One of the benefits of having a cabin is getting away from the noise and light pollution of the city. However, if you want to feel even more independent from the world and take care of the environment at the same time, you should try and get your cabin off the grid as much as possible. These five alternatives ensure many of the comfort and conveniences of modern living while remaining conscious of the environment.
The most effective way to achieve an off-the-grid cabin is to use solar panels to generate electricity. A professionally designed system can deliver all the power your cabin might need, and save you money while doing so. Companies like Renogy offer kits you can order and install yourself, making it easier to set up a solar power system on an out-of-the-way building.
Cooking, whether you do it with electricity or gas, uses a lot of energy, but there are several options to cook using little to no energy. Rocket stoves use small amounts of wood or brush to cook and solar cookers concentrate sunshine to create heat.
Rocket stoves achieve their heating efficiency through nearly 100 percent fuel combustion, which eliminates nearly all the smoke normally associated with wood burning stoves.
Solar ovens and cookers can prepare virtually any kind of food. You’ll find them as solar box ovens, parabolic cookers, or panel cookers. A parabolic cooker will boil, fry and sauté just as fast as a stovetop, while a box cooker lets you bake anything you would in an oven. Panel cookers work just like crock pots.
The only downside to solar cooking is that it doesn’t work in cloudy weather or at night. However, the combination of a solar cooker and rocket stove provides the means to cook anywhere, anytime.
Managing waste off the grid is possible with composting toilets. They can be used as portable toilets, or built into the cabin as a permanent fixture. The byproducts of human waste can be used safely outdoors as compost for nonfood plants. Most municipalities allow composted waste in landfills.
Fortunately, soaps for laundry, cleaning, bathing and dishwashing are available that won’t harm the soil of your plants, and it gives you an excellent way to reuse water for landscaping, taking an enormous burden off a septic system.
Be careful when selecting the soaps you use. Choose those that have low levels of sodium or none at all. They shouldn’t use lye, perfumes, or artificial colors. Any soap that has borates inside it will irretrievably harm the soil and kill plants.
An EPA-approved wood stove burns with nearly 100 percent efficiency and will provide ample heat. Cooling is more difficult, but possible with evaporative coolers that use far less electricity than air conditioners. They work best in climates where the dew point stays below 55 degrees F. You might be able to run a high-efficiency portable air conditioner if your solar system has adequate storage capacity.
While each of these ideas works effectively for off-the-grid living, the jurisdiction in which the property lies may have specific, enforceable requirements for public safety. It’s always a good idea to learn the local laws allow for living independent of local services. With some effort, you can turn your cabin into the perfect eco-friendly getaway from society.