Florida Off Grid Laws: An In-Depth Guide

Contrary to common belief, Florida is a good state for off grid living. However, some laws might make it difficult or even impossible to legally live the type of life you want.

Here’s what you need to know about Florida off grid laws.

Want to know more about living off grid? Read:

Is Living Off-Grid Legal in Florida?

In remote and rural areas of Florida, it is generally legal to live off-grid. The primary law that may prevent you from going 100% off grid is the requirement to connect to a municipal sewage system if available.

Many parts of Florida also use the International Property Maintenance Code (IPMC). Depending on how local authorities interpret the code, some off-grid systems, like using rainwater as your sole water source or only having an outdoor shower, may be illegal.

Florida Zoning Laws and Off-Grid Living

All of Florida’s land is under some sort of local zoning. Zoning regulates tall buildings, setbacks, minimum lot sizes, and home sizes. Zoning also dictates what you are legally allowed to do on your property.

Before buying land for your off-grid Florida property, you must research the local zoning laws to know what is permitted. The rules aren’t always compatible with off-grid life.

Some common zoning areas in Florida are:

  • Industrial
  • Commercial
  • Agricultural
  • Rural Residential
  • Residential
  • Environmentally Sensitive Areas

Agricultural Zoning

Agricultural zoning is most compatible with living off grid in Florida. You are generally allowed to farm and raise animals. There usually are no minimum home sizes, so you can live in a tiny manufactured home.

However, you can expect minimum lot sizes, usually starting at 5 acres. Some agricultural zones require at least 20 acres.

Rural Residential Zoning

Rural residential zones also usually have relaxed rules, thus making it easier for you to live off grid the way you want legally. You can still expect specific regulations about what is and isn’t allowed.

For example, Columbia County zoning allows farming and raising animals in rural residential zones so long as the parcel is at least 3.5 acres.

Holtville has more specific rules: in low-density rural residential zones, you are allowed one large animal per half-acre “except that parcels larger than five acres could have one large animal per half-acre for the first five acres and four per acre for all acres beyond the initial five acres.”

Even in areas with the same zoning classification, the rules can vary drastically on a county-by-county basis. You’ll need to check the regulations in detail before buying any property in Florida.

Tiny Homes

Living in a tiny home in many parts of Florida is illegal. Zoning regulations set minimum home sizes – some of which are pretty large. For example, Seminole County has a minimum house size of 700 to 1,600 square feet in residential zones.

Agricultural and rural zones are usually more permissive of tiny home living.

Mobile Homes

Because of strict zoning, living in a mobile home is illegal in many parts of the United States. However, Florida is quite friendly towards mobile homes. Living in a mobile home in areas zoned as Agricultural is usually legal – though you’ll still have to meet the minimum land parcel requirements and the minimum land per dwelling rules. Mobile home living is also often allowed in Florida’s rural residential zones. You may be forced to live in an area specifically zoned for mobile homes outside these zones.

You might also find it helpful to read: What is a homestead declaration?

Off-Grid Electricity in Florida

Off-grid electricity systems, including solar and wind power, are legal in Florida.

There are no laws preventing you from disconnecting from the power company and creating your own “microgrid.” In almost all cases, you must get a permit for your system. Getting a permit for larger systems involves submitting schematic diagrams, electrical calculations, specifications, and other documents.

Many jurisdictions only issue the permit to a licensed electrical contractor (EC or ER license). Solar water heaters require a plumbing permit instead of an electrical permit. Installing your own solar or wind system is illegal: it must be done by a licensed professional. You may need an inspection before you can legally use your off-grid system.

Also Read:

Off-Grid Water Laws in Florida

Florida is known for its abundant water, including almost 2,000 miles of coastline, 11,000 miles of rivers, streams, waterways, and thousands of lakes.

This makes it easy to get enough water without relying on municipal water utilities. However, water rights laws can be very complicated in Florida. Don’t be surprised if you encounter legal issues regarding your property’s water rights.

Who owns the water in Florida?

In Florida, navigable waters are owned by the State but are available for public use. Non-navigable waters, such as lakes and ponds, can be privately owned – though the State also owns a large portion of these waters.

Even though the State owns navigable waters, it recognizes riparian rights: you have the legal right to specific uses of navigable waters on or next to your property, so long as you own the land to the ordinary high water mark. These uses include:

  • Boating
  • Fishing
  • Ingress and egress
  • Bathing

Florida also gives riparian owners the right to an “unobstructed view” of the waters, which isn’t found in other riparian states. You are also usually allowed to build a dock on the waters. Florida State also has other unique interpretations of riparian law, such as recognizing that water access adds value to the property. Thus, the water cannot be taken without compensation.

Read all about Florida’s riparian rights laws here.

Water Use Permits in Florida

You will need a permit to use water in Florida except for domestic wells. There are two main types of permits: Individual permits and General water use permits. General water use permits also include “permits by rule.” These are for smaller projects, and the permits are easy to obtain.

Permits are issued by the Department of Environmental Protection and your Water Management District.

Surface Water Use Laws in Florida

Unless you own the body of water, you will need a permit to use water on your property.

Some situations are exempt from a permit, but a permit is generally required for any situation where you pump or divert surface water. Depending on the project, you may also need to get a dam permit through the District’s Dam Safety Program.

Some dams, including agricultural ones, are covered under Chapter 40A-44 of the Florida Administrative Code.

Digging a Pond on Your Property

It is generally legal to dig a pond on your property in Florida. You will likely need an excavation permit. However, some ponds – like small agricultural ponds or stormwater ponds – are exempt from the excavation permit requirements. Each county has rules about how large and deep ponds can be.

Well Water

Under Florida law, all wells must be drilled by licensed water well contractors. The contractor is also the one who must apply for the well permit. Pumps, piping, and electrical components are not considered part of the well, so state law allows you to install and repair those parts yourself. However, local laws may require getting an electrical or plumbing permit.

In addition to getting a construction permit for the well, you may also need to obtain a water-use permit.

There is an exemption for domestic wells, defined as

“water used strictly for domestic use which occurs in a private residence, and includes no more than one rental residence or no more than four non-rental residences served by one well.”

You must get a water-use permit if you use the well for irrigation. There is a simplified “permit by rule” for wells that meet certain requirements, such as wells withdrawing less than an average of 100,000 gallons per day and are less than 8 inches in diameter.

Rainwater Harvesting Laws in Florida

Rainwater harvesting is not only legal in Florida, but it is actively encouraged by the government. Many local governments offer financial incentives such as rebates for rainwater harvesting and reduced stormwater fees. Financial assistance is also available through Green Building programs and the Water Savings Incentive Program (WaterSIP). In some cases, you may even be required to install rainwater cisterns.

You can use harvested rainwater for irrigation in Florida. However, the law about using rainwater for potable or indoor uses like flushing toilets isn’t as clear. You’ll have to check with local plumbing rules and may need to disinfect rainwater before it can be legally used indoors.

No permits are required for rain barrels or totes. You may need excavation and plumbing permits for underground rainwater cisterns. It’s worth noting that some counties allow you to convert old septic tanks into rainwater cisterns.

Also Read:

Sewage and Waste Removal Laws in Florida

One of the biggest hurdles you may have with going completely off-grid in Florida is sewage laws.

Under statute 0381.00655, all property owners served by municipal or investor-owned sewerage systems must connect to it. This law even applies to homes with a legal septic system: you have 365 days from when you are notified to connect to the available sewage systems.

Many places in Florida (and other states) combine sewage and water bills to complicate things further. Even if you get 100% of your water from off-grid sources, you’ll still pay the municipal water fee.

Compost Toilets Laws in Florida

Compost toilets are legal in Florida. Under the law, they must comply with ANSI/NSF Standard 41.

However, the law makes it illegal to use only a compost toilet.

The law states that,

Liquids discharging from waterless, incinerating or organic waste composting toilets shall be plumbed into the onsite system serving the establishment.”

It further states that all solids removed from a compost toilet must be mixed with lime, containerized, and disposed of with the establishment’s solid waste, which generally means you will need a septic tank or other approved system.

Also Read:

Are Outhouses (Pit Privies) Legal in Florida?

Even though they are common in some rural areas, outhouses are illegal in Florida. They are only legal in non-permanent residences in remote areas without electricity. Thus, it might be possible to legally use an outhouse in a Florida cabin if you do not live there permanently.

Greywater Laws in Florida

According to Florida law,

Onsite graywater tank and drainfield systems may, at the homeowners’ discretion, be utilized provided blackwater is disposed into a sanitary sewerage system when such sewerage system is available. Graywater systems may, at the homeowners’ discretion, be utilized in conjunction with an onsite blackwater system where a sewerage system is not available for blackwater disposal.”

“Graywater” means that part of domestic sewage that is not blackwater, including waste from the bath, lavatory, laundry, and sink, except kitchen sink waste.

Also Read:

Do you live off grid in Florida? Let us know about your experiences in the comments section below.

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  1. “Installing your own solar or wind system is illegal: it must be done by a licensed professional.”

    THIS IS CATEGORICALLY FALSE. I installed my solar array myself. I worked with the city of St. Augustine and FPL and currently run a net-metered system at my home.

  2. We just got our first FPL electric bill with the new rate increase
    It is Double what our bill was last month!! We cannot afford bills like this every month! We are retired, my husband is disabled. Our income is set! I’m pushing for solar and removing us from the FPL grid. His concern is, when it becomes time to replace roof shingles how complicated and cost prohibitive will it be with solar panels on our roof?

    • I can’t do that math for you (too many variables). But I should point out that you’ll also need to look into insurance in case a hurricane takes out your solar panels…

  3. I am 100% off grid. I also live in Florida. We have municipal sewage. My house is connected to a septic system where everything is recycled and turned into fertilizer which I use in my garden. I have a well I drilled myself and I pump the water myself. I also harvest rainwater which actually accounts for most of my water usage. My house was pre existing. It was originally tied to the electric grid but when I bought it I told the electric company I was not their customer. I have a mostly DC solar power system with a DC to AC converter for my air conditioner and fridge and everything else is DC. For hot water I have a Y connection at the well where some of the water is diverted to a convoluted copper tubing line that runs under my driveway, up the side of the house and through a solar hot water heater then back down to the house. The other line is my “cold” water line which connects to the faucets. I’m not sure why one would need a permit to use water that is on one’s own land. But then my house is 399 square feet so perhaps it’s due to the size.

    • Western states have really strict laws about water usage — even if it is on your own land. You almost always have to jump through hoops and prove that your usage won’t put strain on the water supply before you can get a permit. On the water-rich east coast, it’s a lot easier.

    • Hi can you do this for a bigger house of 1700 sq foot in Santa Rosa County? I would be interested to know if this is possible in a residential coastal neighborhood, but no hoa here?
      Is there a way that you can be contacted for advice if you know how to do this? I’m interested in learning more but am on a budget.

    • Do you have a website explaining your plan and how you have it off grid and all that?
      Living in Parrish and trying to come off grid.

    • Oh you are doing it!!! This is how we all should live. Been off grid six years in another state and want to go back to Florida and continue to do this.

    • This sounds awesome! Would you be willing to explain a bit more? My goal is to be 100% off grid in Florida, but the sewage/septic law is my only hiccup. Trying to find a way around it.

  4. Florida is a relatively friendly state when it comes to the legality of tiny houses. For one thing, it has adopted something called “Appendix Q” within its Building Code. This sets forth basic rules for constructing houses that are 400 square feet or less. For example, it sets out required measurements for stair risers handrails, and landings, and gives instructions regarding emergency exits. All other construction rules not covered under Appendix Q automatically defaults to the International Residential Code. Something else to keep in mind is that if a state adopts a building code such as Appendix Q and the International Residential Code, a contractor will be required to build your house which in my humble opinion is not very off grid friendly. The freedom to not only build your own house but to also use natural construction methods such as cob, earthbag, or strawbale methods is what I consider to be off grid friendly.

  5. Would love any reputable solar powers installation contractors who would install a complete off grid system in Sarasota County Florida. Not interested in any connection to the grid unless as a non active backup. Do not want my solar to leave my property

      • I just had PE Solar install a system for me and dropped my electric bill over 200/month. They took care of all permitting and installation. I might be saving more, I heard FPL was going to raise rates again that will not affect this house much.

        We are in Sarasota

    • Hi Jeff, I live in Sarasota County as well and would also like to be disconnected from the grid. What did you find out?


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