How to Design a Self-Sufficient Home

As humans become more and more conscious of the impact they have on the environment, the need grows for new technologies which promote sustainable living. The ultimate way to minimize your ecological impact would be to design a self-sufficient or off-the-grid dwelling. Self-sufficient homes supply all of their own energy, sewer and water needs, and their builders usually strive to choose methods of dwelling management together with the least environmental effects.

Off-the-Grid Power

The way you supply your self-sufficient home with power depends on your location and your power needs. The typical options for off-the-grid power are solar, micro-hydro power, wind or a mix of solar and wind. To determine which type of system you’re likely to use, first decide how much power you presently utilize, and see if there are any means by which you can reduce that usage. Also be sure to check local codes and ordinances for restrictions on using alternative power systems. Then you can contact suppliers to cost out options and choose which one best meets your needs.


The traditional option for supplying your home with water is to drill a well. You will need a means to pump your well water, and off-grid options consist of solar-powered and end turbine-powered pumps. Harvesting rainwater is another option. You may collect rainwater which falls onto your roof or other catchment surface and channel the water through gutters or other supply systems to storage tanks. Use this water as-is to irrigate your garden, or put in a pump and purification system for home use.

Graywater and Composting Toilets

Homes which aren’t connected to a main sewer line usually utilize septic tanks, but if you’re worried about the environmental effects of septic systems or they’re not permitted in your town, you might have the ability to steer clear of traditional sewage altogether. Composting toilets turn human waste to safe compost during heat, sanitization and dehydration. Following the waste is completely composted, you can add it to normal soil. For the remainder of your household waste water, a gray water system, which filters water until it is absorbed back into the ground, could possibly be an alternative. Although gray water doesn’t contain human waste, so it can still be contaminated, and also some other gray water system you use should be carefully planned and adhere to local building codes and requirements.

Heating and Hot Water

Wood-burning stoves are an economical and effective selection for heating self-sufficient homes, and you can even buy modern wood-burning cook stoves. If a residence is designed with this heat process in mind and is made airtight, a wood stove might be all you need to keep your house at a comfortable temperature. There are also systems using solar-heated water and solar-generated power to circulate heat throughout the house, but these are far more expensive and not effective in all situations. For hot water, solar systems are both effective and economical. In warmer climates, you can use a direct or passive flow system. If your area drops below freezing temperatures often, you’ll need an indirect flow system which provides extra heat to the water through a heat exchanger.

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