Whether you’re building a cabin in the woods that’s disconnected from any power or water sources, or just want to reduce your utility bills, going partially or totally off grid can be done on the cheap with a little creative thinking. There are many small ways to reduce your electricity and water consumption and even do without a septic or sewer system. These DIY off grid home projects include mini wind turbines, solar cookers, water filtration, greywater systems and low-tech refrigeration.
Mini Wind Turbine Setup
Think a wind turbine is out of reach? If it seems like too big of a project or you just want to supplement solar or grid power with wind when possible, consider building your own mini wind turbine. Blogger Kevin Harris provides a step-by-step tutorial on how to build a mini wind turbine capable of generating 50-250 watts with just $150 in materials.
Outdoor Wood-Fired & Solar Ovens
In the summertime, it’s too hot to cook inside, anyway. Avoid adding extra heat to your house by cooking outdoors. Grills are great, but wood-fired ovens and solar cookers will allow you to bake bread, cookies and lots more. Cob ovens are made of mud and straw, and get hot enough to churn out delicious wood-fired pizzas in less than three minutes; instructions for building them can be found all over the internet and on YouTube. Solar cookers can be built with little more than a cardboard box and some aluminum foil or a windshield sun reflector, and require no more than the sun to cook your food.
Rocket stoves are another great option for outdoor cooking. They’re really cheap and easy to build, and all they require to produce lots of heat is small branches. The DIY world has a tutorial for building a small portable rocket stove out of cans, and Root Simple offers instructions for a more permanent backyard stove made of bricks.
Collecting rainwater for irrigation use in the garden can save a lot of water, and if you live in an area with moderate to high rainfall, you could even rely exclusively on rainwater for all of your water needs. Your collection system might range from roof gutters and a single rain barrel to a larger-capacity stacked system or even an extra-large tank, which can be above-ground or buried. When collecting rainwater, the single biggest factor determining how much you can collect (aside from average rainfall) is the size of your roof. Learn more about your options at Raincentre US.
Simple Greywater Treatment
Want to skip the sewer or septic system? You can recycle the ‘greywater’ from your home, which is waste water from the sinks, showers, tubs and washing machines. A backyard greywater system typically involves routing this waste water, which may contain traces of dirt, food, grease, hair and household cleaning products, out to the yard to irrigate non-food-producing plants. Gravity-based systems that don’t rely on pumps or filters last the longest and are the easiest to maintain. If you produce more wastewater than you need for irrigation, you can create ‘constructed wetlands’, which filter and absorb the water naturally. If you don’t produce much wastewater at all, you can even set up a system of planters that will filter the water, as pictured above. Learn more about all of your options, and what not to do, at OasisDesign.net and GreywaterAction.org.
The Art of Composting Toilets
Every day, we’re collectively flushing billions of gallons of perfectly drinkable water down the toilet, while clean water grows ever more scarce and millions of people in developing nations die without it. When properly maintained, composting toilets turn human waste into harmless soil, and they’re easier to take care of than you might imagine. You can buy a commercial composting toilet, or make a really simple one yourself out of little more than a bucket, a toilet seat and some carbon-rich composting materials like sawdust, cedar chips or shredded oak leaves. They’re emptied regularly into a specially-prepared outdoor compost bin that’s kept separate from the compost you use for vegetable and herb gardens. Get more info at Mother Earth News and the Humanure Handbook.