I’m Hooked On Living Off The Grid

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Looking down at the rat maze…scurrying for cheese…

The events and circumstances leading up to this are a story for another day. Shortly after returning from off-grid living in Mexico for two months, Beatrice was presented with an opportunity to look after a 5-acre property in the east hills of San Jose, 3 miles from her work for some period of time that could be a year or more. There are no services: electricity, water, waste, gas, or internet.

So I rented a ~30′ self-contained trailer and proceeded to sort electrical.

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Rather than do a bunch of calculations to estimate needs, I’m working it from both ends. First, conservation. Use as few lights as possible, and if an LED flashlight will work, use that. Minimize water usage, both in terms of the water itself, and electricity for the pump. Also, I have a bunch of LED 12-volt RV bulbs arriving today to switch all those out from incandescent.

On the supply side, I began with two Interstate, deep cycle 6-volt golf-cart batteries (steep at $360 for the two) wired in series to produce 230 amp hours @ 12 volts DC. I also added a 400 watt AC inverter inside to power things like a coffee grinder for the French Press (nope, no coffee maker @ 700+ watts) and eventually, radio internet (like I had in Mexico) and a WiFi router, that run about 1 amp each @120 volts AC.

The solar panel is a Nature Power 18-Watt deal, with 8-Amp Charge Controller, but, I’m not getting to full charge by the late sunny afternoon, so I’ve got another one on order to double charging capacity (the controller can handle up to 4 panels). In the end, I may have to go with 2 more batteries wired in parallel in oder to double the capacity, and just pop for a standard 200 watt rooftop panel. We’ll see.

Got waste sorted yesterday.

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They’ll also come and dump it when needed. In terms of gas, that’s two 10-gallon tanks in the photo above that I take down to get filled a few miles away and the propane supplies the stove, oven, refrigerator, and hot water heater (yea, hot showers!). Water is via an enormous tank up the hill, gravity feed, so I can fill the potable water tank of the trailer.

The last thing to sort is Internet. I picked Ridge Wireless, due primarily to the absolutely 100% stellar reviews on Yelp (a very tough thing to accomplish). The guy showed up on time for a site survey, it’s doable, and all I need to do is sink a 6′ fence pole to mount the dish. Install in about a week. Haven’t decided yet whether to go with the 2.5mbps for $50 or 5 for $100. We’ll see.

In all, cost is coming in at about $700-$750 to live like this in one of the highest cost of living areas in the country.

The dogs love it too. Since last Sunday morning when we departed the apartment for the last time, the dogs haven’t been attached to a leash for a second, and they sleep well at night, having spent all available energy during the day.


  1. Skyler Tanner on August 13, 2015 at 11:50

    While Mexico was a wash, it looks like you gained practical knowledge and skills that will be put to use in a much nicer setting. C’est la vie.

  2. Amy on August 13, 2015 at 12:07

    5 for $100.

  3. Patsy Price on August 13, 2015 at 12:52

    5 for $100 .. I’ve never regretted more bandwidth

  4. Bioking on August 13, 2015 at 13:53

    Caravans are not good for orgies. Not good moving to someone else’s rocking.

  5. Charles on August 13, 2015 at 14:51
  6. Todd on August 13, 2015 at 16:36

    I applauded your move from the “Land of the Free” to Mexico. I share the ideal of wanting to live free from the shackles of everybody else wanting to help you. And that’s not just the state, but goddamned near everyone else today.

    Anyway, I wonder if you feel a sense of high middle finger if you can live (mostly) free in “the land of the free” in an off-grid setting? I think there’s something poetic about homebasing in the belly of the beast while still seeking other nations (I loathe the concept of nationalism.. division right off the bat) to explore and revel in that truly are more free than the politically correct and panty-bunching nation we were born in to.

    • Richard Nikoley on August 14, 2015 at 08:18


      Pretty good insight, man. Freedom to some extent begins in the mind and each little instance of getting away from those trying to help you is a step in the right direction and they add up and perhaps the whole is greater than the sum at some point.

      So yea, I’m open to it.

  7. Greg on August 13, 2015 at 18:57

    Mobile homes have been shown to be suspect for high levels of formaldehyde, a known carcinogen. It’s in the foam insulation and in most of the prefabricated materials commonly installed in trailers. It’s nasty stuff. It’s health degrading effects can be insidious. I’ve known a few people who have become chemically sensitive, totally disabled, after long term exposure to environments outgassing formaldehyde. If you plan on spending a great deal of time in the trailer, you might want to test the air.. though not certain how you would test for it.

    • wayfarer of the North on August 21, 2015 at 04:01


      I’ve heard this before, too.
      Do you have any info on how much older, second hand mobile homes gass out?
      That be an option.
      I can imagine that with seven or ten years old ones which have been a few times in the sun for several weeks that majority has come out already.

  8. Austin on August 14, 2015 at 05:55

    In the spirit of conservation, I’d go with 2.5 mb for 50. I have 1 mb at home and on good days I’m able to watch 2 seperate netflix without much pixelation, never a problem with 1. The only time I really notice the limit is when downloading large files (>50mb). Worst case if you hate 2.5 mb, it should take just a call to upgrade your account to allow 5 since the limiter is on their end.

    Congrats on the new digs. I’d take 5 acres vs .5 acre and ocean any day. Just need a 4 OR 2 wheeler now ;)

  9. Richard Nikoley on August 15, 2015 at 19:20

    Well that was instructive. Just went into the comment database and the ‘cj’ who I’m replying to, has posted a few dozen comments here since 2011, under 2 separate emails @shaw.ca.

    100% of them, and I mean 100%, were going off on me about one thing or another. Should of banned her way back.

  10. Dr. Curmudgeon Gee on August 16, 2015 at 12:23

    it is good one does not have to go all the way to Mexico to be free tho…

  11. RMcSack on August 17, 2015 at 09:41

    For years I’ve had a dream of moving out to a rural area. Whenever I visit friends out in the boonies I get a very relieved sense of comfort compared to the city. Need to get out there more.

    TMI, but in my dream home in the country, I always wanted to build one of these: http://humanurehandbook.com/

    Ever consider returning your symbionts back to where they came from? ;)

  12. giskard on August 17, 2015 at 16:11

    If you’re considering buying a generator, look into buying a cheapass beater Prius and connecting its high voltage battery to an inverter. The Prius has shockingly better fuel efficiency than a Honda generator. IIRC it’ll do 2 kW continuous and 4 kW peak easily, perhaps more. It’s silent, the exhaust fumes are fragrant, and it actually even doubles as a car!

    • Richard Nikoley on August 17, 2015 at 16:20

      That’s not an awful idea, but I already popped for the Ryobi 2,000 watt. Almost as quiet as the Honda, but $450 “lighter.”

      I was going to need it anyway as I have no idea how long this gig will last and while San Jose is very sunny, it does storm sometimes.

      The batteries really smoke. Very nice. But I’m going to need more solar panel, so I’ll be looking to get into the 150-200 watt range. I only have 36 now.

    • phreebie on August 19, 2015 at 01:37

      Thanks for that. I’m soon to move to a rural location that has a barn on it, currently without power, that I want to turn into a workshop.

      I disappeared down a large wormhole on that priusups link.

      Looking forward to more off-grid insights from Richard.

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