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The Off-Grid Laws of Every State in America


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Last Updated: May 25, 2020

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 which 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. 

Off-Grid Laws Interactive Map

Hover mouse over state to get an Off Grid Rating. Click the state to jump to the specific laws.

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Note: The laws about going off-grid are usually determined by local government and not the state, and they vary drastically.  Thus it is impossible to create a comprehensive resource of all the off-grid laws in each state and area.  I’ve done my best to list the state laws regarding off-grid electric, water, and waste.


Alabama Off Grid Laws

Electric

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)

Water

It is legal to harvest rainwater in Alabama and is considered a property right.  However, it is not clear whether you can build a permanent residence in the state without being connected to the municipal water.

Waste

Pit toilets and portable toilets may be allowed in certain rural areas.  Permits are required and specific rules must be followed.  Compost toilets aren’t specifically 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.


Alaska Off Grid Laws

Electric

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)

Water

Rainwater harvesting in Alaska is allowed.  However, there are many rules regarding the use of groundwater such as from streams or lakes.

Waste

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.


Arizona Off Grid Laws

Electric

Arizona is one of the worst states for off-grid solar.  The laws are written in a way that makes 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. (16,17)

Water

Rainwater harvesting in Arizona is legal.

Waste

Composting toilets are legal in Arizona. A permit is required.  You can see the law here.


Arkansas Off Grid Laws

Electric

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)

Water

Rainwater harvesting in Arkansas is legal for non-potable purposes, but the system must be designed by a licensed professional and comply with plumbing code.  See the law here.

Waste

Composting toilets are allowed in Arkansas, but only if they are NSF approved.  Pit privy latrines also seem to be allowed in many areas.  (19)


California Off Grid Laws

Electric

Off-grid solar in California is not allowed.  However, the laws are revised every three years and it is very likely this law might change soon as many Californians are moving towards solar and want to go completely off-grid.  Additionally, it appears it might be legal to go completely off-grid in some areas of California if you get a permit from the local government. (20, 21)

Water

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.

Waste

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.


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 being stricter about giving out permits to people living in tiny homes, RVs, or cabins. (22)

Electric

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.

Water

Colorado is one of the strictest states in regards 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.

Waste

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)


Connecticut Off Grid Laws

Electric

Connecticut is one of the few states which promotes off-grid solar.  They have legislation which supports microgrids and homes with off-grid solar could qualify as a microgrid.  However, the laws are still not very clear about how private individuals need to be classified to be allowed to have a microgrid. (24)

Water

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.

Waste

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.


Delaware Off Grid Laws

Electric

Off-grid electric in Delaware is legal and is even encouraged in some areas.  Many municipalities offer incentives for both grid-tied and off-grid solar systems, including rebates up to $15,000 for residential systems. (25)

Water

Rainwater collection in Delaware is legal and even encouraged by the state.

Waste

There are no regulations about using composting toilets in Delaware. You can see the law here and the list of approved alternative systems here.


Florida Off Grid Laws

Despite the bad press Florida got in regards to 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 living mostly 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)

Electric

Off-grid solar is legal in Florida. You can have a completely off-grid solar system.  If you choose a grid-tied system, you are required to 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)

Water

Rainwater harvesting is legal and encouraged in Florida.  Many municipalities even offer incentives and rebates for rainwater harvesting.  Note that, 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.

Waste

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.” (28,29)


Georgia Off Grid Laws

Electric

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)

Water

Rainwater harvesting in Georgia is legal but only if it is used for outdoors purposes.

Waste

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.


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.  There are many off-grid communities 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)

Electric

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.

Water

Rainwater harvesting in Hawaii is legal.

Waste

Composting toilets are legal in Hawaii, but the design must be approved on a case-by-case basis as well as being NFS approved.


Idaho Off Grid Laws

Electric

Many people live completely off-grid in Idaho, including completely disconnected from the electric utility.  However, it is not clear whether going off-grid is legal or whether certain remote areas simply do not enforce building codes which may require a connection to the grid. (33)

Water

Rainwater harvesting in Idaho is legal so long as it was captured from a rooftop system and has not entered a natural waterway.

Waste

Composting toilets are allowed in Idaho.  However, they are only allowed in homes which also have water under pressure and are 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 fairly expensive. (34)


Illinois Off Grid Laws

Electric

Not only is it legal to use off-grid solar in many places in Illinois, the state also has a very progressive microgrid policy.  The policy allows individuals or groups to be considered their own utility provider and run an alternative energy system. (35, 36)

Water

Rainwater harvesting is legal in Illinois and is even encouraged by the state.

Waste

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 that are 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 home, it doesn’t mean you won’t be harassed by local building inspectors or health officials. (37)

Electric

Utility providers in Indiana have fought hard against solar power.  They have been fairly successful in curtailing the solar movement too, 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)

Water

Rainwater harvesting is legal in Indiana and even encouraged by the state.

Waste

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, installation of an onsite sewage disposal system is prohibited, and a connection must be made to the sewer.”

Further, Indiana law specifically says that, “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.


Iowa Off Grid Laws

Electric

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)

Water

It is legal to harvest rainwater in Iowa.

Waste

There are currently no laws regulating composting toilets in Iowa though a permit may be required for “alternative toilets.” Pit privies are generally allowed at homes which are not connected to running water. (40)


Kansas Off Grid Laws

Electric

Going completely off-grid with electric is possible in Kansas.  However, many areas have very strict zoning laws and building regulations which may require you to be connected to the grid. Further, the state has very few incentives for installing solar systems. (41)

Water

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.

Waste

There are no current state laws regulating composting toilets.  However, there are state laws prohibiting pit privies and regulating 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)


Kentucky Off Grid Laws

Electric

Kentucky does not seem to have any laws making off-grid electric illegal and there are many people living in homes running completely on off-grid solar.  There may be inspections required in many counties. (43)

Water

Rainwater harvesting is legal in Kentucky.

Waste

Off-grid sewage is legal in Kentucky.  Permits and inspections are required for pit privies. Composting toilets are also allowed. Read more here.


Louisiana Off Grid Laws

Electric

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)

Water

Rainwater harvesting is legal in Louisiana though there are some regulations for large cisterns.

Waste

Composting toilets are legal in Louisiana.


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 in regards to off-grid living and gives many incentives like rebates to homes using alternative clean energy. (45)

Electric

Off-grid electric is legal in Maine.

Water

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.

Waste

Composting toilets are legal in Maine though there are some regulations about how they may be used.  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.


Maryland Off Grid Laws

Electric

Maryland law specifically allows off-grid solar systems. However, permits and inspections are still usually required. Read more here.

Water

Rainwater collection is legal in Maryland and certain counties offer incentives.

Waste

NFS-approved composting toilets and other “best available technologies” for onsite sewage disposal are legal in Maryland, though a permit is likely needed. Read more about the law here.


Massachusetts Off Grid Laws

Electric

It is unclear whether residential homes can legally disconnect from the electric grid in Massachusetts.  Regardless of the law, there are many people living with off-grid solar in Massachusetts.  There are also loopholes and permits for camping on your own land.

Water

Rainwater harvesting is legal in Massachusetts and even encouraged by the state. Some counties may require you to be hooked up to the municipal water though.

Waste

Composting toilets are legal in Massachusetts, though there are many regulations.  The composted waste must be disposed of by burial or by a licensed seepage hauler.  Any liquid byproducts must be discharged into a septic tank and leaching system or removed by a licensed septic hauler.


Michigan Off Grid Laws

Electric

Individually-owned microgrids are seemingly legal in Michigan, thus making it legal to use off-grid solar in the state.

Water

Rainwater harvesting is legal in Michigan and even encouraged by the state.

Waste

Michigan does not have a statewide policy on disposing of waste; 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. (47, 48)


Minnesota Off Grid Laws

Electric

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, 50)

Water

Rainwater harvesting is legal in Minnesota.

Waste

Composting toilets and outhouses are legal in Minnesota. There are regulations to follow but they are generally more relaxed than in other states. Read more here.


Mississippi Off Grid Laws

Electric

It appears that disconnected from the electric grid is illegal in most parts of Mississippi. For grid-tied solar systems, Mississippi has net metering but does not currently offer any state incentives such as rebates for installing solar panels.

Water

Rainwater harvesting in Mississippi is legal.

Waste

Composting toilets, pit privies and other off-grid toilets are legal in Mississippi, but 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 are purchasing a property with existing plumbing but want to disconnect from it, you will likely not be allowed to do so.  See the law here.


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 towards homesteading.

Electric

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.

Water

Rainwater harvesting is legal in Missouri.

Waste

Currently, Missouri Department of Health laws mention composting toilets but do not have any specific laws or regulations regarding the.  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.


Montana Off Grid Laws

Electric

Off-grid solar is legal in Montana. The state offers incentives for installing solar systems and net metering for grid-tied solar. (51)

Water

Rainwater harvesting in Montana is legal and encouraged by the state.  However, water in Montana is owned by the state.  Off-grid home owners might still have the legal right to use water going through their property but they don’t own the water. They will be expected to get a permit.  See the law here.

Waste

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.


Nebraska Off Grid Laws

Electric

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. (52)

Water

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 required for certain ground-water uses. Visit the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources for more detailed info.

Waste

Composting toilets and pit privies are generally legal in Nebraska, but they may require a permit and inspection.


Nevada Off Grid Laws

Nevada is one of the worst states for off-grid living.  In addition to having a difficult climate, there are many laws which are not favorable to living off-grid. Despite this, there still seems to be some communities living completely off-grid in Nevada.

Electric

Off-grid electric 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 where there aren’t any existing utilities. (53)

Water

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)

Waste

Composting toilets, pit privies, and other alternative waste disposal systems are generally legal in Nevada.  However, the state has strict regulations about how and when they can be used and permits are required.  See the law here.


New Hampshire Off Grid Laws

Electric

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)

Water

Rainwater harvesting is legal in New Hampshire and even encouraged by the state.

Waste

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.


New Jersey Off Grid Laws

Electric

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.

Water

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.

Waste

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.


New Mexico Off Grid Laws

Electric

Off-grid solar is legal in New Mexico, though a permit is likely required. The state offers incentives including rebates for both off-grid and grid-tied solar systems. There are also licensing restrictions about who can install solar systems. (57)

Water

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 system such as rebates up to $150 per barrel.  Read more here.

Waste

Composting toilets, pit privies, and other off-grid toilets are legal in New Mexico.  Permits are required and there are some regulations which might make it illegal on your property to use one of these off-grid toilets.  See the permit application, which lists requirements, here.


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.

Electric

Off-grid solar is illegal in many areas in New York State.  However, there are laws which 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 a hard time using the microgrid laws to live off-grid.

Water

The State Uniform Fire Prevention and Building Code in New York requires all new buildings to have wet plumbing.  There are some exemptions which 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.

Waste

Installing a composting toilet is generally legal in New York State.  The law only specifies there must be a “need or desire to conserve water.”  However, there are many regulations about how the composting toilet can be used.

Even if you are able to install a composting toilet or other off-grid toilet, it doesn’t mean you will be able to disconnect from the municipal sewage.  The laws requires wastewater from sinks, showers, etc. to be treated. See the law here.


North Carolina Off Grid Laws

Electric

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)

Water

Rainwater harvesting is legal in North Carolina for both residential and commercial properties and encouraged by the state. The NC Plumbing Code regulations apply if you plan on bringing rainwater inside the building. Read the law here.

Waste

Composting toilets, pit privies, and other off-grid toilets are legal in North Carolina. However, North Carolina building codes requires 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.


North Dakota Off Grid Laws

Electric

Off-grid electric is legal in North Dakota. There are some state incentives for installing solar as well as net metering for grid-tied systems.

Water

Rainwater harvesting is legal in North Dakota.  However, there are some strict rules about using other water sources such as streams.

Waste

Composting toilets, pit privies, and other off-grid toilets are allowed in North Dakota.  The state generally has more relaxed regulations in regards to onsite sewage disposal than other states.


Ohio Off Grid Laws

Electric

Off-grid solar appears to be legal in Ohio, especially in rural areas.

Water

Rainwater harvesting is legal in Ohio and there are few restrictions as to how it can be used.  Permits may be required.

Waste

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.


Oklahoma Off Grid Laws

Electric

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.

Water

Rainwater harvesting is legal in Oklahoma. It is encouraged by the state, though the state stopped providing financial incentives for people setting up systems.

Waste

Oklahoma currently does not have any laws regulating composting toilets.  You can find their laws for onsite sewage disposal here.


Oregon Off Grid Laws

Electric

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.

Water

Rainwater harvesting is legal in Oregon.  However, it can only be harvesting 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.

Waste

Composting toilets are legal in Oregon.  Some areas may require a permit and may be subject to inspection in certain cases. 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.


Pennsylvania Off Grid Laws

Electric

It is illegal to not 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.

Water

Rainwater harvesting is legal in Pennsylvania.  However, permanent residences are required to have an approved source of water and rainwater is not likely to qualify.

Waste

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 very strict rules about outhouses and other off-grid toilets; they are usually illegal on new builds. (60, 61)


Rhode Island Off Grid Laws

Electric

Off-grid solar is legal in Rhode Island. The state offers many incentives for installing solar systems and has net metering for grid-tied systems. This makes Rhode Island one of the best states for off-grid solar.

Water

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.

Waste

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.


South Carolina Off Grid Laws

Electric

Off-grid solar is legal in South Carolina and is actually 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.

Water

Rainwater harvesting is legal in South Carolina.  There does not seem to be any state law required properties to be connected to the municipal water, though municipalities may require it.

Waste

Composting toilets are legal in South Carolina, but usually only if used in conjunction with a septic system.  You can see the law here.


South Dakota Off Grid Laws

Electric

Off-grid solar seems to be legal in South Dakota.

Water

Rainwater harvesting is legal in South Dakota.

Waste

Composting and other off-grid toilets are legal in South Dakota, but only when other systems are not available.  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.


Tennessee Off Grid Laws

Electric

Off-grid solar appears to be legal in Tennessee. (62)

Water

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.

Waste

NSF-certified composting toilets and pit privies are legal in Tennessee.  However, there is a loophole in the law which 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.


Texas Off Grid Laws

Electric

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 which require you to connect to the electric utility.

Water

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.

Waste

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 of 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 a 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.


Utah Off Grid Laws

Electric

Off-grid solar is legal in Utah. There are already many communities in Utah living completely off the grid.

Water

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 then you are limited to a maximum of two containers at a maximum of 100 gallons each.

Waste

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)


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.

Electric

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.

Water

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.

Waste

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.


Virginia Off Grid Laws

Electric

Off-grid solar appears to be legal in Virginia. (64)

Water

Rainwater harvesting is legal in Virginia.  The state offers a tax credit for people who install rainwater systems.  More on that here.

Waste

Outhouses, composting toilets, and other-off-grid toilets are generally illegal in Virginia. 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.


Washington Off Grid Laws

Electric

Off-grid electric is legal in Washington State. There are many off-grid communities already established in the state.

Water

Rainwater harvesting is legal in Washington State and some counties may offer incentives for installing rainwater capture systems.

Waste

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.


West Virginia Off Grid Laws

Electric

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.

Water

Rainwater harvesting is legal in West Virginia.  You can see the State’s recommendations here.

Waste

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.


Wisconsin Off Grid Laws

Electric

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.

Water

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.

Waste

Composting toilets, pit privies, and other off-grid toilets are legal in Wisconsin.  The State laws are very relaxed compared to those in other states.  You can read the law here.


Wyoming Off Grid Laws

Electric

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.

Water

Rainwater harvesting is legal in Wyoming.  Many counties offer incentives like tax breaks or rebates for installing rainwater catchment systems.

Waste

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 and here.


How Is Off-Grid Living Regulated?

off grid home with rainwater harvesting outside of city limits

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 sources of water, 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 a 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.

*Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer and this guide is not meant to serve as legal advice!

Zoning Laws

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.

Zoning laws are decided by local governments and not the states.  However, some states are known for having more relaxed zoning laws.  For example, many places in California have very strict 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 interests of the community to create a healthy, safe and orderly living environment.” (2)  Without zoning laws, you could end up getting screwed.

As one homesteader talked about here, 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 away from civilization, then 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 absolutely do have regulations which you need to follow. For example, you can’t live in an RV in Houston except in designated areas. (4)

Building Codes

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 which 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 which aren’t up to code.

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 in order 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 in order to get certified.

However, this isn’t the case everywhere. In some areas of New York State, for example, 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 in order to get a Certificate of Occupancy, but 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 find out what the Certificate of Occupancy requirements are.

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 then easily set up solar, rainwater catchment, and a compost toilet and truly live off-grid. (8)

However, in almost all places, cabins used as a “primary residence” will be subject to local regulations.

In theory, you could live fulltime 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 absolutely not recommending you do this!  Abide by local laws or face the consequences. (9, 10)

RVs

Living off-grid in an RV is actually highly regulated in many states – even more regulated 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 very strict. For example, Oregon laws prohibit any home on wheels as 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.

Water Collection

Most states allow for rainwater harvesting.  However, there are usually a lot stricter rules when it comes to using ground water, such as from streams or rivers going through your property.  Again, these rules are usually 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?

Sewage

In most places, your water usage bill and sewage bill are combined.  Of the two, sewage is the 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 where there are 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 create a sanitation nightmare!

However, some states are realizing that alternatives are possible.  Many states now allow composting toilets, though may require you to also 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 are required to 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, then pay attention to the state rules for solar.  Some states offer great incentives for going solar and buy back excess solar (net metering).  Other states actually charge fees for using solar!

Microgrid Laws

A microgrid is defined as 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 being that 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 hassle you had to go through to live off-grid!

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