Living Off Grid in Michigan: Laws, Regulations, and Tips

living off grid in michigan

While Michigan is notorious for having harsh winters, it is one of the most beautiful and best states to live in. It has plentiful water, much affordable land, and does not have many natural disasters.  

Off grid living in Michigan is highly achievable, even if it seems otherwise due to strict rules and regulations. Depending on which county you choose to live in, living off grid in Michigan can be simple. If you are willing to look into permits, codes, and other local laws, there are multiple locations you can reside in to live off the grid. 

Is Living Off Grid in Michigan Legal?

It is usually legal to live off the grid in Michigan. There is a state requirement in Michigan to connect to the local sewer line on your property, making it illegal to live off-grid without using the sewer when living in the city or suburbs. 

It is essential not to choose a suburb to live off grid, but you should choose somewhere in the upper peninsula, such as Big Bay. Harvesting and storing rainwater is legal, so you can legally set up a septic system once you run it by your county officials.

off grid zoning laws in michigan

What Are the Zoning Laws for Off Grid Living in Michigan?

Most parts of Michigan have local zoning laws, while portions of the state do not have zoning requirements

Zoning laws can make it difficult for you to live off the grid because the rules vary depending on the county. Before purchasing property, be sure to know the specific requirements of each county.

  • If animals or livestock are allowed to live on your property
  • The minimum land parcel requirements
  • Your property’s permitted uses
  • The minimum standards for dwelling size
  • The number of accessory dwellings allowed

Michigan Building Codes and Permits

There are multiple building codes that are effective in the state of Michigan. It is important not to violate these codes when living off grid in Michigan, as it can result in fines or other penalties. These building codes include:

  • 2012 International Fire Code (IFC)
  • 2015 Michigan Building Code
  • 2015 International Swimming Pool and Spa Code (ISPSC)
  • 2015 Michigan Residential Code
  • 2015 Michigan Energy Code
  • 2015 Michigan Rehabilitation Code for Existing Buildings
  • 2015 International Fuel Gas Code (IFGC)
  • 2015 Michigan Mechanical Code
  • 2017 National Electrical Code (NEC)
  • 2018 Michigan Plumbing Code

In addition, you must obtain a permit to work on most things on your property. The permits you will need most likely include:

  • Septic permit
  • Soil and erosion permit (if excavation occurs within 500 feet near a body of water)
  • Electrical permit
  • Well permit
  • Driveway permit
  • Mechanical permit (gas lines, heating, cooling, fuel burning appliances, and ventilation)
  • Plumbing permit


You will not need to obtain a permit if your building is a detached accessory of 200 square feet or less. It must be an accessory to either two-family dwelling or a single dwelling. 

You also do not need a permit if your building is a detached accessory that is 120 square feet or less, and it should be an accessory to something other than a single-family dwelling or two-family dwelling. 

This rule does not take effect if there are no other buildings on your property and usually doesn’t apply to buildings used to live in. For example, living in a small shed would be illegal, even if it is on your property, if you do not meet all codes and get the necessary permits.

Some counties in Michigan have less strict requirements for fishing and hunting cabins. While you will still need a permit, you might not need to undergo the requirements for residential dwellings, which are usually strict. 

To be considered for an exemption, your building must be intended for part-time use only for 30 to 60 days. 

Homeschooling Laws

Many of those who live off the grid in Michigan plan to homeschool their children, so they do not have to commute every day to and from school. 

Typically, parents are able to educate their children better than the education system by homeschooling. If you plan to homeschool your children, you must notify your local authorities. They will give you all the information you need on requirements and homeschooling laws.

michigan off grid living

How to Get Power for Off Grid Living in Michigan

There are a few ways to get power for off grid living in Michigan, as off grid electricity is legal. No state laws require you to have electricity in your home, but it can make things a lot easier for you.  

It is a simple process to apply for a permit for a solar generator, and you can also use wind turbines or a hydropower system to generate power. However, zoning requirements for wind turbines dictate setback and height regulations. 

You will still need to obtain a permit for wind turbines. All electrical work on your property will likely require a permit and must be implemented by a licensed electrician. 

How to Get Water for Off Grid Living in Michigan

While you can legally get water off the grid in Michigan, it is illegal in some circumstances.  According to housing laws in Michigan, you must have running water if you live within or close to a town with 100,000 residents.

If you do not have running water in that circumstance, it is illegal and considered a substandard dwelling. 

Well Water

An excellent way to get water is through a well. While you need to obtain a permit, you will not need to apply for water rights. 

You can dig your well if necessary. Once the well is completed, the well and the water must be tested and inspected by the department of health. Well water might be the easiest way to collect water for off grid clothes washing.

Rainwater Harvesting

It is legal to harvest rainwater in Michigan, and some counties even offer incentives to harvest rainwater. You will not need to apply for a permit to use rainwater barrels, but larger containers will require a permit. 

If you plan to use underground rainwater cisterns, you must apply for an excavation permit. All of Michigan’s plumbing code regulations must be met if you plan on using the rainwater inside your home.

River Water Source

You can build a waterwheel or install a water pump to use river water as a water source. Since getting water off the grid in Michigan is legal, you can use the river water for personal use and irrigation for your fields. 

You will need to purify the water before use to ensure you do not become ill due to microorganisms, metals, or other contaminants in the water. 

The easiest way to purify your water to make it fresh water is to boil it, as boiling kills viruses, disease-causing germs, parasites, and bacteria. Other ways to purify river water include solar purifiers, whole house filters, distillation, and a UV light purifier.

Waste Removal for Off Grid Living in Michigan

Michigan has somewhat strict laws for waste removal. It must be connected to your home if you live within 200 feet of a municipal sewer system. 

The waste removal laws make living off grid in Michigan difficult unless you live as far north as possible. If you do not live within 20 feet of a municipal sewer system, you have a few options for waste removal. 

Composting Toilets

It is legal to have composting toilets in Michigan since they are considered an alternative waste system. To use a compost toilet on your property, you must have an acceptable greywater system for it to be legal. To get a greywater system, you will need a permit.

Greywater System

A greywater system is entirely legal in Michigan. In most places, you can release greywater to the ground as long as it is not close to a body of water. 

It is up to the local inspector to ascertain if you get a permit for a greywater system, as Michigan state laws do not describe what is considered an acceptable greywater system. 

It is necessary to meet the plumbing and code regulations regarding non potable water, and the water must be disinfected or filtered before it gets reused.


Outhouses are not entirely illegal, but many counties do not allow them. Therefore, it depends on where you live if you want to install an outhouse for waste removal. You must have an indoor toilet if you live in or near a city containing 100,000 residents. 

off grid water in michigan

Best Places to Live Off Grid in Michigan

These are the best places to live off grid in Michigan. 

Marquette County

Marquette County is located in the northern part of Michigan. It is right next to Lake Superior and is situated in the upper part of the peninsula. Marquette County has a low population, and the price of properties within this County is relatively low. 

There are about 67,000 residents in Marquette County, which makes it an excellent place to live off the grid. Marquette County does experience frigid winters, but it is not nearly as cold as living off grid in Alaska.

Huron County

Huron County is located in Eastern Michigan and is suitable for off grid living due to the bearable climate. It’s typically warm and partly cloudy during the summer and cold and snowy in the winter. Huron County has around 34,000 residents, and the cost of living here is affordable. 

Macomb County

Macomb County is located in southeastern Michigan, which is a Detroit area county. This state section is ideal for raising farm animals due to bountiful agricultural lands, but the cost of living is higher compared to other counties. 

Macomb County is home to 840,000 residents, which might be more crowded than you would like for off grid living. 

Keweenaw County

Keweenaw has the lowest population in the state, having about 2,000 residents. Keweenaw County is located in the northern section of Michigan and has harsh winters, accumulating around 270 inches or more of snowfall each year. 

The land cost is low here but tends to be higher in the northern parts of the county. Cell service is spotty in this section of Michigan, likely due to it being so isolated.

Jackson County

Jackson County is in the southern section of Michigan and has everything you need to live off the grid. Even though Jackson County is home to 160,000 residents, the cost of living is low. 

The most affordable options for off grid living in Jackson County are in the southern parts of the county.

Hillsdale County

Hillsdale County, located in southern Michigan, is home to 47,000 residents. It is affordable to purchase property and land in Hillsdale County, as it costs less than the statewide average. 

Hillsdale County is a great place for off grid living. The winters are frigid and harsh but not as severe as in northern Michigan. 

Van Buren County

Van Buren County is located in southwestern Michigan and holds about 77,000 residents. The climate in Van Buren County is good when you compare it to other sections of Michigan, especially in the north. The cost of property and land is affordable, and there is a low population density. 

What Is the Cost of Living in Michigan?

The cost of living in Michigan is low, compared to other states. Michigan residents typically pay around 10 percent less for everything, including groceries and healthcare services. 

However, you pay 35 percent less for housing, which is one of the perks of living in Michigan. A disadvantage is the cost of utilities, which is about 15 percent more than in other states. 

Final Thoughts

Even though Michigan does have some strict rules and regulations regarding local zoning laws and permits, Michigan off grid living can be done. 

Michigan is a beautiful state, even during its notoriously harsh winters. Living off grid in Michigan is a highly feasible and sustainable way of life.