How to live off the grid as a techie

Across Europe and North America, increasingly individuals are deciding to ditch their reliance on public utilities such as water, fuel, and electrical energy to live and function independently. And they’re doing so for a variety of completely different causes — a want to join with nature, be extra self-sufficient, save power, or typically live a extra sustainable way of life are simply a few.

In The Netherlands, this type of residing is more and more seen as a pretty, and viable, possibility; there’s a entire thread devoted to self-sustainable residing in the r/Netherlands subreddit, and in 2016 The Netherlands turned dwelling to the first high-tech off-grid pilot eco-village developed by ReGen Villages.

“When COVID hit, almost overnight there was an exodus from urban areas. People were looking to move to the suburbs or the countryside because they wanted to feel like they could provide for themselves,” says founder James Ehrlich.

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ReGen developed “Village OS” software program, which not solely makes use of machine studying to design and plan off-grid neighborhoods, but in addition acts as a native server, monitoring the village’s infrastructure for dangers and enhancements. This “digital twin” Ehrlich tells TNW, can, “understand the various nutritional flows, if you will, across the neighborhood.”

To energy the eco-villages of the future, we’ll want to rethink the means we acquire, use, and share power. Watch as tech knowledgeable, Erwin van der Zande, explains how we are able to make power grids smarter and extra environment friendly.


Ehrlich is aware of how to develop off-grid communities that home 400-500 houses, as nicely as planning the completely different programs that come into play involving meals, electrical energy, and water, so it’s fairly secure to say he’s an knowledgeable in off-grid residing. We requested him: how can the common techie live off-grid?


When it comes to truly powering your off-grid dwelling, there are a few completely different choices.

First, Ehrlich tells TNW, whether or not you’re retro-fitting your conventional dwelling to make it much less reliant on public utilities or constructing an off-grid dwelling from scratch, it’s price trying into how one can enhance its power effectivity.

Your conventional Dutch row home, made out of brick, is an power sieve. But by placing a south dealing with glazing throughout the again, like a little greenhouse that’s related to the again of the dwelling, you’ll be able to enhance the R-Value [or insulation] of the home general. It generates warmth that comes again into the home and creates a little bit of humidity, which is very nice throughout the dry winters. You can develop issues there, it’s a pretty place to sit, to have espresso, tea, no matter.

Perhaps one in all the most typical, and more and more reasonably priced, off-grid power sources are photo voltaic photovoltaics (PV), or photo voltaic panels. Solar panels enable you to seize daylight, convert it into electrical energy, and retailer it in a battery.

“Solar voltaic is something that a lot of people use as a supplement to power their home, but also as a means to power their electric vehicle,” Ehrlich says. “There’s various companies that have this kind of battery storage now, so the technology is going to get better and better. This means [people living off-grid are] able to reduce their overall energy usage.”

But photo voltaic panels aren’t the solely possibility, and in addition aren’t the greatest one for areas that don’t see a lot of daylight (ahem, the Netherlands).

“People who live in a moderately windy area could put up a small wind turbine that doesn’t vibrate and doesn’t make a lot of noise,” Ehrlich says. “They’re a little more expensive, and the efficiency isn’t quite there yet, but they’re getting better. The point is they can be a supplement to battery storage when you don’t get much sun.”

The previous few years has additionally seen a swathe of good composting tech that’s far much less smelly.

If you’re contemplating wind generators, it’s price trying by way of native authorities tips, like the U.S. Department of Energy’s guidelines, which asks questions such as whether or not your space will get sufficient wind, if there’s sufficient bodily house round you, and if towers are allowed in your space.

“Wind turbine technologies are getting better, smaller, blade free, and noise free, and are easy to fold up in case of storms or bad weather,” Ehrlich says.

Electric automobiles themselves can be used as energy sources by appearing as bidirectional chargers. Many EVs, together with a number of Kia fashions, are V2D-enabled, which suggests they act as giant batteries that may energy digital gadgets utilizing an inside or exterior socket.

Other sorts of bidirectional chargers embrace V2G (EVs that export power to help electrical grids), V2H (EVs that may energy houses), and V2L (EVs that may energy home equipment or different EVs). For instance, the Kia EV9 set to be launched in 2023, could have vehicle-to-grid (V2G) performance, which means your automobile may export power to the grid when demand is excessive.

How to live off the grid at ReGen villages

Food and waste

Living off-grid may lengthen to creating a self-sustaining meals supply. In truth, one in all the earliest inspirations for ReGen Villages got here from Ehrlich’s encounter with a biodynamic farming neighborhood.

I stumbled upon this pretty neighborhood in Northern California of natural, biodynamic, small plot household farmers and began to find out about eco villages. These great, small communities had primarily cobbled collectively passive dwelling know-how related to warmth change with early photo voltaic PV panels, photo voltaic thermal, and different issues like bio waste, anaerobic digestion, biomass, and biogas. I used to be actually simply blown away by the resiliency these measures are in a position to maintain and by the scrumptious meals that was being produced on web site.

For ReGen Villages, Ehrlich has developed a system that depends on, “a mixture of non tilled soil farming, with not less than one to two meters of fine topsoil [and] permaculture, which primarily creates a fully edible neighborhood. You substitute, wherever potential, the foliage with issues you could eat.

Over a time period these orchards and meals forests actually begin to produce and over produce. We marry that with managed setting farming, both heated greenhouses or non heated greenhouses, relying on the place we’re in the world. In addition, we additionally embrace aquaponic and aquaculture programs, freshwater shrimp, and several other completely different species of fish.”

Boiling water is gradual and inefficient contemplating how a lot you want on a day by day foundation.

For a person trying to transfer off-grid, however not be a part of an eco village, Ehrlich says the identical rules apply: “We strongly recommend that people replace their lawn, wherever possible, so that it can be food bearing.” This additionally has a profound social impression. “If enough people do it, you start to have this dialogue with your neighbors about what you’re producing, what you have extra, and what they have extra. We see that in our community.”

Ehrlich additionally mentions “light animal farms,” such as hen coops, a single cow, or smaller herds and flocks of sheep, goats, and turkey — and never simply as a meals supply.

The animal waste is definitely a meals and vitamin supply for vermiculture. Anaerobic digestion kicks in. You additionally get warmth and power from anaerobic digestion produced by compost piles. In addition to that, black soldier fly larvae and aquatic worms eat their very own weight daily in meals and animal waste. They then turn out to be the excellent meals for the chickens, fish, and different small animals. So it’s actually an incredible circle of life.

For people trying to go off-grid, there are conventional composting strategies, however the previous few years has additionally seen a swathe of good composting shopper tech that’s far much less smelly, and could be introduced inside or into city environments.


Having entry to clear water is an extremely vital facet of off-grid residing and, nicely, fundamental survival.

While boiling water may help purify water, it’s gradual and inefficient when contemplating how a lot water you want to keep hydrated, bathe, and extra on a day by day foundation.

There are loads of consumer-facing water filtration programs that take away viruses, micro organism, and pathogens, in any respect completely different value factors. Several blogs about off-grid residing have opinions of assorted water filtration strategies and {hardware}.

An off-grid future

As Ehrlich factors out, a lot of those off-grid programs and applied sciences have truly been round for a very long time:

When my father was a child in the early 30s, he vividly remembered electrical automobiles in New York City getting used to ship ice, and as taxi cabs and small buses. But there have been very highly effective pursuits that didn’t need to see individuals probably producing their very own energy, operating their very own automobiles, and having no want for oil adjustments, tuneups, and many others.

Buckminster Fuller, an American architect, as soon as mentioned:

“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”

As shopper {hardware} continues to evolve, and communities like ReGen Villages make off-grid residing more and more normalized, an off-grid future isn’t as far out of attain as we might imagine.

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