For those who like their privacy and less human interaction, living off the grid is appealing. Living off-grid is living autonomously without reliance on a utility (company or government provided) for power, water, or waste management. It can also include raising livestock and growing your own food, which is very close to “homesteading,” though there are plenty of key differences.
While living off the grid is technically not illegal in any of the 50 U.S. states, some of the essential infrastructure aspects of going off-grid are either too strictly regulated or banned. For example, in Mississippi, your system needs to be grid-tied, and disconnection is illegal.
Such problems usually arise when people want to remove their homes from the electrical grid entirely, build a home without connecting it to a grid, or put composting commodes in their homes. Such actions can lead to heavy fines or even jail time. Installing a septic system that passes health department rules is another challenge for those looking to go off-grid.
Off-Grid Living Laws
Off-grid living laws vary by state but also vary greatly in municipalities and counties as well. Generally, urban areas have the most restrictions regarding off-grid living, as well as affluent suburban areas, especially those with homeowners associations. Small towns have also placed restrictions on common off-grid activities, although usually not as stringiest as in urban areas, that typically focus on disconnecting from the power grid and sewer systems. Rural areas are the best place to take advantage of off-grid living, as they usually have the least restrictions and even lack zoning restrictions other than health department septic installation regulations.
Laws to consider in each state include:
- Rainwater collection
- Waste management codes
- Solar energy regulations, or disconnecting from the power grid entirely.
Many states also have laws and restrictions regarding the following: selling raw milk from your off-grid homestead; building a permanent dwelling (using a tent or mobile home long-term could result in fines or eviction); the size of your home (your house could be too small in many states); make sure any mobile home or manufactured home you purchase meets minimum age requirements; read your property deed very closely as some might have restrictions about livestock; how to process waste from a composting toilet is used or disposed of may also pose a problem.
The Data - Explained
With all that said, let’s break down what we have done to lay out your options clearly. First, we have the tile map above that takes a look at each state’s off-grid appeal based on any relevant laws on electrical systems, water collection, and waste management. The next table we have is a closer look at where each state stands on those three topics. The final table is a comparison of important factors to be considered in the search for the best state to live off-grid, including
- The rural land area of each state
- The cost of living index, which you can take a closer look at here
- The median price per acre of each state, using this data
The attached ranking is based on the above four figures. This means that states with a higher ranking (1-5) have fewer people, more rural land, a lower cost of living, and a lower cost of land. Conversely, states with lower ranking (45-50) have more people, less rural land, a higher cost of living, and a higher cost per acre.
Best and Worst States For Living Off-Grid
No matter what the data says, there are people living off-grid in every state and there are definitely states that are better for it than others.
If you’ve been looking into what the best states are for off-grid living, you know that the internet has a lot of different answers. Ultimately, there are ways to live off-grid in almost every state in the United States, which means that giving an accurate list is challenging. Climate, legal landscape, and population density are usually the most important considerations for this lifestyle. But there are also factors like taxes, land costs, and water availability that must be taken into account.
The best state for your off-grid journey will be much different from the next person’s ideal, so please do your research. Make a list of all the things you need to enjoy this experience (preferred climate, remoteness, etc.) and explore different options based on what is best for you.
The best states that are the friendliest to off-grid living based on their laws include
- North Dakota
- South Carolina
- West Virginia
The states that have the most laws that do not align with off-grid living include
- New Jersey
- New York
- Rhode Island
Again, the importance of doing your own research cannot be stressed enough. Whether you are simply looking at your options or in the process of relocating to start your off-grid journey, check with the laws of your municipality, as they are constantly changing.
Below is an expanded look at the legal landscape of each state as they relate to living off the grid.