Downsizing / Resizing for Seniors : Off Grid Living

Posted by Tim Biebel on Jul 22, 2016 3:24:37 PM

Thomas Hardy published Far from the Madding Crowd in 1874. My uncle saw the movie by that name, with Julie Christie, in 1967, and it’s been remade a few times since. Why?

Off Grid Living


Because if seniors (and many others) could have their druthers, they’d rather get as far away from “it all” as is possible. They want to still retaining access to the amenities they have come to know and love in their home environment. This is the growning off grid movement taking place today in America. Up until relatively recently, one’s freedom to build a new home in any given place was limited to some degree by the availability of the nearest electrical power source. Yes, it was possible to pay the public utility company a fee to extend service to remote locations, but most would consider that extra cost a counterproductive waste of money, since one of its results might be to open up service on the other side of the road to neighbors the ilk of which one had been hoping to escape.


Enter the “off grid” net zero energy home. This is yet another option for those who want to downsize (or resize) while retaining optimal control over their energy requirements and uses. In this series of articles, we have focused on three other options for “downsizing” or “resizing” for senior: Energy Star, high performance, and net zero energy homes, any of which we would be pleased to build for you.


“Off grid” is in another class. While implementing the highest energy conserving treatments, the primary objective of any off-grid home is to live as conservatively as possible between cycles of energy generated and stored in batteries, while awaiting the next time the sun comes out to fully recharge the batteries. Since this interval can be weeks in northern New England, most off grid homes built here rely on a standby generator, with water storage in the attic that works on gravity-induced pressure, plus an ample supply of wood for the auxiliary stove. To conserve electricity, most appliances in a net zero home operate on liquid propane gas.


In an earlier series of articles, we described the downsizing conversion of a Vermont barn into a net-zero residence powered by solar and a micro-hydro generator, heated and cooled by geothermal technology. You’ll find many great ideas in that series, and we’ll be happy to answer any questions that you may have about moving in this direction.


If you’re among those who are concerned with the level of turmoil in the world and how that might affect energy costs in the future (not to mention supplies of food and water and other essential services) then off grid living might be just right for you. Choose a beautiful location, close enough to town but far enough away to be off the grid. Let us help you plan specifically what you want and need, then add all the high-performance energy-producing options available on that property.

Along with that, may we suggest that you view it as a “homesteading” endeavor and plan ahead for just a few things that might enable this direction, immediately or over time:

  • A small barn, should you choose to raise animals for meat or milk or both;
  • A small pond (deep enough to not freeze-kill your fish (cold water trout are extremely healthy; add crawfish for Southern fun);
  • A garden space – it’s amazing how much you can grow on less than an acre (and make it organic, also) – can provide veggies for year-round consumption, if you learn how to freeze, can, or save your produce in the large pantry, and root cellar that we should work into your plan.
  • Plan for a small orchard and berry patch that you may need to start from scratch, and also plan so you can keep the deer and bear and turkeys from getting to them first.
  • And, to cap it off, if you are the meat-eating type, you might want to learn how to hunt, since multiple sources of game meat are readily available in Vermont. We could even help you there!

Download the Ultimate Guide to Net Zero Home Construction



Tim Biebel

by Tim Biebel

Tim Biebel is Vice President of Prudent Living, a leading net zero and energy efficiency building company located in Windsor, VT.




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