Best Places to Live Off Grid – Best Off Grid US States and A Few International OptionsHarper December 23, 2018 0 COMMENTS
There’s plenty of information online about where you shouldn’t live off-grid. There’s advice about which climates just don’t work with solar power, or tales of how cities have denied a family’s off-grid dreams. So, where should you go? We’ll walk you through the considerations you need to keep in mind when choosing the best places to live off grid and find your perfect slice of paradise. Find specific recommendations for where to go, not just in the USA, but in the rest of the world too!
We’ll go over the top nine states that your off-grid dreams will work in, and give you a low down on their pros and cons on the top eight considerations you need to have in mind. We’ll give some general suggestions on where to locate within the state if one area is much better than another for some reason, but overall we suggest you do some research at the county level. They could have drastically different laws, or culture, from other areas in the state.
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Off Grid Location Considerations
To use this guide, you’ll have to decide what kind of factors you want to consider when deciding where to live off-grid, and (because no place is perfect) which of these factors is ultimately most important to you. If you’re more of a prepper/off grider, than the environmental threats section will be of special importance to you. Are you part of the tiny house movement? The laws and building codes will probably be on the top of your list. Or, if you’re more of the homesteader type, the climate makes sense as a first consideration.
People who are used to living in northern climates are sometimes surprised to hear that their favorite plants may not actually grow in a more tropical climate, which means that heading south isn’t always the best idea. In many ways, picking your climate is picking what plants you want, as well as what highs and lows of temperature you’re comfortable dealing with. You can make most climates work, but access to power will usually control how warm you can get your greenhouse in a North Dakota winter, for example. On the opposite side of the spectrum, in Florida, getting cool weather spinach and apples to grow is a challenge, but most veggies and fruit can be grown, even if outside of summer months if need be.
The easiest climate to live off-grid in is a temperate one with a short and mild winter and enough rainfall (30-40 inches of rain not snow yearly is ideal) to make a tolerable summer. With only climate in mind, and depending on your personal preference bit, you might be tempted to live in southern California, Tennessee valley, valleys in Oregon, south western Idaho, Kentucky, Arkansas, or Missouri. Most of these places range from 6 to 8A on the plant hardiness scale.
Rainfall and Water Access
No matter what kind of cool grey-water, well, and rain collection system you intend to use, it will only go so far in a desert. Plenty of people live off grid in deserts, but I suggest you make it easier on yourself and pick a location with more reliable rainfall.
Of course, state-wide rainfall is not the only thing you should be thinking about. When you’re looking at specific plots of land you’ll want to know if a well can be dug there. You may also want to be near rivers or lakes for easy travel, especially in the case SHTF. Take into account whether the lakes and rivers freeze during the winter, larger faster bodies of water are less likely to, but remember this is balanced out because you can harvest snow for water.
Laws and Building Codes
In some states and localities the government is more likely to try to limit your ability to live off-grid. You can avoid a lot of hassle by living outside of major cities and picking a specific local area with lax building regulations. Texas has few, New York has many.
When you’re looking into the law, make sure it is legal to live in a building, year-round, that isn’t connected to the grid, including sewage. Look into how large a building has to be for some base laws to come into effect. For example, a lot of tiny houses avoid having architects or having to connect to the grid by being too small to be regulated. Others get around stifling laws by making their home in a trailer, an RV, even a parked bus.
It’s also worth knowing a head of time what kind of laws might effect the selling and buying of home-made goods, which most off-griders end up doing to some extent.
Those moving to small towns from large cities, to new states, or even new countries, may be in for a culture shock. You need to know if you can get along with people you’ll be neighbors with, especially considering having a strong community to barter with and rely on can help you out substantially. I suggest you spend some time in the general communities you’ve narrowed yourself down to. If it seems like you’ll have major conflict with your community, don’t move in.
Think about what kind of power generation you want to do before you pick even a general state. Yes, you can use solar panels in Washington state, but you won’t get near as much energy from them as someone in California would – especially not during the shorter winter days. If you want to use geothermal heating, having a home in a rocky region will make that drilling harder. Wind power needs open flat spaces, usually.
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This is an absolutely key component of living off-grid that many people forget. Even if you want to live in the absolute middle of nowhere, you will have to leave occasionally, and who owns and maintains the roads will become a huge issue. Some cheap plots of land are priced because there’s no access, or there is access but it’s owned by neighbors. It’s better to get a properly level and maintained road and have to keep it that way yourself, than get a poorly constructed road and try to fix it or get someone else to fix it.
The biggest issues to watch out for in America are tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, wildfires and earthquakes. The Red Cross has a natural disaster map that shows which threats are a problem in which area. Generally, staying off the direct coasts will keep you out of the range of hurricanes and earthquakes. Tornadoes are only a problem in “tornado alley” in the center of the country, from South Dakota to northern Texas. Width-wise it touches a bit of Colorado and Wyoming, some Minnesota and most of Idaho. Flood risk is much less predictable, with pockets of major risk throughout the country. Of course, local conditions could flood you in plenty of other places.
There are places in the mid-west where the only threat is minor earthquakes. Some areas around the great lakes are also relatively disaster safe (but there’s an occasional snow storm).
You know much better than I do what you can afford and how you want to allocate your budget. My only advice is that the better the property is for the previous five factors the more expensive it will be. If a property is cheap, make sure you know why, because you are sacrificing somewhere and you need to make sure it’s a sacrifice you’re comfortable with.
Best Places to Live Off Grid in the USA
Tennessee is simply a natural choice for off-griders. It has a warm, wet, long growing season. It has rich soil on the clay side, which is at least better than sandy soils to adjust. Fresh water runs down from the Appalachians, and land is cheap.
The community in most areas of the state has remained rural and self-sufficiency minded. There isn’t as large of an off-grid community here as there is in other states on this list, but the laws remain fairly flexible and straw-bale houses have gone up successfully. Unfortunately, at least one straw-bale house has been completely destroyed in a tornado, which is the main disaster in the state. Making an off-grid home with unusual materials, that is tornado-resistant, is a big challenge.
We’d give ratings for community, cost, and road access, but that’s going to depend a lot on your specific site and personal preference.
You might think of Oregon as a scarcely populated area, but the population has been quickly growing and it looks to continue that way. People in Oregon tend to be independent minded. If you lean left, you’ll find your people on the coast and plenty of other places in the state. Those who lean right can still find like-minded people too. Or you could stop by several of the off-grid communities.
Needless to say, the laws in Oregon generally allow for off-griders any many have paved the way before you. Buts property taxes tend to be large, as compared to the other states in the area. Oregon is generally rainy, but solar can still provide you power. It has an overall mild climate, but there is huge diversity in terrain, between the Cascade mountains and even some arid areas.
This state is a popular consideration for those off-griders who also want to plan for a large-scale disaster. The population density is sparse, which means the abundant resources don’t have to handle too much competition. Water is easily available, even as snow in the winter. For much of the year, solar is a great option and for the rest you’ll hardly get any use out of it at all – so come with a back-up plan.
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The cold weather doesn’t prohibit you from growing some key staples, like carrots, potatoes, beets, and cabbage. As for buildings, the laws are lax in most places, especially outside of town. You may not find many people who call themselves “off-griders” but you will find experienced outdoors people who know how to sustain themselves. Hunting and fishing is obviously top-notch here, but you’d better be experienced not only for the winter, but because rescue is likely very far away.
The off-grid community in Nevada (and Arizona, and New Mexico) is large. As a winter-loving gal, I don’t get it, but I suppose those who can stand the heat of this area are thrilled to have a long growing season and a very sparse population. Land in the desert is cheap, regulations in Nevada and its neighbors are few, and solar power is nigh infallible here.
To balance this, water is a serious issue. Grey water systems, wells, rainwater catchment, and every other water preserving trick in the book will come in handy. There’s moderate earthquake risk, and droughts are common. You can find many supportive communities in Nevada.
The climate in Kentucky is warm and humid. You’re not short for rainwater or growing season in this state. Small towns can have cheap land. Kentucky has a lot of very rural areas, but not many off-griders have started up in the area, so not many have broken the way in terms of dealing with local municipalities and their building codes.
There have been some reports of legal troubles, from a family whose children were taken away allegedly because of homeschooling and fencing issues to an Amish man sent to prison for selling herbal remedies. Otherwise laws are comparatively lax around agriculture. Earthquakes and tornadoes are the only usual risk in the state.
In many areas Texas’ climate works well for off-griders. You’ll have to preserve your water, and it’s not as fertile as some land a little north (the east of Texas has the best soil), but the growing season is in your favor. Texas is famous for freedom, from guns to total lack of building codes. But, the big city, no matter what big city the state is in, is not usually okay with off-grid living.
Arlington’s swat force once got a warrant to search the popular off-grid community Garden of Eden farm. They found nothing, but by all accounts it was not pleasant. That being said, there are a lot of off-grid communities in Texas, happy harvesting the sun. Avoid the far north to escape the tornadoes.
Ohio is an unusual state to consider as an off-grid state but it has some bonuses. To moderate the harsh winter try to land in the valley. The Amish have a strong presence here, which is a plus. The natural disaster risk is minimal, although floods, earthquakes, and snowstorms do happen. There are counties that are very low population, but they are generally not in the valley.
The energy options aren’t great, consider there is low sun and hydroelectric is not an investment most are ready to make. Also, make sure you check out the individual county here (just like everywhere). For example, those in Columbiana are known for considering making gardening illegal.
This state is cold, sure, but it’s great in many other ways. There is excellent soil in the south, where it’s not too mountainous. It’s sparsely populated and land is cheap. There is a temperate rain-forest here, as well as plenty of lakes, but growing season is quite short. Road access is an especially important consideration in Idaho because the sheer amount of snow is huge, it’s wetter than Wyoming for example.
Mining and water rights are things to pay careful attention to, because you’ll rely so heavily on the health of the water near you. In Idaho building codes aren’t the most friendly, but tiny houses have been done. This is best for the off-grider who doesn’t mind chopping firewood and loves to hunt and fish.
There are plenty of green acres, and mountainous acres, to buy in Missouri. The climate is warm, long, and it’s also very wet, assuming you’re not in the Ozarks. Growing is no problem, and building isn’t either. Most rural counties don’t bother with building permits or require you to connect to the grid. There are few regulations generally, and land is not usually expensive.
Water runs fresh from the mountains. There is at least one well-established off grid community in the state, Dancing Rabbit Eco-Village. Unfortunately, tornado risk is quite high in the state. Also, there is one case of some troubling legal problems, a family whose garden was ordered destroyed, but it did happen in the city.
Why aren’t there more global options?
You don’t usually find advice about where to live off-grid that addresses the whole world. That’s because moving to a new country isn’t usually an appealing option to those who want to live off-grid. It involves a lot of paper work, along with money and time spent scouting locations. Besides, countries outside of American have two main competing problems: either it has less freedom and more people than the US, or it is a huge culture shock with less security than the US.
Living in low population density areas isn’t an option in much of Asia. Africa is generally insecure. The Caribbean is a common destination, but most people come back from home-sickness and difficulty growing things. Lastly, trying to deal with building codes in Canada, Australia, or Europe, is usually difficult, and even if you find a sweet-spot where your lifestyle is legal, it took a lot of research.
There’s other reasons American off-griders don’t want to leave the US. If you’re fond of a particular climate, you can almost certainly find it here. There’s no language barrier, you’re already familiar with the general culture and growing possibilities, and you can more easily move back if you change your mind. That being said, there are some good options for the off-grider who is looking for world travel.
Oceania: New Zealand
The good climate and sparse population make this pacific nation appealing. There are plenty of islands to set up on. It is mountainous in some parts and colder than you’d expect in the southern bits, but generally good weather for pastures.
People here speak English and borrow a lot in culture from their Australian neighbors. The flora and fauna is unusual and will take some getting used to, but it’s not quite as intimidating as the wildlife in Australia. The nation has a large off-grid movement.
South America: Uruguay
Though it is squeezed between the two South American giants of Brazil and Argentina, Uruguay has plenty of unique offerings. The cost of living and of purchasing property is low. Despite this, the nation is secure, ranking first in South America for peace and lack of corruption. Most of the land is fertile hills, and some is wetlands near the coast. Along with that is a great growing season, the nation is mild and doesn’t really have a winter.
Most of the people in the nation live in and around the capital, so population density is low in rural areas. The country already relies on renewable energy, 95 percent of their electricity is hydroelectric and wind. To get a sense of what living off-grid in Uruguay would be like, look into Cabo Polonio, an off-grid community.
This eastern European nation is a member of the European Union and has the security that comes along with that. But, the nation is comparatively poor. Not to fret, for the off-grider that’s a bonus. Land is cheap, and many people in the nation still live “off grid” by necessity and choice, so there are few laws to block your lifestyle. The country has some mountains, but has plenty of fertile hills and plains between them.
The climate is temperate, with four seasons and a significantly cold winter in most parts. Roughly a third of the nation is still green forest, home to relatively familiar flora and fauna, as compared to our other international options.
Wherever you find yourself drawn to in order to start living off the grid, make sure you get the opinions of some locals, preferably those who live off grid already. Their expertise is just invaluable in learning what the area is like and planning your move.