the generator to run the jacuzzi. Other than bathing our youngest kids in the tub WITHOUT the jets, we rarely use these.
Central Vac in Our Off Grid Cabin….Really
Here’s something you don’t find in all cabins off the grid – central vac! I couldn’t believe it when I first saw the outlets. Yet there they were – two on the main floor, and one upstairs.
Although the central vac system itself runs fine, the power head died a slow death a few years ago. We haven’t replaced it yet and had our old Bissell vacuum that works just fine. Also, like the tubs, vacuums use a lot of power. That’s why we only vacuum when it’s sunny out or when the generator is running.
Here’s another item that many homeowners take for granted – a dishwasher. There was a built-in dishwasher in the kitchen when we bought the house. It was older, but it worked.
That first year we did use it quite often. And in case you didn’t know, dishwashers (like central vac and the tubs) are also energy hogs. Between heating the water and then running the jets to clean the dishes, the dishwasher was hard on our battery bank and generator.
We replaced the original dishwasher with a new model six years ago. Last year the water line below it froze on a -43 Celsius day, and it no longer drains. So we don’t use it. And now that our youngest child is six I have helpers with the dishes and we have a great time singing and chatting and washing up as a family. So I’m not in any hurry to replace it.
Now, this is one modern convenience/luxury that I’m thrilled to have in our off grid home. The radiant-in-floor heating keeps us warm through the seven or so months of winter we live with here in the subarctic. Glycol runs through plex-lines on our main floor when our boiler is on. We do also have an Osburn 2400 wood stove (going to be replaced this week) to heat our house. We keep it stocked with wood and run it 24/7 from mid-October through the end of May.
As we’re learning, no two off grid families or off grid cabins are alike. What’s a must-have for one family is optional for another. If you’re considering moving off the grid, think hard about what you’re willing to forego, what’s a “nice-to-have” and what’s absolutely necessary. True, you might find you can make adjustments once you’re off the grid. Yet you’ll probably find it cheaper and easier to plan for your off grid “luxuries” before you actually make the move.
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