Pros and Cons of an Off-grid Tiny House
Here are my Top 5 pros and cons after living for almost one year in our off-grid tiny house. We’re still living here and enjoying (most of) it! I think it’s good to see both sides in a balanced way.
- Customized space. This gives us flexibility in maximizing what we get out of a very small space. The aesthetic of a woodsy cabin feels like home to us more than the modern whitewashed stainless steel look. It’s more enjoyable to live here, too, than it has been to live in non-customizable apartments and houses: we have a window seat entertainment area for books and movies, a balcony for all sorts of enjoyment and housework (like laundry), a spacious kitchen for cooking healthy meals, a bed loft that feels like glamorous camping, a multipurpose work table, and a (comparably) large central hallway for exercising and spreading out when needed.
- Control over utilities. Our house is all-electric off-grid with solar panels, composting toilet, and rainwater catchment. There are no unsafe water notices from the rural water authority, no power outages in severe weather, no dry well in a drought and no interruption in electricity during maintenance on the power lines and poles. That said, we definitely have periods without electricity and water, but we have more control over when and why those outages occur. We have the power to redesign our systems to make them better, too.
- Nature! We’re surrounded by hundreds of acres of farmland and mountain woodland, which fills our days with wildlife, stars, and open sky instead of skyscrapers, car exhaust, and people. Some folks would find this too isolating, but it’s exactly what we were looking for. Breakfast on the balcony overlooking Kessler Mountain, afternoon breezes filled with the scent of flowering trees, sunsets with deer and bunnies everywhere, starry skies at night…what could be better? Because I’m a self-employed writer and artist, this is an inspiring place to work. I also love the privacy.
- Life purpose. Sure, you can find a purpose in life that doesn’t involve where you live, but our purpose happens to be tied closely to our house. Because we bought an off-grid tiny house, we can live sustainably and strive toward our highest ideals. We greatly reduced our impact on the planet in multiple ways. Also, we’re able to live at the Historic Johnson Farm and protect the land as stewards, legally and in compliance with all authorities. We do conservation work (for example, native habitat restoration and cleaning up illegal dumps) as well as archiving the collection of historic photos and documents. We’re part of a community of people working to ensure future generations benefit from this ecological and historical treasure.
- Feeling Accomplished and Lucky. We have so much to be grateful for! And it’s inspiring to wake up each day and remember where we live now. It gives us hope for the future to see that, in 2011, we set a long-term challenging goal for ourselves to move off-grid and we accomplished that goal in 2018. Because we overcame obstacles, we might overcome future obstacles, too. When I feel lazy or negative or angry or selfish, this living space is a reminder to check myself and try to be worthy of the gift I’ve been given and be my best self.
- Not Much Climate Control. We’re usually dripping with humidity year-round in Arkansas. It’s hot in the summer, cold in the winter, and that goes for indoors, too! Our tiny house is well-insulated, but because it’s off-grid, it’s important to have a system designed to handle the load from heaters and air conditioning. Our off-grid solar power system can’t handle it yet. We do use a portable AC, dehumidifier, and propane heater designed for camping. But often we can’t run these for various reasons, so it gets quite uncomfortable most of the year; spring and fall are a relief. Plus, it’s not just a comfort issue. In summer, food like garlic spoils fast without AC, and things like chocolate melt. In winter, pipes freeze and tap water is painfully cold even on the hot setting.
- Financial Burden. I’m talking life savings plus debt, y’all! Not every tiny house will be expensive, and living off-grid doesn’t always come with a huge price tag, but our unique situation required a lot of money unexpectedly. So far, the project has cost us an estimated $93,000!
- Expertise Needed in….Everything. We thought we were buying a turn-key solution that would essentially set up our house and all our systems properly and then we could learn, over time, how to do periodic maintenance on each one. The reality: we have to become experts in solar power system design, entomology (bug science), water purification, plumbing, climate control…yeah basically everything that touches our life. Every problem that we previously had no knowledge about nor any plan or desire to learn about, we now know how to fix or are learning how to fix as fast as humanly possible.
- Driving. When we lived in the city, we lived car-free either with minimal driving or no car at all, thanks to public transportation, bike trails and carpools. Because we must haul so many things out here and one section of road isn’t safe to bike, Ryan drives 6 out of 7 days per week. The bike trail is under construction and coming our way, though, at which time we can resume bicycle commuting and greatly reduce our emissions from driving. We were a lot healthier when we had to walk or bike everywhere!
- A Hands-on House Because our home requires daily supervision, somewhat like a dog that needs to be let outside to use the bathroom every so often, we can’t leave the house alone too long. We have to make sure the batteries are doing ok, that it’s not getting too hot or cold, etc. So traveling right now is impossible, even a day trip was cut short due to concerns about the house.
Now that I’ve listed the 5 pros and cons, what’s the main idea? What should you be focused on if you intend to live either off-grid or tiny or both?
If you have more freedom than we did, start designing your home with climate control as a priority. Based on your climate, make sure all living and non-living things inside your home will be taken care of year-round. Look into the possibility of owning a fully customized space or living in a location that truly floats your boat, wherever that is. Start saving money now, even if you think you’re going the cheap route, because sometimes the cheap route is just an illusion.
Best of luck on your journey! Feel free to contact us at MakeSomeRipples@Gmail.com if you have questions. We’re here to help!