Are you going off-grid? It’s time to open your mind.
Many people think disconnecting from the power grid means living hermit-style deep in the forest, eating tree bark for sustenance and bathing twice a year. And that’s certainly an option.
However, it’s not the only option.
You have more control over your lifestyle than you realize. Going off-grid doesn’t have to mean missing out on modern comforts. In fact, contemporary solutions have made off-grid living a downright luxurious experience.
Off-grid homesteaders now have access to convenient appliances like refrigerators, washing machines, and more.
Whether you want to buy the entire lot or you’re looking for something more specific, this list will give you an idea of all the essentials you don’t have to give up when you go off-grid.
1. Off-Grid Refrigerators
There’s nothing like a cold one after a long day of work on the homestead. A lukewarm one just doesn’t hit the same, but how will you keep those drinks cool without a refrigerator?
Well, you can’t. But that doesn’t mean you’ve got to give up the dream of delicious beverages—you just have to get an off-grid refrigerator.
There are plenty of off-grid refrigeration systems you can incorporate into your property. An ice house, a root cellar, and even a Zeer pot will stabilize the temperature and extend the shelf life of perishable items. But to keep food safe for longer periods, these methods may not do the trick.
Your perishables need to be kept in a refrigerator at or below 40° F to slow bacterial growth effectively. You’d need to live in a very cold climate to achieve year-round cooling with passive methods like a root cellar. Those of us living south of the arctic circle may be better off buying a dedicated, fuel-powered refrigerator.
Luckily, options abound when it comes to off-grid refrigerators. Here’s a quick overview of what you can expect on the market:
- Propane refrigerators: These fridges utilize an absorption-cooling system to keep food cold. Good propane refrigerators tend to be costly but worth it. They are the best option for those without solar or generator power or those who simply don’t want to rely on it.
- Electric refrigerators: Electric refrigerators can operate on electricity from a generator or the sun. Regular electric fridges use AC power, while solar fridges run off DC power and can be connected to solar panels or battery banks. They are best for people with a reliable off-grid power system in place.
- Thermoelectric coolers: A thermoelectric cooler relies on DC power to produce a phenomenon known as the Peltier effect. When DC electricity meets a conductor, it results in cooling. You usually plug thermoelectric coolers into a cigarette lighter or DC outlet. We can’t perfect or replicate the Peltier effect in larger appliances, so these coolers are tiny and don’t work for freezing.
Learn how thermoelectric coolers work to decide if one may be right for you.
2. Off-Grid Freezers
Some off-grid refrigerators have a freezer attached to them. However, many people don’t want to allocate valuable energy to a fridge—they just want a freezer.
This is pretty common with hunters and people who need to store perishables long term. If that sounds like you, you’re in luck.
There are two main off-grid freezer options available:
- Propane freezer: These freezers run on propane and are the best option for hunters who need a lot of storage space. They are very effective and energy efficient but will cost more fuel-wise than a propane refrigerator.
- Electric freezer: These freezers can run on a generator with AC power or solar with DC power. They are the best choice for smaller families but can draw lots of energy. Since you’ll be running it for more extended periods, check the power draw and ensure your unit is a sustainable option.
Learn how chest freezers can save money and energy compared with standard refrigerators.
3. Off-Grid Washing Machines
Nobody really has time for laundry. I have both a washer and a dryer, and I still can’t find the time for it.
If you don’t have a washer, it can take over an hour to hand-wash a single load of clothes. Besides being tedious, it’s also hard manual labor. It wastes water, and you can get burns on your hands from the harsh chemicals.
The solution? An off-grid washing machine. The best off-grid washing machines are convenient, quick, and easy to use. Keep in mind that you’ll need access to water no matter what. Depending on the unit you buy, you may also need a drain system and pump.
There are two types of off-grid washers available, each suitable for different needs:
- Manual washing machine: Manual washers work on a hand crank or foot pedal to streamline the tumbling process and squeeze out water. This option is suitable for those without access to electricity, but using a manual washer can still be hard work. So, it’s better for singles and couples without much laundry.
- Electric washing machine: An efficient electric washing machine can be a great option on a homestead with solar or generator power. These are low-wattage appliances that usually run on a shorter cycle than a regular washer. Electric washing machines vary significantly in size and capacity, so you can size one to your needs.
4. Off-Grid Dryers
Hanging clothes up to dry takes time and space. You also need warmth and sunlight, which can be an issue in colder climates or during the winter. If you live somewhere cold and rainy, you may want to consider investing in an off-grid dryer.
There are two options for off-grid dryers on the market:
- Propane dryers: These run off propane and function like regular dryers. They can be front-loading or top-loading. Propane dryers are the better option for big families or people who do a lot of washing, as many have large capacities and dry quickly without using too much fuel.
- Portable electric dryers: These are smaller dryers that don’t have a huge electric draw and can be moved easily. You can power them with solar panels or a generator. An electric dryer suitable for an off-grid home is usually smaller, so they’re best for singles, couples, or people who just want a backup appliance for rainy days.
5. Off-Grid Showers
Showering off grid often requires an element of creativity. However, some prefer showering in a more traditional way. If that sounds like you, don’t worry—there’s nothing wrong with your old-fashioned shower preferences. In this case, a shower is yet another domestic appliance you use for comfort and cleanliness.
There are quite a few off-grid shower options available. Here’s a quick overview of your choices:
- Gravity-fed shower: A gravity-fed shower is popular for camping, but some people use one year round. These units consist of an elevated water receptacle with a downward hose attached. You can buy one or make one yourself. There are many different styles of gravity-fed shower systems, but a rainwater shower is probably the best for conserving water.
- Pump shower: A pump shower requires an electric pump to transport water to a receptacle, then up and out through the hose. This is especially good if you’re drawing from a well or pond. You can buy a preassembled kit or make one yourself.
- Solar shower: Instead of a traditional heating element, many people use dark-colored receptacles to attract and retain heat from the sun. Showers heated by the sun are known as solar showers. They are better for warm climates and do not work well in winter.
- Heated showers: A heated shower combines a heating element with a pump or gravity system to create a hot-water shower. Common heating elements include propane, electricity, and wood. You can buy a smaller tankless shower kit like the Camplux and install it easily and quickly inside your home. Or you can run dedicated shower lines from a larger off-grid water heater.
Get an idea of how to build your own off-grid heated shower for less than you may have thought possible.
6. Off-Grid Water Heaters
Hot water isn’t just for bathing. It can also help with dishwashing, laundry, and general cleaning around the home. You’ll need an off-grid water heater to utilize hot water across multiple applications. This appliance can be manufactured explicitly for off-grid use or modified to fit an off-grid lifestyle.
A variety of water heaters are available for off-grid living. Here’s a quick rundown of the options:
- Electric water heater: An electric water heater suitable for off-grid living should employ a tankless system to heat water on demand. These use less energy than a reserve-tank water heater and can be powered by the sun, a generator, or batteries. They are pretty versatile, but keep an eye out for the power draw to cut down on energy.
- Propane water heater: A propane water heater can be tankless, but they don’t have to be. This makes them the best choice for people who need a reserve of hot water. Some require AC or DC energy, while others rely solely on propane.
- Wood-burning water heater: There are many variations, but all wood-burning water heaters use combustion. This is an excellent option if you live somewhere with lots of wood, but it can also be challenging to create a steady temperature since you must keep feeding the fire.
- Solar water heater: A solar water heater uses solar energy to heat water in a specially designed unit. Once the water gets hot, it circulates through tubing inside your home and gets distributed wherever you want. This system is great if you get lots of sun, but it won’t work well in colder or cloudy areas.
7. Off-Grid Home Heaters
A heating appliance can save your life during an unexpected freeze. Fortunately, you don’t need to be connected to the power grid to use one. Options range from small space heaters to whole-house heating systems.
There are many different types of off-grid heaters. Here’s a quick analysis of the choices available:
- Wood-burning heaters: These can be as simple as a pellet stove or as complicated as a whole-house biomass boiler furnace. It all depends on how creative you want to get. A wood-burning combustion heater will be the best option on an acreage with wood, especially for people with time to chop, split, and stack.
- Common fuel heaters: No time (or desire) to chop wood? A fuel heater is a great alternative option. Usually powered by kerosene or propane, these appliances are cost-effective and energy efficient. They put out a ton of heat with little work required on your part and are generally the best option for those who don’t have access to electricity. You can get wall heaters, space heaters, and even boilers and furnace systems.
- Electric heaters: If you have a generator or solar power, you can run a portable electric heater off your battery bank. Electric heaters can be tiny and efficient, or they can be costlier and larger. Common types include heat pumps, space heaters, and wall heaters. You can also get electric furnaces and boilers, though these have a huge electric draw and aren’t usually the best option for off-grid living.
8. Off-Grid Air Conditioners
Ok, so an AC unit probably won’t save your life. But it can definitely save morale, especially in the dog days of summer. Unfortunately, cooling the air inside your home tends to draw a lot of power. But that doesn’t mean off-gridders can’t get comfortable.
There are a ton of off-grid air conditioners available. Here’s a rundown of what to expect on the market:
- Absorption AC: An absorption AC uses heat energy from propane, gas, or electricity to power the cooling system. Also known as a heat pump, it essentially removes warm air from the home during the summer. Absorption ACs are expensive but very fuel efficient. Another significant advantage is that they can heat and cool a space, so buying a single unit will take care of all your temperature-control needs.
- Evaporative cooler: Also known as a swamp cooler, this system relies on water evaporation to cool a space. It’s cheap and incredibly efficient, using just 15%–35% of the power a traditional electric AC needs. However, it functions best in a dry climate, and you must constantly feed it water. It will only work if you have an endless water supply, and many off-gridders don’t.
- Electric AC: You can use a generator or solar energy to power an electric AC unit in an off-grid home. Energy-saving window units are a great example of this and are available with both AC and DC power for homesteads with any type of electricity.
- Solar ceiling fans: While not technically an air conditioning unit, solar-powered ceiling fans like this Sofucor model are definitely worth a mention. Ceiling fans can’t actually lower the temperature inside your home, but they can certainly make you feel more comfortable. In some climates, you might get away with using one instead of a more expensive AC unit.
Learn how a swamp cooler functions to determine if it could work for you.
9. Off-Grid Dishwashers
Washing dishes by hand is a drag. It’s also wasteful, using up to nine times more water than a dishwasher. Unfortunately, dishwashers tend to draw a lot of electricity and occupy lots of space. This renders traditional models unsuitable for most off-grid homes. But why be a traditionalist? Get an off-grid dishwasher. These are smaller and use little to no electricity.
There are plenty of dishwashers for off-grid living. Here’s an idea of what you’ll find:
- Countertop dishwasher: These tiny portable units sit right on your countertop. They usually hook up to the faucet in your sink and allow gray water to run down the drain. Countertop dishwashers have a very low energy draw but are smaller and cannot wash many dishes at once.
- Full-size dishwasher: You can make a regular dishwasher work for off-grid use by choosing an Energy Star-rated device with a low surge and running wattage. They can run on DC or AC power and will work well for larger families willing to sacrifice a bit of energy for convenience.
- Manual dishwasher: A manual dishwasher requires no electricity at all. You load it with soap and hot water. Then you turn a crank to power the washing mechanism. This dishwasher sits in your sink or counter and is best for solo homesteaders or couples who don’t cook much.
10. Off-Grid Ranges, Ovens, and Stoves
For five years, I didn’t have a cooking appliance. I squatted over an open fire to cook my food, cursing and getting burned. Fortunately, you don’t have to go through that. You can save your limbs with an off-grid range, oven, or stove.
What’s the difference between the three? An oven is what you bake in, while a stove is what you fry or sauté on. When combined, the two are known as a range. The best option for you will depend on the space you’re working with and your cooking preferences.
Since off-grid cooking appliances are very common, you’ll have a ton of different brands and styles to choose from. Here are some standard options:
- Wood-burning range: A wood-burning range is a standalone piece that utilizes combustion to cook food. Many have an oven and a stovetop, while others only have a stovetop. They get very hot and can also help heat your home during wintertime, so they’re ideal for dual-purpose use. However, wood-burning ranges are more difficult to install because they must be vented.
- Propane range: A propane range may or may not have to be vented depending on the design and manufacturer. It can be standalone or installed in a wall or under the counter. Many people prefer propane to wood-burning appliances because they take less work to start up and maintain, but they require continuous spending on fuel.
- Solar oven: A solar oven harnesses the power of the sun to cook food and must be used outside. The best ones can reach temperatures over 550 °F and are suitable for any type of baking imaginable. They are compact with a small capacity, so they’re best for singles and couples.
- Standalone stovetop: A standalone stovetop is a great way to compromise if you don’t need an oven for whatever reason. These units are small and can have anywhere from one to six burners. They are powered with electricity, propane, or butane.
Why not stay comfortable when you go off the grid? You’ll be able to cook and clean while staying cozy and warm with this array of appliances. You can even take it a step further with additional off-grid gadgets to make life a little more fun.