How to live in an Off-grid Tiny Home: A Family’s Journey into Off The Grid Living

by Rob Richardson, Off Grid Survival

We talk a lot about Off-Grid Living on this site; but for some, the reality of going off-the-grid seems like a dream that they will never quite attain. The realities of life always seem to be in the way.

I often get emails from people asking how someone can actually do it in today’s day and age, or lamenting over all the obstacles they see getting in the way of their dream.

  • How will they make money while living off-the-grid?
  • How can they live their current lifestyle in an off-grid setting?
  • How will they power their home?
  • How can they find land that is suitable for building an off-grid home?

For these reasons I’m going to start highlighting some real-life examples and stories of how people have successfully made the transition into off-grid living. We started with some brief profiles a couple weeks ago, sharing a couple stories from people who are living a mobile off-grid lifestyle. Today we are going to take a deeper dive, as we share the story of one family who decided to take the plunge and are now living their dream.

A family of six who are living off-the-grid in a tiny home

A Family who lives off-the-grid

Can you tell us a little about yourself and your lifestyle?

I am a stay at home mom of four and my husband is a plant supervisor of one of the last wood production facilities in the state. We’ve been married for almost 11 years and our four children are eight, six, five, and three years old. Our oldest, Nemo, is an animated, thoughtful, inventive young man. Daphney, our second oldest, an aspiring artist despite her battle with strabismus, who loves the pretty things in life. Atlas, third in line, is our family’s problem solver; he’s always coming up with a witty way of solving everyday problems. Amelia, a.k.a. Baby Girl, easily keeps up with the rest of the herd and shares smiles with everyone. We’ve spent four years living in a bunkhouse camper through wild Maine winters and mild Maine summers.

bunkhouse camper

Can you share a little about why you chose to go off the grid?

Independence is our number one reason. The second reason is that it makes more financial sense, and third, it provides a cushion in case something icky should hit the fan, if you catch my drift! We also appreciate that living off grid (and in a small home no less) forces us to simplify our lives.

How did you find your land, and do you have advice for those looking for rural or off-grid land?

Rural Land with Off-grid home

We were blessed with land from family without having to front any monetary contributions. Our land is well-suited for what we are trying to accomplish for neo-homesteading. It is important when going off the grid to find land that is suitable for what your expectations are. For one, what kind of land is it? If it’s wooded, you’ll have to think about clearing out the trees. If it’s sand, it won’t be good for growing in. If it’s on a hillside, you may not get enough sunlight to manage solely off solar power. While shopping, consider how much you can afford, and how you can best use the land to fit your needs.

Can you tell me about your setup? How do you power your home, what do you do for water, heat, and communications?

For communication, we have cell phones, a Wi-Fi hot spot on one of the cell phones, with 4G high speed internet. We don’t want to draw any illusions that we are hermits, because we are certainly not seclusionists; we have a lot of technology while living simply. My husband has recording equipment, which he uses to write and record music. Our kids are well versed in popular apps for the iPad (Minecraft being their favorite). I enjoy updating our family Facebook page and researching homeschool ideas. In a nutshell, we’re no different than anyone else when it comes to communication.

Because we live in Maine, heat is a necessity to at least some degree for 9 months of the year. We use a combination of a wick kerosene heater and a small tent wood stove, which we retrofitted into our camper. This radiant kerosene heater will provide moderate warmth on 20-50 degree days. Our wood stove will provide good heat down to about minus 10 degrees, and anytime the temperature drops below that we use both the kerosene heater and the wood stove at the same time.

Campers are designed with a relatively low water flow system. That enables us to use between 55 and 65 gallons a week for showers, dish washing, and consumption. We wash our laundry at the local laundromat. We pump water from our dug well during the spring thaw and save in multiple IBC totes, from which we draw from throughout the spring, summer, and fall. This water is first treated and then filtered before use, although we do not drink it. Drinking water is trucked in by 6-gallon totes from the parents’ tap. Collected rain water is stored for the gardens and chickens.

Garden and Chicken Coup

For power, we have six, 100 Watt solar panels and six deep-cycle batteries, along with a gas generator. We have a 450 Watt inverter that satisfies all of our typical daily needs (e.g. lights, cell phones, fans, TV, radio).

One main reason why we decided to purchase a camper to start our homesteading life is the fact that they run off of 12 volt DC power. A camper is designed to use 12 volt DC in conjunction with propane to run the stove, hot water heater, water pump, and refrigerator.

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