Life: Off the Grid

Bill and Rosa Alford’s house cost less than $8,500. They pay absolutely no utilities. The tax on their 9.51-acre land is less than $20 a year. Powered by solar and wind, the home uses rainwater to provide water for the shower and sink. The Alfords’ proud Rhode Island Red and Easter Egg chickens churn out fresh eggs daily. They are utterly and completely self-reliant, free from depending on public utilities or government assistance and, as Bill says, “meddling.”

The Alfords are part of a growing movement of American citizens who choose to live “off the grid,” so to speak.

Bill & Rosa Alford“We should all know how to grow our own food and take care of ourselves,” he said. “Technically, we live no differently than you do. We have electric plug-ins, breaker boxes and running water. Our house is like anyone else’s—it’s just powered by the sun.”

The Alfords are long-haul truckers by trade, though Bill retired from the military which was where he learned most of his skills to engineer a self-reliant lifestyle. The couple lived out of their truck for years before thinking about a permanent home in which to live and eventually retire in.

“We’re truck drivers so we were used to living in a semi-truck cabin, which was about 8‘ x 8’ including the driver’s area,” said Rosa. “Two and a half years ago, we bought a rent-to-own storage building and built it up as our home. This 12’ x 40’ home is a mansion compared to what we are used to.”

The building has two 12 x 12 foot lofts. It’s a cozy place with a small kitchen, a bathroom area and a comfy bed. While some may call it the “tiny house” movement, the Alfords call it common sense.

“We did the plumbing and electricity ourselves, because that way, we got to choose where it all went,” said Bill. “We don’t use any public utilities, so we have no utility bills.”

Bill Alford with their rainwater collection barrelsThe house is powered by six solar panels on the ground with an additional three panels on the roof. That, in itself, generates 21,070 watts of electricity. The wind turbine on the roof adds another 2,000 watts of power, when needed.

“Our fresh water tank holds 250 gallons of filtered water,” Bill said. The rainwater that pours off the roof is collected through one barrel that filters out the debris. The rainwater collection barrels pump the water to the filtering system where it is then pumped into the house. A propane-fueled water heater ensures a hot shower.

“When we decided to do this, we studied everything possible,” Bill said. “We use wood and propane for our main sources of heat.”

A common concern with living off the grid is how to manage sewage. The Alfords utilize a simple system including a five-gallon bucket, a portable toilet seat and layers of sawdust which completely negates the need for county or city sewage services. When the self-composting toilet is full, it gets incorporated into a human waste composting pile along with more sawdust and hay. Within a year, the compost can be used to fertilize trees and bushes.

Even the internet is available by using Bill’s cell phone as a hot spot. “We watch television like everyone else,” Rosa said.

To the Alfords, the lifestyle isn’t extreme, and Bill hates to be called an “extreme prepper” or “survival nut.” They are just a frugal couple who wanted to be dependent on no one but themselves.

The Alfords share all the information they’ve learned to help others become self-reliant as well. Bill and Rosa have their own website, blog and YouTube channel dedicated to sharing their knowledge with the world. They’ll tell you where to get materials, the costs of everything and how to finally go “off the grid.”

Rosa Alford in front of their home“We aren’t preppers, but we are prepared,” said Rosa. “It’s not hard. You just learn to conserve energy. This lifestyle is about being self-sufficient and not having to rely on anyone or anything.”

“People who go off the grid tend to be frowned upon,” Alford said. “It’s just about being free.”

For more information, visit the Alford’s blog at www.ouroffgridsolarcabin.com.

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