Off Grid Homes For Sale
If you’re looking for real estate agents that specialize in off grid homes for sale in Utah, we’re it. We specialize exclusively in homestead and off-grid properties. And as far as we have seen, we’re the only agents in Utah that do.
Why did we pick such a narrow niche? Because we’re passionate about it. We love solar power and water wells, and fruit orchards, and battery banks, and livestock.
Yes, if you are trying to live off-grid in Utah, you’ve come to the right place. We are excited to help you find your own little off grid cabin on a property that makes sense. Or if you prefer, we will help you find some land for sale with grid-independent potential, that you can build your own house on (and put you in touch with the best off grid contractors we know).
Take a look at the off grid properties for sale below, or read more on our recommendations and advice for going off grid in Utah.
Why Do You Want To Live Off Grid… and Why In Utah?
So why is it that you want to live off grid? And why here in Utah? Is it because you want to reduce your costs or avoid having a monthly payment on a house? Is it because you don’t want to depend on the fragile grid to supply you with all of your necessities? Or perhaps you’d like to reduce your carbon footprint and live a more sustainable lifestyle?
Maybe it’s all 3 of those, or maybe it’s something different altogether, but no matter what it is, we all have our reasons. And as far as we’re concerned, they’re all great reasons. The truth is, we identify with several reasons for wanting to live off grid. When we begin with our clients, that’s the first thing we ask, because that underlying motive really does affect everything else. It will be the backdrop that colors your lifestyle during this next chapter.
Utah is an awesome place to set up your grid independent life. It has acres and acres of “outskirts” and rural property, with great fishing and great hunting. Real estate here is more affordable than it is in lots of places in the country. It’s full of people with an independent, self sufficient mindset. And there are lots of builders and contractors here that understand the lifestyle. True, there are also some challenges. An arid climate, and extreme temperatures at both ends of the spectrum require that off gridders here have some backbone and a little creativity. But all things considered, Utah is an awesome place to set up your off grid lifestyle.
What Kind of House?
As mentioned above, the type of house that you are looking to buy or build depends highly on your motives. If your goal is to live a more ecologically sustainable life, then you will want to focus more on green building techniques that can be constructed with locally sourced materials. On the other hand, if your primary driver is trying to avoid a monthly payment, then your focus needs to be on cost savings–any way you can get it.
In general however, there are a few different off-grid building methods that many people here are interested in.
Insulated Concrete Forms
Insulated concrete forms are basically a “concrete sandwich.” That’s right, picture a concrete wall that is 6-12″ thick, and then on both the interior and the exterior of the wall are thick sheets of insulating concrete foam.
The advantages of this type of construction are basically two-fold: structural strength, and extreme energy efficiency. Because the concrete has a lot of thermal mass, it’s much less susceptible to changing outside air temps, and the inside stays incredibly temperate. This temperature advantage translates to a significantly lower energy requirement, which makes off-grid living much more possible. And because the structure is rebar-reinforced concrete, it’s much more resistant to storm winds, earthquakes, fires, etc.
On the negative end of insulated concrete forms is the initial upfront cost. Because concrete is a more expensive building material, the upfront cost is more than a stick home would be. While true “apples to apples” comparisons are hard to come by (because most people don’t build the exact same house 2 different ways), most experts estimate that an ICF house would be less than 10% more expensive on the front end.
Straw Bale Homes
Staw bale construction has also become much more popular over the last several years. As more and more people find out about the benefits, we see more and more straw bale homes popping up.
What is it that makes straw bale construction a good choice for off grid building? Two great characteristics really. The first is that it is an extremely good insulator. The second is that it is extremely cheap. A third reason might be that it is very sustainable and easy to source locally. Think about it–with a few exceptions, grass is grown all over the world.
The downsides of straw bale homes are that they can mildew or rot if exposed to excessive wetness, and compared with structures like insulated concrete form houses, they aren’t nearly as strong.
What about the idea of a tiny house? The tiny house concept appeals to many people with off grid inclinations. Again, whether or not this is a good fit for you depends on what your original goals are, but in short, tiny homes offer the upside of cost and simplicity.
Due to their small size, fewer materials are required, and the costs are lower (at least in theory). One caution with tiny homes however, is that since being adopted by HGTV and mainstream media outlets, they have gotten much more fancy and expensive. Whereas they began as a vehicle for reducing and simplifying life, many tiny home manufacturers are charging a ton of money for them now.
In general however, the principle is sound. No matter what type of house you end up buying or building, a smaller footprint is easier to take off-grid. It’s just less space to heat and cool, fewer lights, smaller appliances, etc. Our advice is to steer clear of fancy, overpriced tiny homes that appeal to the masses. Seek out or build a tiny home that prioritizes function over form. Also, if you want a house on wheels… get an RV!!
How Do I Get a Building Permit or Loan for My Off Grid Home?
One final thing you need to understand about off-grid homes, is that many of them are much harder to permit and finance. Because there aren’t readily available “comps” for banks to evaluate, it’s hard for them to appraise non-traditional housing types. And if they can’t appraise it, they can’t loan for it. Many banks are also limited by the people that they wholesale your loan to. If your house doesn’t fit the mold of the big institutional lenders, then the banks can’t sell of your loan to them. Because they don’t want to be in the business of holding on to your loan forever, then they would rather not lend you money at all.
Building permits are another tricky issue with off grid construction. For the reasons mentioned above and others, it’s hard for municipal authorities to be able to apply their unilateral criteria to a structure that doesn’t fit their mold. The upside with this is that many off-grid homes are built in more rural or outerlying areas, where there is likely much less red tape than if you were building in the city.
This isn’t to say that off grid houses impossible to permit or finance (far from it!!), but know that if you’re planning to build one, you’re in for a tougher road.
Off Grid Power
When it comes to off-grid power, there are several varieties that you can choose from. Some folks use technologies like micro hydro, geothermal power, and wood gasification to create electricity that powers their homes. But 2 of the most common renewable energy sources are solar power and wind power.
As most people are aware of these days, solar energy is harnessed by installing solar panels on your roof, or in a location where they can collect the sun’s rays. Electricity generated from your panels is then routed to a deep-cycle battery (or battery bank) through an inverter and solar battery charge controller. Electricity can be harvested and stored in this way, until it is used to power your devices and household appliances.
Due to the decreasing costs of solar, wind energy is not seen as being quite as energy efficient as it once was. Electricity from the wind follows a similar process as solar.
A large wind turbine is affixed to the top of a tall tower, to catch the wind. The spinning turbine turns a rotor, which produces electrical current. The electricity is again routed through a wind power charge controller, and stored in a battery.
Wind is a trickier beast to harness than solar, with far fewer housing sites that are optimally suited for it. For hilltop locations that are exposed to consistent wind however, it can still be a viable option.
What is the Best Method of Off Grid Heat?
So what is the best means of off grid heat? As with other aspects of living off the grid, there are a handful of really great solutions.
Wood Burning Stove
A wood burning stove is one of the best, and most simple solutions to off grid heat. They are relatively inexpensive, easy to install, and put off a crazy amount of heat. Wood is also readily available, safe to store, and if harvested properly, it’s completely sustainable.
On the downside, wood stoves really only heat the room that you’re in. If you can keep them in a large, open area, then they can do a lot of good. If they’re in a small room or a corner however, much of their benefit is minimized. They can also leak a little bit of smoke out into the house when they’re first being started, which isn’t great for people with asthma and breathing conditions.
Passive Solar Design
Here’s one you might not have thought of–passive solar design. This has to do with the angle, aspect, and materials used in constructing your house, so that you can minimize the heat in the summer, and maximize it in the winter.
Passive solar design is called “passive”, because theoretically, once the house is built, it is set up to help you keep a more comfortable ambient temperature. Nothing to operate, no moving parts, nothing.
Solar Hot Water
Another part of the heat equation is hot water. And one of the best means of getting hot water off grid is solar hot water. Solar hot water is created through rooftop solar panels, that actually have tubing running inside of them.
Water flows through the tubes, and is heated by the sun as it does. It enters the panels cold, and comes out extremely hot. From there it can be stored in a reservoir or hot water tank for home use. If you have a thermo-siphoned system set up, then you can create one giant continuous loop, where the coldest water in the tank is always being fed through the panels, and then returning hot.
Off Grid Water
Water is vitally important to your off grid homestead. Without developing a strong plan and some good water sources, you will be hauling your water from town. Although it’s possible to do this, it will get old quickly, and can become discouraging.
Arguably the best water source for your off grid homestead is your own well. A well is a consistent, year-round source of water that can be used in irrigation, secondary uses, or filtered and made potable for drinking. If you are looking at properties to purchase, having an existing well on them should be a significantly weighted factor. If you are considering developing your own off-grid property, then getting a well drilled should be high on the list of priorities.
Setting up a rainwater collection system is one of the easiest ways to begin increasing your homestead water. Although in most parts of Utah we don’t get a ton of rain, it is better to have a collection system in place than not, so that when we do get storms you are set up to take advantage of them.