off grid cabin in the woods
Off Grid Mindset

What does it mean to live off the grid and what are the advantages and disadvantages.

What does it mean to Live off the grid?

Merriam-Webster defines Off grid as \ ˈȯf-ˈgrid  \: not connected to or served by publicly or privately managed utilities (such as electricity, gas, or water), but this isn’t the whole answer. What it means to live off grid can have many different meanings.


  • What are some reasons to live off the grid?
  • Is living off-grid worth it?
  • What are the advantages of living off the grid?
  • What are some disadvantages of living off grid?
  • Is it legal to live off the grid?

The dictionary definition of off-grid seems to be the basic minimum of what it means to live off-grid. If a person doesn’t buy electricity or gas from a power company or water from a water company, then they live off-grid.

Some off-gridders would also include the banking system as part of the grid and others might say you’re not off the grid if you have a cell phone or an internet connection.

Some might even say if you buy food at the grocery store you’re not off-grid.

A person’s definition of “off-grid” will have a lot to do with the person’s reason for living off-grid. Most people who live off-grid do so because of some view they have about the world they live in.

Reasons for living off the grid

There are many reasons to live off the grid ranging from religious to criminal, but I will discuss what I believe to be the main three reasons people choose to live off-grid.

Living off-grid can be a political statement

government corruption protester

You may want to live off-grid to excuse yourself from a system of government you feel is oppressive, corrupt, and materialistic.

This could include trying to live without a regular tax-paying job or trying to keep your personal information as private as possible by not using the internet or banks. It might mean living as primitively as possible to minimize the influence of the outside society.

Living off-grid can be a preparation

Maybe you have a world view that foreshadows an impending doomsday scenario and you want to be prepared for a coming apocalyptic dystopia brought on by war, natural disaster, economic collapse, electric grid failure, or a complete meltdown of the political system.

Living off-grid can be a philosophy

one world save the earth sign

It might be that you feel it is better for humanity as a whole if we all live more simplistic and sustainable lives, using minimal resources and not abusing earths natural resources. Trying to produce more than we consume might look like a viable solution to many world problems.

For me, it’s easiest to use the dictionary definition for off-grid and everything else is a spot on the off-grid spectrum.

All that to say, what it means to live off grid is subjective.

Start with the dictionary definition and expand on it from there if you want.

If you’re thinking about living off-grid here are some other questions you might be having.

Is living off-grid worth it?

I think living off the grid is worth it for 3 main reasons.

  • Living off-grid if done frugally allows for more disposable income.
  • The off-grid lifestyle will simplify your life.
  • You can’t help but become more self-reliant when living off the grid.

Gain more disposable income by living off the grid

Pile of money

When you live off the grid you will have fewer bills. This has a benefit other than the obvious of just not having to pay out so much every month in bills. It means the money you would have normally spent on bills is now available to upgrade your off-grid homestead with tools, equipment, materials, etc.. You also could use that money to buy courses to learn new skills. Maybe you would like to use the extra disposable money to invest. Whatever your reason for wanting to go off-grid a little extra cash every month will help.

A simple life from living off the grid

Living off grid will inevitably lead to a more simplistic life. Your path to living off the grid will lead you to self-sufficiency and self-reliance. These qualities are difficult to achieve without cutting loose excessive baggage in your life. The more you cull out these inessentials the simpler life will become, and I don’t recall anyone ever saying. “Man, my life is so much simpler now. I really wish it was more complicated.”

Self-reliance is a byproduct of off grid living.

Moving off the grid will require a person to learn new skills; gardening, animal husbandry, food preservation, land management, energy conservation, energy production, construction basics, and many more.

I can’t really think of a situation where knowing how to be self-reliant is a bad thing. Click the link below to check out my list of recommended books for learning all kinds of off-grid skills.

Where do you place your value to determine whether something is worth it or not?

I think it should be said here that you need to know yourself and where you place value in your life. For most off-gridders, it seems they prefer to trade in the 9 to 5 grind where you rent your time to someone else for money that can then be used to purchase conveniences, for a more demanding life where the fruits of their hard work build a life with more freedom and simplicity. In this way of life, more value is placed on liberty, self-reliance, and simplicity than on convenience, consumption and cool stuff.

Keep in mind there’s no judgment here about putting convenience and cool stuff high on your list, but if you do then living off-grid is probably going feel like a waste of time to you.

What are the advantages of living off the grid?

The advantages of living off the grid are many and will be different for every individual, but some of the most common advantages can be put into these categories; economic, health, and spiritual.

Economic advantages of living off the grid.

First, I will say that living off-grid can be just as expensive as living any other way, but if your decisions are made with economics in mind then it’s pretty easy to do it in such a way that it is much cheaper than living on the grid. For starters, there are no utility bills.

You can calculate how much cheaper that will be for you by adding up your current monthly utilities.

Now consider how much you will save monthly if you grow all your own vegetables. There is a cost involved with getting started growing your own food, but if done wisely it is a one time cost. And, if you get really good at gardening you can grow an excess that can be sold at a farmers market.

If you’re not a vegetarian you can now consider livestock for meat production. There are ancillary benefits of raising livestock also like fertilizer for your garden, a source of income for your off-grid homestead by selling animals.

Health advantages of living off the grid.

Listing the health benefits of growing your own vegetables and raising your own meats would be a small book in and of its self, but just knowing where your food comes from and knowing everything that went into it is a very gratifying feeling.

The off-grid lifestyle is inherently less stressful and we all know how unhealthy stress is.

Living off-grid often involves living in rural or even remote areas far away from the pollution of the cities.

Spiritual advantages of living off the grid.

girl enjoying a spiritual view

You may define your spirituality as religious, non-religious, theistic, atheistic, humanist, cosmic or whatever. It really doesn’t matter because living off-grid and being more removed from all the hubbub of society will allow you more peace and time to contemplate this aspect of your life and add more clarity to your spirituality. Of course, a spiritual existence can be pursued in the connected city life of society but it is easier in the tranquil and often stress-free setting of an off-grid life.

Disadvantages of living off-grid

The list of disadvantages of living off-grid is much shorter in my opinion.

I think most off-gridders would agree that the biggest disadvantage of living off-grid is the inconvenience of living in rural or remote areas and not having a limitless supply of electricity.

Living miles away from town makes it difficult to just run to town for this or that. Trips to town for supplies need to be well planned so errands are efficient. You can’t just run out to the local ice cream parlor just because you have a hankering for something sweet.

home wind generator

Producing your own electricity means you have a limit to the energy that is available to be used. For most off-gridders, this is the largest inconvenience in the beginning of their journey. The production of electricity can get very expensive and so it’s usually done in a progressive process. You install a system that you can afford and add to it as you can, so in the beginning, you aren’t producing enough electricity to run certain household appliances most people take for granted. Central air conditioning uses the most electricity and so it’s usually one of the last modern conveniences added to an off-grid homestead. Other things some off-gridders do without in the beginning are clothes dryers, washing machines, dishwashers, microwaves, and even refrigerators. Most off-gridders don’t have televisions either.

Is it legal to live off the grid?

The short answer is yes.

I’m not aware of any municipality or county in the US that specifically prohibits off-grid living. That being said, there are areas where certain aspects of the off-grid life are illegal. These prohibitions are usually local ordinances.

In some areas, it’s illegal to harvest rainwater which is a large part of many off-grid homestead plans.

Some areas don’t allow alternative energy systems that aren’t connected to the grid(also known as grid-tied systems). Some areas will have stringent building codes making it almost impossible to build structures with alternative building practices.

I’m sure there are many more types of restrictions on the off-grid lifestyle.

For this reason, it’s very important that you do diligent research in the area you plan to go off-grid in.


Living off-grid has different meanings for different people based on how they see the world. The reasons for living off-grid will have more to do with your own world view than how someone else defines living off-grid. Knowing yourself and how you place values on life will help you to decide if living off-grid is a worthy endeavor for you.

​Read More
Moonshine Resources

How to Make the Smoothest Mash Recipe for Moonshine

Have you been looking for a super easy mash recipe that isn't complicated and tastes amazing?

Well look no more!

I have been making moonshine for over two decades now and have tried all sorts of recipes and measurements. I have experimented with every type of ingredient imaginable, yet the smoothest mash I have ever made is so simple it will surprise you. If you're a beginner this recipe is perfect for you also. This recipe doesn't depend on complex ingredients to break down starch chains into sugars. This recipe is super simple.

It only takes two ingredients (not including the sugar and yeast) and you’ll have the smoothest whiskey run you’ve ever had. Hint: Sweet feed is the secret weapon.

In this article, I give you my top beginner recipe for making the best mash along with easy to follow step-by-step instructions on how to make moonshine, along with some product recommendations.

Check out my podcast about how to make moonshine from the start to finish, along with selling tips!

Why is the mash recipe so important?

The mash is the most important factor when talking about the flavor of the whiskey. For example, let’s say you make a whiskey run that turns out to be 110 proof. This means that it’s 55% alcohol. So the other 45% is the water that came from the mash.

Therefore, the mash affects the final product in a huge way.

This recipe will make 30 gallons of mash by total volume including the grains.

Smoothest Mash Recipe Ingredients 

  • sweet feed (unpelletized)
  • Chopped corn
  • sugar
  • yeast
  • water
  • Want More Mash Recipes?

    Get 20 free moonshine recipes delivered to your inbox!

    Enjoy 20 easy, delicious, tried-and-true recipes.

    Now that you have your ingredients, you will need to calculate your batch size in gallons. 

    I have created the chart below for different size recipes for mash batches in gallons. To alter the batch size just insert numbers from the chart into the instructions that follow.

    Moonshine Batch Sizing Table


    Grains (gallons)

    Yeast (Tbsp)

    Sugar (lbs)





















    Step-By-Step Guide To Making Moonshine

    Step One: Crack the grains

    Cracking the grains is a process to soften the grains to let the flaver out.

    In a large pot add five gallons of water, an outdoor turkey fryer pot works great. Bring this water to 160f. I use an outdoor propane burner.

    Image shows a 120 quart pot on a propane burner for heating up the water to 160f.

    Large pot for cooking the mash

    I recommend the Bayou Classics propane burner as it is very durable and has an adjustable regulator to control the temperature. It’s the only one I use. 

    Check Amazon for current price.

    While waiting for the water to come to temperature put one part sweet feed to 2 parts corn in a 5 gallon bucket until its full.

    Instead of weighing my grains, I use a ratio. For example, a 5 gallon bucket of grains would contain 66% corn (3.3 gallons) and 33% (1.66 gallons) sweet feed. 

    You can use weights instead if you like, but this method works well for my situation. 

    I use a one gallon scoop so it doesn’t take as long. Set aside until the water reaches 160f.

    Now you can add the grains and reduce heat to maintain 160f for 45 minutes. Continuously stir the mash to avoid letting the grains scorch on the bottom of the pot. 

    Image shows measured amounts of chopped corn and sweet feed

    1 part sweet feed to 2 parts chopped corn

    moonshine ebook 3d cover

    If you would like a start to finish beginners guide to making your first batch of moonshine check out my new eBook.

    In this eBook I take you by the hand in a step by step manner from selecting equipment to sipping your own homemade whiskey.

    I include my time tested simple beginner friendly corn whiskey recipe I developed to be extremely simple and very smooth.

    This eBook is on sale right now. 

    Step Two: Mix the Mash

    Now dump the cracked grains into a 30 gallon container and stir in 25 lbs. of sugar. When the sugar is dissolved completely add 15 to 20 gallons of cold water until the mash mix reaches 30 gallons by total volume.

    Chopped corn or cracked corn with unpelletized sweet molasses feed

    Chopped corn with Sweet feed and yeast pack.

    Many of my readers told me that it can be really hard too find the unpelletized sweet feed for this recipe, so I created an ingredients kit you can purchase that has all the ingredients you need to mash a 10 gallon batch. Check it out here.


    Step Three: Add the Yeast

    When the temperature of the mash drops down to the recommended temperature  by the yeast manufacturer, you can go ahead and add the yeast. I have found that 1 tablespoon of yeast per 5 gallons of mash works well.

    A distiller’s yeast will produce the best results. I’ve found that the Red Star brand works really well and is very affordable.

    Red Star Yeast is hard to find locally, but you can buy it on Amazon here

    Step Four: Let the Mash Ferment

    Now all you have to do is wait. Let the mash do its thing for about a week. You’ll know when the mash is done when you can no longer see the bubbling produced by the yeast as it releases carbon dioxide.

    Once the fermentation is complete, strain the liquid to remove the spent solids and place the liquid into your still. This final liquid is called the wash. You only want to put the wash into the still. 

    And thats it! I told you it was easy!

    If you are interested in building your own DIY still on the cheap, check out my two-part video tutorial:

    You can also purchase this Vanell premade still kit for home use from Amazon.

    Get your mash started, order the still, and by the time your mash is ready, you will have your still at your doorstep! 


    I hope you have enjoyed this article and will find the recipe easy and fun to make!

    You will really enjoy the extremely smooth whiskey that comes from this mash. 

    Just note that moonshine making is both an art and science, your first batch won't be perfect, and your second batch likely won't either. 

    However, if you stick to it and learn the nuances of your still, you can be a moonshining making pro in no time! 

    Please leave me a question or comment below in the comment section.

    Happy stilling!

    ​Read More
    is building your own solar system difficult or dangerous
    Off Grid Solar

    Is building my own solar system dangerous or difficult?

    This is module 3 of my blog series “How to build your own solar system – For the beginner on a small budget”

    This series is for the person who wants to move off-grid in a small living space such as a cabin, tiny home, RV, Skoolie, camper or truck camper, etc. and, as a novice without a lot of money, wants to produce their own electricity through a small and simple solar system that is easy to install, use, and maintain.

    If this describes you, then follow along as I take you through the basics of solar energy in a step by step fashion and walk you through the basic fundamentals, design, and installation process in a simple and easy to follow format, designed specifically for the beginner. My goal is to show you how to design and install a solar system that meets your basic living needs in an off-grid lifestyle.

    If you would like to be notified when each module of this series is released just fill out the information below.


    * indicates required

    Is building my own solar system dangerous?

    Building a solar system does involve electricity so, particular parts of the job can be dangerous. That being said this blog series is a description of and a tutorial for a simple 12 volt DC system. There are very minimal risks involved in building this system. That’s one of the reasons this solar system is perfect for the beginner with little to no experience.

    The dangerous aspects of a solar system mostly involve the components dealing with AC electricity. Don’t get me wrong DC electricity can be dangerous too, but not at the levels or in the ways we will be handling it (we will be discussing the differences between DC and AC electricity in the next module). Even if you want to add a small inverter to this system, so you have use of a small amount of AC electricity, just follow the step by step instructions to avoid any danger.

    This simple beginner level solar system does not involve a grid-tie component. If you want to use a grid-tie system, then the solar system described in this blog series is not the system for you and you should consider the help of a professional. Installing a grid-tie system can expose you to deadly electrical currents.

    There could be some inherent risk involved in the installation of a solar array on a roof, but this has nothing to do with electricity. Falling off a roof or a ladder is dangerous, but if you are comfortable on a roof or ladder then there should be no concern. If you plan to do a ground-mounted array instead of a roof-mounted array then you don’t even have to worry about the heights. Just keep in mind, you should always use caution when working at elevated heights.

    Certain types of batteries can be dangerous if the conditions are not favorable to the specific battery you are using. In the system we are going to be building I recommend AGM batteries. AGM batteries can have a potential for dangerous overheating if not charged correctly, but with the right charge controller the risk is nearly zero, and in a later module I will be telling you exactly which type of controller you should be using.

    I will be highlighting in red any areas where caution should be used and will describe in detail safe procedures for the installation.

    I’ve included this information to give the beginner complete confidence in their ability to safely build their own small solar system.

    Is building my own solar system difficult?

    For the construction side of this project, building this system does involve some use of basic tools like drill guns, wrenches, wire strippers, screwdrivers, and a hand saw or circular saw. The skills needed to do the activities in this installation are very basic and can be easily accomplished by most. It is important to note that you will need to be able to lift about 40 lbs. or have help from someone who can.

    As far as the logistics of the project, it is important that you be able to visualize the process in a step by step fashion and follow along with the chronological process laid out in this blog series.

    When it comes to the electrical portion of the project you might be a little anxious about doing something wrong and catastrophically ruining the equipment. Let me assure you, that is a difficult thing to do on a purely 12-volt system. It would almost have to be an intentional act of sabotage to cause catastrophic damage. On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being a professional level skill requirement, the degree of difficulty for this project will be around a 4 with the help of this blog series.

    I would like at this time to talk a little bit about one of the philosophical aspects of living off-grid and being self-reliant. We all come into this world completely helpless and have to rely on others for our survival.

    As we grow we learn skills that allow us more and more independence. We learn to walk and talk and feed ourselves. We learn how the world works and how to interact with others.

    We then are given an education and are expected to specialize in certain skill sets to allow us to contribute to others and thereby earn a living. At this point, something begins to change for most people. They start to see themselves as educated or trained as if it has happened and is done. I think this is a mistake.

    We should always be learning and pushing ourselves to learn new things. We should dare to try things we know will be hard. This is the pursuit of self-sufficiency and self-reliance.

    For some people, this will be a very challenging project and for others, it won’t be that hard at all. For those of you who might think you’re biting off more than you can chew I want to encourage you to just keep taking bites. One bite at a time is the only way to eat an elephant. When it’s all said and done you might find that you’ve learned a lot more about yourself than you did about solar power.

    ​Read More
    Off Grid Solar

    Why you should choose 12-volt solar for your DIY energy.

    Solar power is usually the best choice when you are considering building your own energy production system on a budget because of affordability, simplicity, stackability, and reliability.

    This post is module 2 of the blog series “How to build your own solar system – For the beginner on a small budget”

    This series is for the person who wants to move off-grid in a small living space such as a cabin, tiny home, RV, Skoolie, camper or truck camper, etc. and, as a novice without a lot of money, wants to produce their own electricity through a small and simple solar system that is easy to use and maintain.

    If this describes you, then follow along as I take you through the basics of solar energy in a step by step fashion and walk you through the basic fundamentals, design, and installation process in a simple and easy to follow format designed specifically for the beginner. My goal is to show you how to design and install a solar system that meets your basic living needs in an off-grid lifestyle.

    If you would like to be notified when each module of this series is released just fill out the information below.


    * indicates required

    When it comes to small off-grid residential energy production systems, there are three realistic choices. You can go with solar, wind or hydro. All of these choices are good and each has specific advantages, but solar is the one to go with if you’re a beginner and you’re on a small budget.

    Wind is more expensive, by around 35% more expensive and has a substantially higher degree of difficulty because of the installation process.

    Hydro can be about the same price with only a slightly lower degree of difficulty, but it requires a year-round creek in close proximity to your living structure.

    Solar on the other hand is the least expensive of the three because large amounts of corporate and government money have been poured into decades of research and development. Solar is also fairly simple for the DIY’er to install with some guidance. Solar is also the easiest to expand if your energy needs grow.

    When we went solar we started with a small Harbor Freight system that served us well for years and was super easy to expand as our needs grew. What was great about that system was that it was already designed. There was no work in trying to figure out what kind or size components to get. It was all predesigned and ready to basically plug-n-play.

    The downside to purchasing one-size-fits-all predesigned systems is that you have to adjust your energy consumption to the system as opposed to designing the system around your energy needs.

    This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. As I said, my wife and I started that way but we started living on our off-grid land without any electricity, so when we purchase our first 45-watt predesigned system it allowed us to have light at night. We went from having no electricity to having a little and it was a step forward for us.

    I have since designed other solar systems in a piecemeal style. It wasn’t that hard with some research I was able to size all the components of the system based on energy needs and/or budget. I’m writing this blog series to guide you through the process of designing and installing your own small solar system.

    Check out this 600-watt system. Click the image below

    How To Install A 600 Watt Solar System On The Cheap


    The most affordable way to go solar is to build a 12-volt DC system without an inverter. This means you won’t be able to use the standard AC appliances. Keep in mind the larger the system gets you reach a point of diminishing returns with this strategy.

    If you want to run a lot of major appliances like a fridge, washer/dryer, air conditioner, etc. your system will get to a size where it makes more sense to go with an inverted system so you can use standard AC appliances.

    But this blog series is for the minimalist off-gridder who may just want enough power to run some lights, charge some phones and run a computer/laptop and maybe a fridge.


    For the beginner, simplicity can go a long way. If the system is simple it will be easier to install, easier to source parts and equipment, and easier to maintain. This will in total make it easier for you to reach your goal of self-sufficiency in an off-grid life.

    Some good practical examples of the simplicity of a fully 12-volt system are:

    You’ll be able to use most of the components from vehicles, boats, campers, RVs, motorcycles, well you get what I mean. If it runs on a 12-volt battery you’ll be able to use it.

    If you want some music in your Tiny home you can install a car stereo and speakers. If you want a water pump to pump water to a sink from a tank you can use a water pump from a boat, RV, or camper. You can make your own light fixtures from vehicle tail lights. There are many possibilities.


    12-volt solar systems are the easiest to stack, meaning, if you decide you want to add more appliances, thus consume more electricity, then adding to your solar system is easily done. Just add another panel our a battery or both. It’s very straight forward.

    Note: if you exceed the rating for your charge controller you will need to upgrade it.


    Because of the long history of solar panels and of 12-volt systems they are without a doubt the most reliable.

    If you’re interested in learning more about how to build your own 12-volt solar system then sign up below to be notified whenever I publish the next article in This blog series I’m “How to build your own solar system – For the beginner on a small budget”


    * indicates required

    If you missed part one of this series click it below.

    How to Build Your Own Small Solar System-How Efficient is Solar Energy
    Module 1: “How to build your own solar system-For the beginner on a small budget”
    ​Read More
    how efficient is solar energy
    Off Grid Solar

    How to Build Your Own Small Solar System-How Efficient is Solar Energy

    This is the first post in a blog series Titled “How to build your own solar system, for the beginner on a small budget.’

    This series is for the person who wants to move off-grid in a small living space such as a cabin, tiny home, RV, Skoolie, camper or truck camper, etc. and, as a novice without a lot of money, wants to produce their own electricity through a small and simple solar system that is easy to use and maintain.

    If this describes you, then follow along as I take you through the basics of solar energy in a step by step fashion and walk you through the basic fundamentals, design, and installation process in a simple and easy to follow format designed specifically for the beginner. My goal is to show you how to design and install a solar system that meets your basic living needs in an off-grid lifestyle.

    If you would like to be notified when each module of this series is released just fill out the information below.


    * indicates required

    How efficient is solar energy?

    When it comes to the efficiency of solar there are a few things to consider. We will discuss the inherent drawbacks of using the sun for energy production, photovoltaic cells, the efficiency of solar system components, and the efficiency of system design.

    The sun as a source for energy

    The most powerful aspect of solar energy is the massive amount of energy that reaches the earth’s surface. According to the University of Tennessee Institute of agriculture, 1 square meter at sea level will be bombarded with 1000 watts of energy from the sun on a sunny day. That’s a lot of energy, and the sun isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. So, in regards to efficiency, the sun itself is extremely efficient.

    The sun bombarding the earth with solar energy

    The downsides to using the sun as a source for energy are obvious. First, not every day is sunny and a long stretch of cloudy days can severely lower our ability to produce electricity. Finally, the sun doesn’t shine 24 hours a day.

    The current efficiency of the photovoltaic cell

    At the time of publication of this information the highest efficiency rate of photovoltaic cells is as follows in the chart below.

    This information is credited to

    The efficiency of solar cells has come a long way in the last few decades and continues to get better. It’s worthy to note here, since this solar system guide is written specifically for a low budget, the difference between the highest efficiency rating and the lowest efficiency rating is only 5%.

    This represents a 20% difference in efficiency respectively between the panels, but in the larger picture of a photovoltaic solar system as a whole, when taking the cost of the solar panels into account, the difference isn’t worth the cost unless you have a larger budget to work with. That being said, the cost isn’t the only factor when customizing a system.

    A more efficient panel is smaller. If space is a consideration in your situation then a more compact panel may be worth the extra cost. We will go into greater detail about this in Later posts.

    The efficiency of solar system components

    The efficiency of solar panels is not the only thing to consider in your solar system. The other components all have their own efficiency levels also. The charge controller, inverter, and battery bank all need to be considered.

    In a perfect world where money was no object, we would just install the most efficient component at every stage of the design, but this Blog series is dealing specifically with a low budget and simplified system. We will have to be choosy about where we spend our money to gain efficiency.

    The Charge Controller

    The charge controller is what takes the current from the solar array and converts it to a voltage that the battery bank needs to charge. It also controls the voltage to the battery bank so that the battery bank doesn’t overcharge and damage the batteries. We will discuss charge controllers in more detail in future blog posts. For now, we will briefly talk about the two main types of charge controllers and their efficiency.

    MPPT charge controllers

    MPPT stands for Maximum Power Point Tracking. MPPT charge controllers can have an efficiency rating of up to 99.5%. Saving the details for chapter 12, which is dedicated to charge controllers, I will mention that the main reason to spend the extra money for an MPPT charge controller when designing a budget-friendly system is if your solar array has to be farther away from your battery bank.

    PWM charge controllers

    PWM stands for Pulse Width Modulation. PWM charge controllers have an efficiency rating of 75% to 85%. For a small solar system where battery voltage and solar array voltage are equal, a PWM will work well and can be an area where the DIY solar design can save some money.

    The Inverter

    The Inverter will convert DC electricity to AC electricity. The difference between DC and AC electricity will be discussed in chapter 5. For our discussion here just know that AC electricity is what almost all household appliances use. The simplest solar system designs do not require an inverter. More on this later.

    It isn’t possible to convert DC electricity to AC electricity without losing some power due to heat that is produced in the process (this is similar to friction). Efficiency ratings for inverters are somewhat complex because they are affected by the Load or the amount of power being consumed at any given time. Because of this, the efficiency of an inverter can vary throughout the day where efficiency is typically highest at around 80% of maximum load, but every inverter is different. When choosing an inverter it is very important to choose the right one for the specific parameters of your system design in order to maximize the efficiency of a particular inverter.

    Inverters are either PURE SINE WAVE or MODIFIED SINE WAVE. Their differences and which one you should choose will be discussed in more detail in chapters 14 and 15.

    The Battery Bank

    There are four main types of batteries for solar use. Lead Acid, Lithium-Ion, NICAD, and Gel. To be honest it’s not really worth going into all the different types because for small, budget-friendly solar systems AGM/Lead Acid batteries are the only reasonable choice. We will go into more detail about the different kinds of AGM batteries in chapter 17.

    The efficiency of system design

    The most important aspect of efficiency is the system design as a whole. Every system will be different based on the particular energy needs being met by the system. There are many variables to consider even for a small solar system. I will walk you through each step in determining which variables will have priority in your system and help you design your system based on those priorities. In a small budget-friendly system compromises will have to be made, but with the help of this blog series, you will know which compromises to make.

    Why should I choose solar?

    When it comes to small off-grid residential energy production systems, there are three choices. You can go with solar, wind or hydro. All of these choices are good and each has specific advantages, but solar is the one to go with if you’re a beginner and you’re on a small budget. Wind is more expensive by around 35% more expensive and has a substantially higher degree of difficulty because of the installation process. Hydro can be about the same price with only a slightly higher degree of difficulty, but it requires a year-round water source in close proximity to your living structure.

    Solar on the other hand is the least expensive of the three because large amounts of cooperate and government money has been poured into decades of research and development. Solar is also fairly simple for the DIY’er to install with some guidance. Solar is also the easiest to expand if your energy needs grow.

    For these reasons, I’ve written this series. I want to help people gain the confidence to tackle a solar project and finally realize their dream of living a simpler life off the grid.

    If you would like to be notified when each module of this series is released just fill out the information below.


    * indicates required

    Check out module 2 of this series “Why you should choose 12-volt solar for your DIY energy”

    ​Read More
    Checklist for off grid planning free pdf
    Off Grid Mindset

    Checklist for Living off the grid

    The following is an outline formatted checklist of the things you need to think about when you’re planning to make the move to an off-grid lifestyle. This checklist isn’t a guide. It’s meant to simply stimulate thought and help you avoid forgetting important considerations.

    Some of the links in this post may be affiliate links. This means could earn a small commission, at no additional cost to you, on the things you purchase.

    Download the PDF file at the end of this post.


    Many of the decisions you make will be heavily influenced by your finances so it’s important to have a realistic picture of what they are.

    planning to budget for off-grid living
    Get a handle on the money to make your off-grid journey easier

    How much money do you have to start your journey?

    The length of your journey to move off-grid can be shortened with money. This money can be used for land purchase, equipment purchases, supplies, books for learning new skills, courses you can take to learn skills, the purchase of a temporary structure to live in while you build your off-grid home and much more.

    Set a monthly savings goal to build up an Off-Grid Fund

    A nice little cushion of cash will be nice to have when you finally make the move to your off-grid property. No matter how much effort you put into planning your move it is inevitable that you will forget something. This little stash of cash will give you a little security when you need to make a quick purchase. Just twenty dollars every week will be over a thousand dollars in a year.

    How much debt do you have?

    Ideally, you want to be debt-free when you go off the grid. Get an accurate accounting of all your debt so you can start eliminating it.

    How much debt can you eliminate before you go off-grid?

    This is the area to get really serious about your planning. Debt is an anchor and it will make your progress to living off-grid harder and harder. Unpredictable hurdles will feel impossible to get over with the weight of debt on your shoulders. Attack your debt with ferocity.

    How much income will you have when you move off-grid?

    When you have finally made the move, will your income be the same? Will you keep the same job or will you have to find a new one. Now is a good time to consider different types of income that fit well with an off-grid lifestyle.


    Being self-employed is far more conducive to living off-grid than being an employee. Time freedom makes off-grid homesteading more enjoyable. If you’re interested in starting your own business You should download this FREE PDF. It contains 131 different business ideas you can start using agorism and counter-economics and it’s perfect for the off-gridder ooking for more freedom.

    free pdf - 131 ways to make money by utilizing counter-economics

    Online income

    I would argue that online income is by far the most suitable for people living off-grid. There are so many different ways to earn a living online nowadays that there is something out there for anyone. As an example, this simple blog earns an income for my wife and me.

    Make a budget for finances you will have when you move off-grid.

    Try to have an idea of what your income will look like when you make the move to your new off-grid lifestyle. Most people won’t be able to get it exactly right but at this stage close is good enough.

    Decide what expenses you have which are unnecessary that you can eliminate when you go off the grid.

    Living off-grid and becoming self-sufficient requires an honest assessment of the things in your life that aren’t necessary. We’ve all had things in our lives that we argued where things we needed, but we knew inside where just things we didn’t want to do without.

    Where will you live off the grid?

    Do you already own the land you’re going to move onto?

    What type of climate do you prefer?

    Thinking about this now will help eliminate unnecessary work later. There’s no reason to look for land in North Dakoda if you want to live in a warm climate. You won’t have to waste time looking up laws regarding off-grid living in areas that you don’t even want to live in because of climate.

    living off grid in remote areas
    where do you want to live out your dream

    How remote do you want to live?

    Do you want to start with raw land and build your off-grid homestead or do you want to find land that has already been improved to some degree or another?

    Choose 3 areas you would like to live and rank by preference.

    This needs to be done in case there ends up being some reason why you can’t move there. Maybe the land prices are outside your budget or the area has restrictions that make living off-grid in the way you want to live unattainable.

    Research local laws for compatibility with off-grid living.

    There are no outright prohibitions on living off-grid by state, but there many local governments, especially city ordinances, that make living off-grid either difficult or impossible. Unincorporated county areas are usually the most off-grid friendly.

    Check land prices to determine the affordability of the area for your budget.

    Choose an area to focus on.

    Now that you’ve prioritized 3 areas, researched local laws in those areas and research land costs in those areas it’s time to choose one and start looking for a piece of property.

    Begin to visualize, dream about and research what kind of off-grid lifestyle you want.

    How far do you want to go off-grid?

    It’s important to define what living off-grid means to you. Living off the grid can mean different things to different people, but what it means to you is the only definition that matters.

    Do you just want to live without public utilities?

    for most off-gridders living off the grid just means that your home isn’t connected to any public utilities.

    Use this Solar System Calculator to find out what size solar system you will need.

    What about Financial institutions?

    Some people say Financial institutions are part of “the grid” This could include banking accounts, the use of credit cards, and even using checks.

    What about the Government

    There are even some that remove themselves from the system of government. This would mean getting rid of government identification. refusing to pay certain taxes and refusing government benefits like SSI checks and any sort of government handout.

    Is your goal to grow or raise all your food or just a portion?

    Answering this question will influence how deep you’ll have to go in your self-education and how much land you’ll have to buy. It will also affect the level of income you’ll need.

    Will you produce your own electricity or live without it?

    My wife and I started our off-grid journey living completely without electricity. We added solar as we could. It isn’t that hard to live without electricity, in fact, we made some unforgettable memories in our tiny little wooden tent with no electricity.

    cheap 600 watt solar system
    You gotta read this article about how to do solar on the cheap.

    How will you have water?

    This is a very important question and it will influence many other decisions. I highly recommend reading this article specifically about the many different off-grid water options.

    • Live stream
    • Hand-dug well
    • Drilled well
    • Artisan well
    • Rainwater harvesting
    • Water hauling

    How will you deal with human waste?

    Without a public sewage system, you will be responsible for human waste treatment/disposal. There are a number of solutions and some will influence land purchase decisions.

    How will you heat and/or cool your house?

    Some climates won’t need household heat, some climates won’t need household cooling and some will need both.

    Is there cell/internet service available where you plan to live?

    Most people won’t want to give up cell service or internet service so this will need to be considered when you’re looking for land. It is possible to get internet service with a satellite internet service provider in some of the most remote areas, but this will alter the monthly budget because it is quite expensive.

    Check out this article about 8 things you can do right now to prepare to move off-grid.

    Start researching the things you need to actualize your vision of the off-grid life you want.

    What type of structure are you going to live in?

    • Log cabin
    • Camper/RV
    • Shed to cabin conversion
    • Earthship
    • Sandbag structure
    • Rammed Earth
    • Yurt
    • School bus conversion
    • Cordwood

    What skills do you possess, what skills do you need to learn and what skills will you pay for?

    Building skills

    • Carpentry
    • Plumbing
    • Electrical

    Alternative energy skills

    • Solar
    • Wind
    • Hydro


    • Traditional gardening
    • Permaculture
    • Straw bale gardening
    • Greenhouses
    • Cold frames
    • Raised beds
    • Food forests

    Food preservation

    • Canning
    • Pickling
    • Dehydrating
    • Smoking meat
    • Root cellars


    Here’s an article I wrote about hunting with a slingshot.

    • Tracking
    • Trapping
    • Stalking

    Animal husbandry

    • Animal health
    • Animal breeding
    • Dispatching, Processing, and Butchering

    First aid

    Survival skills




    • Soap making
    • Home remedies
    • Candle making
    • Homemade detergent
    • Homemade whiskey
    • Medicinal herb skills

    Check out my Recommended Books page for a list of some great books about off-grid skills.

    Now that you’ve researched and learned about new skills it’s time to start practicing them.

    There is a big difference between learning a skill and being proficient at it. Practice makes perfect and many of these homestead skills can be practiced where you are now. Check out this article about 4 of the most important skills to learn if you want to live off-grid.

    Click here to download the pdf version of this post

    ​Read More