11 Off Grid Living Projects to Save Energy and Water
You may just be wanting a small cabin made from pallets with no running water or power sources for off grid living – or you may just want to do a few small things to help reduce your utility bills every month. Either way, you can get reduce your power and water consumption really cheap with just a little out of the box thinking.
There are several ways to bring your expenses down without breaking the bank and have a little fun while doing it. Some of the off grid projects to be discussed include wind turbines, sun solar cookers, water filtration devices, miniature rocket stoves and more.
1. Tin Can Rocket Stove
Making your own rocket stove is very simple. Repurposing items such as a few tins cans can have a really efficient stove going in just minutes. It only requires a few small branches to get the heat cranking out in a hurry. There a tutorials all over the web for making them and some can also be made from fire bricks for a more permanent solution. You can also purchase rocket stoves online if you prefer one that’s made to last like this one from EcoZoom.
2. Homemade Solar Cooker
If it’s hot outside, reduce the heat in your home by cooking outside to help make off grid living cheaper. Much like the rocket stove, the solar cooker can reduce energy costs by using the sun to bake bread, cookies or fry a hotdog using mother nature. Solar cookers can be built easily with some cardboard and aluminum foil or even using a windshield sun reflector. If you really want to get things cooking quickly, use a fresnel lens to really zap that food with some heat (caution: be careful with fresnel lenses). You can also buy solar cookers like this portable model made by SunFlair.
3. Mini Wind Turbine
Most would think creating power with a wind turbine isn’t cost effective for the average person. You can actually make your own that’s capable of generating anywhere between 50-250 watts with less than $100 invested in materials. Ceiling fan motors will get you on the lower end of the power output whereas treadmill motors can really put out some nice power. You can use wood or PVC for the blades and have something that’s capable of trickle charging a battery that can provide meaningful light and radio communications.
4. Rainwater Collection Systems
You can really save a lot of water if you can collect your rainwater for watering gardens and other outdoor use. Check your local and state laws for regulations if you are concerned. I’m not concerned and will collect it anyway, especially if I’m in a rural setting. With use of barrels or even a cistern if you want to go large can provide you will all the water you could possibly need assuming you get moderate rainfall or snow melt. Calculate how much water you can collect by measuring the size of your roof. You can buy food-safe barrels and make your own or find some on Amazon if you’re not interested in the whole DIY aspect of it.
5. Grey water Treatment
If you would like to cut out the septic system, consider a homemade greywater system for your home. Grey water is essentially waste water from sinks, showers, tubs and washing machines that is routed to non-food producing plants. This water may contain traces of dirt, grease, food, hair and cleaning products. Use a gravity-based system if possible so you don’t rely on pumps or filters. You can learn more about grey water systems by visiting GreyWaterAction.org.
6. Composting Toilets for Off Grid Living
Reduce your water waste by using a composting toilet. If it’s properly maintained you can turn human waste into harmless soil. You can buy a commercial composting toilet or you can make your own – like shown in the picture above really easily. Just buy some composting materials like sawdust, cedar chips or shredded oaks leaves and you’re ready to go, literally. You would empty the waste into a separate compost bin from your traditional compost for use in your garden.
7. Solar Powered Devices
While solar is still pretty pricey per watt, there are some reasonable solutions out there for charging your small electronics made by SunJack. Even on a larger scale you can purchase a couple of solar panels, a few deep cycle batteries along with a power inverter and a charge controller and have reasonable power for maintaining a fridge, running power tools and lights. Using the other methods in this post will help you cut down on electricity and make it so you can rely on a much smaller solar power generator than you would think. Hand crank charger devices work well too!
8. Manual Laundry Machine
Most of you hate the idea of parting with your electrical washing machine. The good news is that manually washing your clothes doesn’t have to be the arduous task that your great-grandma despised. There are some really cool washing machines that don’t require any power at all, just your arm. The Wonder Washer is a drum with a hand-crank used for churning and in about 5 minutes you have 5 pounds of laundry completely clean. Using less detergent and less water is a win, win – you also burn off some much needed calories in the process. The Wonder Washer is around $80 or if you dare, you can make your own DIY manual laundry machine.
9. Root Cellars
Preserving food via a root cellar is an ancient idea and using it will help you conserve tons of energy. You can preserve fruits and vegetables throughout the year and even in the summer using this method. If you bury a container below the frost line the temperature of the earth creates a natural refrigeration to keep veggies and fruits fresh. There’s really no need for walk-in root cellars – simply find an old fridge or a well insulated cooler to get the job done. Even a plastic trash can will work.
10. Water Filtration & Solar Stills
Many preppers that are living off grid rely on water filtration systems to make their rainwater safe to drink. Gravity fed water filters like tabletop Berkeys are very reliable and durable, however you can make your own using a few 5 gallon buckets, rocks, charcoal and sand for a three level filtration system or you can just buy a Berkey filter insert to get the job done. You can also distill water using the sun’s rays in the form of a solar still.
11. Wood Fired Oven
Another great way to cook outdoors and lower cooling costs is to build your own wood fired oven or a cob oven. A cob oven is made of mud and straw and will get extremely hot. It can deliver a wood-fired pizza in less than three minutes! You can find instructions all over the internet or on YouTube on how to build your own cob oven.