Living Off The Grid

Go solar, go desal, go look at those who did

Living off the grid is a widely used term that has several different meanings. For some people the first thing that comes to mind are the Armageddon preppers: long haired weirdos talking about conspiracy theories, hoarding non perishable foods, weapons and equipment in their underground lairs, while preparing for the apocalypse or the inevitable zombie invasion. While this is a reality in some cases, (not the zombies but the people who live this way), there are different and more sane ways to live off the grid.

Let’s start with a definition. The grid is the common name for the “power grid” which is the linked system that delivers electrical energy to the household. A typical house is connected also to natural gas, water pipes and telephone lines. Going off the grid means shunning these public utilities in favor of creating your own energy. By doing this a lot of people create autonomous houses that depend as little as possible on the government provided energy services. Services that also seem to perpetually keep rising in cost.

We talked with Jim Hart, who owns a real estate company that specializes in the East Cape. The East Cape is the zone that's north of San Jose and La Playita, extending all the way to Cabo Pulmo and a little beyond that. This is an area that is just recently getting paved roads, (no thanks to the government, but thanks to a big resort going in), and has been largely without services up to this day. But in spite of this hardship, there are a good number of houses in the area, big houses. And they have been there for a long time now. The area doesn’t seem to grow much, the house don’t appreciate much. Maybe we’ve run out of pioneer type people? Hart tells us “living off the grid” is a lifestyle.

The houses do have all the services a Gringo requires, and they get it mostly with generators and solar.

In los Cabos it makes a lot of sense to live off the grid he told us. First of all there is so much ocean front and ocean close property that is off grid and cheap that it’s too tempting for some to pass up. You buy in knowing you’re going to be roughing it off the grid.

We have so much sunshine here that it makes a lot of sense to take advantage of that and build a property that is totally self sufficient with solar. With today's technology you can do virtually anything with solar power and of course a backup with a generator of gasoline or propane gas. In the last 15 years there have been so many advances in this technology that it now costs about a third of what it was when the community on the East Cape first emerged.

For instance, the batteries available now are lithium, which are a third the size of the old ones and give energy for 15 years rather that five or six like the old batteries.

You can build a house on the oceanfront with a building permit that will allow you to build a well of salt water from the ocean that with the right equipment will be desalinated and provide you water freeing you from depending on the familiar water truck that comes trundling out over tough roads.

Of course you will also need to set up your house with sewage and waste disposal systems, usually septic. Being completely off the grid is a little like being out to sea.

Living off the grid is going to take a lot more specialized knowledge by the homeowner and more work and way more capital investment, but it will be a cheaper way to live in the long run.

Realtor Hart tells us he sees more people investing more money than ever before in multi million dollar homes out on the East Cape. Maybe they’re tired of waiting because for years they’ve been told the pavement and power lines are coming “soon”. The government isn’t going to do that, because it’s richy rich foreigners who don’t vote who are whining for it. The government needs to bring pavement and services to its hard working impoverished citizens first. And actually, many people living out on the East Cape do not want city services and all the people they believe that will bring. They moved out there to rough it and live in their own pioneering style.

Although the solar industry has changed in recent years, it remains the cleanest and safest source of energy with the least amount of impact on the environment. Private desalination plants is an expensive way to go, as they use a lot of energy. It takes power to drive water through those salt catching membranes, so throw more solar panels up on the roof if you’re going to shun the water truck and desal yourself.

If you want to see that living off the grid is not only for the doomsday preppers and antisocial hippies, but also for the people who enjoy living surrounded by nature without giving up the easy life, drive out to the East Cape. Go through La Playita, and onto the coast road. And bounce around until you get to the first settlement, Zacatitos. Zac’s bar and restaurant is great, we recommend the ribs. Saturday is all the ribs you can eat.