In most cases, living off the grid is legal in California. Off-grid living is often encouraged by state legislation. For practically everything, though, you’ll need to adhere to highly tight building rules and obtain a permit.
Obtaining water rights can be difficult, and there is no guarantee that wells will not run dry. You may also run into a legislation that mandates you to connect to a municipal sewer system if one is nearby, making being entirely off the grid unlawful in California.
California Zoning Laws and Off-Grid Living
Zoning rules are local regulations that govern everything from setbacks to the number of hens you can have on your property. Zoning regulations apply to all areas of California. These rules may make it illegal to live the off-grid lifestyle you desire on your land.
Local zoning laws can differ dramatically from one county to the next.
If you want to utilise alternative building materials, live in a mobile home or tiny home, or have many accessory homes, you’ll need to do a lot of study to find out what’s allowed in your area.
In California, do I need a permit for off-grid solar?
Permits will almost certainly be required if you are installing a project in a city. If in doubt, find out if off-grid PV installations require solar permits from the town or municipality. If a building permit is required, the city will almost certainly need an inspection after the solar PV system is installed to confirm that it complies with all electrical and building requirements. Although most electrical and building code standards are uniform, some details may differ depending on local regulations. Off-grid solar power systems do not require a utility hookup permit because they are not connected to the electrical grid. Because the system isn’t connected to the utility grid, it doesn’t qualify for nett metering.
Is it possible for me to simply go off the grid?
Living off-the-grid appeals to individuals who prefer isolation and fewer human interaction. Living off-grid means being self-sufficient and not reliant on a utility for power. Growing your own food and creating your own home are common examples. Some folks will also grow livestock. Off-grid living is quite similar to self-sufficiency and homesteading.
Off-grid living is not unlawful in and of itself, especially when it comes to generating your own electricity, growing your own food, and constructing your own home. However, when municipal rules and zoning limitations make it illegal to conduct certain things on or with your own property, an off-grid existence becomes problematic.
Is it possible for me to disconnect my house from the electrical grid?
Solar power is occasionally chosen by homeowners who want to be able to disconnect their home from the grid. The average home solar system is designed to keep you linked to the grid, allowing you to grab power when you need it and put it back when you produce more than you use. This is referred to as nett metering (NEM). These grid-connected solar systems lower or eliminate your monthly electric bill while also helping the environment and protecting you from potential utility rate rises.
Can You Be Disconnected from the Grid?
Your solar system can only be completely unplugged from the grid if you additionally choose to instal a battery backup system. These technologies aren’t included in normal solar packages for one reason: they raise the total cost of the solar installation. A conventional battery-based system will cost around $12,000 extra, but it may be worth it if you live in a location with regular power outages, run a business out of your home, rely on a medical equipment, or build a home far away from the power company’s electrical cables. Even if you generate your own electricity and have a battery backup, you will most likely want to stay connected to the grid since there are benefits to doing so.
Benefit of Staying Connected to the Grid
If you are connected to the utility provider, you will be able to take advantage of certain benefits. If you generate more energy than you consume in your home, you can store the excess with the utility provider for use at night or at a later time. This is referred to as nett metering.
You can also take advantage of nett metering by storing your energy when it is more valuable to the utility. In this case, the electricity used at peak hours is compensated at a higher rate, allowing you to use more electricity at no additional expense when rates are lower.
Is it legal to use grid-tied inverters in California?
Rule 21 was revised at the end of 2014 to include language proposed by the aforementioned Smart Inverter Working Group. The new language stipulated that smart inverters built within the territories of California’s major utilities (PG&E, Southern California Edison, and San Diego Gas & Electric) must meet IEEE 1547 grid interactive interconnection criteria as well as UL 1741SA test requirements. In 2017, the first phase went into effect. The implementation process was broken down into three stages:
- Phase I: All inverter-connected distributed energy resources in California will be required to execute autonomous activities.
- Phase 2: Default protocols for communications between investor-owned utilities, distributed energy resources, and aggregators of distributed energy resources.
- Phase III: More complex inverter functions, which may necessitate communication.
The most recent date for Phase II and Phase III compliance was June 22, 2020. Among these requirements are inverter manufacturers’ settings for what their devices should do when the grid experiences instability or performance swings, as well as how the equipment should respond to utility directives once the technology is ready. Instead of simply disconnecting, any connected generator (e.g., a residential rooftop) should be able to stay online and alter their output and general behaviour to stabilise the grid during abnormal operation.
Manufacturers must design smart inverters that can work in this future of networked, cross-communicating, automated energy distribution management infrastructure, which is not something a homeowner would be concerned about.
Do I Have to Worry About Rule 21
Yes, if you instal in California and the job involves a utility grid connection. Any inverter connected to a utility’s grid must comply with Rule 21. It’s worth noting that each of California’s major utilities (PG&E, SCE, and SDG&E) is in charge of their own territories when it comes to Rule 21 interconnection compliance. SMUD is in the same boat.
It’s also worth mentioning that similar regulations exist outside of California, such as Hawaii’s Rule 14H. This map depicts the states where IEEE 1547 standards are being considered for adoption. For information on your state’s adoption of IEEE1547, click the map for a link to information from the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI).
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.
In the long term, generating your own electricity may be less expensive than continuing to utilise 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 neighbours. 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 glasshouse gases and contributes to climate change.
How can I get free electricity for my home?
How to Make Electricity at Home
- Solar Panels for the Home Every beam of sunlight that lands on your roof provides you with free electricity.
- Hybrid Solar and Wind Systems
- Microhydropower systems are a type of microhydropower system.
- Solar Water Heaters are a type of solar water heater.
- Geothermal Heat Pumps are a type of geothermal heat pump that uses the earth’
OFF-GRID LIVING IN CALIFORNIA
“It’s what I do,” I reasoned, “so I’m living what I preach and living comfortably.” I believe that equipment costs will continue to fall, while quality and warranties will improve. When I went to our hilltop off-grid house in September 2011, the entire county was without electricity, I found my wife watching the news on our big-screen TV. “I wonder whether anyone out there can even hear us,” newscasters wondered aloud. I just had the biggest grin on my face.
We have a 720-foot-deep well. We can pump significantly more water than we need with just over 3 kW of solar panels (PV) on the wellhouse roof (the property features three 10,000 gallon water tanks where the one closest to the house pressurises the water for the home). My wife and I purchased energy-efficient appliances and utilise gas for hot water, cooking, and drying clothing (there are two large propane tanks located in the rear of the home). As a result, we are absolutely without an electric bill or a water bill. We were fortunate, but my wife and I had spent our entire lives putting this together.
CONSIDERATIONS FOR OFF-GRID LIVING NEAR SAN DIEGO
Sprinklers do not work without electricity, even if the house has fire sprinklers. Many people only have telephones that require external electrical power and are startled that they are unable to call for assistance or interact with loved ones. Backup power systems save money on electricity while also providing a high level of safety for the home and its occupants. Kevin Dubler, the local Fire Chief, performed the inspections during the construction of our sustainable home. Chief Dubler believes that having a battery backup power system would make every house in the back country safer. Each time a fire threatened our property, the area’s electric power went out. Power was off for several days in several areas. In fact, finding water in Ramona became a major issue. Many others in Campo lost all of their freezer food after a week without power, but we were alright.
People are becoming more comfortable with solar systems that are connected to the grid. According to a recent article in the Union Tribune, solar power systems have become one of the best investments consumers can make. One of our customers even wants to go completely off the grid in the heart of San Diego. “It’s feasible and cost-effective. SDG&E does not want us to know about this, according to Bill Powers, an electrical engineer.
An off-grid solar system in San Diego County requires a generator for backup. Because foggy days do happen, I believe this is sensible and a good concept. When it’s foggy or the panels are coated with snow, solar panels produce less effectively. Despite this, we produce more than enough energy to fuel our family activities throughout the year, thanks to our abundance of sunny days.
Even so, generators can be set to turn on when the battery voltage falls below a specific threshold. They provide power to the house while also charging the batteries. It’s an extremely dependable method. I’ve owned a couple of inexpensive tiny systems in the past, and I wouldn’t advocate attempting to save money by getting one now “Imports at a discount Electric power is too crucial, especially for those who live off the grid, to take chances with its reliability.
Off-grid solutions do necessitate some maintenance. The fluid levels of flooded lead acid batteries, like those in ultra heavy automobile batteries, must be monitored and replaced on a regular basis. The ease of operation of such a system is substantially enhanced with maintenance-free AGM batteries. Lithium batteries are becoming less expensive, although they are still quite costly. Some offer all of the desirable qualities in a battery bank, such as efficiency, extended life, and low to no maintenance.
San Diego County has over 50,000 residences with grid-tied solar systems that do not use batteries. When the grid goes down, almost all of these systems have historically turned off. However, SMA, a solar inverter manufacturer, now offers a new inverter that can supply 1500 watts of PV electricity when the sun is shining. This is plenty to run a refrigerator, lights, and a television, as well as a freezer full of food. This solution would be a halfway point between a battery backup solar system and a battery backup solar system.
The cost of battery replacement must be factored into the cost of owning a battery bank solar system. Depending on the type of battery, how it is used, and how well it is maintained, this should happen every five to ten years.
Another half-step is to have a generator and know how to utilise it. Starting a generator is simple at first, but after a year or two of storage, it becomes more difficult. Battery backup systems aren’t for everyone, but they’re becoming easier to use and maintain, as well as less expensive and more reliable. They can act as a fire insurance policy in locations where there is a risk of losing water and power. They also provide security from future utility rate hikes. Grid parity has arrived, and it is now cheaper to generate your own electricity than to purchase it from a utility such as SDG&E or PG&E.
Dispelling the Myth
Many people believe that a municipality has no right to disconnect a service if it is fully paid for (but where another service is in arrears). This is not the case. When there are uncontested arrears outstanding in connection with any other service billed in connection with that property, a municipality has full authority to terminate the supply of any service supplied to that property.
According to the law, a municipality must offer a least of 14 days written notice to the consumer (and the owner of the property if the consumer of the services at the property is not the owner) before terminating the provision of electricity and water. The disconnection is illegal if this notification is not delivered to the tenants of the property (and the owner, if the owner is not the same as the occupant).
Furthermore, if less than 14 days have passed since the pre-termination notification was delivered and the day of disconnection, the disconnection is also illegal.
The purpose of allowing a person 14 days to respond to the municipality and raise any disputes about the charges that are allegedly owing, or alternatively, to allow the responsible person to make payment of the arrears or make other payment arrangements with the municipality, such as entering into an instalment payment plan. If a consumer is refused this opportunity, it is a violation of their rights under our administrative law and Constitution, and the disconnect is therefore illegal.
If the quantity or value of the disputed charge equals or exceeds the amount of arrears on the account, it is illegal for a municipality to disconnect a consumer while a query is pending in relation to that consumer’s account. For example, if you have filed a query in relation to R50 000 in disputed water charges, but your current bill is R100 000 (which includes the R50 000 in disputed water charges plus another R50 000 in undisputed charges), the query filed in relation to the disputed water charges will not protect you from being disconnected because you have other undisputed arrears. Even if you have launched a dispute over other charges on the same account, you might be properly terminated for non-payment of uncontested arrears.
Payment of Current and Undisputed Charges
A question logged in respect to any municipal account will only stay valid for as long as the customer continues to pay the current and undisputed charges issued to it on a monthly basis, according to most municipalities’ bylaws. This implies that if you don’t pay your current costs (or any portion of your current charges that aren’t contested), you could be disconnected, even if you have an open and unresolved claim on previous disputed items on your account.
Furthermore, some municipalities require that if you dispute the charges billed on a monthly basis for any particular service (for example, electricity, perhaps because you believe your metre is faulty or the charges are too high, being based on inflated estimated charges), you must pay the average of the previous three months’ undisputed charges for that service (i.e. the last time you did not dispute your electricity charges, you take the average of the previous three months’ undisputed charges for that service). Failure to pay current and undisputed charges in accordance with the applicable bylaws/policies will result in credit control action, which may include disconnection or a summons to court to pay.
Prior Owners’ Debt
A recent case from the Gauteng Local Division of the High Court in Johannesburg provides persuasive authority (but not legal precedent) for the principle that a municipality cannot terminate a purchaser’s electricity or water service due to outstanding debts owed by the previous owner of the property. This principle has yet to be challenged in court, hence there is no definite legal solution to this question at this time, yet there is at least convincing authority to support purchasers contesting this problem until another verdict settles the issue.
Allocation of Payments
Although the method of payment to a municipal account is not directly related to the question of whether or not a municipality is legally permitted to disconnect, it does have an indirect impact on the legality of the disconnect. This is because if a customer is contesting any section of his account and does not tell the municipality in writing before making payment of any undisputed charges on that same account, the municipality will have the legal authority to distribute that money in any way it sees fit.
This may (or may not) result in the consumer’s payment (which he meant to be for uncontested charges) being allocated to a portion of the disputed charges that the consumer was not intending to pay, and settling a portion of the disputed charges that the consumer was not intending to pay. When this happens, a consumer will be taken aback by the municipality’s advice that the dispute he filed is no longer valid (due to his payment of the disputed charges), because he would believe that his dispute should still be valid and pending because he had continued to pay his current and undisputed charges on a monthly basis.
As a result of the disputed charges being paid, the consumer’s query will be closed, and he will be subject to disconnection or other credit control action for the unpaid current and undisputed charges that appear as unpaid on the municipality’s systems.
It is critical that customers understand and be aware of their rights in relation to municipal disconnections and threats of disconnections based on supposed arrears on municipal bills. When dealing with an illegal disconnection of your electricity or water supply, this basic knowledge may be enough to help you prevent what could be a very unpleasant, time-consuming, and costly experience.