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?