A Guide to Building a Sustainable and Efficient Off-Grid Home

Off-Grid Living on Horse Property at Silver Mountain Ranches

Surrounded by the breathtaking beauty of the Bradshaw Mountains near Cleator and Crown King, Arizona, Silver Mountain Ranches is a private 344-acre planned community located on the northern third of the Bradshaw Mountain Ranches subdivision in Yavapai County, Arizona.  This unique community is being planned to offer the perfect setting for your permanent residence, second home, or vacation getaway. At Silver Mountain Ranches, you have the freedom to use your own home builder, customize your home plans, or modify our model blueprints to create your own sustainable and efficient off-grid home with elevations between 3500 & 4000 feet and with mountain views.  Check it out at www.silvermountainranchesaz.com.

Whether you already have an off-grid project in the works or are dreaming about getting started, we’ve created the following guide to help you develop an efficient and sustainable off-grid home. This blog article was inspired and informed by various sources, such as the recent article by Suzanna Logan, “Smart Steps for Going Off-Grid,” published in the April/May 2024 issue of Log & Timber Home Living. 

Prioritize Efficient Design

Efficiency is the cornerstone of successful off-grid living. When designing your off-grid home, simplicity should be your guiding principle. Choose a straightforward architectural design, featuring a rectangular shape, simple rooflines, and deep overhangs. If you prefer a timber frame or hybrid structure, go for natural exterior materials that are durable and weather-resistant. A vented rain screen can also increase the longevity of your home’s siding by allowing moisture to evaporate.

When planning the layout of your home, focus on designing the space to match your lifestyle needs. Prioritize shared living areas, keeping bedrooms and bathrooms more compact and utilitarian. Remember, smaller homes are generally easier to manage in terms of energy usage, but with sufficient renewable energy sources like solar or propane backup, you can expand your living space as needed.

Silver Mountain Ranches has partnered with professional designers to create blueprints that could be used by homeowners in the SMR development. Designs can be customized to fit the needs of each buyer. Receive a download of some of our available home plans, including basement designs, on our website when you enter your email address.

Leverage the Sun’s Rays

The location and orientation of your home both play a crucial role in its energy efficiency. Collaborate with an architect experienced in passive solar design to optimize your home’s position to leverage shade and sunlight effectively. A well-designed home can minimize heat gain in the summer and maximize it in the winter, reducing the need for additional heating and cooling.

Position your home’s longest axis within 15 degrees of south to optimize solar exposure. For warmer climates, prioritize passive cooling strategies, such as operable windows and doors, to allow for effective cross ventilation.

Consider the Structural Envelope to Increase Energy Efficiency 

Investing in a high-performance structural envelope is essential for energy efficiency in off-grid homes. But maybe you aren’t familiar with what a structural envelope is. The “structural envelope” refers to the outer shell or enclosure of a building, which includes the walls, roof, and foundation. It is essentially the barrier that separates the interior of the building from the external environment. The structural envelope plays a critical role in the energy efficiency of a building. 

When discussing energy efficiency in the context of off-grid living and sustainable building design, addressing gaps and ensuring the integrity of the structural envelope is crucial. Improving the insulation, airtightness, and overall thermal performance of the structural envelope can help reduce energy consumption, maintain comfortable indoor temperatures, and enhance the overall energy efficiency of the building.

Choose Your  Windows Wisely

Windows are a significant factor in a home’s energy efficiency. Choose double or triple-paned, low-E coated, and gas-filled windows to minimize heat gain or loss. The right windows can substantially reduce the energy required for heating and cooling, making them a crucial element in off-grid home design.

Embrace Renewable Energy Sources

To maintain the comforts of modern living while off-grid, investing in renewable energy sources is essential. Solar energy, generated through photovoltaic panels or thermal tubes, is a popular and effective choice for off-grid homes. However, it’s important to consider the limitations of solar energy, such as reduced energy generation during cloudy weather.

Solar batteries can allow you to bank extra electricity, providing a reliable backup for your renewable energy system. Wind energy is another renewable option, though it comes with challenges like high upfront costs and zoning restrictions. A propane-powered generator can serve as a backup for both solar and wind systems.

Silver Mountain Ranches has partnered with SunBear Solar Industries to handle the installation of solar panel systems for each of our homeowners. 

Here’s an example of what a solar system could look like for a homeowner in Silver Mountain Ranches. Assume a 2,500-square-foot home with a normal appliance package, insulation, and a family of four living there full-time. 

On such a home, you’d be looking at the following system design:

12KW system size

30  400-watt flat black solar panels

Inverters

Micro-grid lithium self-sustaining batteries

A supplemental backup propane generator (recommended)

Choose Energy-Efficient Heating and Cooling Systems

Heating and cooling systems are significant energy consumers in any home. For a sustainable and efficient off-grid home, consider wood-burning stoves or masonry fireplaces for smaller spaces, and geothermal heat pump systems (GHPs) for larger homes. GHPs use the steady temperature of the ground to provide efficient heating and cooling, reducing energy consumption compared to standard HVAC systems. Radiant in-floor heating and cooling systems are also efficient options for off-grid homes, providing zoned temperature control for enhanced comfort.

Select Energy-Efficient Appliances

Choosing energy-efficient appliances is crucial for minimizing energy consumption in an off-grid home. Opt for Energy Star certified washers and dryers, and consider propane-powered refrigerators and ranges for true off-grid functionality. Battery-powered lights and incinerating toilets are innovative alternatives to traditional options, offering both efficiency and convenience.

Choose Silver Mountain Ranches

Embracing off-grid living requires thoughtful planning and design, focusing on energy efficiency and sustainable practices. At Silver Mountain Ranches, you can turn this dream into reality. Our team is currently booking onsite viewings of the property. Come see it in person and start envisioning your off-grid lifestyle at Silver Mountain Ranches. Contact us today to schedule your onsite viewing and take the first step towards making your off-grid living dream a reality.