So, you have a piece of land and you want to set it up for living off grid. One of the first things you’ll be thinking about is housing. The most expensive investment most of us have is our home. Whether it is in a city or country our homes consume much of our disposable income for many years before we can get them paid off and truly call them ours. This doesn’t have to be the case.
There are many alternatives to housing that do not have the price tag of a conventional three bedroom house built on the spot by a contractor. The alternative I’m going to talk about is pre-fab buildings usually sold for storage sheds or work shops. These buildings are ideal for off grid use. There are many other alternatives but this is what I used to build our home, so I’m speaking from knowledge of living in two of these buildings, year round, for four years. Some of these buildings can be bought in kit form for you to assemble yourself or, like the buildings we chose, pre-assembled and delivered to your site intact.
These buildings are well built and are weatherproof when they are delivered to your site (ours even had the option of being pre-painted). They can be set upon a foundation for stability just like any other building and for the most part are very sturdy. One of the main advantages I found to this type of housing is that you will have immediate shelter from the time it arrives on your site. You can take shelter in it while you are finishing the inside to your own satisfaction.
We decided to use two buildings because of the limited size that could be hauled in over our backwoods roads. The largest available buildings we could get in here was 12ft. by 24ft. The buildings we chose are constructed of garage door panels which are 2 inches thick with foam insulation between the metal panels. This eliminated the need to insulate them.
We chose to make our bedroom and living room in one building and kitchen and bathroom in the other. All the construction I had to do in the bedroom was frame in 2 closets which I did with 2×4’s and did not wall them in so we didn’t need to wire lights in them for visibility, or put doors on them. This had the added advantage of keeping them aired out so we do not have the mildew and mold problems some of our neighbors have.
The kitchen/bathroom building was another matter. I had to install all the plumbing, bathtub/shower, and sink in the bathroom part and build a partial wall to separate it from the kitchen area. The kitchen area had to have sink, counter-tops, and overhead cabinet, plus I had to plumb it for propane as we have kitchen range and 2 propane refrigerators. All of this took a while, but was done a little bit at a time so it didn’t seem like so much work.
Since we are completely off grid and do not even have the possibility of access to outside power, I installed a 60 watt solar array for each building. The kitchen has 1 deep cycle marine battery which is adequate to run lights and 3-12 volt fans. The bedroom has 4 of the same batteries because of our laptop computers and satellite modem. These are adequate for lights, fans, and computers too if we don’t stay on them all day. I run a generator some evenings to power the air conditioner in summer and for an extra charge to the batteries when they need it on cloudy days.
Since buying our buildings, I have seen some very attractive storage buildings which would make very nice houses and even some that were 2 story with an upstairs room that would make a nice bedroom. There are some very interesting low cost storage buildings out there that could be converted into quick, cheap, alternative housing for off grid use.