A Guide to Off Grid Living in Maine

off grid living in maine

Maine is a popular state of off grid living, mainly because it is so secluded. Before you decide to live off grid in Maine, it is essential to fully understand Maine’s laws and regulations so you know where you can live legally. 

Off grid living in Maine is encouraged, the state offers many rebates for those who choose alternative energy sources. The four seasons in Maine make it a great place to live off the land and sustainably.

Is Living Off the Grid in Maine Legal? 

It is 100 percent within the law to live an off grid lifestyle in Maine, and it is very common. Maine’s laws are typically favorable for those who live off the grid. To legally live off grid, you will need to get permits for everything, go through inspections, and meet all regulations.

Off Grid Zoning Laws

The zoning laws control what to do with your off grid property. While the zoning laws have a lot of detail, they do not keep anyone from homesteading off the grid.

Maine’s zoning laws are also friendly towards those with tiny homes and mobile homes, which is typical for off grid living in Maine. 

Since Maine is mostly rural, zoning regulations enable you to earn income using your land, farm, or country home. However, there is one section of Maine where you can run into problems with zoning regulations.

Shoreland Zoning Laws

A shoreland in Maine is any area within these limits:

  • 75 feet of the high water line for specific streams
  • 250 feet of the typical water line on ponds, rivers, or saltwater areas
  • 250 feet of a freshwater wetland or coastal wetland upland edge

Living on Shoreland has many limits and restrictions regarding zoning laws. There are limits on maximum home sizes, and there are also limits on the amount of green you can remove from your land. 

Before purchasing land or a home in Maine close to water, you should keep the Shoreland zoning laws in mind.

off grid living in maine

Maine Building Codes and Permits 

Building codes and permits are in place for your safety and the safety of others. The permits allow the enforcement of the codes, which have been adopted by the state of Maine and its counties, to assure you live in a safely constructed building.

Maine’s building codes include the following:

  • 2015 International Residential Code
  • 2015 Building Code
  • 2015 International Existing Building Code
  • 2015 Mechanical Code
  • 2015 International Energy Conservation Code

How to Get Off Grid Power in Maine

Off grid power is legal for Maine homesteading. There are many incentives available for those who use renewable technology. Maine’s renewable energy incentives include the following:

  • Clean Energy Loans
  • Your renewable power equipment is not included in your property taxes
  • Financial incentives are available for sustainability improvements
  • Grid-tied solar net metering

Solar Power

Solar power is an excellent option for off grid power in Maine. Even though Maine is one of the most northern states in the country, the sun shines brightly for a state that endures harsh winters. 

While Maine has been slow to adapt to solar panels compared to other states, solar power has recently become more popular. Solar energy can power anything from an off grid refrigerator to an off grid washing machine.

Wind Power

Wind power is a clean and renewable energy source. Installing wind turbines helps harness wind energy year round by using mechanical power to spin a generator. 

This creates electricity, while not using much energy. Wind power is not a good idea for those who live on the Shoreline, as it is illegal due to the Shoreline zoning laws.

Micro-Hydro Power

Micro-hydro power systems are small hydropower plants with an installed generation capacity of fewer than 100 kilowatts. Hydropower dams are legal in Maine, but you  must obtain a permit from your local county before installation.

Geothermal Power

A geothermal heat pump is an excellent way to get off grid power in Maine. With geothermal power electrical power is generated from geothermal energy. 

There are even rebates available for those with qualifying geothermal heat pumps. It is a great way to supply power to heaters during the winter.

living off grid in maine

How to Get Off Grid Water in Maine 

There are a few ways to get grid water in Maine for your off grid homestead. 

Surface Water

According to Maine’s laws, the state owns all surface water underneath the tide mark that is navigable. The public, however, has access to use the water. If it isn’t navigable, it could be owned privately.

You can legally use as much as prefer, but it should be used domestically. It can also legally be used for most agricultural services. You may run into issues using the surface water from what is considered a wetland zone. 

Rainwater Harvesting

It is legal to harvest rainwater in Maine for off grid living, and it is mostly unrestricted. You can gather rainwater as you desire and use the water for nonpotable and irrigation purposes. 

Maine does not seem to have any laws that prevent you from using rainwater for potable uses, but you still must follow the state’s regulations and meet Maine’s plumbing code requirements.

Well Water

As a property owner in Maine, you legally own the ground underneath your land. You can use the amount of water you would like if your water usage does not violate your neighbors’ rights. 

It is unnecessary to report water usage for agricultural or domestic use, but large withdrawals needs to be reported. A licensed state professional must drill your well, and the person drilling must obtain all necessary permits for approval. The water will need to be tested after the drilling is complete.

life off grid in maine

Waste Removal for Off Grid Living in Maine 

Maine is a great state regarding waste removal and bathroom options. Maine allows many different types of toilet options, but there are specific requirements you must follow for each particular system to ensure it is legal.

Composting Toilets

Composting toilets are entirely legal. Maine has surprisingly flexible laws when it comes to alternative toilets. The liquids from the toilet can be discharged into a conventional or primitive disposal field, and the solid waste can be composted on-site. 

Greywater System

Primitive systems, also known as off grid cabins or homes with no running water, it is simple to get approved for a sewage setup. You can legally have a greywater system when living off grid or in a log cabin, but you must have a small and secluded area to dump the greywater. 

Any waste should be pumped or carried by hand. You will need to obtain approval from your local county and receive site testing. 


Outhouses are legal in Maine, but you need a permit. You must follow all regulations regarding setbacks, design, and depth. 

You will also need a permit if you have running water in your home to discard the waste in a septic or greywater system.

Best Places to Live off grid in Maine 

These are the best places for off grid living in Maine.

Penobscot County

Penobscot County is located in the center of Maine and is considerably large. The northern and southern parts of Penobscot County experience different climates in the Maine woods. It has a population of around 150,000 in a 3,556 square mile area. The cost of land and the cost of living are both low.

Franklin County

Franklin County is located in western Maine. Franklin County is mainly good for off-grid living because of the low cost of living and low housing costs. Around 30,000 people are living in an area of 1,744 square miles. It is best to aim to live in the southern section of Franklin County, as it is better suited for the off grid lifestyle.

York County

York County is located on the southern tip of Maine, and is a great place to live off grid. The climate is mild in York County when compared to other areas of the state, and winters are not that harsh. Around 200,000 people are living in an area of 1,271 square miles. 

Oxford County

Oxford County is located in southwestern Maine and offers a favorable climate. Many residents of Oxford County live off grid. The land is cheap here. There are around 58,000 people are living in a 2,175 square mile area. 

Final Thoughts 

Living off grid in Maine is a great option for anyone wishing to live off the land and live a more sustainable life. Understanding the laws and regulations regarding zoning and permits is important before buying land in Maine.