Want to start living off-grid? It’s not as simple as buying land, building a home, or parking an RV. While off-grid living isn’t illegal in any of the 50 states in America, numerous laws 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 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:
Also read: Our list of the best states for off grid living
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 fee (over $5 per kilowatt) for using solar power! 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, 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.
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 must 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 allow individuals 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 has a state net metering policy for solar but no 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
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 newly 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 necessary 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 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 and being forced to reconnect to the electric utilities.
Colorado is one of the strictest states regarding 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 still require 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 that promote off-grid solar energy. They have legislation supporting microgrids, and homes with off-grid solar could qualify as microgrids. However, the laws are still unclear about how private individuals need to be classified 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 apply, 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 electricity 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 still used 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 still used the local sewage system without paying for the costs. Since the jurisdiction (like most) had interconnected water and sewage, she couldn’t 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. You must install a septic tank or other waste disposal system to stop paying for the water utilities.
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
Going completely off-grid with solar power in Georgia appears to be legal. However, the state has poor incentives and policies for grid-tied solar systems. (30)
Rainwater harvesting in Georgia is legal, but only 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 reasonably easy to get, though. (31, 32)
Disconnecting from the electric grid is legal in Hawaii. However, plenty of people still live 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 case-by-case and NFS-approved.
See detailed Hawaii Off Grid Laws
Idaho Off Grid Laws
Many people live completely off-grid in Idaho, 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 regarding wind power systems.
Rainwater harvesting in Idaho is legal so long as it is 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 onsite 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 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 onsite sewage system.”
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 electricity 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 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 laws making off-grid electricity 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 electricity and has cut many incentives for grid-tied solar. (44)
Rainwater harvesting is legal in Louisiana, though some regulations exist 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. You are not required to connect to the utilities in many areas, 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 electricity 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 some regulations about using them exist. 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 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 difficult to legally use rainwater indoors, even for non-potable uses. There are also local laws that sometimes require you to connect to the municipal water supply, thus making off-grid water illegal.
In some parts of Maryland, you must 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 challenging 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 use rainwater legally indoors, even for non-potable 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 in other states. Read more here.
See detailed Minnesota Off Grid Laws
Mississippi Off Grid Laws
Being disconnected from the electric grid appears illegal in most parts of Mississippi. Mississippi has net metering for grid-tied solar systems but does not offer state incentives such as rebates for installing solar panels.
Rainwater harvesting in Mississippi is legal.
Composting toilets, pit privies, and other off-grid toilets are in Mississippi 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 that 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 electricity 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.
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 legal in Nebraska, with many people and communities completely disconnected from electric utilities. 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 groundwater uses. Visit the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources for more detailed info.
Composting toilets and pit privies are generally legal in Nebraska but 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 unfavorable 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 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 from the rooftops of single-family homes for non-potable purposes legal. Many people living off-grid or in rural areas in Nevada have wells. You can read the Nevada well laws here. (54, 55)
Composting toilets, pit privies, and other alternative waste disposal systems in Nevada 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 electricity 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, likely requiring 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. The state actually offers incentives for installing rainwater systems, such as rebates of 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 regarding off-grid laws and other regulations. However, this does not mean going off-grid in New York is impossible. 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 requires 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 composting toilets can be used.
Even if you can install a composting toilet or another off-grid toilet, it doesn’t mean you can 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.” The law explicitly states that a composting toilet cannot be used as a replacement or substitute. Thus, you may need 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 electricity is legal in North Dakota. Some state incentives exist for installing solar and net metering for grid-tied systems.
Rainwater harvesting is legal in North Dakota. However, strict rules exist 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 its use. Permits may be required.
Ohio law allows composting toilets, certain outhouses, and gray water disposal. There are regulations, such as prohibiting certain types of gray water disposal. 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 it 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 regarding 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. Catching rainwater on the ground, such as in reservoirs with dams, is not permitted. (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. However, there are many loopholes and exceptions for recreational cabins and other temporary residencies.
Rainwater harvesting is legal in Pennsylvania. However, permanent residences must have an approved water source, 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, you may encounter legal issues if you want to disconnect from the electric system completely. State law requires homes within 300 feet of a power line to have “electric service.” It’s unclear whether this “electric service” can be your solar power system. Further, some laws 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 house. 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 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. No state law requires properties to be connected to the municipal water, though municipalities may need it.
Composting toilets are legal in South Carolina, but only if used 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. A permit is still likely required even when used with a septic system or grid-tied toilet. 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 legal in Tennessee, but few incentives are offered.
Rainwater harvesting is legal in Tennessee. Permits and regular inspections may be required depending on the county and the system’s complexity. 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 must 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 many companies in the state offer installation services for off-grid systems. Creating a microgrid in Texas to connect several homes with solar is also possible. As in all states, though, local laws may 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 a population of less than 40,000. 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, an outhouse might not be allowed if you have nearby neighbors. 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. Collecting rainwater without a permit in Utah is possible, 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, including off-grid solar and rainwater harvesting systems. The state does allow each county to set its 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 many homesteaders are already 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 regarding 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.
Outhouses, composting toilets, and other off-grid toilets in Virginia are generally illegal. There are exceptions for “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 electricity 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.”
See detailed Washington Off Grid Laws
West Virginia Off Grid Laws
Off-grid electricity 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 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 electricity 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.
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.
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 municipal utilities, including electricity, 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 home! (1)
Areas without Zoning Laws
In some states, plenty of land still has no zoning laws. Without zoning laws, you can 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 people built a dirt race 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 as attached to municipal utilities.
Plenty of places don’t do inspections or enforce building codes. The code is still there; it just isn’t implemented. 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 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 many 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. To get certified, many places require buildings to be connected to the local sewage, water, and electric systems.
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)
A sewage connection is required for a Certificate of Occupancy in Jefferson County, Missouri. Still, there are exemptions if you instead use a “sewer/wastewater system that the applicable State and local authority has approved.”
This 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
Building a cabin or tiny home is one way to get around all the laws about off-grid homes. 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.
Theoretically, 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 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 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 get all your water from rainwater catchment but still use the city sewage, you get 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 (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 with a sewage hookup or septic tank. Even in places with no permits required for electricity, you’ll almost always need a permit for waste disposal. I understand 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 they 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, subjecting you to utility fees. Areas without zoning laws will be more relaxed about letting you completely disconnect from the electric grid. Likewise, areas that 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 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 what permits, inspections, and other hassles you had to go through to live off-grid!