Want to start living off-grid? It’s not as simple as buying land and building a home or parking an RV. While off-grid living isn’t illegal in any of the 50 states in America, there are numerous laws that might restrict whether you can truly live off-grid.
I spent a lot of time researching the off-grid laws of every state in America. Please understand this is a work in process! If you have any information to share, please do so in the comments section below so we can keep the article updated.
Note – this page will give you a general overview. We have created more detailed and specific state-by-state information, which is linked below each state.
Off-Grid Laws Interactive Map
Hover mouse over state to get an Off Grid Rating. Click the state to jump to the specific laws.
Off Grid Rating:
Alabama Off Grid Laws
It appears that disconnecting from the power grid in Alabama is illegal. On top of this, Alabama power charges a high (over $5 per kilowatt) fee for using solar! They do offer net metering to sell back excess solar. However, there are no state-mandated policies, so the price is negotiated with the power company. This makes Alabama one of the worst states in the USA for off-grid solar. (13)
It is legal to harvest rainwater in Alabama and is considered a property right. The rules about using water on your property, creating ponds on your property, and diverting water are also very relaxed.
Pit toilets and portable toilets may be allowed in some rural regions. Permits are required, and specific rules must be followed. Compost toilets aren’t explicitly addressed. You can see the rules here.
In a nutshell, the law says that composting, incinerating toilets, and holding tanks can only be used if an approved graywater disposal method is also provided. With pit privies, you are required to have a contract with a certified pumper.
See detailed Alabama Off Grid Laws
Alaska Off Grid Laws
Alaska has very progressive microgrid laws. These laws make it possible for an individual to qualify as a “utility provider” and completely disconnect from the main electric grid. However, off-grid solar may not be feasible in many areas of the state where there isn’t much daylight during winter. In fact, the majority of microgrids in Alaska run off of diesel. Alaska does have a state net metering policy for solar but does not offer any state incentives for installing solar. (14, 15)
Rainwater harvesting in Alaska is allowed. However, there are many rules regarding groundwater use, such as from streams or lakes.
Alaska law specifically addresses outhouses but does not mention compost toilets. Outhouses are allowed in many areas, though strict rules apply. See the law here.
See detailed Alaska Off Grid Laws
Arizona Off Grid Laws
Arizona is one of the worst states for off-grid solar. The laws are written to make it illegal for a home not to be connected to the electric grid. On top of that, Arizona charges a “solar tax” to people with grid-connected solar.
Rainwater harvesting in Arizona is legal.
Composting toilets are legal in Arizona. A permit is required.
See detailed Arizona Off Grid Laws
Arkansas Off Grid Laws
It appears that going completely off-grid in Arkansas is legal. As a result, Arkansas state is very popular for off-grid living, homesteading, and tiny houses. (18)
Rainwater harvesting in Arkansas is legal for non-potable purposes, but the system must be designed by a licensed professional and comply with the plumbing code. See the law here.
Composting toilets are allowed in Arkansas, but only if NSF approved. Pit privy latrines also seem to be allowed in many areas. (19)
See detailed Arkansas Off Grid Laws
California Off Grid Laws
Until fairly recently, off-grid solar in California was illegal under Title 24. However, the law was recently revised to allow off-grid solar. You’ll still have to meet electrical, fire, building, residential, and mechanical codes. These are some of the strictest codes in the country. (20, 21)
Under the 2012 Rainwater Capture Act, it is legal to harvest rainwater in California. No permit is required to collect rainwater from rooftops. However, permits may be required for collecting other rainwater, such as rainwater falling into a pond.
There are currently no laws restricting the use of composting toilets in California. Pit privies are allowed, but it seems they need to be approved. See the law here.
See detailed California Off Grid Laws
Colorado Off Grid Laws
Colorado used to be one of the best states to live off-grid. Many areas had relaxed zoning laws, and many off-grid communities sprung up. However, now counties are stricter about giving permits to people living in tiny homes, RVs, or cabins. (22)
Going off-grid with solar or wind in Colorado state seems to be legal, though many counties and zoning laws require homes to be grid-tied. There are numerous news reports about people living off-grid being forced to reconnect to the electric utilities.
Colorado is one of the strictest states in regard to rainwater harvesting laws. While rainwater harvesting is legal, the law says it can only be used for non-potable purposes. Only rainwater from rooftops can be collected in a maximum of two rain barrels with a combined capacity of 110 gallons. Read the law here.
Composting toilets are regulated under Colorado law. They are legal, but only NFS-approved compost toilets may be used. However, many homes are still required to be connected to the municipal sewage system.
Colorado also has laws about how trash can be removed. In many areas, it must be removed by a commercial hauler. (23)
See detailed Colorado Off Grid Laws
Connecticut Off Grid Laws
Connecticut is one of the few states which promotes off-grid solar. They have legislation supporting microgrids, and homes with off-grid solar could qualify as microgrids. However, the laws are still not very clear about how private individuals need to be classified to be allowed to have a microgrid. (24)
Rainwater harvesting in Connecticut is allowed or not regulated under state law. It also seems to be legal to disconnect from the water utility completely.
Composting toilets are legal in Connecticut. However, property owners must submit an application, and the toilet must be approved by the local director of health. Waste from the composting toilet must be buried or disposed of in another approved method.
See detailed Connecticut Off Grid Laws
Delaware Off Grid Laws
Off-grid electric in Delaware is legal and is even encouraged in some areas. Many municipalities offer incentives for grid-tied and off-grid solar systems, including rebates of up to $15,000 for residential systems. (25)
Rainwater collection in Delaware is legal and even encouraged by the state.
There are no regulations about using composting toilets in Delaware. You can see the list of approved alternative systems here.
See detailed Delaware Off Grid Laws
Florida Off Grid Laws
Despite the bad press Florida got regarding the Ms. Speronis case (which was often inaccurately reported by the media), it is legal to live off-grid in Florida.
Here’s what happened in the Speronis case: A woman mainly living off-grid had her home condemned and was evicted. I say “mostly” because she was still using the city’s sewage disposal system. Speronis took her case to court, and the judge ruled it wasn’t illegal to use off-grid solar and water. However, she was still using the local sewage system without paying for the costs. Since the jurisdiction (like most) had interconnected water and sewage, she wouldn’t be able to fully disconnect from the water utility unless she installed a septic tank or other approved sewage disposal method. (26)
Off-grid solar is legal in Florida. You can have a completely off-grid solar system. If you choose a grid-tied system, you must have safety features if you want to use the system during a power outage. There is net metering in Florida for grid-tied solar systems. (27)
Rainwater harvesting is legal and encouraged in Florida. Many municipalities even offer incentives and rebates for rainwater harvesting. As in the Speronis case, many municipalities have interconnected water and sewage. If you want to stop paying for the water utilities, you must install your own septic tank or other waste disposal system.
Compost toilets are legal in Florida but must be approved by the NSF. The law about pit privies is much stricter: “Sanitary pit privy – shall not be permitted except at remote locations where electrical service is unavailable. In no case shall such installations be permitted for permanent residences.” (29)
See detailed Florida Off Grid Laws.
Georgia Off Grid Laws
It appears to be legal to go completely off-grid with solar power in Georgia. However, the state has very poor incentives and policies for grid-tied solar systems. (30)
Rainwater harvesting in Georgia is legal, but only if used for outdoor purposes.
Composting toilets are not illegal in Georgia but must be NFS approved. They are also highly regulated. For example, composted waste must be buried and cannot be used for fertilizing food crops.
See detailed Georgia Off Grid Laws
Hawaii Off Grid Laws
Hawaii is a great place for off-grid living. Many people already live off-grid in the state, though often from necessity and not by choice, as many remote areas do not have any utility connections. Many off-grid communities are already established in Hawaii, and the weather makes it easy to live off the land. However, it should be noted that many of these off-grid homes and communities exist in a gray area where they may not be completely legal or built to code. Permits are reportedly fairly easy to get, though. (31, 32)
Disconnecting from the electric grid is legal in Hawaii. However, there are still plenty of people living without a connection to the municipal electric grid.
Rainwater harvesting in Hawaii is legal.
Composting toilets are legal in Hawaii, but the design must be approved on a case-by-case basis and NFS-approved.
See detailed Hawaii Off Grid Laws
Idaho Off Grid Laws
Many people live completely off-grid in Idaho, including wholly disconnected from the electric utility. This is legal because so many places in rural Idaho do not require a Certificate of Occupancy. You’ll still need to follow the State electric code for any electrical systems you install. Compared to the rest of the country, Idaho is very relaxed when it comes to wind power systems.
Rainwater harvesting in Idaho is legal so long as it was captured from a rooftop system and has not entered a natural waterway.
Composting toilets and outhouses are allowed in Idaho. However, they are only allowed in homes without water under pressure and you generally still need to be connected to the public sewage system or have another approved method of on-site waste disposal. A permit is required. Permits are also required for septic tanks and pit privies, and the cost is relatively expensive. (34)
See detailed Idaho Off Grid Laws
Illinois Off Grid Laws
Not only is it legal to use off-grid solar in many places in Illinois, but the state also has a very progressive microgrid policy. The policy allows individuals or groups to be considered their own utility providers and run an alternative energy system. (35, 36)
Rainwater harvesting is legal in Illinois and is even encouraged by the state.
Composting toilets are legal in Illinois so long as they are NSF approved. The contents must be disposed of by either discharging into the municipal sewage system, sludge lagoons or sludge drying beds, incinerator devices, or disposed of at sanitary landfills.
Indiana Off Grid Laws
In many places in Indiana, it is illegal or nearly illegal to live off-grid because of zoning, building code, and permit requirements. However, there is a loophole under the Indiana Log Cabin rule (which applies to all types of homes, not just log cabins). Under Indiana State Code 36-7-8-3 (d):
“An ordinance adopted under this section does not apply to private homes built by individuals and used for their own occupancy. However, onsite sewage systems of a private home described in this subsection must comply with state laws and rules.”
However, just because this law exists and protects people who build their own homes, it doesn’t mean local building inspectors or health officials won’t harass you. (37)
Utility providers in Indiana have fought hard against solar power. They have also been reasonably successful in curtailing the solar movement, such as when they got legislators to roll back how much money was paid to grid-tied solar users as part of the Indiana net metering policy. You’ll likely find that off-grid solar is illegal in most parts of Indiana, though you may be exempt under the Log Cabin Rule. (38)
Rainwater harvesting is legal in Indiana and even encouraged by the state.
Indiana laws are not favorable to composting toilets or other off-grid waste disposal methods. The law states, “If a sanitary sewer is available within a reasonable distance to the proposed facility, installing an onsite sewage disposal system is prohibited, and a connection must be made to the sewer.”
Further, Indiana law explicitly says, “The use of a composting or incinerating toilet in a residence is not a substitute for an on-site sewage system.”
The Log Cabin Rule won’t exempt you from being required to connect to the sewage system. Read more about the law here and here.
See detailed Indiana Off Grid Laws.
Iowa Off Grid Laws
Off-grid solar is legal in Iowa, but expect permits and inspections to be required. Many people in northeast Iowa live completely off the grid. (39)
It is legal to harvest rainwater in Iowa.
There are currently no laws regulating composting toilets in Iowa though a permit may be required for “alternative toilets.” Pit privies are generally allowed in homes not connected to running water. (40)
See detailed Iowa Off Grid Laws
Kansas Off Grid Laws
Going completely off-grid with electric is possible in Kansas. However, many areas have stringent zoning laws and building regulations that may require you to be connected to the grid. Further, the state has very few incentives for installing solar systems. (41)
Rainwater harvesting is legal in Kansas though a permit may be required. There may be some limitations to using rainwater for anything other than home use.
There are no current state laws regulating composting toilets. However, state laws prohibit pit privies and regulate other types of onsite sewage treatment methods. Many counties also make off-grid sewage treatment illegal. For example, Ellsworth County law states that “No private wastewater system shall be constructed within 400 feet of an existing public sewer.” (42)
See detailed Kansas Off Grid Laws
Kentucky Off Grid Laws
Kentucky does not seem to have any laws making off-grid electric illegal, and many people live in homes running completely on off-grid solar. There may be inspections required in many counties.
Rainwater harvesting is legal in Kentucky.
Off-grid sewage is legal in Kentucky. Permits and inspections are required for pit privies. Composting toilets are also allowed. Read more here.
See detailed Kentucky Off Grid Laws.
Louisiana Off Grid Laws
Disconnecting from the electric grid seems to be legal in many places in Louisiana. However, the state does not encourage off-grid electric, and it has cut many incentives for grid-tied solar. (44)
Rainwater harvesting is legal in Louisiana though there are some regulations for large cisterns.
Composting toilets are legal in Louisiana.
See detailed Louisiana Off Grid Laws.
Maine Off Grid Laws
Maine is one of the best states in regards to off-grid living laws. There are many areas where you are not required to connect to the utilities, and the only permits required are for septic or waste disposal. Maine is also a very progressive state regarding off-grid living and gives many incentives like rebates to homes using alternative clean energy. (45)
Off-grid electric is legal in Maine.
Rainwater harvesting is legal in Maine. You can also melt snow in winter for water. Many private homes have wells, and water is abundant in Maine.
Composting toilets are legal in Maine, though there are some regulations about using them. These regulations represent best practices, so don’t hinder the right to use off-grid sewage. You will also need a plan and permit for any type of onsite sewage disposal, including an outhouse.
See detailed Maine Off Grid Laws.
Maryland Off Grid Laws
Maryland law specifically allows off-grid solar systems. However, permits and inspections are still required. Read more here.
Rainwater collection is legal in Maryland, and certain counties offer incentives. However, state codes make it very difficult to legally use rainwater indoors, even for nonpotable uses. There are also local laws which sometimes require you to connect to the municipal water supply, thus making off-grid water illegal.
In some parts of Maryland, you are required to connect to the municipal sewer system, thus making off-grid systems like septic illegal. Compost toilets are legal in Maryland but you need a permit and it is difficult to meet the requirements for disposing of liquids and solids from the toilet.
See detailed Maryland Off Grid Laws.
Massachusetts Off Grid Laws
Off-grid electricity is legal in Massachusetts. However, because of clauses in the state building code and local certificate of occupancy requirements, it is often illegal to not have any power at all.
Rainwater harvesting is legal in Massachusetts and even encouraged by the state. However, you cannot use rainwater for potable water and it is very difficult to legally use rainwater indoors, even for nonpotable uses. Some counties do not allow you to have a private well in some situations, thus making off-grid water illegal.
Composting toilets are legal in Massachusetts, though there are many regulations. The composted waste must be disposed of by burial or licensed seepage hauler. Any liquid byproducts must be discharged into a septic tank and leaching system or removed by a licensed septic hauler. In addition to this, many places in Massachusetts require you to connect to the municipal sewer system, so off-grid sewer is illegal.
See detailed Massachusetts Off Grid Laws.
Michigan Off Grid Laws
Individually-owned microgrids are seemingly legal in Michigan, thus making it legal to use off-grid solar.
Rainwater harvesting is legal in Michigan and even encouraged by the state.
Michigan does not have a statewide policy on waste disposal; each county sets its own laws. However, the state law does state that anyone with an acceptable “alternative system” for disposing of waste will not be required to connect to the municipal sewage. Depending on the county, inspections or permits may be required. Outhouses are generally allowed under Michigan state law. (48)
See detailed Michigan Off Grid Laws
Minnesota Off Grid Laws
Off-grid electricity is legal in Minnesota. However, the state doesn’t have the most friendly policies for grid-tied solar; utility companies charge users with grid-tied solar a fee just for staying connected to the grid. (49)
Rainwater harvesting is legal in Minnesota.
Composting toilets and outhouses are legal in Minnesota. There are regulations to follow, but they are generally more relaxed than other states. Read more here.
See detailed Minnesota Off Grid Laws
Mississippi Off Grid Laws
It appears that being disconnected from the electric grid is illegal in most parts of Mississippi. Mississippi has net metering for grid-tied solar systems but does not currently offer any state incentives such as rebates for installing solar panels.
Rainwater harvesting in Mississippi is legal.
In Mississippi, composting toilets, pit privies, and other off-grid toilets are legal. Still, the law specifically states they might only be approved in “remote areas of the State or certain transient or temporary locations.”
The law further states, “Sanitary pit privy installation shall be permitted only in remote locations, but in no case shall such installation be permitted for buildings with indoor plumbing and where water under pressure is located in the structure.” Thus, if you purchase a property with existing plumbing but want to disconnect from it, you will likely not be allowed to do so. See the law here.
See detailed Mississippi Off Grid Laws
Missouri Off Grid Laws
Missouri is one of the friendliest states for off-grid living. In addition to the climate, which makes it easier to live off the land, the state has a lot of rural land which isn’t subject to zoning laws and doesn’t require building permits except for septic. There are also many favorable laws toward homesteading.
Off-grid electric is legal in Missouri, and there are already off-grid communities established in the state. There are many Amish in the state as well.
Rainwater harvesting is legal in Missouri.
Currently, Missouri Department of Health laws mention composting toilets but do not have any specific laws or regulations. Thus, composting toilets still exist in a legal gray area in Missouri.
The law does specifically mention pit privies, though. The law states, “A privy will be allowed only under limited conditions and will not be recognized as a method of sewage disposal for a continuously occupied dwelling, business or other structure. A privy will only be considered for remote areas not served by a piped water source.” Thus, you will likely need to install a septic system if you want to live off-grid in Missouri. See the law here.
See detailed Missouri Off Grid Laws.
Montana Off Grid Laws
Off-grid solar is legal in Montana. The state offers incentives for installing solar systems and net metering for grid-tied solar. (51)
Rainwater harvesting in Montana is legal and encouraged by the state. However, water in Montana is owned by the state. Off-grid homeowners might still have the legal right to use water going through their property, but they don’t own it. They will be expected to get a permit. See the law here.
Composting toilets and pit privies are legal in Montana but are highly regulated. Alternative systems are usually only allowed on properties without a piped water supply and if the property isn’t used as a permanent residence. See the law here.
See detailed Montana Off Grid Laws.
Nebraska Off Grid Laws
Off-grid solar seems to be legal in Nebraska, with many people and communities living completely disconnected from the electric utility. Much land in Nebraska is still not zoned and has very relaxed building codes.
Rainwater harvesting is legal in Nebraska. Wells must be registered with the Nebraska Department of Water Resources and meet construction standards. Irrigation wells producing large amounts of pumped water require a permit. Permits are also needed for certain ground-water uses. Visit the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources for more detailed info.
Composting toilets and pit privies are generally legal in Nebraska, but they may require a permit and inspection.
See detailed Nebraska Off Grid Laws
Nevada Off Grid Laws
Nevada is one of the worst states for off-grid living. In addition to having a difficult climate, many laws are not favorable to living off-grid. Despite this, there still seem to be some communities living completely off-grid in Nevada.
Off-grid electricity is legal in Nevada. However, it will require several permits to be allowed to disconnect from the electric utility. It will be easier in rural areas with no existing utilities.
Rainwater harvesting used to be illegal in Nevada. In 2017, the state passed a new law making rainwater collection legal from the rooftops of single-family homes for non-potable purposes. Many people living off-grid or in rural areas in Nevada have wells. You can read the Nevada well laws here. (54, 55)
In Nevada, composting toilets, pit privies, and other alternative waste disposal systems are generally legal. However, the state has strict regulations about how and when they can be used, and permits are required. See the law here.
See detailed Nevada Off Grid Laws.
New Hampshire Off Grid Laws
Off-grid electric is legal in New Hampshire. The state also offers good incentives for installing solar and net metering for grid-tied solar. (56)
Rainwater harvesting is legal in New Hampshire and even encouraged by the state.
Composting toilets and pit privies are legal in New Hampshire. However, if the site is located near a public sewer, the health officer may order the construction of a toilet connected to the sewer or require a septic tank installation. There are exceptions for some seasonal properties. See the law here.
See detailed New Hampshire Off Grid Laws.
New Jersey Off Grid Laws
It seems state law allows off-grid solar in New Jersey. However, much of the state is zoned and subject to local building codes, which likely require a connection to the electric grid. The state offers incentives for installing solar, and there is net metering for grid-tied solar systems.
Rainwater collection is legal in New Jersey, but its use is limited. The law states, “Any residential, commercial or public property owner may install, maintain and operate a rainwater capture system for non-potable water use outside the residence or other building on the property, or for infiltration into the groundwater.” It further states, “No county, municipality, county or municipal agency, or agency or department of the State may impose or collect any fee for the installation or operation of a rainwater capture system that is installed, maintained or operated pursuant to subsection a. of this section.” See the law here.
Composting toilets, outhouses, and other off-grid toilets are legal in New Jersey but are highly regulated. In many places, they will be illegal due to this clause in the law:
“The administrative authority shall not approve the construction or alteration of individual subsurface sewage disposal systems or other means of private sewage disposal where a sanitary sewer line is available within 100 feet of the property to be served.” See the full law here.
See detailed New Jersey Off Grid Laws.
New Mexico Off Grid Laws
Off-grid solar is legal in New Mexico, though a permit is likely required. The state offers incentives, including rebates for off-grid and grid-tied solar systems. There are also licensing restrictions about who can install solar systems. (57)
Rainwater harvesting is legal in New Mexico, and most homeowners can install systems without worrying about water rights concerns. In fact, the state actually offers incentives for installing rainwater systems such as rebates up to $150 per barrel. Read more here.
Composting toilets, pit privies, and other off-grid toilets are legal in New Mexico. Permits are required, and some regulations might make it illegal on your property to use one of these off-grid toilets. See the permit application, which lists requirements, here.
See detailed New Mexico Off Grid Laws
New York Off Grid Laws
New York State is one of the strictest in regards to off-grid laws, as well as other regulations. However, this does not mean it is impossible to go off-grid in New York. It just means that you will likely have to do a lot more research to find a place where off-grid living is allowed and get numerous permits, licenses, and inspections.
Off-grid solar is illegal in many areas in New York State. However, some laws allow individuals or groups to install their own “microgrid” and thus qualify as their own utility. Unfortunately, these laws are still vague, and most individuals will have difficulty using the microgrid laws to live off-grid.
The State Uniform Fire Prevention and Building Code in New York require all new buildings to have wet plumbing. There are some exemptions that would make it possible to have a home not connected to the municipal water, but it would require permits from local authorities. You can find the law here.
Installing a composting toilet is generally legal in New York State. The law only specifies a “need or desire to conserve water.” However, there are many regulations about how the composting toilet can be used.
Even if you can install a composting toilet or another off-grid toilet, it doesn’t mean you will be able to disconnect from the municipal sewage. The laws require wastewater from sinks, showers, etc., to be treated. See the law here.
See detailed New York State Off Grid Laws
North Carolina Off Grid Laws
It seems that off-grid solar is legal in North Carolina. However, I couldn’t find much reliable information about laws and regulations. Please contact us if you have any info about this topic. (58)
Rainwater harvesting is legal in North Carolina for residential and commercial properties and is encouraged by the state. The NC Plumbing Code regulations apply if you plan on bringing rainwater inside the building. Read the law here.
Composting toilets, pit privies, and other off-grid toilets are legal in North Carolina. However, North Carolina building codes require all residences to have an “approved wastewater system,” and the law specifically states that a composting toilet cannot be used as a replacement or substitute. Thus, you may be required to have a toilet connected to the municipal sewage and water. Read the law here.
See detailed North Carolina Off Grid Laws.
North Dakota Off Grid Laws
Off-grid electric is legal in North Dakota. There are some state incentives for installing solar and net metering for grid-tied systems.
Rainwater harvesting is legal in North Dakota. However, there are strict rules about using other water sources such as streams.
Composting toilets, pit privies, and other off-grid toilets are allowed in North Dakota. The state generally has more relaxed regulations regarding onsite sewage disposal than other states.
See detailed North Dakota Off Grid Laws.
Ohio Off Grid Laws
Off-grid solar appears to be legal in Ohio, especially in rural areas.
Rainwater harvesting is legal in Ohio, and there are few restrictions on how it can be used. Permits may be required.
Ohio law specifically allows composting toilets, certain outhouses, and gray water disposal. There are regulations, such as prohibiting the disposal of certain types of gray water. You can see the law here.
See detailed Ohio Off Grid Laws
Oklahoma Off Grid Laws
Off-grid solar is legal in Oklahoma. However, there are likely many permit requirements. The state also does not have a net metering policy for grid-tied solar systems, nor does it offer any incentives for installing solar.
Rainwater harvesting is legal in Oklahoma. It is encouraged by the state, though the state stopped providing financial incentives for people setting up systems.
Oklahoma currently does not have any laws regulating composting toilets. You can find their laws for onsite sewage disposal here.
See detailed Oklahoma Off Grid Laws.
Oregon Off Grid Laws
Off-grid solar is legal in Oregon. It is one of the more relaxed states in regards to laws about disconnecting from the utility company.
Rainwater harvesting is legal in Oregon. However, it can only be harvested from an artificial, impervious surface like a rooftop. It is not legal to catch rainwater on the ground, such as in reservoirs with dams. (59) Some places in Oregon, including Portland, offer incentives for setting up rainwater harvesting systems.
Composting toilets are legal in Oregon. Some areas may require a permit and may be subject to inspection in some instances. The law specifically states that it is legal to use composted human waste around plants, including fruit trees, except for edible vegetation and vegetables. See the law here.
See detailed Oregon Off Grid Laws.
Pennsylvania Off Grid Laws
It is illegal not to be connected to the municipal electric grid in many areas of Pennsylvania. There are many loopholes and exceptions for recreational cabins and other temporary residencies though.
Rainwater harvesting is legal in Pennsylvania. However, permanent residences must have an approved source of water, and rainwater is not likely to qualify.
NSF-approved composting toilets are legal in Pennsylvania. However, the property will likely still need to be connected to the municipal sewage system or have a septic tank. Pennsylvania also has stringent rules about outhouses and other off-grid toilets; they are usually illegal on new builds. (60, 61)
See detailed Pennsylvania Off Grid Laws
Rhode Island Off Grid Laws
Rhode Island state offers many incentives for installing solar systems and has net metering for grid-tied systems. However, if you want to completely disconnect from the electric system, you may encounter legal issues. There is a state law that requires homes located within 300 feet of a power line to have “electric service.” It’s not clear whether this “electric service” can be your own solar power system. Further, there are laws that make it illegal to live in a home without any power at all.
Rainwater harvesting is legal in Rhode Island. The water can be contained either aboveground or belowground. The state even offers a tax credit of 10% of the cost of installing the system up to $1,000. Read more here. However, state law does require you to have potable water under pressure in your home — so it is illegal to live a primitive off-grid life where you’d carry well water into your home. Further, some places in RI require you to connect to the municipal water service or only allow private well water if you have a large plot of land.
Composting toilets are legal in Rhode Island, but waste must be buried or disposed of in another approved method. It is unlikely you will be able to disconnect from the sewage system, though, because a method must be provided for disposing of liquid wastes from sinks, showers, laundry, etc.
See detailed Rhode Island Off Grid Laws
South Carolina Off Grid Laws
Off-grid solar is legal in South Carolina and is common in many remote parts of the state where it is not practical to connect to the grid. The state offers tax incentives for installing solar systems and has net metering for grid-tied systems. Read more here.
Rainwater harvesting is legal in South Carolina. There is no state law that requires properties to be connected to the municipal water, though municipalities may require it.
Composting toilets are legal in South Carolina, but usually only if used in conjunction with a septic system. You can see the law here.
See detailed South Carolina Off Grid Laws
South Dakota Off Grid Laws
Off-grid solar seems to be legal in South Dakota.
Rainwater harvesting is legal in South Dakota.
Composting and other off-grid toilets are legal in South Dakota, but only when other systems are unavailable. Even when used in conjunction with a septic system or grid-tied toilet, a permit is still likely to be required. You may even have to submit a design plan for approval.
See detailed South Dakota Off Grid Laws
Tennessee Off Grid Laws
Off-grid solar appears to be legal in Tennessee, but few incentives are offered.
Rainwater harvesting is legal in Tennessee. Depending on the county and complexity of the system, permits and regular inspections may be required. You can find the law here.
NSF-certified composting toilets and pit privies are legal in Tennessee. However, a loophole in the law might make it illegal in your area. The law states, “A pit privy or composting toilet shall not be permitted for a facility where the facility has running water available unless there is an acceptable means to dispose of wastewater.”
The law doesn’t explain what counts as an “acceptable” wastewater disposal method. It will likely be up to the local health inspector. Don’t be surprised if you are required to also install a septic tank or connect to the municipal sewer. You can find the law here.
See detailed Tennessee Off Grid Laws
Texas Off Grid Laws
Off-grid solar is legal in Texas, and there are many companies in the state offering installation services for off-grid systems. It is also possible to create a microgrid in Texas to connect several homes with solar. As in all states though, there may be local laws that require you to connect to the electric utility.
Rainwater harvesting is legal in Texas. The state also offers many incentives for homeowners who want to capture rainwater, such as exempting rainwater harvesting equipment from state sales tax. There are also exemptions for property taxes. See the laws here.
NSF-approved compost toilets are legal in Texas. The law states that a permit is not required when used in single-family homes in a county with less than 40,000 population. You can see the law here.
The rules about pit privies (outhouses) are stricter. The law states you need a permit to build a pit privy within 75 feet of human habitation other than the residence to which the privy belongs. So, if you have nearby neighbors, an outhouse might not be allowed. See the law here.
See detailed Texas Off Grid Laws
Utah Off Grid Laws
Off-grid solar is legal in Utah. There are already many communities in Utah living completely off the grid.
Rainwater harvesting is legal in Utah but is restricted. A permit is required, and a maximum size of 2,500 gallons is allowed for systems. It’s possible to collect rainwater without a permit in Utah, but you are limited to a maximum of two containers at 100 gallons each.
Most “primitive” outhouses are illegal in Utah. However, it is legal to make a vaulted privy – though strict regulations apply. Composting toilets are legal. (63)
See detailed Utah Off Grid Laws
Vermont Off Grid Laws
Vermont is one of the best states for off-grid living, and the laws are generally very permissive. The state actively promotes eco-friendly building practices, which means off-grid systems like solar and rainwater harvesting. The state does allow each county to set its own zoning laws, though, including building regulations that may require you to be connected to the electric, water, or sewage utility.
It is legal to have off-grid solar in Vermont. The state is very friendly towards the off-grid lifestyle, and there are already many homesteaders living off-grid. The state offers various incentives for installing solar, and there is net metering for grid-tied solar.
Rainwater harvesting is legal in Vermont and is encouraged by the state. Vermont also has very friendly laws in regards to creating your own water supply. A permit is required. You can read the law here.
Composting toilets are legal in Vermont. The laws are also very friendly to outhouses and other off-grid toilets. You can read the law here.
See detailed Vermont Off Grid Laws
Virginia Off Grid Laws
Off-grid solar appears to be legal in Virginia. (64)
Rainwater harvesting is legal in Virginia. The state offers a tax credit for people who install rainwater systems. More on that here.
In Virginia, outhouses, composting toilets, and other off-grid toilets are generally illegal. There are exceptions for cases of “hardship, unsuitable soil conditions or temporary recreational use.” Further, the law states, “A sewage disposal system meeting the requirements of 12VAC5-610-250 A and B shall be provided to treat other sewage (wastewater) generated from activities such as laundering, bathing, handwashing, and cooking.” You can see the law here.
See detailed Virginia Off Grid Laws
Washington Off Grid Laws
Off-grid electric is legal in Washington State. There are many off-grid communities already established in the state.
Rainwater harvesting is legal in Washington State, and some counties may offer incentives for installing rainwater capture systems.
Composting toilets and pit privies are legal in Washington State. However, the law states, “Connection with sewer.No privy, cesspool, septic tank or similar receptacle for human excrement shall be constructed, maintained or used on premises where a sewer is at all accessible which is part of a sewerage system from which sewage is lawfully discharged into the waters of the state.”
Thus, off-grid toilets are only legal in remote locations which are not near the municipal sewer system. See the law here. Details about design standards can be found here.
See detailed Washington Off Grid Laws
West Virginia Off Grid Laws
Off-grid electric is legal in West Virginia. Many rural areas do not have building codes and do not require you to be connected to the electric grid.
Rainwater harvesting is legal in West Virginia. You can see the State’s recommendations here.
NSF-approved composting toilets are legal in West Virginia, but only when used in conjunction with an approved gray water treatment system, such as a septic tank. You can find the laws about off-grid toilets here.
See detailed West Virginia Off Grid Laws
Wisconsin Off Grid Laws
Off-grid electric is legal in Wisconsin. There is a strong Amish and Mennonite presence, so off-grid is not uncommon. The building permits and requirements tend to be very relaxed in rural areas.
Rainwater harvesting is legal in Wisconsin. You generally don’t need a permit if your system is not connected to the city sewage system and is aboveground. The water can be used for indoor and outdoor purposes, but there are some rules about water quality. You’ll most likely be limited to using the water for watering plants outdoors. Learn more here.
In Wisconsin, composting toilets, pit privies, and other off-grid toilets are legal. The State laws are very relaxed compared to those in other states. You can read the law here.
See detailed Wisconsin Off Grid Laws
Wyoming Off Grid Laws
Off-grid solar is legal in Wyoming, and there does not appear to be any state law requiring permanent residences to connect to the electric utility.
Rainwater harvesting is legal in Wyoming. Many counties offer incentives like tax breaks or rebates for installing rainwater catchment systems.
Portable composting and incinerating toilets do not require a permit in Wyoming. If the unit is permanent or self-contained, then a permit is required. You can find the laws here.
See detailed Wyoming Off Grid Laws.
How Is Off-Grid Living Regulated?
There are a lot of definitions for living off-grid. However, off-grid is generally considered a way of living in which you are not connected to the municipal utilities, including electric, water, and sewage.
For someone to truly live off-grid, they would need to have their own water sources, such as rainwater harvesting or a well. You’d also need a way of disposing of waste, like a compost toilet. And many people would also want a source of electricity, such as an off-grid solar system. Unless you had huge savings stockpiled, you’d also need to be able to live off the land, such as by selling milk or produce you farmed…
Depending on the location, all of these things might be illegal. Here are some of the ways off-grid living is illegal or regulated.
The land in every state is divided into different zones. The zoning codes say how the land can and cannot be used.
For example, it’s common for land to be divided into “residential,” “commercial,” and “rural” zones. These zoning laws could make it illegal for a person to run a business out of a home zoned for residential use. Or you might not be allowed to have backyard chickens in a residential area without getting a permit.
Local governments and not the states decide zoning laws. However, some states are known for having more relaxed zoning laws. For example, many places in California have stringent zoning laws. There are even zoning laws for how big your mailbox can be, never mind how you build your actual home! (1)
Areas without Zoning Laws
In some states, there is still plenty of land which has no zoning laws. Without zoning laws, you have much more freedom to do whatever you want with the land, such as raising animals or building an earthen home.
However, you might want to think twice before choosing land for your off-grid home, which doesn’t have zoning laws. The intent of zoning laws is to “balance individual property rights with the community’s interests to create a healthy, safe and orderly living environment.” (2) Without zoning laws, you could end up getting screwed.
One homesteader said that people built a dirt racing track behind his remote property. The noise was terrible, and they even erected football-style lights so they could race late into the night.
If your off-grid land is far enough from civilization, you might not be worried about (annoying) people building near your land. However, there’s still always a risk.
Important: No Zoning Laws Doesn’t Mean No Regulations
Most areas without zoning laws are almost always more relaxed about building codes. For example, Lawrence County, Missouri, has no zoning restrictions. There are also no building code regulations, Certificate of Occupancy requirements, or permit requirements other than for septic tanks. (3)
However, this isn’t the case everywhere. Houston, Texas, famously doesn’t have zoning laws, but they do have regulations that you need to follow. For example, you can’t live in an RV in Houston except in designated areas. (4)
Almost all areas in the United States have building codes. These codes may make it illegal to live off-grid. For example, the International Building Code requires residences to have a plumbing and electric hookup, which most places interpret to mean attached to the municipal utilities.
There are plenty of places that don’t do inspections or enforce building codes. The code is still there; it just isn’t enforced. You could take a risk and build your off-grid home which doesn’t meet local codes. However, you could get screwed later down the line when the county suddenly decides to crack down on properties that aren’t up to code.
See our guide to places in the US without building codes.
Bear in mind that building codes exist for your personal protection. Even if you find land without building codes, you should still follow standard building code! Failure to do so could open you up to lawsuits or void insurance policies you have. I’ve heard countless stories of homesteaders being sued when visitors injured themselves on the property. (5)
Certificate of Occupancy
A Certificate of Occupancy (C of O) is required under a lot of local laws. The certificate proves the property has complied with all building and zoning laws. You will need a series of inspections to get a C of O.
Certificate of Occupancy requirements can make it very difficult to go off-grid. Many places require buildings to be connected to the local sewage, water, and electric systems to get certified.
However, this isn’t the case everywhere. For example, in some areas of New York State, a home can get a Certificate of Occupancy without an electrical inspection if the solar system isn’t grid-tied. (6, 7)
In Jefferson County, Missouri, a sewage connection is required to get a Certificate of Occupancy. Still, there are exemptions if you instead use a “sewer/wastewater system that has been approved by the applicable State and local authority.”
This just shows how different local laws can be. You’ll have to do a lot of research to determine the Certificate of Occupancy requirements.
Cabins and Tiny Homes
One way to get around all the laws about off-grid homes is to build a cabin or tiny home. Generally, most counties allow buildings below a certain square footage to be built without any permits, regulations, or inspections. You could easily set up solar, rainwater catchment, and a compost toilet and truly live off-grid. (8)
However, cabins used as a “primary residence” will be subject to local regulations in almost all places.
In theory, you could live full-time in your cabin without the local government knowing, thus freeing you from meeting local regulations. If the area is remote enough, it’s unlikely anyone will ever come out to complain about you living there. For legal reasons, though, I’m not recommending you do this! Abide by local laws or face the consequences. (9, 10)
Living off-grid in an RV is highly regulated in many states – even more than cabins. I’m assuming the reason is they don’t want a bunch of RVs parking in areas and driving the property value down.
The laws for RV living can be stringent. For example, Oregon laws prohibit any home on wheels from qualifying as a permanent dwelling. However, the state may soon relax laws and allow RVs in rural residential zoning areas.
In other places, temporary living in an RV is allowed, such as while building a permanent property. Or there may be a loophole for “Accessory Dwelling Units” on land with an existing permanent residence. Once again, it all comes down to local zoning laws and regulations.
Other Regulations which Make Off-Grid Illegal
In addition to the laws above, here are some other laws against off-grid living.
Most states allow for rainwater harvesting. However, there are usually stricter rules for using groundwater, such as from streams or rivers going through your property. Again, these rules are generally made with the public good in mind. Would you really want your upstream neighbor to be allowed to divert all the stream water for his cattle, leaving you with nothing?
In most places, your water usage bill and sewage bill are combined. Of the two, sewage is much more expensive. However, sewage isn’t metered like water is. So the utility company will set sewage bills based on water usage.
If you are getting all your water from rainwater catchment but still using the city sewage, you are basically getting those sewage services for free.
Remember the case of Ms. Speronis in Florida, which got a lot of attention? People blew this story out of proportion, citing it as an example of the government punishing people who wanted to live off-grid. The case is complicated, but the real reason she was fined was not for collecting rainwater (which is legal in Florida) but for using the sewage without paying for it.
As one official said, “The issue with that is, they’re getting their sewage treated for free because sewage rates are based on water usage.” (11)
Off-Grid Toilet Laws
Almost every state in the USA requires permanent dwellings to have a sewage hookup or septic tank. Even in places with no permits required for electric, you’ll almost always need a permit for waste disposal. I get it: you wouldn’t want your neighbors dumping raw waste outdoors and creating a sanitation nightmare!
However, some states are realizing that alternatives are possible. Many states now allow composting toilets, though may require you also to have septic. Latrines are still legal in many states but are also highly regulated.
Solar Rules and Fees
Under many local laws, all permanent dwellings must be connected to the electric grid, meaning you are subject to utility fees. Areas without zoning laws will be more relaxed about letting you completely disconnect from the electric grid. Likewise, areas which haven’t adopted the International Property Maintenance Code are more likely to allow you to disconnect from the electric grid completely.
If you don’t mind being connected to the electric grid, pay attention to the state rules for solar. Some states offer great incentives for going solar and buying back excess solar (net metering). Other states charge fees for using solar!
A microgrid is a small-scale power grid where the energy is derived from sources such as solar panels, wind turbines, geothermal wells, microturbines, or fuel cells. (12)
Microgrids have many benefits, mainly because they can still operate even if the main power utility is down. Many states are enacting laws about microgrids. Some of these laws could classify a home with off-grid solar as a microgrid, thus allowing the home to disconnect from the power utility. You can find a good description of microgrid laws here.
Selling Homemade Products
If you want to live off of your property, you’ll probably want to sell your products. Be sure to research laws on:
- Selling raw milk (usually illegal or requires a permit)
- Permit requirements for selling produce at farmer’s markets
- Whether you need a license as a Food Retailer or Food Establishment
- What inspections are required
- Slaughtering animals on your property
- Labeling requirements
- Veterinary record requirements
Are you living off grid in the United States? Let us know about what permits, inspections, and other hassles you had to go through to live off-grid!
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I have off grid solar in AZ and it’s totally legal.
I’ve read a few times that it is illegal. Are you in the phoenix area? Has the city not given you an issue?
Are you in Coconino County? We’ve been looking at properties in Williams and surrounding area…
i appreciate that you are trying to provide this information. however, your information on vermont is misleading. i have been living off-grid for 20 years, mostly in northern new mexico where i never had any issues. vermont state law requires plumbing into every full-time dwelling, and a state permitted septic system, even though certain approved composting toilets are allowed. you can catch rainwater, but you legally must pump it into your house with freeze-proof piping; same for the graywater. i am being forced to leave vermont because i cannot afford the $35-$55,000 water system the state mandates (due to a high water table where i live). water laws in vermont, and probably the entire northeast, make it very difficult to live a simple, off-grid life unless you have money. not friendly to poor folks like me, who had no problems at all in nm. any time you have city folk moving to rural areas, they always seem to want to remake rural living in their own way. no problem, until they start changing laws that impact others. rural gentrification is a reality.
Are you retired in NM? What are you doing for income? We’ve also been looking at land in NM and have come across conflicting info as well. I appreciate your 20 years of experience and knowledge!
Hi Laz, I just want to buttress your observations about Vermont. In spite of its reputation, Vermont has become extremely picky about many things, including any kind of human-generated pollution finding its way into the water systems and most particularly the lakes, and here is where recreation, tourism and the out-of-sight property values dictate what happens. The water system you refer to is a “mound” system which is constructed on top of the ground when the soil is too thin to allow an underground system is impossible, for example, underlying ledge. Many people have wells, which must be carefully sited with respect to leach fields and at least 500 feet away from such. All public water supply comes from either wells or reservoirs which must be protected.
As for regulation, let it be known that in Vermont, towns rule in the form of ordinances passed by the local select boards. Many functions of counties outside the 13 original colonies are instead carried out by town clerks. The way land use is regarded is highly conservative despite Vermont’s maverick reputation.
Correction: wells must be at least 100 feet away from leach fields. I should also mention that in Vermont, public water/sewer is not available in most rural areas. As for rural gentrification, the good old days of free living in Vermont are gone. If you don’t have a cushy income you probably never will own land or a house to live in now, unless you inherit it or bought it long ago. Yes, we are being driven out.
Thank you for your information. What about RV’s. I have currently bought an RV and plan on living off the grid
I’m not sure where yet but I’ve been looking/inquiring for my own land to buy even if it’s a small lot in a rural area undeveloped land preferably where a person could do anything they want on that land legally from what I’ve been told.
Also I wanted to mention what about camping they have areas where you can actually camp for free as long as it’s a certain amount of distance from the main campground
How did you maintain without income because I plan on doing the same thing living off GOD’S Earth as always intended he provides everything we need
What about greywater laws in each state?
From what I know, those aren’t as tightly regulated as the other factors talked about in the article. And, because a lot of greywater recycling is done as a stand-alone system, it’s a lot easier to set up without permits or the government finding out…not that I’m recommending that you go around the permitting system 😉
Rather than assume greywater is less regulated, I’d suggest that people check greywater laws carefully in their proposed locations. We’re investigating a tiny home in Vermont, and the laws for greywater are set at the state level, are very strict, and are *sometimes* rigorously enforced at the local level, depending on the town. You are largely at the mercy of your neighbors deciding to not turn you in if you’re not compliant. “Give it a try and hope for the best” may work, but don’t be shocked if you’re on the hook for fines and booted off the property down the road.
We are currently doing a more in-depth series of posts for the off-grid laws of each state (haven’t gotten to Vermont yet). So I am digging into those greywater laws! Some places are actually very progressive about greywater recycling (Oregon, for example) whereas other states require that all greywater waste go through septic.
I have a question about the laws of where you can build an off-the-grid house. For example, what about in the middle of a forest? Or in the desert?
Would I have to buy and register the land like any other property? Would I have to constantly look at real estate listings?
Outhouse laws are stricter than you might think — even for properties in the middle of “nowhere.” Yes, you’d have to find the property and then very carefully research the local laws about outhouses.
You would have to buy land, or rent. All land in the United States is owned by someone or owned by the government. However there have been people living off grid in Slab City for over 50 years. It is government owned land, but they don’t seem to care.
Government only owns all the land in their own head, the laws of nature precede the laws of man, laws of man are only a human construct, I don’t see nature giving out permits to the U.S. Government, therefore nature’s claim to nature is still more valid than the Government’s claim, and nature has given no acknowledgement of the Government’s claim over anything else’s.
Caution: if you are contemplating squatting, don’t assume someone won’t know you’re there. To you, the “flatlander,” the land looks like wilderness, but someone owns it. There was a recent case in Maine, where an elderly man was evicted from his handmade off-grid forest cabin (of sorts) on the Penobscot River, by the new owner. He had gotten permission from the previous owner and had lived there peacefully for several decades, if I have that right. Didn’t bother anyone, and in fact the boaters on the river would visit him. Something similar happened in Alaska not long ago.
And a historical footnote: when the English arrived on the continent, they operated under the unquestioned premise of empire, that is, if it doesn’t look like you are doing anything with a piece of land, it is up for grabs by someone who will. They did not recognize how the native peoples used land. So it was there for the English to take over, perfectly legally. Something to keep in mind. Learn the custom of the country. In New England today, even if the land isn’t posted, good manners and good relations dictate you ask permission of the owner before going onto a piece of land.
I’ve been trying to find an area in either Arkansas, Florida, or Louisiana where Code isn’t strict. I ‘m having to sell all my properties in large metropolitan area of southeastern Louisiana due to endless harassment from Code regardless anything they can think up. They evidently don’t respect such a thing as “non-conforming” or “grandfathered-in” for older properties. I’ve considered Little Rock, Arkansas, Jacksonville, FL, St.Augustine, FL, or New Iberia, LA. I’ve considered going off-grid, but I think I’d just settle for using solar panels. I’m not interested in dealing with a septic tank nor a complete toilet.
We are currently working on a more in-depth series of laws for each state. Those states aren’t written yet but keep an eye out for them.
St augustine is being built up and all of the land is being ripped from under generational owners for developing..its sad
Michigan allows solar energy on individual parcel.
State mandates and regulates septic systems, counties enforce them.
Big problems are zoning and residential codes.
You should re-research each state before making statements in print.
We are currently working on an in-depth series for each state which goes into more detail. A lot of this is locally-regulated so it’s hard to summarize laws in a post like this.
Thanks for taking on this complex and valuable topic. Great overview!
That Missouri rule on outhouses seems to conflict with Statute 701.031, which clearly lays out the exceptions to the state’s waste/sewage disposal requirements:
“The owner of a single-family residence lot consisting of three acres or more, or the owner of a residential lot consisting of ten acres or more with no single-family residence on-site sewage disposal system located within three hundred sixty feet of any other on-site sewage disposal system and no more than one single-family residence per each ten acres in the aggregate, except lots adjacent to lakes operated by the Corps of Engineers or by a public utility, shall be excluded from the provisions of sections 701.025 to 701.059 and the rules promulgated pursuant to sections 701.025 to 701.059, including provisions relating to the construction, operation, major modification and major repair of on-site disposal systems, when all points of the system are located in excess of ten feet from any adjoining property line and no effluent enters an adjoining property, contaminates surface waters or groundwater or creates a nuisance as determined by a readily available scientific method.”
So it seems to suggest that as long as the plot of land is big enough, far enough away from everything, and not “lake adjacent”, then an outhouse that doesn’t contaminate the groundwater would be allowed in a county with no zoning restrictions.
Has anyone successfully homesteaded in Missouri with just an outhouse and not been harassed by the authorities?
Thanks for this. We are currently working on a more detailed page of laws for each state (Missouri is not done yet). Septic is almost always the biggest issue when trying to go completely off-grid.
Yeah. That’s my biggest budget concern. It’s amazing how most states don’t explicitly allow outhouses on private land in rural counties, but if you’re homeless you can freely defecate on the streets of a big city. Thanks for posting this as a resource for us and keeping it updated. It’s really hard find up-to-date resources for this stuff online.
You can live off the grid in Pennsylvania legally, in fact, the state facilitates living off the grid as it has one of the highest populations of Amish which mostly lives off the grid.
I own 3 Cabins in Pennsylvania and I can tell you from personal experience that building an off grid home is easy to do in the rural parts of PA. My first cabin was built in 1989 on 150 acres that I purchased that same year. I did not need a permit, I just hired someone to put up an unfinished shell and then over the next 5 years I completed the inside with help from friends. This cabin has no electric. Electric was never an option as the closest power line at the time was 5 miles away. It does have an outhouse with a holding tank below. No one from the government has ever stopped by to visit. I do not live there, but many of my distant neighbors live in their cabins year round. To this day my first cabin is completely off grid.
Several years later I built a barn closer to the main dirt road on an adjacent property, I used it for storage. Shortly after building the barn I put a well in that I could power with a generator to fill up my water jugs with. Still no permit necessary. Then in 2005 electric was ran down the main dirt road, I connected my barn to the grid. Still no electric in my cabin as it was too far off the main road. In 2007 I built a larger nicer cabin next to my barn. As long as the cabin main floor was under 1000 square feet and it had no electric then I did not need to follow PA’s new state wide code. This cabin has a full basest and a loft, so I actually have over 2000 square feet of heated living space. The local township gave me a permit but never came out to check on it. It took a year to build with the help of an Amish family that would get dropped off for days at a time. It was mostly built over the winter, come summer the Amish family left to tend to their farm. Since my barn had electric I was later able to add electric to the new cabin running underground from the barn, even though technically I was not allowed to have electric in it. This cabin is by no means off grid, but my older cabin that is 1/4 mile away is still off grid.
Now that the main road has electric, little by little more people moved into the area. It was getting too crowded for me so I bought a 3rd cabin that is on 600 acres completely off grid in the county north of me. This cabin is 10 miles from the closest electric line. It is located in an area of PA that has the darkest skies in the state. This cabin has an outhouse that is built over a hand dug hole in the ground. I get my water from a nearby spring. I have 600 watts of solar power on sunny days with batteries to get me through the night. I am able to run a small refrigerator 24/7 off of the solar power. I have a propane stove and back up generators for times I need more power.
My point to all of this is that in my opinion rural PA is an easy State to live off grid in. Plus for a northeastern state the gun laws are very friendly compared to New York, New Jersey or Maryland. Property taxes can be high, but if you own over 10 acres you can apply for Clean and Green and that can lower your taxes a lot. The income tax is much lower than the neighboring states.
Thanks for the helpful insight!
Great info, Barrie!
I was hoping to see information on incinerating toilets here. Right now my main concern is whether they can be used in Minnesota. I am having a hard time digging it out of the state ordinances.
We are doing detailed guides for each state. They take a long time to write though (lots of digging into confusing government documents!). Try these docs for Minnesota sewage laws: https://www.pca.state.mn.us/water/ssts-rules-and-regulations
Thanks for compiling this info. A couple things:
– Washington State definitely allows composting toilets. In fact, it’s one of the best states for it because they allow not only NSF certified composting toilets, but HOMEMADE composting toilets made to specifications found in the book The Composting Toilet System Book. See here: https://www.doh.wa.gov/Portals/1/Documents/Pubs/337-016.pdf
– It also appears that composting toilets are legal in Virginia: https://law.lis.virginia.gov/admincode/title12/agency5/chapter610/section980/
Thanks. We just did a post on Washington State’s laws. The issue about composting toilets is that they still usually require a septic system for disposing of the waste. You can have a compost toilet, but not ONLY a compost toilet. https://www.primalsurvivor.net/washington-state-off-grid-laws/
That Arizona title you linked regarding compost toilets, where did you get that? The document has no title or explanation of where it comes from. I just want to make sure it’s not from a specific county
Arizona State Administrative Code. You can see a full version of the document here: https://apps.azsos.gov/public_services/Title_18/18-09.pdf
Of course, you’ll still need to look at your specific county. Btw, we are doing in-depth guides for each state. We haven’t gotten to Arizona yet (these take a lot of time!) but keep an eye out for it. There will be much more detailed info about off-grid laws including zoning laws of various counties.
Thanks for compiling this! In the states I know a little about, such as WA and ID, the laws vary widely by county. Of course, with 3,142 counties in the US, and things constantly changing, it’s hard to track. In northern Idaho, i.e.. Kootenai county codes are draconian whereas Boundary county is lax.
I am old enough to remember pre 80s, when people could settle in eastern WA without much money, put up a cabin and outhouse w/o govt interference and call it good. Then came the Growth Management Act and everything changed. Last I checked, self-made composting toilets like the Jenkins (sawdust) model are legal according to the state, but counties can prohibit them.
People cite all kinds of rationalizations to justify curtailing the freedom of poor people to survive in a simple yet dignified manner. I firmly believe the need outweighs their arguments. I have not heard of one person’s owner-built home falling in on them or people getting sick from having an outhouse or using their gray water on plants. Not saying it can’t or hasn’t happened, but what we DO have is at least 550K people sleeping rough on the streets of major cities. That is not good, but somehow that’s allowed. Humans survived for centuries living simply on a piece of land. People need to be retaught how to do it in a safe and sanitary manner, not prohibited and charged $$$ to poop. Might as well charge us to breathe because it might be dangerous under some circumstances.
Unfortunately, the laws are made with the dumbest people in mind. And, yes, there are some really dumb or simply apathetic people out there. So, while I agree with most of what you say about laws curtailing the freedom of people (especially poor people), there are a lot of cases of people getting sick from their NEIGHBORS’ bad practices. Alabama, for example, has a terrible problem with untreated sewage getting into waterways from illegal outhouses. Hookworm is thriving there. Imagine how terrible it would be to buy a piece of beautiful property, build your beautiful off-grid home, and then have some people buy the uphill land and start basically sending their poop into your garden. If only people could deal with this in a friendly way instead of having to rely on the laws….
I’m not sure why Alabama Power was the only electric company cited here. Most rural areas in Southwest Alabama are on an electric co-op. No idea what their rules are however I know many properties on the water here are on gas or diesel generators only, so I’m sure they could use solar without a problem with being charged by the power company.
Also it’s only been in the last 20-25 years that most areas here have had municipal water. Many have it only for backup during hurricanes and run a well the rest of the time. This may be different in municipalities, but I do know here in our county and surrounding you can use a well.
We are working on a series that goes more in depth into each state’s laws. We’ve already covered several states (Texas, Oregon, Virginia…). Alabama’s off-grid laws will be out soon!
This is so outdated and misleading. New York has adopted the iirc and you need to check by COUNTY and local zoning. For example in Otsego county the use the iirc exclusivel…ALL SECTIONS.. which means you can do rainwater collection, composting toilet/outhouse, all solar. You are NOT required to tie into grid. They’ve adopted appendix Q for 400 sq ft house. Local zoning determines if year round rv is ok. Some cities upstate have no rules and others do strict 30 days. Now…try doing that in NYC and you can forget it. So you need to check BOTH county and local zoning. Whats posted here about NY state makes it sound worse than it actually is..
Hi MiaMio. Do you happen to know how the off grid laws are in St. Lawrence County? Near Hopkintown.
i live in fl same city as the famious case and the local media gave most of the details on her case. but she was a fool. the property was a duplex but without utilities it was unrentable. annd the rent she could hve gotten would more than pay the bills. she was a convicted felon stealing 2 families escrow downpayment, bought property and never made 1 payment. she then lived off grid in a trailer untill evicted for not paying rent. as for the sewage cape coral has a minimum charge on sewage she still refused. and then deposited her waste in trash bank has forclosed the place was also a mess.
for people looking to off grid fl you better stay away from any incorporated citys . county then oversees and plan on rural .most incorporated have lots of codes
Thanks for the insight on that case. The media (and its audience) always does a good job on zooming in on the “facts” which they know will cause the most outrage. I’m all for living off-grid but, if we are going to live in communities, then it is only logical that there are laws in place to keep things clean.
Great effort and very helpful resource. One suggestion: the gray states on your map could be labeled Fair, rather than Average, both for overall labeling consistency and because most or all appear to be below average in fact.
Re; New Mexico solar … actually, anyone can install their own solar array, but you have to pass an exam first that covers 3 sections of the NEC with a few NM modifications. The exam is open book but quite hard. 20 questions, and you must get 15 right. I did my own ground-mount 6.6kW array in 2020, and had no issues with permits or inspections once I passed the exam. I am not a licensed electrician.
Homestead exemptions exist. Please research those too. Some amazing stories out there, not even regulators-inspectors always know the facts.
(Sorry for my fatfingers causing a blank comment feel free to delete it.)
In New York check with the town you live in. In ours you can have your own private well, septic and solar. A few of the newer houses are off grid because it’s too pricey to run utilities too.
are you sure about florida I’m getting a lot of electricians telling me you cannot live off grid in florida??
Each county can have its own rules. Generally you aren’t required to hook up to the electric grid though (if the state allows the electric company to disconnect you for non-payment, they can’t require you to have an electric hookup!). There are some weird rules about homes getting a “certificate of occupancy” though. These laws can be interpreted as requiring electricity as basic requirement to make them livable. I haven’t heard of it happening, but theoretically a local government could condemn your home if there wasn’t electricity. Also, there may be electricity requirements like needing to have lights in areas used by employees or sidewalk lighting — but no reason those requirements can’t be met with off-grid solar.
It’s annoyingly complicated to figure this all out yourself and I would recommend finding a local lawyer! Or, at least, befriending someone who works in the permitting deparment 🙂
There are a few reasons I have been told why off grid living is not permitted. Well after I let them in on how off grid living is 100 times better and cleaner than modern living they started to question themselves on the modern way.the biggest thing was the septic system the government wants you to install an 8thousand concrete tank that does Crack over time and leaks out of the overflow tube into your back yard or front yard . When a Porta potty gets cleaned every month. OK which is cleaner . Lol I also said to a few people Sun Mar compost toilets are awesome number 1 separates from number 2 number 1 evaporates while number to is dried and basically turns to dirt with you use in the garden or flower bed. And if number 1 does not evap. All the way you collect it and put it into the Porta potty ,OK which is cleaner lol. Most cabins are made of wood when wood burns it sends up smoke and ash which has no significant damage on the environment, if a modern house with vinyl siding burns it releases toxic smoke that pretty much can kill anything that breaths it it especially our firefighters. So which is cleaner if it catches fire. Rich people have lots of toys that clutter their yards and homes off grinders have maybe a wood splitter and some solar panels. It basically boils down to without any question off grid living is cleaner and a better way to live. The government will always disagree but a off grid person can always use logic against them , the government is always thinking about how can we make money while an off grid person wonders how can I live easier while being kinder to our planet.
Here in the city of Fayetteville, NC we have a Public Works Commission which has passed a Buy all sell all” Resolution in which if you get any solar or other generation you MUST sell it them ($7KWH) and then they send it back thru the powerlines at $10 KWH and you are NOT allowed to go off grid. How do I obtain my constitutional rights as Being off grid is allowed in NC but has statutes to reinforce their Buy all sell all Resolution.
Most seriously Sincere,
I believe that resolution is only for grid-connected solar setups. There’s nothing from preventing you from disconnecting from the grid (so long as you meet codes for your setup). If you are off-grid, they can’t buy the energy back from you. More on that here: https://www.fayobserver.com/story/news/state/2019/04/14/faywhat-can-pwc-customers-use-solar-panels/5435475007/
If they’re making it illegal it’s not really off the grid now is it? What is the point of connecting in nature if it’s illegal to go off the grid? Off the grid is the freedom of nature at its purist, and how is it the Governments place to make it illegal to not take society with you beyond where society exists, how is it for the Government to take nature and the endless expanse of the world which has exist long before us and tell it what it can and can’t be? I reject.