Have you ever dreamed of leaving the big city behind? Off grid living in a shipping container home has gained popularity in recent years and it is easy to see why. The median price for an existing home in the United States is $245,100 according to the National Association of Realtors. Buying a new home will set you back $385,200 on average. That is pretty expensive!
Shipping container homes offer a much cheaper solution. The average shipping container costs around $1,400 – $5,000 depending on the size and other factors. Besides cost, shipping container homes are a huge part of the tiny house movement. People are shifting to minimalist homes that are less taxing on the environment.
Off grid living no longer has the perception of being reserved for people such as Ted Kaczynski or Thoreau. Many people these days are enjoying the freedom of off grid living in their shipping container homes. There is a lot of freedom that comes with an off the grid shipping container home. The freedom to build, the freedom to live, and the freedom from debt are all apart of this new version of the American dream.
If you are considering a move to living off the grid in your own shipping container home there are several things you must prepare for first. Read this guide as we discuss the major preparations you need to consider for off grid living.
Off Grid Living
There has been a lot of news recently about off grid living, but what exactly does that mean? Going “off-grid” literally refers to leaving the power grid behind and creating your own source of energy.
There are lots of other meanings and associations with this phrase today. Some people feel that off grid living also involves not being dependent on any public utilities such s sewer, water, natural gas, electricity, or even mail service. The definition can be personalized to each individual. For some this lifestyle is a political statement. For others, it is a way to get back to nature and reduce their carbon footprint.
Any way you define it off grid living is becoming more popular. It’s impossible to exactly how many people in the United States live off-grid, but in 2006 180,000 homes were supplying their own electricity according to Home Power Magazine.
In this article, we will break down some of the preparations you will need to think about if you are choosing to live in a shipping container home that is completely off the grid and as self-sufficient as possible.
Location, Location, Location
The first thing you need to prepare is where you will live? You can place your shipping container home in the city, on the outskirts of a city, or in the middle of nowhere. You have options.
Finding land is the easy part. Lucky for us America is huge! However, several components make a good land selection for off grid living. Here are just a few.
Without water, we cannot survive. It sounds like a no-brainer but your property needs to have a clean dependable source of water if you want to be self-reliant. This could be a lake, creek, or well. Hauling in water to your shipping container home is not sustainable or self-sufficient. So be sure to look for a piece of land that has a fresh water supply.
Off grid living means you will need to supply your own energy. Look for a property that can be used for creating solar energy or wind energy or maybe even a combination of the two. Just keep in mind you will be creating your own and pick a location that meets your needs.
Zoning, Building Codes & Restrictions
You’re probably going to have some restrictions on your shipping container home and how you build it, but these restrictions can vary greatly from state to state and even county by county. It probably easiest to avoid large cities. Large cities typically have more restrictions than rural areas. Locations out west are more open-minded about shipping container homes. Be sure to check out the zoning and building restrictions on the property before you buy it.
Make sure your location for your shipping container home has access to a road or an easy way to get to and from the property. You can buy 200 acres of land that is surrounded on all sides by other people’s land making it impossible for you to get to the main road on your land. You could try to negotiate with your neighbors or even buy some of their land, but save the trouble and just look for a piece of property with access in the first place.
Next, it’s important to consider your home. You can build your own shipping container home, hire a contractor to build it for you, or buy it pre-built. It’s up to you and how handy you are and what your budget will allow.
Build Your Own
A popular choice is to build your own shipping container home. Many people construct their own homes on small budgets by using refurbished materials. The primary benefit of constructing your shipping container home yourself is the cost savings. You can save a lot of money by putting in the work.
Another advantage is your home will be constructed just the way you want it. You will rest assured knowing that no shortcuts were taken and it will be the exact style you want it to be.
However, many people lack the skills or knowledge to build a home on their own. You do need to have some experience in construction or DIY before you make your own shipping container home. This can be a difficult project to take on, especially if you have a full-time job. It’s not impossible, but remember to be realistic with your expectations.
Hire a Contractor
Lots of people hire a contractor to build their shipping container home for them. A contractor is a person that does the day to day work to your specifications. They generally bring in all the workers you need such as welders, electricians, and carpenters. You can also choose to act as your own contractor and hire each of these positions one by one. It all depends on how much time you have to devote to the project.
When you hire a contractor you will gain access to all their experience and skills. This can be quite valuable. Contractors also guarantee their work so you know it will last. Hiring a contractor can also save you time. Having a bunch of different workers on your shipping container home preparing you for off gird living can go a lot faster than doing it on your own. Contractors also offer flexibility. If there is a part of the project you want to tackle yourself a contractor can leave that part of the construction for you and complete the other areas.
There are a few disadvantages to hiring a contractor. The first is cost. Hiring a contractor costs more than doing all the work by yourself. The second disadvantage is that is can be hard to find a good contractor. But a good contractor is worth searching for if this is the route you are going to take.
Buy a Pre-Built Shipping Container Home
A pre-built shipping container home is one that has already been constructed into a home by a company. They are typically sold as an empty shell and are move-in ready. The specifications can vary by model and company but they are an excellent choice for people who want to move in quickly or have very little construction skills.
Doing some research on pre-built shipping container homes will help you find a company in your area with homes for sale. Generally, these homes will be shipped to you which can be expensive but if you are not in a stage of your life to deal with the stress of building your own home a pre-built home may be the best option. Pre-built home companies can also provide support for planning and building permits so you don’t have to go it alone.
The greatest disadvantage of pre-built homes is you get what you get. You only get to choose from the models the company has on hand so if you wanted something unique you may want to build it yourself. Another disadvantage is the cost. Pre-built shipping container homes are an expensive option. It is still much cheaper than buying a home but more expensive than building your own.
Water and Sewer
Next, you’ll need to consider your water and sewage system for your off the grid home. The great thing about water is that is everywhere. The EPA estimates 15% of homes in the United States provide their own water.
A well is a simple solution. Dig a hole in the ground and use a pump to pull out water. However, many regulations apply to private wells. Make sure you use a licensed driller because it is easy for your well to become contaminated if it is not dug properly.
A well will vary in price depending on how far you need to dig. The deeper the well the more likely your water is to be clean.
The best way to install an off gird living sewer system is to use a septic system. A septic system is a large tank that collects and releases your wastewater. Bacteria breakdown the waste in the tank and the liquid is released over a distance into a drain field. Soil acts as a filter and keeps harmful bacteria buried.
Now you can’t see it but electricity is a huge factor that needs to be planned for when living off the grid. It isn’t as easy as slapping a few solar panels on your roof and calling it a day. There are a handful of methods you can use to generate power and live comfortably while off the grid. Let’s take a look at a few of them.
Solar power is probably the one that most people associate with off grid living. A solar power system for your shipping container home will include photovoltaic solar panels, an inverter, and batteries. If your location happens to get a lot of sun this can be a great option. Solar panels are good for a long time and require very little maintenance. This can be a very cost-effective way to power your whole home.
If you live in an area that doesn’t have as much sun but has lots of wind then wind electricity may be the answer for you. Check the average wind speed of your area to see how much electricity you can potentially produce.
Keep in mind that wind speeds can vary. A wind turbine does require some space. The size of your turbine is important because it directly relates to how much power it produces for your off grid living. Wind turbines also have moving parts and can require a lot of maintenance.
Micro-hydroelectricity may be an option for you if you live near a stream. Flowing water from a higher area to a lower area turns a turbine which produces your electricity. This can be a very cost-effective way to produce your own power.
It runs 24 hours a day 7 days a week generating power for your shipping container home. Any extra power produced can be stored. Of course, if you do not have a stream then this isn’t an option for you.
Prepping for the Off-Grid Life
This is obviously not an exhaustive list at everything you will need to consider for off grid living, however, it is intended to jumpstart your mind. Once you have the basics of land, shelter, water, and electricity sorted it will be a lot easier for the other pieces to fall into place.
Everyone has a different idea of how they want their off grid living situation to be. I hope this article showed that there are many options you can consider when you are preparing to make a move to off grid living. Find what works best for you or your family and enjoy your new off the grid life in your shipping container home.
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