Living an eco-friendly, sustainable lifestyle starts at home. As more and more people recognize the importance of shifting more sustainable ways of living, and the importance of things like using renewable energy, self-sufficient homes have become a popular choice.
It may seem daunting to give up the convenience of public utilities and rely solely on the resources available to you at home, but it’s much easier than it seems to get started!
Whether you’re in the city, the suburbs, or out on a rural smallholding, there are some simple, easy ways to make your home more self-sufficient.
In this guide, we’re looking at what it means to be self-sufficient, the benefits of a self-sufficient home, and eight ways to make your home more self-sufficient today!
Let’s dive right in!
- 1 What is a Self-Sufficient Home?
- 2 The Benefits of a Self-Sufficient Home
- 3 8 Ways to Make Your Home Self-Sufficient Today
- 3.1 1. Switch to Renewable Energy
- 3.2 2. Reduce Your Reliance on Electricity
- 3.3 3. Use On-Site Water
- 3.4 4. Use Eco-friendly Toilets
- 3.5 5. Grow Your Own Food
- 3.6 6. Build with Eco-friendly, Recycled and Locally Sourced Materials
- 3.7 7. Start a Backyard Farm
- 3.8 8. Handle Your Waste: Trash, Composting, and Greywater
- 4 Final Thoughts on Self-Sufficient Homes
- 5 References and Useful Resources
- 6 Frequently Asked Questions
What is a Self-Sufficient Home?
Self-sufficient homes, like off-grid homes, do not rely on public services and utilities. They provide their own water and power, have off-grid sewerage, and enable occupants to grow their own food.
Self-sufficient homes are generally built using green building principles, using recycled, locally sourced materials for construction. They are also designed to minimize the need for electrical heating/cooling and lighting. Before you start building a house, first examine the place, this is done by a land surveyor, who advises how and where best to build.
That said, you don’t need to buy or build a new a whole new home to be self-sufficient. There are plenty of ways to make your property more self-sufficient!
And you don’t need to be completely self-sufficient to enjoy the benefits of a self-sufficient home.
Here are some of the benefits you will get to enjoy, even if you’re only partially self-sufficient:
The Benefits of a Self-Sufficient Home
There are many great benefits to living a self-sufficient lifestyle. These range from lowered utility bills to living a more independent and sustainable lifestyle.
Depending on where you are, the degree to which you can be self-sufficient, and what your goals are, here are some of the benefits of a self-sufficient home:
Cost Savings and a Bill-free Life
Once you have your home set up to produce your own power and water, you will not need to pay for them ever again! Even if you’re only partially off-grid but still use some public services and utilities, you will still save a lot of money on your utilities.
Some locations also offer reduced taxes and levies for properties that do not use public services, so you can save some money there too.
Dependable Power and Water Supply
Being independent of public services and infrastructure is a huge plus in areas prone to interruptions in service delivery. If your area is prone to severe weather events, natural disasters, or your municipal service delivery is frequently interrupted, being off the grid will keep your lights and water on regardless.
Emergency Preparedness – Independence and Self-Reliance
Many people value knowing that they will be able to support and sustain themselves, regardless of external economic and social circumstances. Living in a self-sufficient home means that no matter what happens, you know you can make it on your own.
Higher Property Value
As renewable energy and off-grid living become more mainstream, properties that have at least some renewable energy and water infrastructure on them have become more valuable.
It is both a selling point that attracts buyers and a valuable asset on the property that increases the value. Buyers look to the long-term benefits of self-sufficient homes, like reduced utility bills, and are willing to pay more for the property at purchase.
An Eco-friendly and Sustainable Lifestyle
Living in a self-sufficient home is inherently better for the environment and the climate.
Using renewable energy, on-site water, and locally sourced materials has a hugely positive impact on the environment.
It means that you are not participating in the use of fossil fuels for power, energy-intensive, chemical water treatment, and fewer impacts from the shipment of goods to your home.
It also makes you more conscious of the resources you use and more likely to move towards zero-waste living.
Growing your own food reduces your reliance on commercial agriculture, which is causes masses of emissions and pollution.
If you keep your own animals for eggs, milk, and meat, you can ensure that they’re treated well and are not subject to the horrors of factory farming.
Now that we have looked at some of the benefits of a self-sufficient home, let’s look at some easy ways to make your home more self-sufficient:
8 Ways to Make Your Home Self-Sufficient Today
To make your home self-sufficient, you need to go off the grid and then take that a step further to growing your own food and/or keeping your own livestock.
Many self-sufficient homesteaders also make their own clothing and other goods to further reduce their reliance on outside resources.
So, how do I make my house self-sufficient?
Depending on your budget, location, and goals, you can go gradually, building up as you go to being fully self-sufficient or you can go all in straight away. Here are eight ways to make your home more self-sufficient:
1. Switch to Renewable Energy
Add renewable energy infrastructure to your property. This will allow you to use renewable electricity for all your electrical appliances and equipment. You can do this by installing:
- A solar system that includes solar panels, a charge controller and inverter, and a battery bank.
- A wind turbine that feeds into your solar system or as a stand-alone system.
If you can’t afford to install a full system that supports all your energy needs, moving over to renewable energy can be done incrementally by installing the basic infrastructure and scaling it over time.
2. Reduce Your Reliance on Electricity
Reducing your reliance on electricity is a great way to limit the strain on your solar system and ensure that you don’t need to spend money on things like extra batteries and panels. You can do this by:
- Installing a wood stove for space heating and/or cooking
- Using a solar water heater for showers, pools, and laundry
- Using a solar oven for some of your cooking
- Installing proper insulation to make sure that you need the least amount of space heating and cooling
- Adding skylights and windows to maximize natural light in your home and minimize the need for lights
- Installing gas appliances (stove, oven, heater, geyser, etc.) can also work well, for everyday use or as a backup if other means fail
3. Use On-Site Water
The water resources available to you will depend on your location, climate, proximity to surface water, the presence of groundwater, and your local water-use laws. The most common options are:
- Rainwater harvesting
- A well or borehole
- Piping water from nearby lakes, rivers, or streams
Most people use more than one source for their water, depending on options are available to them. Remember that water needs to be treated or filtered to be potable. You can do this with:
- Reverse Osmosis Water Filters
- UV Sterilization
Depending on the depth, well or borehole water does not always need to be treated. You will need to have the water quality tested to determine this.
4. Use Eco-friendly Toilets
If you’re not using municipal/public sewers, you will need to have an on-site solution. Common options are:
The option you choose will depend on how much water and space you have available, as well as the soil type on your property.
Not all soils are suitable for septic systems or pit latrines, so if you’re considering those you will need a soil assessment to make sure they’re a viable option and won’t pollute the local groundwater.
5. Grow Your Own Food
Growing your own food is an essential part of being self-sufficient. Being able to produce your own vegetables, fruit and grains is a great way to ensure that your needs are met without needing to rely on buying food items from further afield.
It can be quite a lot of work to plant and harvest crops that will feed you year-round, but it is also a very rewarding experience!
Check out this video by Exploring Alternatives to see how one couple have lived for a year without buying any food, through self-sufficiency:
If you want to start small, you can start with growing your own herbs, mushrooms, and vegetables, and planting fruit trees. Fruit trees will take a couple of seasons to bear fruit so it’s best to start with them and let them mature while you scale the rest of your gardening efforts.
6. Build with Eco-friendly, Recycled and Locally Sourced Materials
If you’re building, renovating, or extending your home, look for recycled materials and materials from the local area. This will help keep your costs and your environmental impact to a minimum.
Using green building methods and techniques will help you make the most of your building’s off-grid, self-sufficiency potential too.
7. Start a Backyard Farm
Keeping hens for eggs, and if you have enough space, a cow for milk and cheese is a great way to take your self-sufficiency journey a step further.
If your aim is full-on homesteading, you can also keep animals for meat. Chickens, ducks and rabbits are common choices in smaller spaces but for those with more land to use, livestock like cows, goats and sheep are commonly kept for their meat, hides, and fleece.
This isn’t for everyone, so proceed with caution into homesteading groups if you’re not keen on this part of self-sufficient life!
8. Handle Your Waste: Trash, Composting, and Greywater
But what happens to your waste? Where does your trash go? What happens to your soapy water from the shower, kitchen, and laundry?
Taking care of your waste responsibly is essential if you want to avoid negative environmental impacts. Minimizing your waste and going zero-waste, especially in the kitchen, is important.
This means you’re producing less waste to be managed. For the waste you can’t avoid, you can:
- Set up a composting heap for organic matter like food waste and paper.
- Use a greywater recycling system or permaculture filtration system to clean your wastewater.
- Set aside your recyclables and collect them until you have enough to warrant taking a load to the nearest recycling facility.
- Join no-buy groups and share/swap any excess things you can’t use or don’t need.
- Upcycle to give things a second life and keep them out of the landfill.
- Lastly, when all else fails, you can send a load to the nearest landfill site. This should be a last resort though and for only the smallest proportion of your waste.
Final Thoughts on Self-Sufficient Homes
As you can see, there are many great benefits to living in a self-sufficient home and you don’t need to be buying or building a whole new home to move towards being more self-sufficient.
The ways to make your home more self-sufficient that we have outlined here can be applied to any home – whether you’re living in the city, the suburbs, a farm, or the out in the wilderness – you can adopt any or all of these principles and become self-sufficient.
Where will you start?
References and Useful Resources
Attainable Sustainable: How to Plant Food in Your Backyard for a Healthy Harvest
Ethical.net: The 12 Principles of Permaculture: A Way Forward
Innovative Water Solutions: Rainwater Harvesting 101
Permaculture Research Institute: What is Permaculture?
Unbound Solar: How to Size a Solar System: Step-by-Step
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I make my house self-sufficient?
To make your house self-sufficient, you need to move off-grid and provide your own power, water, and sewer services. You also need to be able to grow/raise your own food. You can do all this by using renewable energy, on-site water and on-site sanitation, starting a vegetable garden and keeping some small livestock animals. Read the full guide for 8 easy ways to make your house more self-sufficient today.
Is it possible to be completely self-sufficient?
Yes. If you have enough space and are in the right climate, you can live completely self-sufficient by using rebewable energy, on-site water, farming/growing your own food and managing your own waste. Read the full guide for more info on how to start becoming more self-sufficient today.
Can a house be self-sufficient using solar panels?
The right solar setup can power a house without any need for a connection to public utilities, which makes the house self-sufficient in terms of power. Read the full guide for more into on how to switch to solar power and get off the grid.