2021’s Best and Worst States for Living Off the Grid

Rocking chairs on a porch of a rustic cabin with sunset off in the distance

With rising COVID cases, economic stagnation and political turmoil, wouldn’t it be nice to just unplug from it all — permanently? 

No, we don’t mean meeting your maker. We’re talking about living off the grid.

Whether you’re interested in sustainability, privacy or energy-efficiency, moving off-grid can be fulfilling. 

But not every state is equally suited to a fully independent lifestyle. In fact, some states actively discourage off-grid housing with disconnection fees or extra taxes on solar panels. 

LawnStarter looked into the data to help you find the best state for your own small, sustainable slice of heaven. We compared all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia across 20 key factors, from average per-acre cost of farmland to legality of rainwater harvesting to average monthly temperature. 

Scroll down for our rankings, highlights/lowlights, expert answers, methodology, and a few thoughts on why this study matters. 

Table of Contents

  1. State Rankings
  2. Highlights and Lowlights
  3. Ask the Experts
  4. Methodology
  5. Why This Study Matters

State Rankings

See how each state fared in our ranking:

OVERALL RANKStateOverall ScoreFeasibility RankInfrastructure RankClimate RankCost RankSafety Rank
1Kentucky72.66101410215
2Washington69.5653302016
3Missouri68.50936201911
4South Carolina67.36123041148
5North Dakota66.882850139
6Minnesota66.8261145282
7Louisiana66.8023323834
8Oklahoma66.2184022323
9Michigan66.071110402910
10Iowa65.85171233371
11Nebraska65.5143141303
12Florida65.23242723344
13Tennessee64.88336111524
14Ohio64.23224283615
15Wisconsin63.99191637347
16Arkansas63.89273513727
17Montana63.4213949414
18Alabama63.0638216639
19Maryland62.60135193942
20West Virginia62.433125261218
21Oregon61.62342272628
22Mississippi61.563737121026
23Virginia61.34392472530
24Idaho60.312528431817
25Georgia60.27413481429
26Delaware59.961413293547
27Vermont59.93211384722
28South Dakota59.932815472413
29Wyoming59.80164248120
30Illinois59.45361831406
31Indiana59.23449232712
32Maine58.81187344319
33New Mexico58.1824836241
34Connecticut57.502022164833
35North Carolina57.24492652240
36Texas56.84354625238
37Kansas56.48463835164
38Massachusetts56.012919154437
39New York55.744520243221
40Rhode Island53.753233144536
41Pennsylvania53.614729213825
42Hawaii53.4765014649
43New Hampshire52.582617394932
44California52.41304494146
45Utah51.554041441745
46Colorado51.14434342931
47Arizona48.184247323135
48New Jersey47.184823185138
49Nevada40.39514546543
50Alaska33.471551514250
51District of Columbia30.405049175051
Infographic showing the best and worst states for living off the grid based on factors including the highest potential for wind and solar power, average precipitation in inches, cost per acre of land, fewest natural disasters and most critical-access hospitals

Highlights and Lowlights

Stuck in the Middle

Many of our best-ranked states hail from the same latitude, roughly the Mid-South. Kentucky, our top state, ranked well across all categories. States like South Carolina boast cheap cost of living and a climate with relatively few extremely cold or hot days, all of which make independent living more of a breeze.

These Lakes Are Great

Quite a few states in the Upper Midwest and Great Lakes region find their way to the top of our list. States such as Minnesota scored high in infrastructure categories such as road quality and potential for wind power. Many of these states also have laws that promote off-grid living.


While the Upper Midwest isn’t without it’s colder weather, it’s much easier to heat and insulate an off-grid home than to cool one down.

Land Isn’t Everything

A group of large rural states sits at the bottom of our rankings. This may come as a surprise but not when the full off-the-grid picture is considered. Although Alaska has plenty of out-of-the-way places to build your cabin, it also has worse infrastructure and a more extreme climate, which increases costs. Plus, states with a history of off-the-grid residents — such as Nevada — tend to have more laws governing their practices.

Ask The Experts

Interested in pursuing an off-the-grid lifestyle? Wondering if that solar panel is worth the investment? LawnStarter pulled together an expert panel to answer the following questions about a quiet life among the trees:

  • What are the most important considerations for anyone contemplating living off-grid?
  • Besides adequate natural resources, what else is crucial to a successful off-grid lifestyle?
  • What types of people are best suited to off-grid living?
  • What unexpected challenges should people considering living off the grid be aware of?
  • Is living off the grid sustainable long-term? Why or why not?
Julie White Crowell & Philip White
Off Grid Enthusiast & Associate Professor
Gabriel Durham
Sustainability Coordinator
Julie White Crowell & Philip White
Off Grid Enthusiast & Associate Professor
Eureka, California & Arizona State University

What are the most important considerations for anyone contemplating living off-grid?

To live off grid you must be ready to live oft times without modern conveniences.

Besides adequate natural resources, what else is crucial to a successful off-grid lifestyle?

Availability of solar techs, people with off grid expertise in the neighborhood.

Philip: You also need a power backup plan that often involves another physical system, like storage batteries or a fossil-fuel-powered electrical generator. And for all of it, you need to have the budget to afford these systems.

What types of people are best suited to off-grid living?

I would say adaptability and attitude are the most important traits you need to thrive in this environment.

What unexpected challenges should people considering living off the grid be aware of?

Just when you think you have everything covered . . . you find another glitch in your system!  We have solar coverage but during winter have such a limited window with the southern sun.  We then depend on hydro and our generator backup.

Is living off the grid sustainable long-term? Why or why not?

Absolutely!  We are thrilled not to depend on the electric grid for our power needs!

Gabriel Durham
Sustainability Coordinator
University of Houston, Office of Sustainability

What are the most important considerations for anyone contemplating living off-grid?

Culture Shock. I say this because it is a big umbrella term that captures a lot of issues to this major change in lifestyle.

While human life has some immutable qualities like eating, chores, bathroom, etc., every single one of these things is different off the grid.

Washing clothes takes longer, making food takes longer, everything takes longer, and you have to be ready to live with those shocks safely both physically and mentally.

Eventually it becomes routine as all things, do but this first period can be a huge shock and a lot of work.

In short be ready to devote 100% of your days to your lifestyle. Video games become farming, work commutes become hand-washing laundry, going out to see people becomes chopping firewood.

Consider just how much you are willing to change before you make the jump.

Besides adequate natural resources, what else is crucial to a successful off-grid lifestyle?

Support and preparation for change. For example, if you have all the natural resources in the world but you break a toe, will you have someone to be sure the crops get watered while you recover?

If not, you lose all of your food for the coming months over a simple injury.

If your tiny house, teepee, or whatever dwelling is burned in a fire, do you have someone you know who could rebuild it? Can you rebuild it yourself? Who will water the crops while you rebuild the house?

So many people think that if they can just save up to buy a few things, they can go off grid, never thinking about what to do if the wonder gadgets break.

It is vital to point out that it is very rare to find even ancient peoples living fully disconnected from a large society. Even the mountain men of early America traded with society for supplies and medicine. They traded furs to fund these needs, so even off the grid, you will likely need some form of livelihood and friends to cover disaster or unexpected expenses.

What types of people are best suited to off-grid living?

This is a dangerous question as it makes pride enter into the situation. Everyone takes risks living this way, even the best trained Navy SEALs.

Regardless, I will say that to best UNDERSTAND what you are about to undertake, it is best if you start small. Spend a week primitive camping, then two weeks if it works.

Live in an off-the-grid monastery or commune for a month. Give yourself a safe time frame to sample the lifestyle in either individual or group ways before totally diving in.

Be realistic with your limitations and discomforts as you go to see if these are lifestyle risks you are willing to live with.

What unexpected challenges should people considering living off the grid be aware of?

I mention a lot of these above: injury, genetic disorders flaring up in later life, natural disaster, hunger, things breaking that you didn’t build yourself, animal issues, and on and on.

In short, most people I encounter like to “prep” to live off the grid, but don’t follow through. You have to be OK with the dark side of off-the-grid living just as much as the dream of independence and nature.

Is living off the grid sustainable long-term? Why or why not?

Depends on how you define sustainable. Sustainable for an individual long term, yes. Sustainable for society long term, not now.

A few people living off grid is a great way to diversify lifestyles and reduce demand on already taxed systems, making these systems more sustainable for those that keep using them.

However, if everyone went off the grid at once we would forage the land barren and likely ruin water systems. There are just too many of us now due to modern agriculture and clean water.

Ironically, to make off-the-grid living sustainable long term we would have to build a new kind of green grid to support and interconnect homesteads’ resources.

 

Methodology

We ranked the U.S. states and the District of Columbia in descending order from best to worst, based on their individual score totals. The state that scored the highest ranked No. 1, or “best.”

MetricWeightingMin. ValueMax. Value
Legality of Living Off the Grid9.37503
Legality of Rain Water Harvesting6.25014
Population Density in Rural Areas3.1250.40154.00
Feasibility Category Total18.750
Share of Electricity from Renewable Sources3.1252.29%99.92%
Potential for Solar Power6.2500.671.19
Potential for Wind Power6.250192.361347992.10
Phone Coverage3.1254.30%100.00%
Road Quality (% of Major Roads in Poor or Mediocre Condition)3.12515.0079.00
Infrastructure Category Total21.875
Average Percentage of Possible Sunshine6.25039.3382.00
Average Annual Precipitation in Inches6.2508.1468.74
Average Annual Temperature6.25032.7975.00
Yearly Average Number of Very Cold Days6.2500.00204.50
Yearly Average Number of Very Hot Days6.2503.50103.17
Climate Category Total31.250
Average Cost Per Acre of Farmland6.250 1,040 13,700
Property Taxes3.1250.30%2.21%
Cost of Living3.12586.10192.90
Cost Category Total12.500
Natural Hazards Index6.2509.2117.00
Number of Rural Health Clinics per 1,000 sq. miles3.1250.086.88
Number of Critical-Access Hospitals3.125387
Crime Rate3.1251.365.42
Safety Category Total15.625
Overall Total100.000

Sources: AcreTrader, Federal Bureau of Investigation, National Center for Disaster Preparedness, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Transportation Research Nonprofit (TRIP), Nebraska Department of Environment & Energy, Primal Survivor, Rural Health Information Hub, Tax Foundation, U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. Department of Energy, U.S. Energy Information Administration, WhistleOut, World Population Review and World Water Reserve

Why This Study Matters

Moving off the grid — living apart from the rest of society — is a growing trend in America. Construction groups are seeing an uptick in off-the-grid housing purchases during the pandemic, which is no surprise. 

While living off-grid might make you isolated, you certainly wouldn’t be alone. In 2013, Home Power Magazine reported at least 180,000 U.S. families were living off the grid. That number is expected to greatly increase. By some estimates, as many as 12% of all Americans will be off-grid by the year 2035.

And with social-distancing measures in place, there’s never been a better time to escape the chaos of the modern world.

Main Photo Credit: Shutterstock

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Staff Writer