Adventures In Off-Grid Living: What I've Learned Since Going Solar

Say goodbye to stealthy poops and rainy day Hitachi sessions.
Publish date:
June 20, 2013
moving, life changes, hawaii, adventures

Since my recent move, I have not only been adjusting to a new living situation (hello, cohabitation), but also a new power situation -- or lack-thereof. My new studio apartment runs on solar.

Despite my excitement about living off the grid, adjusting to solar has been tricky. I have to be extremely mindful of my energy and water use, and adapt my habits daily based on the weather.

If I'm not, I'll find myself scrambling around under the house at 1 am trying to turn on the generator because our refrigerator gobbled up all my power. And by refrigerator, I mean my Hitachi magic wand, which I can no longer use on rainy afternoons or at night. Turning on the generator to feed my masturbation habit is a little indulgent, even for me.

Larger solar systems mean more energy and better storage; some of my neighbors with houses four times my size are even running their cars off solar. My solar set-up is as itty-bitty as my 700-square-foot space, and it definitely needs a bit of coddling. Basically, the new rule of thumb is "no sun, no run." 

Here are a few other things I've changed to accommodate my needy solar system:


Anything that heats up to function murders my solar power, and has been banned from the house. My methods of primping are now minimalistic; no hair dryer, no curling iron, no straightener. Actually I don't even own a curling iron or straightener, but knowing I now can't makes me wish I did.

Kitchen equipment

Remember all of my beloved kitchen equipment? Now the only time I can successfully use electric kitchen toys without turning on the generator is in mid-afternoon when the sun is shining high. 

Running the coffee pot first thing in the morning? Forget it. I learned that my first week here when I nearly crashed our whole system due to my 5am caffeine habit.

I now brew my coffee the day before, and prep dinners early if I need to use my cherished food processor or any one of my zillion blenders.

Microwaves? Nope. If I want to heat something, I use the stove. In the name of sheer laziness, every leftover I've been munching has been cold, straight out of the fridge.


My water pump runs on solar, too, so everything from bathing to flushing to doing the dishes takes power.

This means every bit of water is sacred. Dirty dishwater goes to the potted plants. And the toilet? I use the “If it's yellow let it mellow” rule. It's a good thing my boyfriend and I are poop talkers, because both of us now know what went down in the bathroom based on the flush factor.

Ironic, because we are currently gearing up to film a movie called “Courtesy Flush,” and we can't even do a damned courtesy flush because it wastes our darling water.

If that wasn't enough to think about, I'm on catchment water, meaning I have a big ol' tub in the yard that gathers rainwater. My catchment has a really basic filtration system, so I don't drink from it. Bathing and doing dishes is cool, but for drinking, I fill up 5-gallon jugs with town water at a tap a few miles away. Old school, right?


I live in the district of Puna, where the majority of us are on solar. Since none of us want to use our power after the sun goes down, they call 9pm “Puna midnight.” Come sundown, we all hop into bed, because there really isn't much to do in the dark other than bone or stream documentaries –- my faves as of late have been "After Porn Ends" and "Mansome."

I'm actually liking this new sleep schedule because I get to justify my passion for going to bed early. My other excuse: I get up at 5am to work East Coast deadlines.

Even though I just laid out all of the adjustments I've had to make since going solar, none of them have really been too painful, and I'm amazed at what this way of living has taught me about my consumption habits.

Certain things I used to do without thinking -- like running the tap water while brushing my teeth or doing the dishes -- I would never do now, because I can watch the numbers on my solar meter flicker down as I do it. And did I mention I have zero utility bills? I like that, too.

Follow Zoe on Twitter, but beware of excessive profanity use due to Hitachi withdrawal.