How Much Does It Cost to Build an Off-Grid Home?

You're dreaming of owning a large piece of land and building that perfect off-grid home.  But how much does it cost to build an off-grid home? In this post, I'm going to do my best to help you calculate those costs.

If you’ve ever considered purchasing a home, then there’s a good chance the idea of building one instead has crossed your mind. Building a home from the ground up may be a more involved process but it allows you to get all of your musts from location to layout.

With the average sales price of a single-family home creeping up to $300,000, it might be cheaper to build it yourself and get exactly what you want during the process.

It could cost anywhere from $150,000 to $450,000 to build your own home. Of course, the cost will vary depending on location, square footage, materials, etc. There’s also a significant price difference between a custom build and a production build where the developers have already planned multiple different floor plans.

Whether you choose a single-family home or a custom build, there will be many things to consider when it comes to pricing.

What is Off-Grid Living?

If you’re familiar with homesteading or green living, then you’ve probably come across the terms “living off the grid” or “off-grid living”. But what does it really mean?

There are many different interpretations of the term, but the most common interpretation is living in a home that is completely independent of public utilities. Simply put, living off-grid means a home and lifestyle free from the following:

Power Grid
Your home generates and stores its own electricity from one more renewable energy sources.

Municipal Water
Your home is not hooked up to a city water company and is completely dependent on using one or more off-grid water sources such as well water, rainwater collection and/or nearby lakes or streams.

City Sewer
Instead of a sewer, your home will be connected to a septic tank, field bed, outhouse, propane, or composting off-grid toilet.

Natural Gas Provider
There will be no natural gas to heat the home, run the stove, or the dryer. Although there may not be any natural gas, that means no bills either!

If you’re interested in being completely independent and autonomous then living off-grid may be the right choice for you. There are varying degrees of self-sufficiency when it comes to off-grid living which is what makes it so complicated.

Some say that using propane, oil or diesel doesn’t make you off the grid while others think the contrary. There are many different aspects to off-grid living, but how much does it cost?

The Initial Cost of Living Off-Grid

The idea of off-grid living is intriguing, but what we really want to know is how much it cost. There are a number of expenses that cannot be avoided. You’ll need to purchase land in order to establish your home and get all of the systems up and running.

Below are some things you will probably need to start.

Land – Although free land does exist, it’s likely that you’ll end up having to spend money making it livable anyways. An ideal lot size for living off-grid is around 1-5 acres which will cost approximately $20,000 - $30,0000 depending on the state.

House – Once you own the land, you will need a place to live. Some plots of land may already have a home that can be inhabited, so if you are looking to settle down quickly this may be the best option. Undeveloped lots require more work and preparation as a road may need to be built, foundation dug, and the house built. If you’re lucky enough to have trees on your land, you may be able to use the timber as a building material. Let’s get down to pricing. To build the frame of the house would cost between $120,000 and $150,000. If you want a cheaper option, manufactured houses can be bought for as little as $20,000. Another option is cabins which can go for $50,000 or an RV which can cost between $10,000 and $20,000 for a used one. If all of these options are outside of your price range, you can purchase a sturdy tent for somewhere close to $500.

Power – The core of being off-grid is that you have no connection to power lines. You are not dependent on your town or city’s power grid further minimizing your carbon footprint. This means that you will need your own source of alternative energy. You can either choose a wind turbine or solar panel and just one of these plus an inverter would cost about $1000. One generates enough energy to run one refrigerator. For a home, more energy is needed in order for all devices to run effectively. The average household would need 5KW power to run and the cost of installing enough solar panels or wind turbines to generate that much power is approximately $30,000. Although this sounds like a large investment, it will begin to pay for itself within 4 to 20 years. It all depends on if you receive tax credits and if you can sell excess electricity back to the local power grid.

Well – If you do not have a fresh water source on your lands such as a lake or a stream then you may need to install a well. All water needs to be treated and filtered before you can consume it and use it for washing or other purposes. If you need to drill into the ground in order to install a pump, then you may be looking at $15-$100 per foot. The average well is 100-150 feet deep meaning the cost of installing a well could be anywhere from $1,500 to $15,000. Additionally, you will need to pay for plumbing, electrical work, and the pump which will add between $800 to $2,000. A water tank will also be needed for storage and that will cost about $500 to $1,000.

The major costs of living off-grid tend to add up quickly. Living off-grid can begin to add up easily, but over time many of these costs will start to pay for themselves. Once you have considered the cost of setting up your home, daily costs must also be considered. From household items to food to taxes and insurance, there are a number of expenses that tend to add up quickly. Living off-grid is definitely not free as the total cost of purchasing land a functioning home can be $100,000 or more.

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Building and Living Off The Grid
This website is a resource dedicated to providing valuable content for people wanting to build and live off the grid.  We cover everything from finding the perfect piece of land, to construction, power generation, water and food.