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off-grid also off grid

adjective adverb

not using public supplies of utilities such as electricity, water, etc.

off-gridder

noun [countable]

off-gridding

noun [uncountable]

'Lighting Africa is seeking to recognize and honor manufacturers and distributors of low cost off-grid lighting products …'

LEDs Magazine 14th September 2009

'It is more of an effort to live off-grid, requiring a time-consuming vigilance as you monitor your communications and shopping habits …'

The Times 9th February 2008

'These short stories give a fascinating look into the often difficult world of the off-gridder: seemingly a constant struggle against council planners, neighbours, and the elements …'

REUK.co.uk 29th September 2007

'Off-gridding is Nick Rosen's thing. He's travelled from the Highlands to Cornwall – in a van topped with solar panels – documenting the lives of Britons who have made homes that just don't plug in, not to the water supply, not to the power supply, and not to the telephone lines.'

The Guardian 1st June 2007

Imagine never having to worry about rising energy bills or escalating water charges, never having to endure 'temporary interruptions' to the power or water supply – and at the same time running a home which has all conventional 21st century comforts but, yes it gets better, doesn't take such a substantial toll on the environment. These are the ideals of an off-grid lifestyle.

a truly off-grid home or building is completely autonomous in that it operates independently, not relying on any central supply of power or water

Off-grid is a new adjective which describes the situation of not using public utilities such as electricity, gas, water and mains sewerage. A truly off-grid home or building is completely autonomous in that it operates independently, not relying on any central supply of power or water.

The word off-grid also functions as an adverb, so that people who choose to run their homes in this way can be said to be living off-grid. An alternative form is the adjective/adverb phrase off the grid, so that we can also talk about off the grid homes or going off the grid. Related noun off-gridding describes the practice itself, and an off-gridder a person who engages in it.

Various reasons for living off the grid have been identified, and some are purely practical – certain kinds of dwelling, such as houseboats, caravans, etc, can be so far from central power supplies that costs are prohibitive and/or the logistics impractical. However the top two reasons for a lifestyle living off the grid are saving money – after an initial investment in setting up the appropriate energy generation and water processing systems, off-gridders subsequently get these resources 'for free' – and reducing a home's environmental impact. The latter is achieved in various ways, such as renewable energy sources like solar or wind power, or using a supply of water that can be flushed down the toilet, processed and recycled to appear as drinking water some days later. Off-gridding is also sometimes associated with self-sufficiency and 'survival' scenarios, proponents advocating the need to prepare for dwindling energy supplies and the potential collapse of the oil economy.

Background – living off the grid

The term off-grid first appeared in the mid-nineties, highlighted by environmentalist Nick Rosen in the launch of an ecologically-motivated website www.off-grid.net and featured more recently in his book How to live off-grid (Doubleday 2007). The expression is of course a combination of particle off in its sense of 'not connected' and noun grid as in 'a set of wires carrying an electricity supply'.

Mirroring the use of offline (not connected to the Internet) and online (connected), there is also some evidence for use of an antonym on-grid with the meaning 'connected to the public power/utilities supply'.

A related term in the same domain is the noun microgeneration, which refers to a process in which a home or business is able to produce electricity and/or heat by itself in order to meet its own needs.

by Kerry Maxwell, author of Brave New Words

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This article was first published on 21st October 2009.

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