Kentucky Off-Grid Laws – An In Depth Guide

Kentucky is well-known as a state where it is easy to live off-grid. The state is primarily rural, the land is cheap and productive, and there are many areas where you are (mostly) free to do whatever you want on your property. But the legalities of living off-grid in Kentucky aren’t always straightforward.


Is Off-Grid Living Legal in Kentucky?

Off-grid living is not only legal in Kentucky, but it is common. There are approximately 13,5000 Amish residing in Kentucky, and many people choose to live an off-grid lifestyle.

Find an Amish store near you

Kentucky Zoning Laws and Off-Grid Living

Kentucky’s land is divided into zones like every other state in America. The zoning regulations dictate how that land can be used – including whether it is legal to go off-grid. The good news is that Kentucky zoning laws are much more relaxed than in many states.

Almost half of Kentucky’s 120 counties are rural. Some of these counties do not have any zoning ordinances. For example, Wayne County in the South does not have any zoning.

Even in rural Kentucky areas with zoning, much of the land is usually zoned for Agricultural Use. This zoning is not very strict and usually allows for off-grid living, though permits may be required. To prevent sprawl, agriculturally zoned land in Kentucky often has minimum plot sizes and limits the types of dwellings that can be built.

Areas of Kentucky without Building Codes

Kentucky has a statewide building code, often poorly enforced in many rural areas.

The lack of code enforcement is both a blessing and a curse: you can often “get away” with doing whatever you want on your land, but so can your neighbors. Your community might be overridden with junkyards and health hazards like untreated sewage.

Qualifying as a Farm in Kentucky

If your land qualifies as a farm under Kentucky law, it will be taxed at its use-value instead of commercial value, resulting in much lower property taxes. Qualifying as a farm is usually very easy. Under KRS 132.010(9), a farm is:

  • (a) any tract of land, including all income producing improvements of at least ten (10) contiguous acres in area used for the production of livestock, livestock products, poultry, poultry products, and the growing of tobacco and other crops, including timber;
  • (b) Any tract of land, including all income producing improvements of at least five (5) contiguous acres in area commercially used for aquaculture; or
  • (c) Any tract of land devoted to and meeting the requirements and qualifications for payments pursuant to agricultural programs under and agreement with the state or federal government.

You can read more about the exemption here.

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Off-Grid Electricity in Kentucky

In rural Kentucky, few or no laws require homes to be connected to the electric grid. In Kentucky’s urban areas, building codes usually require homes to have an electric hookup. However, these regulations don’t expressly forbid off-grid electric systems.

For example, in Jefferson, Kentucky, the law only requires that “Every occupied building shall be provided with an electrical system in compliance with the requirements of this Section and Section 505.” It might be harder to meet the requirements using an off-grid solar system, but it is not against the law.


Kentucky offers some incentives at the state level for using solar energy. One of the biggest is a farm program that grants up to 50% of the cost of energy-efficient equipment – including solar water heaters, insulation, and agricultural equipment.

If you remain tied to the grid, a net metering policy is in place. TVA also offers up to a $1000 rebate on solar. See more incentives here.

Useful Articles:

Off-Grid Water in Kentucky

Kentucky has many lakes, streams, and other water bodies. Even if they aren’t always enforced, many laws are designed to protect these waters from pollution. This might affect whether you can install an off-grid water system on your property.

Surface Water

In Kentucky, landowners generally have the right to use waters on their property so long as they don’t create dams or obstruct the water in other ways.

However, the law states that the public also has the right to use “navigable” waters. Keep this in mind if you plan on buying property next to a stream or lake in Kentucky: you might be unable to prevent people from using it.

Read more about the law here and here.

Well Water

No permits are required to drill a well in Kentucky, but you must use a certified well driller. However, the permitting process is relatively easy, and the state even offers various resources to help landowners. Read more here and here.


It is legal to collect rainwater in Kentucky. The state even has information on constructing your own rain barrels (PDF here). There are no statewide incentives for rainwater harvesting, but Louisville has a Downspout Disconnection Incentive, which gives $100 for each downspout disconnected from the wastewater system.

Greywater Recycling

Greywater recycling is legal in Kentucky. The law states explicitly that a septic system is not needed for greywater and is sized based on 55 gallons per day per bedroom.


Sewage and Waste Removal

Surprisingly, it is illegal to have an off-grid sewage system in Kentucky. The laws require homes to have “sanitary wastewater treatment systems.”

A law passed in 1996 even requires new homes to have septic before the electricity can be turned on. Despite the law, many Kentucky people still use outhouses or composting toilets. However, this is a considerable risk because they could face hefty fines for failing to comply with the law.

Septic Tanks

Nearly half of Kentucky homes have a septic tank system for their waste. The state allows gravelless drain field chambers, low-pressure pipe, and fill-and-wait systems. In rare cases, they also allow drip irrigation and aerobic and surface discharge systems.

To get a septic system on your property, you must visit the Local Health Department to file a site evaluation application. The fee is approximately $200. After evaluation, you’ll need a certified installer to design and submit the system to an inspector. The permit fee is roughly $250. After the septic system is completed, you’ll need another inspection.

There are 2,400 unpermitted septic systems built each year in Kentucky. Inspectors often cannot keep track of these illegal septic systems in rural areas. But I’ve also heard accounts of local inspectors making money by catching property owners and issuing steep fines.

Compost Toilets

Compost toilets are legal in Kentucky, but having just a compost toilet is illegal. You must also install an approved on-site wastewater treatment system (usually septic). The idea behind this law is that you need a way to dispose of the greywater from the compost toilet.

Kentucky does offer one small benefit to using compost toilets, though. The law states that properties that exclusively have “approved permanent nonwater carriage water closet type devices, such as composting, incinerator, or oil carriage toilets” can reduce the minimum size of their septic system.


Even though outhouses are still found throughout many parts of Kentucky, they are illegal. The state requires outhouses to be connected to septic systems. State inspectors have even been going around rural areas and forcing them to upgrade their outhouses to septic. A program called PRIDE issues grants to help poor people pay for installing septic systems.

Garbage Removal

Kentucky has no mandatory trash pickup service, so you do not have to pay for trash services in many rural places. While this might be conducive to off-grid living in Kentucky, it also means that Kentucky has a big problem with illegal trash dumping. You’ll find litter along roadsides and even in wilderness areas.


Other Off-Grid Laws in Kentucky

Because so many areas in Kentucky do not have zoning or strict building codes, it is legal to live in RVs or tiny homes in much of the state. However, the laws about on-site sewage management still apply.

Also read:

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

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  1. I was going to purchase an incinerator toilet but now you’re saying a septic tank is still required with an incinerator toilet.
    Power lines are annoying to views. In Hawaii everyone talks about what great views, as they overlook utility lines. Born and raised on a tiny island and I’ve spent 10 yrs in AK living in town and off-grid rural. KY is not rural. Traveling home by snow machine or a truck with a winch means you live rural. Waiting for supplies to come by barge or plane is rural. I just like KY for the weather and landscape. Want to live a clean life, clean well maintained property, without hassle and quietly. My husband and I are long haul truckers. It’s been difficult trying to get clear answers from McCreary County muchless an address to the actual property. How’s emergency supposed to find us. 8 miles from Whitley City, 15 from Corbin. Answers have been difficult to find.

  2. We have land down on the six river and we want to have a three room structure with no water do we have to go with no electric or can it be wired. And a generator be used for the lighting in the structure. It is not a permanent residence and used on a few weekends a year.

  3. I have a 14×36 storage shed on my property. It was bought for storage but I have a 10 year old grand daughter who wants to use a room in it for her and friends as a sleep over once in a while. I do not have water in it nor do I have a bathroom. My house ( where she lives) is a few feet away. They have complete access to my home. They use my bath rooms and my elec and we cook here. I had electric put in with only two outlets, one overhead light and a outside Ky got. Now I’m not allowed to get electric hooked up in it and let her play there without a septic tank. I don’t have water in it or even a bathroom. Why would I need a septic tank when there is no water or bathroom. I live a long ways out of the city limits. A lot of people here has sheds. They have electric in them. They use them for a business. But that’s ok. Why can’t my grand daughter have a play house? Any ideas would be so helpful.

    • Personally, I would wire the play house anyway and just say, “To hell with the rules.” I say this because this is a case where the laws are so stupid that you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t. Besides, ask yourself: “Who in the world is going to know anyway?”

    • Connect Solar lighting. Have the solar panels outside where they will get the most sun, then cord to the lights inside of the shed. Hopefully the panels can sit on a side of the shed that can’t be easily seen from the road and no one will even know it’s got electricity. Besides, a garage has electricity, but doesn’t require a septic tank, so, there is that….Put a few items near the door so it looks like it’s just storage and have a hidden door to the back where the girls can play/sleep. Perhaps???

  4. Might be planning a move to rural far western kentucky to go partly off grid, and want to install a generator (not solar) to power a house. Would I just contact the power company and ask for a disconnect, then have a contractor remove the electric lines? Just wondering how the actual process of utility discon would go.

  5. Me and my wife bought 13 acres in Clarkson ky were we currently living off grid we basically bought a 14×20 shed and turned it into a studio apartment . we were able to run the house of the predator4375 generator that’s how I power the house .for water I’m useing 2 300 gallon totes to hold the water and useing a well pump with shut off switch to pressurize the system to the tankless waterheater we do have a septic tank installed professionally but don’t have permits for the work I did is that bad????

    • It could be a problem if you ever decide to sell, or a neighbor complains. If that happens have Environmental check it as an existing system.

  6. Where would u report a person who has their toilet water/human waste running out into their back yard and In to the woods (eventually it makes it to the woods)….. NO SEPTIC AT ALL! VERY UNSANITARY NOT TO MENTION BAD FOR THE ENVIRONMENT….

  7. I feel for ya Dennis. I bought 5 acres in Meade County, KY. While the electric company runs lines over my land, I have to apparently pay for a pole and a connection to it … I heard like 10,000. I have put together a solar / wind system thats at 3.5 kwh and a battery bank of 10 kwh. Its been a process so I didn’t have the plan in place at the beginning and I know I have to circle back and get electrical permits. Which sucks because the cost would better be utilized in more solar panels.
    I bought a composting toilet for a thousand and thought that should do it … but this article does warn me otherwise. Not much use in a composting toilet if I have to have a septic tank.
    I have rainwater collection but I prefer a well. I was working on a shallow jetted well but I’m not certified so this article has passed on valuable info to me on that as well.
    So … while I have figured out solar, sewage and water on my own … I apparently can’t use the three options without permits, certified installers and testing that will tell me what I already know.
    Fun for me … the 5 acres are classified as being in a flood plan, the base flood elevation is 424 feet. My land is at 430 to 440 feet. I have to get FEMA to update their maps by getting an elevation survey by a surveyor (again telling me what I already know)… why they can’t use Google Earth or a barometer/GPS is beyond me. I can’t build any permeant structures until thats done.
    Ultimately, its going to cost a couple times more than the property cost to get the right classification, the solar approved, the septic installed and the water running. Without the flood designation lifted it also creates false roadblocks to septic and water.
    I hate red tape.

  8. That’s odd you still need a septic system (for greywater) even if you have a compost toilet. How do you build one or find someone who knows how? Thanks!

    • The law has to do with all the chemicals people use in their laundry and washing machines. I agree (to a point) that it is stupid, but the law is unfortunately always written with the dumbest and most irresponsible people in mind. You’ll have to check locally for someone to make your compost toilet. It’s also pretty easy to make one yourself. The tricky part is making the urine diverter. I made one out of a plastic cake box lid that I cut in half and drilled a hole into (I’ll have a post on that some day). You can also buy the urine diverter online and just attach it underneath the toilet seat.

  9. Hello. I really don’t know where I fall into this. I bought 8 acres in Leslie County Kentucky back in December. I’ve tried contacting the county at least half dozen times. Even sent an email to the governor. I’ve gotten no replies from anyone. I’m basically on the side of a mountain. I want to build a cabin just for a getaway. Not a permanent residence. I was told by the company I bought the land from that the road was county maintained. I’ve since found out that’s not true. Was told I can have utilities run to me. I was told the power company won’t run power unless I pay $17,000 because they would have to run it 3/4 of a mile. Also that there’s a house a mile away with power and I could get it run from their supply for $1000, but the land owners won’t allow the power company to access it. Water and sewer? Not an option according to a neighbor. Though water is run along the county road 3/4 of a mile away, they won’t “T” it off in our direction. So, off grid solar/generator seems to be my only source. As well as rainwater collection. As for sewer, I have no idea. I can’t get any help from the county. Do you have any suggestions? I also don’t know if I need permits to build. By the looks of most of the houses around me, you can throw up for walls and roof and be done.


    • I’d invest in a lawyer to look over the regulations and explain what is legal. You probably need permits and to follow lots of codes. A lot of people have the same issue you do though: it ultimately makes more sense to invest in off-grid systems than pay to connect to the municipal systems.

    • Obviously, you need a septic. Pay for it through a local contractor.
      Hold on to paper copies of your emails. For due diligence re what you said.
      Build what you need to build. Use solar. Get a generator. Try to get a connection to some kind of to local companies that provide that.


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