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Everything you need to know about self-sufficient homes

19th August 2019 Print

There are a lot of misconceptions about what it means to live in a self-sufficient home. With climate change becoming an ever-growing concern for us all, many people are looking for ways that they can contribute positively to a greener and healthier planet. You don’t have to become completely self-sustaining to make it worth pursuing some of the techniques and ideas that we will outline below.

There is both a strong moral and practical argument for making your home more self-sufficient and minimizing the impact you have on the environment. Plus, so many of us have seen the costs of our essential utilities, such as energy, water and gas, increase steadily in recent years, leaving us with less and less money for ourselves. Taking steps to make your home more self-sustaining can save you some serious money over time. 

What is a Self-Sufficient Home?

Self-sufficient homes are homes that are able to supply all of their own energy needs, which means being able to generate your own energy in some way. The methods open to you will depend largely on where your home is located. If there is lots of wind, you might be able to harness that energy. However, a much more practical solution for most people is solar power.

Consider somewhere like Los Angeles, or California in general, where there is lots of sunshine. Conditions in this part of the world are perfect for solar power generation. And, as solar technology has become cheaper and more accessible, rates of solar panel installation in Los Angeles have increased significantly. Increasing the amount of solar power in Los Angeles is an important part of the wider state-wide drive throughout California to generate more of its energy from renewable energy sources. For example, this solar power company provides some of the best solar power installation in Los Angeles. Not only do they offer solar panels in different sizes and types, but they can also offer general roofing services and battery systems that can store solar power until it’s needed.

California has already put laws on the books requiring new homes to be built with solar panels on them as standard. It is likely that similar initiatives will become more common around the world. This is definitely a good thing for self-sufficiency all over the states and is just one of the ways that governments are likely to try and nudge people into more ecologically-conscious behaviors in the near future.

What Are the Benefits of Self-Sufficiency?

Unless you move into a new home with solar panels already installed on it, which is quite unlikely outside of California, you will need to be prepared to pay the costs of installing solar panels on your home. However, any money that you spend improving your self-sufficiency is money that you will eventually recuperate in the savings that you make.

Also, the more self-sufficient you are, the lower your carbon footprint will be. Adopting solar power is just one way that you can achieve this. Another simple thing you can do is to grow your own produce, especially vegetables. This will save you money and reduce the amount of waste that your household is generating.

As your monthly bills begin to drop, you will find that you have more disposable income. If you reinvest some of this back into improving your self-sufficiency even further, you can compound the savings that you make and seriously improve your financial situation.

If you are able to take your self-sufficiency measures far enough, you might be in a property to do away with utility bills altogether! If you own the land on which you live, there are a number of things you can do that most other people can’t that will make a huge difference to your self-sufficiency.

Buyers are increasingly becoming more selective about the type of properties that they buy, which is especially true for younger buyers, who are more likely to be environmentally-conscious in general. If you make adjustments to your property so that it is more self-sufficient, this enables you to add a premium onto the asking price. Even if buyers aren’t environmentally conscious, they will still appreciate the reduction in their energy bills that comes with a more self-sufficient home.

Finally, there are the myriad of tax credits and other benefits that you can claim if you add solar power to your home. These tax incentives vary from state to state, and in some cases between different cities in the same state.

How Can I Make My Home More Self-Sufficient?

This is the million-dollar (maybe not quite that much) question for anyone who is considering making their property more self-sufficient. We already talked about adding solar panels to your home in order to harness the energy of the sun. However, not everyone lives in a state as sunny as California. For the rest of us, there are other forms of more sustainable energy generation that we can take advantage of.

Trying to generate more of your own food is the next most obvious target. Anyone can grow some vegetables for themselves – you don’t even need to grow them outside in order to harvest a reasonably high yield. This isn’t the only thing that you can do to obtain more food independence. If you have the space, consider keeping some chickens on your land and using their eggs. If you grow the right ingredients, you can save money cooking your favorite meals and also give yourself new ingredients to work with.

A key component of any self-sufficiency strategy has to be recycling. Recycling and reusing materials wherever possible is vital if you are going to reduce the amount of waste that you generate and work towards a more sustainable home. You should always be looking out for opportunities to repurpose items and materials that would otherwise be thrown out, as this will prevent you from buying more than you need from the store, increasing your independence.

If you want to go all-out on the sustainability, you could even aim to construct your entire house out of recycled and ethically-sourced materials. This is much more achievable than you might think initially, but there are lots of common materials that can be put to good use in a self-sustaining home.

The smaller your home, the easier it is to make it self-sufficient. The larger your home is, the more expensive it will be to get it into a self-sustaining state. So, if you are planning on building your entire home from scratch, you shouldn’t make it any bigger than it needs to be. This is largely down to the amount of power and money required to heat and cool larger spaces artificially. If you build your home in the right way, you can minimize the amount of adjustments you might need to make in order to maintain a comfortable temperature.

If you have a large budget to work with, you can aim to build a bigger home, but make sure you are aware of the extra costs involved.

Managing Your Own Water

In order for a home to be as self-sufficient as possible, it needs access to its own water source. If there isn’t a water source located on your property, this will limit the degree to which you can become self-sufficient. True self-sufficiency means that you either need a well or similar body of water, or you can try collecting rainwater.

If adding a well to your property is a realistic proposition, you should seriously consider doing so. Once you have a functioning well on your land, you can then say goodbye to paying any more water bills. 

If a well is not a practical addition to your property, you should instead look to design a system for catching rainwater. A system that is able to gather and store rain efficiently enough can perform the same functions as a well, but whichever method you choose, you will need to think about filtration. Water that you collect from the sky or pull up from the ground is unlikely to be clean. It is, therefore, important that you have a means of either filtering or sterilizing the water.

A filtration system is a more sophisticated means of purifying any water that you gather, but even just boiling the water could be enough to sterilize it, depending on what it is going to be used for. If you aren’t going to be drinking or cooking with the water then you don’t need to sterilize or filter it in the same way.

Managing Waste

If you aren’t using the main plumbing system and have your own septic system for dealing with waste, you will need to think very carefully about how you can do this without putting anyone’s health at risk or damaging the local environment. Some people choose to use composting toilets instead. This toilet is not hooked up to any sewer system but instead processes waste directly so that it can safely be used as compost.

There are lots of options for managing day to day waste more efficiently and in a more ecologically-friendly way, so make sure you choose the best method for your individual circumstances.

Generating Heat

Finally, any self-sufficient home needs to be able to generate its own heat. There are lots of different forms that heat generation can take, and the best one for you will, once again, come down to the specific features of your property. The size of your home, in particular, will come into play again; as we said earlier, a smaller home is easier, quicker, and cheaper to heat than a larger one.

If you live on land where there is an abundance of wood that you can use, this provides an obvious source of fuel. However, it is important that you make an effort to ensure that you are harvesting wood and other materials in a responsible and sustainable way. Wooden stoves and fireplaces are both still popular ways of heating a home.

Are There Any Drawbacks?

Building a more sustainable home is ultimately a good thing. However, it is important to understand the ways in which this will be a challenging undertaking. The more you know before you go in, the less likely you are to run into any nasty surprises and unexpected issues. It is very important that you consider emergency procedures, especially if you are building a sustainable home that is located far away from other people.

If your sustainable home is going to be a long way from emergency services and constructed largely of wood, you will want to make sure that you have a strategy for dealing with potential fires and natural disasters.

Is it Worth the Cost?

Only you know whether the time and money needed to turn your home into a self-sufficient one is worth it for your lifestyle and purposes. It can quickly become a very expensive and very difficult undertaking, especially if you are not adequately prepared for it. If you think you do not currently have enough money to go all out in transforming your home, you don’t have to go the whole way with it.

Making just a few changes to your lifestyle, even if they only have a minor impact on your ecological footprint, is better than doing nothing. Once you have taken your first steps towards a more sustainable home, you will likely find it much easier to take subsequent steps.

If you care about the environment and are looking for a way of making a worthwhile contribution to the fight against climate change, rethinking the nature of your home is a great way of doing it. Even if you can’t afford to hire Semper Solaris, the best solar company in Los Angeles, you can probably still try something simple like growing your own vegetables.

Not only will living more sustainably leave you feeling better about yourself in the near-future, it will save you a tremendous amount of money in the long run, especially if you are able to keep taking further steps. Once you start looking for ways of living a more sustainable and self-sufficient lifestyle, you won’t be able to stop.