Living Off the Grid: 9 Surprises and Misconceptions

Living Off the Grid: 9 Surprises and Misconceptions

Thinking about going off the grid in New Zealand? We had a chat with some off-gridders to hear all about what surprised them most when they moved off grid, and what misconceptions they would like to clear up about the lifestyle!
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Thinking about going off the grid in New Zealand? We had a chat with some off-gridders to hear all about what surprised them most when they moved off grid, and what misconceptions they would like to clear up about the lifestyle!

  1. Firewood

In the words of one off-grid dweller, "Firewood is like gold.” If you’ve not used a woodburner much before, this is something you’ll learn quickly - whether you're using it to heat your space, cook meals, or warm water, the consumption rate might catch you off guard. Having a sustainable supply on your property is definitely something to look for if you haven’t already bought property, as it will spare you the need to constantly purchase it.

  1. Cleanliness and hygiene

A few off-gridders expressed frustration with the misconception that living off the grid equates to being dirty. "The number of comments I've had about how clean I am is unbelievable... just because I live off-grid doesn't mean I don't shower once or twice a day." Off grid living doesn’t have to mean compromised hygiene, it may just look a little different to what you’re used to in town. Many off-grid homes with eventually be set up with a normal plumbed shower, but the water comes from rain or spring, and is heated by a wetback or gas califont. In the early days, it’s also common to see a portable califont used!

  1. Toilets

One off-gridder wanted to reassure people that ‘Going in a bucket isn’t as bad as you think, and people are amazed to know we have a full working bathroom with plumbing and a flush toilet.’ There are many options for toilets off grid, and they will suit different people for different needs. A lot of people will go with a waterless toilet, such as a composting or bucket toilet, either out of necessity or practical reasons – i.e. something to use while they get set up, or a choice not to preserve fresh water. If you manage it properly, it has very little smell and is nothing like the horrible camping longdrop you might remember!

On the flip side, many people will install some form of septic system on their property too, allowing them to have a perfectly normal toilet. You can learn more about options for off grid toilets in this article.

  1. Finances

Another insight that was highlighted is the financial aspect – living off grid isn’t easy without decent cash support. That’s not to say it’s something you have to be rich to do, there’s just a balance to how quickly and tidily you can do things with how much you spend to get there. At one end of the spectrum, some off-gridders will opt to have every built for them with plenty of room for error at significant cost. At the other end, some will build everything themselves with second-hand materials, doing just enough to get by on a shoestring budget.

  1. Power Struggles

One thing that catches a lot of people out is power usage, especially how seemingly tiny draws add up. One comment that several people agreed with was “I was surprised by how much power got used by just my modem... and inverter."

It’s easy to account for the big power users like a fridge, and even small things like lights and chargers that only run for a few hours, but the small 24-hour draws can use a lot more than you think. A 20W modem running for 24 hours is 480Wh – about 10% of the power generated by the Bach Kit on an average winter day. We account for the passive draw of the components and losses of the system in our kits, but it’s still important to remember that these things do draw power, so you don’t get caught out by it.

  1. Off-Grid by Accident

Not everyone plans to go off the grid. Some folks stumbled into it by accident, with one off-gridder saying, "Surprisingly you can end up off-grid without ever meaning to." While we’ve found a large portion of customers come to us after planning to go off grid for a long time, many have found themselves needing to go off grid because mains power was not an option.

  1. Hard Work

‘It’s a lot of hard work, it’s not for everyone’ – one of the most common comments we see is that off-grid maintenance is almost a full-time job. There are a lot of things you’ll need to do each day or each week just to keep things going, such as emptying a compost toilet or mowing grass, plus all of the many projects you’ll be working on. Being prepared for how much physical labour comes with being off grid will be a major factor in helping you tough out the hard bits, as some people will inevitably find that it’s just not the life for them.

  1. Simplicity Wins

Sure, it's a lot of hard work, but ask any off-gridder and they’ll tell you that there’s something deeply satisfying about it. One said, "I love how quietly righteous I feel. Doing the hard yards to make a cup of tea from foraged herbs is just so rewarding." The hands-on, simple life brings a sense of achievement that's hard to beat.

  1. Getting Attention

Be prepared for the attention, other off-gridders warn. "The amount of people that rubberneck my setup is a continuous surprise." Living off-grid is still a novel concept to most New Zealanders, and you’ll find that most things you do spark their interest. The curious neighbours just can't resist a peek, so if you’re worried, one of the first things you’ll want to do is create some privacy for yourself – whether that’s fencing or trees.


In a nutshell, living off the grid in New Zealand is a rollercoaster of surprises, and it's a journey that defies expectations. So, if you're ready to trade city life for the wild side, remember, it's not just about disconnecting; it's a whole new way of life that's anything but ordinary.