Off grid living in Alaska has become more popular for many reasons. Living off the grid can be a more affordable, sustainable, and enjoyable way to live. However, it requires a lot of education on zoning laws, requirements, and methods to be self-sustainable.
Alaska is one of the most beautiful places to enjoy off grid living. There is an abundance of land and not a lot of people, making it perfect for living off-grid life.
Once you find a place where you can legally enjoy living off grid in Alaska, you will be able to become self-sustainable and take in all the peace and calm that Alaska has to offer.
Is Living Off Grid in Alaska Legal?
Living off the grid in Alaska is legal, but you need to follow the state’s rules. Laws in the United States differ depending on the state, so you cannot live off the grid in some states.
To move to Alaska and live off the land legally, you must follow local zoning requirements and building codes.
Zoning Laws for Off Grid Living in Alaska
Municipalities usually divide the land into different zoning districts, and each section has its own rules regarding what you can legally do on your property.
Some zoning laws make it illegal to live off grid in a particular area, so it is essential to know where you would be allowed to live off the grid. In Alaska, cities are usually tiny. In other states, a city as small as Valdez in Alaska might not even be considered a city because of its size.
Valdez has a population of only 4,000 people. Cities with low populations like this usually are considered aural or agricultural areas and do not have many zoning requirements.
Most towns in Alaska are residential zoning areas, and there is not much rural zoned land. For example, Wasilla has a population of 10,000 people but has strict rural zoning requirements.
- You can only own up to 2 horses, cows, pigs, or other animals that weigh no more than 250 pounds.
- Only 10 sheep, goats, or other animals between 25 to 250 pounds are allowed.
- You can own no more than 50 mink, rabbits, or other animals that weigh less than 25 pounds.
Therefore, if you were planning to live off the grid in Wasilla and have a self-sustaining farm, you may not be able to with limitations on animals due to the requirements. There may be areas where you can build a one-story home and live near a lake but are not allowed to use the lake as a water source.
Before making a final decision, you should always consider zoning requirements in the area you want to live off the grid.
Alaska Building Codes
Building codes in Alaska apply to remote areas where you can live off the grid. The current building codes in Alaska include the following:
- Building Code 2012
- Fire Code 2012
- National Electrical Code 2020
- Fuel Gas Code 2012
- Mechanical Code 2012
Alaska has not yet adopted a statewide residential building code, but each city has its residential regulations they must follow. It is important to remember that you cannot just start building when you please because there are specific rules and requirements set in place for your safety.
Building Permits in Alaska
In most areas of Alaska, receiving a building permit to complete a construction project more significant than 120 square feet is necessary. However, there are some exceptions.
Some Alaskan boroughs, like Matanuska-Susitna, require plan reviews for a multi-family building instead of a building permit. Building permits are in place to ensure that the repair, erection, demolition, removal, or change of occupancy complies with the building codes.
How to Get Power for Off Grid Living in Alaska
The most common source of power for living off grid in Alaska is solar power. In Alaska, there are no state rebates for solar energy, but there are incentives on a federal level.
The city of Anchorage implemented a program called Solarize to help residents receive a significant discount on solar installations because they are allowed to contribute to lowering Alaska’s electricity cost.
Off grid solar is entirely legal in Alaska, and there aren’t any laws restricting it. However, you will most likely need to obtain a permit for your solar panel system.
You should aim to live in an area of Alaska that sees a lot of sun but should also be prepared for the few weeks when the sun is hidden for multiple days. Those days will make it impossible for the batteries on your solar panels to recharge, and you will need to use a backup generator to supply your power.
Other common renewable resources to produce power include wind, bioenergy, geothermal, hydrogen, and hydropower. Renewable resources are an essential part of off grid living in case SHTF someday, and there is a natural disaster or EMP.
How to Get Water For Off Grid Living in Alaska?
There are a few self-sufficient ways to get water when you live off the grid.
Fresh Lakes and Springs
There are many fresh lakes and springs in Alaska where you can collect fresh water, but this is where permits prove to be necessary.
Before assembling the water from a lake or spring, check your local licenses and rights to use the water. After you collect the water, it is essential to purify and distill it, so it is safe for you to consume.
Another good way to get water is to collect rainwater since it is naturally fresh and clean. Rainwater is already distilled before it hits the ground, so it is only necessary to put it through a minimal purification process before consumption. You can install your system to harvest rainwater in multiple ways.
One way to capture rainwater is to store the water at the roof level for later use. The rainwater will collect in the gutters and move to the downspouts, eventually reaching a storage vessel.
Alaska does not currently have any laws prohibiting rainwater collection, but the uniform plumbing code makes it difficult to use rainwater indoors. Depending on where you live, there may also be laws prohibiting storage tanks for underground and above-ground use.
You can also collect stream water, as Alaska has a unique type of water right allied instream flow reservation. This ensures that the stream water will not become depleted, and it also helps to protect wildlife.
Before consuming stream water, it is essential to boil it to kill any unwanted bacteria or parasites that can harm you. Collecting steam water for usage can be time-consuming, mainly because you will always need to boil it before consumption.
Waste Removal for Off Grid Living in Alaska
Waste removal is an important consideration to keep in mind when living off the grid. There are multiple options to choose from to dispose of your waste.
Septic tanks are an excellent source for waste removal if you have a running water source on your property. Water-tight containers, typically made of fiberglass, concrete, or polyethylene, are buried underground to hold your waste.
A septic tank separates solids from wastewater, stores, and decomposes as much waste as possible while allowing the waste liquid into the drain field. Septic systems are designed to treat and get rid of human waste.
To use a septic system, you need to have it installed by a qualified professional, and you will also need to get a permit before installation.
An alternative option to remove your waste is to build an outhouse. Outhouses are simple structures and can usually be made without obtaining a permit.
Outhouses are good for the environment, as insects, earthworms, and amoebas flourish, which turn the waste into compost that is safe for the environment.
While outhouses contribute to reducing our environmental impact, they can become smelly over time and may appear to be an eyesore.
While the sewer may not seem like an obvious option when living off the grid, many people use “off grid plumbing” to dispose of waste. Plumbing is considered off the grid in this case because you would use water from a renewable natural resource, such as a private well, rainwater collection, river, lake, pond, or springs.
There are man-made water systems that can expel waste water into a lagoon. The lagoon method is essentially a basin that holds your wastewater. Many plumbing companies can help with this installation, but it does need to get approved by your local authorities first.
Another way to dispose of wastewater using a sewer is by using the greywater system. This system captures all expelled wastewater and gray water into a large holding tank and then recycles it.
A three-way valve allows the wastewater to go out to a sewer, and the gray water gets recycled and pumped back to your land.
Composting toilets offers many benefits. They reduce wastewater use, help create compost for plants, and significantly reduce your carbon footprint since they help to save as much as 6,600 gallons of water a year.
You will need to purchase a composting toilet and will need to find a place for the toilet to be stored. Luckily, composting toilets can stay indoors and usually do not produce any odor.
Composting toilets are ideal for living off the grid because you do not need plumbing for them to work.
Helpful Tips to Become Self-Sustainable While Living Off Grid in Alaska
Now that you have a better understanding of Alaska living off the grid, we have some valuable tips to help you prepare for a self-sustaining life off the grid.
Once you decide to live off the grid, you choose to live in wild animals’ natural territory. You should always respect nature by taking animals seriously. Do not engage with wild animals, as it can be dangerous.
Many animals live in Alaska, such as deer, moose, and bears, so it is common to encounter some of these animals daily. They will usually not bother you if you do not interact with them.
Respect their boundaries, and they usually will respect yours. However, building a fence near your garden is an excellent idea to keep the animals from eating your food.
Become Comfortable with Darkness
The northern corners of Alaska are known to be very dark for months, so it is wise to get used to the darkness and become comfortable with it. Even in other areas of Alaska, it gets very dark during winter, and daylight is short.
Having the proper lighting around your property is crucial to defending it against predators during the cold dark winter months. A thrower flashlight is also a great option because it maximizes the amount of light you can put out as you’re walking around the property.
Consider finding a hobby to keep you busy to stay occupied during the dark months. Whether your hobby is knitting, sculpting, or painting, it is essential to find something to do that makes you happy is critical. Darkness can negatively impact your mood if you do not become comfortable with it.
Get Used to Peace and Quiet
Living off the grid in Alaska is much different than living in a highly populated city surrounded by people. While you might enjoy the peace, you could eventually miss being around other people and things.
You must be comfortable with living alone in a peaceful environment in the Alaskan wilderness. Some good ways to occupy yourself can be to meditate, read, do yoga, write letters to family or friends, or have a pet.
If you do have any neighbors within proximity, try to get to know them. While many areas do not have cell phone service, you likely know if you want to live off the grid, take advantage of the times when you have service to call family or friends and check in.
Grow Your Food
A large part of Alaska off grid living is growing your own food. Growing your food can save you money and trips to the grocery store.
The food you grow by yourself will probably taste better than food from the store since it is your accomplishment. When growing your own food, you should ensure that the soil, sunlight, amount of water, and area is suitable enough to accomplish your garden.
You should avoid growing food in the winter because of the harsh weather, but you can also build a greenhouse if you want to continue growing food during the colder months. To begin your garden, you will need to use a survival knife to eliminate excess bush growth and make room to grow your plants.
Some foods that grow well in Alaska include cauliflower, broccoli, turnips, cabbage, daikon radishes, radishes, and rutabagas. You can also produce various fruits, like apples, melons, and berries. Be sure to preserve your food, so you have enough to last year-round.
Get Enough Exercise
Exercise is vital to stay healthy with off grid living in Alaska. In most cases, the nearest hospital is a long distance away. Therefore, you should do what you can to stay healthy since you will not be able to receive quick medical help.
Plan a daily exercise routine and try to stay consistent with it. Exercise will not only help you stay healthy physically, but it will also help your mental health to become stronger.
Consider bringing a bushcraft backpack with you if you go on a hike or long walk, as it is good to keep essentials with you in case of an emergency,
You can incorporate everyday chores into your exercise plan, like wood chopping, because you can never have too much wood to keep the fire burning or to use for your wood stove.
Have a Seasonal Job
In Alaska, living off the grid can be costly. Equipment and materials usually inexpensive in other states might be more expensive in Alaska since the cost of living is higher.
If you want to save extra money, getting a seasonal job is a great way to earn cash. Finding a seasonal job in Alaska is relatively simple since many tourist spots are open.
The tourist industry in Alaska usually lasts about five months, which is the perfect amount of time to earn some money and spend the rest of the year enjoying your off-the-grid lifestyle.
Can You Live in Alaska Wilderness for Free?
It is not free to live in the Alaska wilderness. Homesteading on all federal lands in Alaska ended on October 21, 1986.
There are no homesteading programs for Alaskan lands, but there is land available for private ownership through either sealed bid auctions or remote recreation cabin sites.
To have an off-grid homestead in Alaska, you need to own the land you live on and ensure everything is up to code and regulations from your local authorities.
Living off grid in Alaska can be a challenge, but it also has many benefits. Off the grid living can help you achieve the self sustaining lifestyle you have always dreamt of while also experiencing one of the most beautiful states.
There are a lot of decisions to make initially when deciding to live off the grid, such as where you want to live, if you meet all legal requirements, and how you will become more self-sustainable. Overall, Alaska off the grid living is highly achievable and full of opportunity.