Off grid is defined as “not being dependent on public utilities, especially the use of electricity.”
Pretty much everyone believes that going off grid is good for individuals and the country as a whole.
Yet, if you are thinking of going off grid, you might be shocked to find that it is illegal in your city. Yes, illegal!
The Case of Robin Speronis in Florida
One of the most famous cases of off-grid living being prosecuted is that of Robin Speronis of Cape Coral, Florida.
In 2013, Speronis moved into a ranch home in the struggling Florida community. At this point in her life – after caring for her husband through his death and going through a home foreclosure – Speronis understandably didn’t want to burden herself with complications that lead to debts and dependency. She decided to go off grid.
After moving into her new home, Speronis didn’t bother connecting it to the city’s electric or plumbing system. Instead, she got to work converting it into a 100% off-grid home.
Soon, Speronis starting blogging about her experience with off-grid living and encouraging others to do the same.
Well, that didn’t fly with public officials!
By the next year, Speronis found herself in court facing 36 code and ordinance infractions. Most of these were dismissed at the trial, but Speronis was still convicted with 3 violations – all because she wasn’t connected to the city’s electrical or plumbing.
Speronis had to either get back on the grid of face huge fines, foreclosures or jail.
Speronis Isn’t the Only Case…
We hear a lot about Speronis’s case because she did a good job of getting the media’s attention. However, there have been numerous other cases of individuals and communities being prosecuted for living off grid.
- An off-grid community in Costilla County, Colorado was threatened with code violations that would destroy their way of living.
- Texas deployed SWAT teams to shut down a sustainable off-grid community called The Garden of Eden Community”
- Even Canada cracked down on a couple living off grid because of code violations!
Yes, It Is Illegal to Disconnect from the System!
As ridiculous as it sounds, it is actually illegal to disconnect from the utility system in some localities. These laws fall under the International Property Maintenance Code (IPMC).
The IPMC isn’t all bad (okay, I realize a lot of readers probably hate all laws which restrict personal freedom, but I’m trying to look at both sides of the argument).
The IPMC helps protect us from idiot contractors and other bad building practices – things that are useful when you don’t want your neighbor’s home to come crashing down into your own. In addition to the IPMC, there are also other codes like the Uniform Building Code and IBC.
The IPMC is voluntary for cities and towns. However, if your city or town decides to implement it, you must obey or will be in violation of the law.
Cities can also randomly decide to implement their own laws about what is allowed. If they want you tied to their utilities (and paying for them), they just write it into the code.
It Isn’t Just Disconnecting from the Grid which Is Illegal
The laws against going off grid go beyond what happened with Speronis’s case. At Green Home Building, they talk about how lawsuits with homeowner’s associations and local governments are common.
Even things as simple as solar panels can be an issue. James and Frances Babb of Missouri, for example, had to fight local authorities for years to get permits to install solar panels on their property. They also had to fight their home owner’s association which banned the solar project.
And there are all those laws against rainwater harvesting!
And You May Have to Pay Extra Fees for Going Off Grid!
To add insult to injury, some states which allow solar are now introducing extra fees just for having solar.
For example, in Nevada (one of the sunniest states), a commission voted to increase a fixed fee for having solar. At the same time, they reduced the amount solar users get paid for putting their excess solar back into the grid (if you were off grid, you could store this excess for a not-so-sunny day).
The fee that solar users pay is 3x more than those of non-solar users. As one user told Eco Watch, the fee is basically a “penalty for producing much of our own electricity.”
There Is No Valid Argument Against Going Off Grid
When asked why it is illegal to disconnect from the grid, public officials say that the regulations provide a “sense of continuity” and make it “easier to help residents who have power issues.”
What they won’t admit is that the power companies are lobbying them hard.
Up until fairly recently, not many people were interested in going off grid. And the tools needed to live comfortably off grid (we aren’t talking about bushcraft living here!) were too expensive.
Now you can easily and affordably install solar panels, compost toilets, and harvest rainwater.
The power companies are feeling threatened!
While there is no good reason to prohibit off-grid living, there are plenty of reasons to get off the grid.
For individuals, going off grid means:
- Lower energy costs
- No need to worry about fluctuating costs of energy
- Protected from grid outages
- Reliable power source
- Independence from system
For the country as a whole, going off grid means:
- Less pollution
- Improved national security (the more people off grid, the less vulnerable our grid is to terrorist attacks)
- Less reliance on foreign energy
The Bottom Line
The Feds want us all to be tied to the grid. Big Government doesn’t want us to be self-sufficient.
When you are tied to the grid, you must work to pay expensive utility fees.
When you must work for the man, you don’t have time to think for yourself.
When you don’t think, you won’t question authority.
In short, going off grid represents a serious threat to the system. The fact that they are passing all of these laws and attacking people peacefully living off grid shows just how scared they are.
Don’t succumb to the pressure. Going off grid is a way to gain your independence and security. Find out if off grid living is illegal in your area and fight to change the rules. Here’s a good guide on how to fight unjust building laws.
Are you working on going off grid? Have you considered the legal aspects of it?
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Hi: As a homeowner and general contractor, I’ve run into a problem with my local government’s plan review and approval process. I bought a system (Solar Edge/Storedge 7600 (US) A inverter plus LG Chem Resu 10 battery storage and 17 panels (Certainteed) that are compatible with Solaredge’s Optimizer system. All in, 5.1 kw plus 9.8 kwh battery for about $14,500.00 but a rebate of 85% of the battery cost is supposed to be available, I need it too.
Plan check didn’t like my Straight Line Drawing, even though it was taken from the Solar Edge website, and didn’t approve my first submission. The system is 99% built and I submitted a 2nd plan, which the city desk said should be ok (and that the first one was ok too) but it came back this morning, same problem.
What is the law regarding me finishing the system and turning it on and using it? Sunny afternoons it can charge our Fiat 500e, we have a Level II charger in the garage ready to connect. A small sub panel can distribute power to our HVAC unit and still run a few 20 amp circuits for appliances.
Some cities specifically prohibit people from using their own systems, defining the condition by saying there is no grid connection. In our case, we’ll leave the existing entrance panel and house wiring untouched, almost.
What is the law in California? Am I allowed to buy a solar system and use it on my own house and property, if it’s stand-alone and the house is still connected to Edison’s grid?
Hey Robert, sorry we can’t give specific legal advice for obvious reasons. Hope you get this sorted.
Did you get this resolved?
Going off grid doesnt actually lower your energy costs, the cost is just shifted from a per-month installment with large bargaining power to a large up-front capital cost in making your own power station.
Not to mention the costs of the upkeep and maintenance of your own power station. Also, the personnel for fixing issues at your own power station, is you… that’s assuming you’re able to get the parts you need, which a smart person would have a duplicate for most of the consumables, plus a few “critical” parts which gets back into the capital costs.
I somewhat disagree. When done intelligently, monthly energy costs can be reduced drastically — even when you calculate the depreciating value of equipment and repairs. However, the real reason (IMO) that most people living off-grid or semi off-grid are able to reduce energy costs is because they suddenly have to think about them. When you have to spend the time calculating just how much it costs to run an extra load of laundry or cool your home, you start making smarter choices.
Additionally, with global warming we are going to be using our AC much more and because of supply and demand the electric companies are going to be charging more for kilowatt hour.
Scam perpetrated on the public. There is NO INCENTIVE for the electric company to let go of an account or paying customer.
Good luck, when it is the ELECTRIC COMPANY in charge of the inspections and reviews that determine when you get your PTO (permission to operate).
The electric utilities use money you pay them to lobby government officials to make laws to make you keep paying.