Off-grid living is permitted in Alabama, and some regions are especially welcoming. However, many off-grid installations are subject to antiquated state legislation. Certain technologies, such as compost toilets, hydropower, and graywater recycling systems, may be illegal or difficult to obtain a permit for.
Alabama Zoning Laws and Off-Grid Living
The legality of living off-grid in Alabama is ultimately determined by municipal zoning and building codes. Outside of municipal areas, some locations, such as Jackson County, do not have any zoning restrictions or require building permits: you may practically do whatever you want on your property. However, zoning restrictions exist in most areas of Alabama (including rural areas).
The least restricted land is that which is designated as Rural Residential or Agriculture.
You’ll be able to cultivate, raise animals, and construct extra structures.
The minimum lot size is usually between 1/2 and 1 acre.
Running a home company is one of the challenges you may face in rural and agricultural areas.
In these areas, many commercial activities are restricted. It’s possible that operating a bakery from your house is prohibited. Even selling vegetables from your own farm on a roadside stand is merely a “conditional use and not guaranteed as a right” in Athens, Alabama.
If your home is designated residential, you’ll have a lot of limits on what you may do with it.
Gardening is allowed as a right on R1 land in the City of Centreville, but only for non-commercial purposes. If you tried to sell produce from your garden, you might get in trouble.
*Let us know if you know of any other Alabama counties without zoning in the comments section!
RVs and Manufactured Homes in Alabama
Almost every state in the United States has rigorous regulations regarding RV life (often called a “manufactured home).
On rural or agricultural land, it is frequently permitted to live in a manufactured home (as is the case in Centreville, Calera, and Baldwin County). Sewer hookups, driveways, minimum lot sizes, and the number of homes per lot are all subject to regulations, but they aren’t overly rigorous.
You might also find it useful to read: What Is a Homestead Declaration and Why Do You Need One?
Which states are the most suitable for living off the grid?
Today, I was debating which state is the greatest for living off the grid. So I went out and researched 12 critical elements that make a state suitable for off-grid life. It’s possible that you’ll be astonished to learn which states came out on top.
What states are the greatest for living off the grid? In a detailed 12-factor analysis of off-grid states, these ten states came out on top:
You might be wondering how I came up with this list. What makes these states ideal for living off the grid? I’ve broken down exactly how I came up with this list, as well as all of the details of my research on all 50 states, so you can understand why your state of choice made the cut or didn’t.
In the United States, where is it lawful to live off the grid?
Off-grid living rules differ not just by state, but also by municipalities and counties. Off-grid living is generally restricted in urban regions, as well as rich suburban neighborhoods, particularly those with homeowners associations. Small towns have also imposed limitations on common off-grid activities, which typically center on disconnecting from the electrical grid and sewer systems, albeit usually not as rigorous as in urban regions. Rural locations are the finest places to take advantage of off-grid living because they usually have the fewest restrictions and, aside from health department septic installation laws, even lack zoning constraints.
Rainwater collection laws, composting toilet requirements, solar energy restrictions, and completely unplugging from the electrical grid are all legislation to consider in each state. Many states also have laws and restrictions on selling raw milk from your off-grid homestead; building a permanent dwelling (using a tent or mobile home for an extended period of time could result in fines or eviction); the size of your home (your house may be too small in many states); and making sure any mobile home or manufactured home you buy meets minimum age requirements. Read your property deed carefully, since some may have livestock restrictions; how waste from a composting toilet is used or disposed of could also be a concern. Individual state-level regulations for each state can be found here.
While it is possible to live off the grid in every state, some states are better than others. The ten best states for off-grid living are Alabama, Missouri, Georgia, Tennessee, Texas, Louisiana, Indiana, Hawaii, Colorado, and Arkansas, based on six main categories of factors (cost of living, freedom of lifestyle, water availability, how easy it is to grow food, energy availability, and the area’s community). These states feature the lowest total living costs and property taxes, the most freedom for off-grid living, the least restrictive building codes, the finest off-grid water access, high off-grid solar or wind power potential, and favorable growing conditions for agricultural gardens.
Is solar energy prohibited in Alabama?
The state of Alabama is known as a “grid parity state.” As a result, solar energy is generally less expensive here than in many other states. Grid parity is a metric that compares the cost of conventional electricity against the cost of solar energy. Socket parity is another name for this.
Many people in Alabama choose to have solar panels installed in order to save money. If you live in Alabama, you should be aware that your savings will likely be significantly more than in other regions of the country. You should study more about Alabama’s legislation and estimate how much electricity you will need.
Is it allowed to use outhouses in Alabama?
When it comes to sewage disposal, Alabama has some quite rigorous regulations.
You will almost certainly need to install a septic tank if your property is not near a public sewer line.
It’s worth noting that septic soil is scarce in many parts of Alabama, particularly in the Black Belt.
You may be forced to have a custom-designed septic system, which can be quite pricey.
As a result, the state urges people to look into the various sewage treatment methods before purchasing land.
Despite Alabama’s tough sewage rules, many people continue to utilize malfunctioning septic systems, cesspools, outhouses, or discharge sewage straight onto the soil.
In certain locations, this has resulted in a sanitary disaster.
If you see raw sewage on lawns or in waterways, don’t be startled.
A professional engineer, land surveyor, geologist, or soil classifier will need to test your soil before installing septic in Alabama. However, check with the county first; a soil test may have already been performed and is on file.
If soil testing reveal that your property isn’t suitable for a traditional septic system, you’ll need to hire an engineer to construct one for you.
Regardless of whether you’re installing a traditional or designed septic system, you’ll need to obtain a permit first.
The permit is obtained through your local county health department. You’ll need to have your septic system inspected after it’s finished. Only then will you receive a septic system “Approval to Use” permit.
Can I Install My Own Septic System in Alabama?
Septic systems can only be installed, repaired, or pumped by personnel who have been licensed by the Alabama Onsite Wastewater Board (AOWB). It is tough to obtain even a driver’s license, unlike in some states. You can’t even take the exam for a “Basic Installers License” until you’ve got 12 months of relevant experience.
Even if you go through the lengthy process of obtaining a septic license in Alabama, you must attend continuing education sessions to maintain your certification.
It’s probably not worth the trouble of getting a license merely to be able to legally work on your septic tank unless you want to work as a septic installation.
In Alabama, composting toilets are permitted. They must be certified by NSF or an ANSI-accredited agency. In Alabama, though, you won’t be able to use simply a composting toilet because the law prohibits it.
“Any liquid from a composting toilet must be disposed of in either a public or private sewer system.”
For home water, you’ll additionally need an approved graywater disposal method.
Also check out:
- Composting Toilets: How Do They Work?
- Composting Toilet Separation (DIY)
- Compost Toilet (Indoor)
Using an outhouse is nearly always prohibited in Alabama. They’re only legal in isolated areas when the house doesn’t have indoor plumbing or running water. Even in these circumstances, you will need a permit to build and use an outhouse in Alabama.
How to Construct a Contemporary Latrine
In Alabama, incinerating toilets are legal. They must comply with NSI Z21.61 and NSF guidelines. However, liquids from the toilet must be flushed into a public sewer or septic tank. You’ll also need a way to dispose of greywater from your property that has been permitted.
In Alabama, greywater recycling is technically legal. The laws, on the other hand, are so severe that they may as well be illegal. In order to legally recycle greywater in Alabama, you’ll need to install a complicated filtering and disinfection system, as well as meet a slew of other regulations.
The first issue with greywater recycling in Alabama is the way the law defines it.
Greywater is defined by the Alabama Public Health Administrative Code as
“sewage created by a water-using device, excluding toilet and food preparation waste from residences and regulated establishments. It has a similar composition to sewage, however it has a lesser strength.
Obviously, greywater does not have the same chemical composition as sewage in many cases.
Nonetheless, Alabama law requires you to treat all greywater as if it were pathogen-laden sewage.
The standards vary by county, but you’ll almost certainly have to filter and disinfect greywater before you can use it.
Even then, you’ll be limited to using greywater for specific purposes, such as irrigating non-edible crops.
Greywater used for toilet flushing will almost certainly need to be dyed.
If you don’t have a fireplace in your home, “When there is a lot of water under pressure, the rules for disposing of greywater are a little more flexible.
You can dispose of them using an Effluent Disposal Field (EDF) pipe, but it must be at least 50 linear feet long per house and not closer than 50 feet from any state surface water.
Do you reside in Alabama and are off the grid? Please share your stories in the comments area below.
Is it less expensive to live off the grid?
Overall, living off-grid is a less expensive way to live once you have everything set up. Renewable energy is less expensive, eating off the land is less expensive (but requires more maintenance), and living in a less opulent home can also save you money.
Is it necessary to obtain a permit in order to construct a cabin in the woods?
In most areas, you can construct a modest cottage on private property without obtaining a construction permit. If the cabin is small enough, you may not need to obtain a permit prior to construction. Each municipality, however, has its own set of building codes.
Building permits may be required in some counties for projects larger than 100 square feet, while others may allow structures up to 400 square feet. Smaller structures, such as sheds, barns, workshops, and cabins, are sometimes exempt from local building standards and may not require approval or inspection.
In the long term, generating your own electricity may be less expensive than continuing to utilize power from the local grid, especially if you have access to good renewable resources (wind or solar).
Connections to local lines might cost tens of thousands of dollars for residences in rural places. It may be less expensive to generate your own electricity. In metropolitan regions, it may also be an alternative. The setup costs are now somewhat substantial, however they are decreasing.
You may be able to sell any excess electricity back to your power provider if you are linked to the grid and generate your own electricity.
You can have security of supply even if there is a blackout or if your local electrical network is shut down if you can create and store your own electricity, either individually or collectively with neighbors. This allows you to be considerably more self-sufficient from the grid, which might be essential in times of civil unrest or terrible weather.
In 2016, renewable energy sources such as hydro, wind, bio-energy, and geothermal generated about 84 percent of New Zealand’s electricity. The remainder is derived from the combustion of fossil fuels such as gas or coal, a process that emits greenhouse gases and contributes to climate change.
How will I be able to live off the grid if I don’t have any money?
If you’re anything like me, the biggest roadblock to living off the grid is a lack of funds. Today, I thought I’d help out aspiring homesteaders by compiling a list of recommendations for living off the grid on a budget, some of which you may not have seen before.
How to live off the grid on a shoestring budget:
- Get yourself a free or low-cost piece of land (4 methods below)
- Construct a free house
- Gather and cultivate foods that are abundant in nature.
- There are no wells to dig, therefore purify the available water.
- Set up a dirt-cheap (or even free) waste disposal system.
- Find a free living community as a bonus.
Despite what advertisements, builders, and real estate salespeople would have you believe, there are numerous low-cost methods to go off the grid. It all comes down to how much effort you’re willing to put in and your ability to think creatively.
Is Alabama a pro-solar state?
Change is slow, but it is happening. In the previous year, the state has witnessed a significant increase in utility-scale solar installations, with more coming up this year. There’s also growing interest from homes and small business owners in switching to renewable energy, as well as increased pressure on local and state governments from solar enthusiasts.
But, according to analysts, the state will remain behind the curve unless new solar-friendly legislation are introduced.
Alabama’s discouraging policies
Alabama is ranked 49th in the country for solar career opportunities. The solar sector employs only 530 individuals, the majority of whom are located in the state’s northern regions. Alabama has only 105 megawatts of solar, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association, with all but two of those megawatts added in 2016. Solar energy is used in about 10,000 residences, but it only generates.02 percent of the state’s electricity.
According to Daniel Tait, CEO of the organization Energy Alabama, the low numbers are due to a number of regulatory concerns.
“Alabama, at the end of the day, has three things going against it,” he remarked. “Most states lack basic requirements, such as operating rules for handling solar; most sections of the state have onerous costs; and there are dreadful buybacks.”
According to Tait, the state is fundamentally divided into two regions, each of which is governed by a different utility company with a distinct approach to renewable energy. The majority of Alabama’s solar plants are located in the state’s northern third, where the Tennessee Valley Authority has made significant investments in renewable energy. To encourage customers to install solar on their homes and businesses, the utility offers competitive prices.
However, Alabama Power owns the market in the rest of the state, including large cities like Birmingham and Montgomery. The utility provides little incentives for customers to switch to solar, charging a flat price of $5 per kilowatt per month dependent on the size of their rooftop solar installation, which reduces potential savings. “It’s a punitive policy,” Andreen explained, “that discourages the growth of rooftop solar in the state.”
Alabama Power has a low repurchase rate compared to other major utilities in the region, in addition to the fixed charge. Users who sell excess solar energy to the grid get three to four cents per kilowatt-hour, compared to around 12 cents for Tennessee Valley Authority customers.
The set charge covers the cost of the company having power to supply consumers when their solar panels aren’t generating any, according to Michael Sznajderman of Alabama Power, and the low buyback rate is due to the fact that conventional energy is significantly cheaper in Alabama than in other states.
He said, “We think that’s the fair way to go.” “We notice interest, but when we talk to them about the expenses of it and how it compares to traditional power they can buy, they typically find that it isn’t financially viable.”
However, solar enthusiasts believe that the current financing structure is part of the reason for the poor uptake of rooftop solar.
Aside from the high rates, the state lacks a renewable energy portfolio and renewable criteria to satisfy, as well as solar-friendly legislation that many other Southeastern states have. Net metering has been regularly rejected by the Alabama Public Service Commission, most recently in 2016. However, solar activists in Alabama are not requesting net metering; rather, they are seeking a negotiated tariff that is equitable to both utilities and solar producers.
Alabama’s stance on third-party ownership of solar panels is still unclear, but state and municipal governments have made no recent attempts to legalize it, which could assist cut upfront costs for rooftop solar users.
Alabama also lacks community solar regulations, according to a 2016 report from the Center for Biological Diversity, which would allow residents to pool their resources to develop solar projects.
Due to these impediments, Energy Alabama and other solar non-profits have been assisting small companies and homeowners in going off the grid or behind the meter by installing their own storage systems.
“We have more than our fair share of issues compared to most states,” Tait said, “but solar is still attractive in Alabama.” “So you’re going to walk behind the meter and get around our lousy policy.”
Utility scale solar as the path forward
Although rooftop solar adoption is modest, utility-scale solar projects in Alabama are gaining traction. The Tennessee Valley Authority operates the state’s largest solar farm, with 75 megawatts of capacity spread across 600 acres of farmland. The company is also collaborating with Google to convert an outdated coal plant into a renewable-energy data center.
The Alabama Public Service Commission approved an Alabama Power plan in 2015 to create or acquire up to 500 megawatts of renewable energy from facilities with a capacity of 80 megawatts or less. The Department of Defense will benefit from two solar projects: one at Fort Rucker, which is around 10 MW, and the other at Anniston Army Depot, which is just over 7 MW. Both will be available this year.
By the end of the year, a 72 MW solar farm near LaFayette, a small town southeast of Birmingham, will be completed. Walmart, a significant employer in Alabama, will receive renewable energy credits.
Alabama Power issued a request for more solar project bids in late 2016. They received over 200, according to Sznajderman, and are in the process of cutting them down to see which ones could be presented to the commission for approval. “We will collaborate with them if they have goals they want to achieve, he said.
Large-scale projects are the most obvious road ahead for solar in Alabama, at least in the medium term, with a big utility company and state politicians unwilling to adjust tariffs and regulations. Meanwhile, solar supporters are focusing their efforts on expanding public participation with the public service commission, local legislators, and utility corporations, as well as promoting programs and laws that would allow for more open access to solar and other sustainable energy sources.
“Andreen believes that the more knowledge that can be provided around these policies, and the more people who hear about them and see solar panels and desire their own, the greater the chance for change.
Why is solar power so uncommon in Alabama?
“In Alabama, customers can’t save money by going solar because the utility has structured things to prevent customers from saving money,” said Sean Gallagher, vice president of state regulatory affairs for the Solar Energy Industries Association, a trade group that represents solar installers and manufacturers.