As more people begin the journey towards living a self-sufficient life, they also find themselves on a journey to create a self-sustainable home.
It starts with growing a garden and reducing trash output by composting. Before long, we take a look at our homes and realize that where we live hinders our self-sufficient goal. For some people, building a self-sufficient home is cost-prohibitive, so they search for ways to make their house self-sustaining. Others want to build an entirely self-sustainable home but are lacking in ideas.
No matter what your plans are, here is what you need to know about how to make your home self-sustainable.
What is a Self-Sustainable Home?
A self-sustainable home is also known as an autonomous home or a green-living home. These homes rely on themselves and the world around them for heating, cooling, and electricity. They are also eco friendly and reduce your carbon footprint. Some people take it a few steps further and add creating in a self-sustainable garden.
Most self-sustainable homes are unique and configured differently. Some are made with purely recycled materials, whereas others take a prebuilt home and convert it into their dream home. Most systems are selected based on your climate, location, needs, and desires as the homeowner.
Why Would You Want a Self-Sustaining Home?
It’s no secret; having an autonomous home is far from easy or cheap. When you add in things such as gardening or raising a flock of chickens, you have more work, so why would you want this?
Here are some reasons that you might consider.
- You’re Prepared
Even if you’re worried about TEOTWAWKI, being self-sustaining gives you peace of mind. Your electricity will still run because of your solar panels, and your home will be warm because of your wood-burning stove.
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Your self-sustaining garden will keep your family fed, even if the rest of the world is falling apart. For many people, that feeling is a safety net that helps them feel content. Being prepared is a great feeling.
- Reduced Costs
Think about how much money you give to the electric company each year or the gas company. What if you could save that money? That’s a main reason people want this style of home.
After the initial costs, you’ll have minimum to no bills.
- Eco Friendly
Some people feel concerned about our planet’s future, and they want to do their part in contributing to its health. They opt to use renewable energy sources, plant a garden, and compost their waste rather than toss it out.
Self-Sufficient Home Energy Sources
If you want a completely self-sufficient home, it’s essential to look at autonomous sources for energy. The two biggest contenders are solar and wind power because both are renewable options, but some feel as if the switch isn’t feasible for them.
If you wonder how to be energy self-sufficient, here are the two main options.
Wind energy uses turbines, which are an emission-free power source. It’ll generate enough energy for a moderately-sized home if the optimal conditions are met.
Besides zoning laws, your property has to receive enough wind to produce enough energy to generate a completely self-sufficient home. Most homes need from 2-10 kW, and most people need at least one acre to generate that type of power.
The cost of a wind turbine ranges from $10,000 to $70,000, and they take years to help you save money on your energy bill.
Solar energy is more popular than wind because it’s affordable and accessible to homeowners. The government even offers rebates and deductions if you opt to use solar energy. If your home location gives you the right conditions to capture solar energy, then this could be the ideal choice for you.
There are two main ways to use solar energy at your house.
- Rooftop Panels
Most homeowners select rooftop panels because everyone has a roof, but not everyone has room for standalone panels. The panels need to face 90 degrees of direct sunlight and have full access throughout the day for optimal energy capture.
Also, your roof structure has to be strong enough to support the solar panel’s weight. You’ll need 300-500 square feet of unobstructed roof space.
- Standalone Panels
For some people, standalone panels are the best choice if their rooftops cannot support a panel or don’t face the sun properly. Standalone panels are either stationary or fitted with a solar tracker that follows the movement of the sun. That maximizes how much power they can absorb.
Pick a Self-Sufficient Water System
One of the hardest things to figure out when making your home self-sustainable is finding the right water system. If your home is already hooked into the municipal water system, they might not take you off without paying big dollars.
Here are some ideas.
- Drill a Well
The first option people consider is drilling a well, but it’s not always an option for everyone. If you can, consider having a pump powered by solar power or wind energy to have a completely self-sufficient home.
Drilling a well is cost-prohibitive to many people. It requires professional work and thousands of dollars, and the right location because not everyone has enough water underneath their home for a well.
- Collect Rainwater
If you live in an area that receives plenty of rainfall every year, consider using rainwater as your renewable water source. It’s not as hard as most think to store water long-term. Free-standing barrels or a gutter system linked to a filtration device could work.
The downfall is that rainwater is often not suggested as drinking water. However, it can reduce your water bill, water your garden, and other useful tasks.
Don’t Forget waste
While we’re on the topic of water, let’s not forget waste – yes, THAT waste. Being hooked up to the municipal sewer system is the easiest option, but it means you’re still on-the-grid. Some people pick this method simply because they don’t want to deal with human waste.
If you want to disconnect, here are two options.
- Septic Systems
The most common option is a septic system. Building a new septic system costs upwards of $10,000, and regular pumping every few years costs between $200-400.
Those who live away from municipal sewers often have septic systems; they’re common throughout the United States. With proper maintenance and upkeep, having a septic system should cause you little to no problems.
- Composting Toilets
If you want to journey even further into having a self-sustaining home, consider adding composting toilets rather than septic systems. This option is becoming more popular with a multitude of options available for homeowners. You will have to handle the composted waste and have a disposal method, but it’ll decompose naturally over time.
Heating a Self-Sufficient Home
If you live in a region that requires heating your home, having a self-sustainable heat source is a huge benefit. Even if you don’t want a completely self-sustainable home, an alternative heat source is beneficial during power outages or frigid winters.
Two main options work for heating your home: wood-burning stoves and geothermal energy systems.
- Wood-Burning Stoves
Without a doubt, the most popular option is to have a wood-burning stove or furnace, and there are hundreds of models available to consider.
Start small before jumping to an extensive and elaborate setup. Modern wood-burning stoves are efficient and safer than previous models. Closed systems are safe to burn overnight without worries, and most regulate temperature and air intake.
If you have any woods on your property, using a wood-burning stove is a no-brainer. That reduces or eliminates the need to purchase wood from an outside source, drastically reducing the cost of heating your home.
- Geothermal Energy Systems
Many people have never heard of geothermal energy systems. But the basic idea is that it uses the existing heat given off by the earth below the frost line. These energy sources are very effective at heating or cooling homes, no matter your climate.
A geothermal energy system is a closed-loop system that pipes water throughout your home from inside the ground and back down again, reheating the water.
The earth’s temperature below the frost line stays a steady 50℉, which means that the air can be heated for the winter or cooled for the summer. The air circulates through ductwork that goes over the water coil system.
It sounds advanced, but it’s become quite popular for those who want to have self-sustainable homes.
Don’t Forget Passive Heating and Cooling
Those who have self-sustainable homes are generally smart about using passive heating and cooling methods. Here are some examples.
Autonomous homes rely on heavy insulation and creating an airtight seal that prevents too much air loss. For those who live in a colder climate, thick insulation keeps the home’s heat, exactly where it’s needed the most.
- Properly Positioned Windows
South-facing windows receive the most sunlight throughout the day. So f you have windows that face this direction, they should be opened to allow the sun to naturally warm your home. Simultaneously, having east and west-facing windows allows for the best airflow from side to side.
- Awnings and Curtains
Don’t underestimate the power of awnings and curtains. If you have a retractable awning over the south-facing windows, it helps to bounce the sun off of the home during the summer. Using thick, black-out style curtains also prevents the sun from coming in when it’s already too hot outside.
Creating Your Self-Sustainable Garden
Having a self-sustainable garden takes a lot of work and a lot of land. If you’re wondering how big of a garden to be self-sustaining, it takes between ¼ to two acres of fertile land to feed an average family of four. That depends on what you’re growing and if you have animals as well.
The key to having a self-sustainable garden is understanding that everything needs to tie in together. Let’s take a look at what that looks like in real life.
Many people start first by composting, and that’s a good thing. Soil health is key to your garden’s success; it’s the foundation that will grow you all the vegetables you need to survive.
There are many things that you can compost regularly, such as:
- Coffee grounds
- Tea leaves
- Vegetable scraps
- Fruit scraps
- Grass clippings
- Shredded leaves
- Growing Your Garden
After you have compost ready to use in your garden beds, it’s time to start growing your garden. Producing all of the food that your family needs is a huge undertaking, so it’s recommended that you start small and continue to add more each year.
Any food that you grow yourself is better than the quality that you find at the stores.
If you want to grow foods that will help reduce your grocery bill and fill your bellies, here are some of the best crops to grow in a self-sufficient garden.
- Green Beans
- Harvesting Rainwater
How are you going to water your garden? The best option is to harvest rainwater to water your garden. There is no need to filter anything; a simple barrel collection system and a few hoses will be all that you need.
Harvesting rainwater for your garden is another aspect of a self-sufficient garden. You don’t rely on the municipal water to take care of your garden.
- Using Natural Fertilizers
Your garden needs to be fertilized, but if you don’t want to run to the store and buy fertilizers, you have to find them at your home.
The best natural fertilizers come from animals. Composted manure provides a vast amount of nutrients to your plants throughout the growing season, but not everyone can care for livestock. If you can, consider adding even just a few chickens or ducks.
A few other ideas for natural fertilizers that you have at home or can make at home include:
- Grass clippings
- Wood ash
- Compost Tea
- Composting Scraps
When you have scraps from the vegetables you grew in your garden, they go into your compost bin, fertilizing your plants in the upcoming gardening season.
The same happens if you have chickens; you can feed chickens the vegetable scraps and compost their manure. Then, in the following year, you spread their composted manure over the garden.
It’s a full circle that happens each year. That’s what being self-sufficient is all about!
The Cost of Creating a Self-Sufficient Home
The cost to create a self-sustainable home varies widely based on if you’re building the house, materials used, and more. It ranges from as low as $5,000 up to $50,000.
If you feel like the cost is stopping you from having your dream, self-sufficient home, here are some tips for keeping the price down.
- Go Small
A smaller, self-sustaining house costs less than a large one, and if you want to use solar power or wind energy, it’s easier to generate enough power for a smaller home. Building a small house requires fewer materials and less work.
- Use Recycled Materials
Building homes from recycled materials is all the rage right now. You can find dozens of examples of creative people who have built homes from rubber tires or glass bottles.
It’s not necessary to be that creative, but being resourceful is an advantage.
- Build It Yourself
If you want to save money, consider building your house yourself. 40% of the cost to build a home is the labor cost, so if you build all or part of the home yourself, that’s some significant savings. It’s best to leave the plumbing and electricity to someone who has professional experience, though!
- Use What You Have
Don’t be upset if you don’t have the funds to build a new home. Start with what you have and turn your existing home into a self-sufficiency dream. Here are some suggestions to get started.
- Consider adding one or two solar panels at a time. Adding all of them at one time is cost-prohibitive.
- Start a small garden where you grow five or six types of vegetables.
- Start a compost bin. Make sure to learn what you can and cannot compost; add as much as you can!
- Buy a wood-burning stove that heats part of your home. Learn how to use a ferro rod and chop wood on your property if you can.
- Have a small flock of chickens.
Enjoy Having a Self-Sustainable Home
Making a self-sustainable home doesn’t happen overnight. For most people, it’s a journey that takes time and learning. But if you start small with a few ideas, you can work towards your dream. Not to mention become more eco friendly.
Many people don’t know that for as little as $5,000 they can make a sustainable home. Not only is it good for the environment, but it provides added insurance to your family.