Living a Good Life Beyond the Grid

When the rural homesite she loved turned out to be a mile (and $80,000) from the nearest power line, Karen Fasimpaur found an alternative: solar energy. A Southwestern homesteader describes how she makes a living in the information economy while living off the grid. 


Shawn Poynter

Karen Fasimpaur

Through this experience, I’ve come to believe that going solar is completely feasible, and I’m surprised our nation hasn’t made a bigger commitment to that goal.

One of the big lessons I’ve learned is that energy efficiency may be the most important consideration. In fact, I think that we could reduce our carbon footprint as much through energy conservation as through alternative energy sources. Energy is like many other natural resources that are priced relatively low. It’s so cheap, we don’t have an economic incentive to think much about conservation until there is a crisis.

Because our house was new construction, we could build in other ways to conserve energy. We built thick, super-insulated walls. We rarely need heat and have no air conditioning, even though it gets well below freezing in the winter and into the 100s in the summer.

We also made sure to get appliances that are energy efficient, and we use mostly compact fluorescent light or LED bulbs, which require much less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs. I hang my clothes to dry outside and try to do activities that require a lot of power during the daytime hours, since we have excess solar power when the sun is up. I also cook what I can with electricity rather than on the propane stoves.