Making the “on- or off- grid” decision is a big one. Factors that could influence this decision can range far and wide. We might just outline the discussion in this post.
The word “grid” refers to the power grid but commonly includes other things, like municipal water and sewer. A wilderness setting would almost certainly drive an off-grid solution. A setting on a city lot might require you to hook up to the grid. Some folks might want to be off-grid for philosophical reasons. So as you can see, many factors can influence these decisions. I think the primary factor affecting choice is location and availability. If no service is available then the off-grid choice is made for you. If services are available a strategy for their use and participation with the grid is warranted. Being grid-tied but self-sufficient can be a really good hybrid solution.
Let me expand on that situation. Being grid-tied probably means you would have a power meter (it could be a net meter). A net meter runs backwards when you are producing power faster than you are using it. You might produce power through solar panels, for example. If you need more power that you are producing, then you get it and the meter runs forward. A person wants to produce approximately the same amount as they are using; hence the term “net zero”. The reasoning here is that once the power company owes you money, the situation is not so good for you. The advantage of a net meter is you get all the power you want or need without a battery back-up. Battery back-up can be costly and require maintenance, etc.
If you are grid-tied you have access to water and sewer. I can imagine a situation where a person might want water (for a sink and a shower) but choose a composting toilet. This reduces the water bill and tax on the environment but increases the relationship that one has with dealing with their own waste (poop). Pro’s and con’s exist and there are avid (and legitimate) proponents on both sides. I like the idea of composting, but I am outvoted by my other family members, and since we operate as a democracy, that is that. More to come.
Written by Sam Austin. Sam holds a Master’s in Architecture from the University of Colorado-Denver and has been practicing architecture since 1992. He specializes in residential design and has completed more than 200 homes in the Boulder area and beyond. For 17 years, he has designed beautiful modern custom homes and is renowned for his use of reclaimed materials.