Cob House Off-Grid Living: How to Create a Sustainable Home

A cob wall photographed in close-up with a sign overlain saying "OFF THE GRID." Across the top are the words "Cob House Off-Grid Living: How to Create a Sustainable Home."

As of 2013, it was estimated that 1.7 billion people were living off the grid worldwide. Since then, the trend in off-grid living has been on an upswing as people seek to adopt self-sustaining homes.

As a result, cob house off-grid living is among the trends that have been gaining popularity.

Contrary to popular belief, off-grid living doesn’t have to compromise your lifestyle and comfort. You can create a cost-effective cob home with an excellent living experience with careful planning and smart choices.

To achieve this, you need to know how to substitute energy sources, design a comfortable, eco-friendly space, and source affordable and reliable materials.

In this article, we’ll guide you through cob house off-grid living. By discussing the essentials of this type of living, you’ll know what goes into living off the grid without compromising your lifestyle. Let’s get started!

What Is Off-Grid Living?

A circular cob house with a thatched roof and stable door in the mountains. A cartoon solar panel is in the bottom right and a well filling a bucket is in the bottom left.
Off-grid cob house living is achievable provided you have a water supply and something to provide power for your appliances.

Off-grid living is a building technique that entails living an independent lifestyle free from public utilities such as sewer, electricity, water, heat, natural gas, and other services.

A truly off-grid lifestyle means you don’t rely on any public utility. However, that doesn’t mean your home should lack modern amenities.

If you go off-grid, you can install sustainable electricity sources to keep the lights on. You could also do without electricity completely, but I think that’s a bit extreme. However, you must install an alternative water source since living without water is not an option.

Cob house off-grid living entails living in a cob house with no connection to public utilities but still having access to the necessary amenities.

A point worth noting is that it’s almost impossible to get off all the grids. Consequently, Nick Rosen, the founder of the Off-Grid World, says, “It’s your responsibility to choose which grids to get off of and in what ways.”

Cob House Off-Grid Living Essentials

So, what goes into cob house off-grid living?

For a comfortable lifestyle, your off-the-grid cob home must incorporate the following:

Alternative Energy Sources

Let’s be realistic; in today’s world, the cost of energy is at an all-time high. In fact, the average cost of electricity in the United States is 10.42 cents per kilowatt-hour. Therefore, going off-grid and shifting to alternative energy sources saves you a lot in energy bills.

According to Energy Saver, using a stand-alone energy-generating system for off-grid living is sustainable and pocket-friendly.

Here are the best ways to generate off-grid power for your cob house:

Solar Electricity

An array of solar panels next to a field of yellow crops against a sky full of fluffy clouds.
Solar panels can generate enough electricity to keep your TV and other devices running.

Solar electricity is what comes to mind for most of us when we hear off-grid energy generation.

Solar energy is a viable option for your cob house off-grid living because most residential solar panels generate between 250 and 400 watts per hour.

On the other hand, the average off-grid home requires approximately 7,000 watts (7 kW) of power per day. That means you’ll need, on average, 28 solar panels to meet the daily wattage requirements of your cob home.

Besides the solar panels, you’ll need solar batteries to store the energy generated by the solar panels.

Moreover, you’ll need a 15kW or 20kW inverter to convert the solar panels’ direct current (DC) electricity to alternating current (AC) electricity for your cob house.

For efficiency, you must maximize your solar panels’ production as much as possible by:

  • Trimming trees to avoid shade.
  • Cleaning the solar panels regularly.
  • Ensuring sufficient airflow beneath the solar panels to help maintain optimum temperature.

Wind Energy

Wind is another alternative energy source you can use in cob house off-grid living.

Generating electricity from wind energy means installing wind turbines to capture and convert the wind’s kinetic energy into electricity.

Wind turbines are the least reliable because they depend not only on the availability of wind but also on wind speed.

The higher the wind speed, the more electricity a wind turbine will generate. Consequently, wind turbines are most suitable for areas with frequent and strong winds.

On that note, it’s essential to know the average wind speed ranges to estimate the amount of electricity your turbines will generate.

The size of the wind turbine you’ll need for your cob house also plays an essential role.

According to Energy Saver, a home that uses approximately 877 kilowatt-hours per month requires a wind turbine rated between 5 and 15 kilowatts, depending on the area’s average wind speed.

It’s recommended to mount the turbine’s rotor more than 100 feet (30 meters) above ground level for optimal performance.

Besides the wind turbines, you’ll need:

  • A generator to convert mechanical energy into electricity.
  • Battery bank to store the energy.
  • A charge controller to regulate the power flow.
  • An inverter to convert DC electricity from the turbine into AC electricity.
A small wind turbine mounted against a clear blue sky on a metal tower.
A wind turbine is great for generating electricity if you live in a windy area. A battery is worth the investment for when the wind doesn’t blow.


Hydropower uses water sources such as rivers or streams to rotate a turbine and generate electricity.

A hydropower system is perfect for cob house off-grid living because of its high-efficiency rate and cost savings.

The system leverages water flowing from a high to a low level to turn a turbine.

The higher the head (difference in elevation of water source and destination), the faster it spins, generating more energy.

An excellent hydropower water source should run continuously to generate consistent energy without interruptions.

A micro hydropower system is ideal for residential use as it can generate up to 100 kilowatts of electricity.

The only downside of hydropower generation is that it requires a watercourse. Therefore, you can only install it if you have a river in your backyard.

A complete hydropower system for a home incorporates the following:

  • An intake system to divert the water.
  • A penstock for carrying diverted water.
  • A water wheel or turbine to convert kinetic energy into mechanical energy.
  • A generator to convert mechanical energy into electricity.

Energy Conservation Techniques

Three green and one white light bulb against a green background. The white bulb is on and is an energy-efficient bulb.
Energy-efficient light bulbs can make a significant difference in your energy consumption.

Conserving your off-grid energy means you’ll spend less and need to generate less energy.

Designing your cob house for energy efficiency is the best way to conserve energy. Here are some ways to do that:

  • Install energy-efficient light bulbs (Energy-star certified).
  • Design your cob house with south-facing windows to maximize passive solar energy.
  • Insulate your cob house roof and walls to reduce heat gain or loss.
  • Unplug appliances when not in use or use smart plugs.
  • Consider purchasing energy-efficient appliances.
  • Replace single-pane windows with double or triple-pane windows to minimize heat loss.

You can learn more energy conservation tips from the Energy Saver Guide from the U.S. Department of Energy.

Water Catchment System and Alternative Water Sources

Living in a cob house off-grid often means living without access to public water systems. Thus, you’ll need an alternative source of water.

The most common alternative water sources for off-grid living include:


Harvesting rainwater is an excellent way to get water for your home.

If you opt for rainwater collection, you must ensure your location receives sufficient rainfall to meet your home’s water needs. A good rule of thumb is to ensure each square foot of your catchment area, like a rooftop, collects 0.62 gallons of water per inch of rainfall.

You can install rain barrels or tanks under your downspouts to collect rainwater and store it for later use.

Here is a video to help you build a DIY rain barrel:

A screenshot of a YouTube video demonstrating how to make your own rain barrel.
Image courtesy of Utah State University Extension on YouTube.

The barrel’s capacity should be based on the surface area of your catchment space, as shown in the table below:

Surface Area (Square Feet)Minimum Number of 55-Gallon Rain Barrels
Up to 7501-2


You can drill a well and connect it to your home’s off-grid power system to provide a consistent water supply.

The depth and type of well you’ll need depend on your location’s geology and water table. Thus, it’s best to consult an experienced professional before drilling the well.

Since more than 42 million U.S. citizens use private wells for their water supply, it’s usually easy to get approval for well construction.

According to the American Ground Water Trust, well water must be tested for water quality concerns before use.

A green standpipe discharges water from a well.
A water well is a reliable and cost-effective way to get water to your off-grid home. You need to ensure the water table is close enough to the surface and you can obtain sufficient yield.

Surface Water

Another alternative water source for your off-grid cob home is surface water from nearby sources like rivers, lakes, or ponds.

You can catch the water in cisterns and use a purification system to make it safe for drinking. The most common types of water purification systems include:

  • Reverse osmosis.
  • Distillation.
  • Ultraviolet disinfection.
  • Carbon filtration.
  • Chlorination.

Food Production

You can’t do without food in your off-grid cob home. Therefore, it’s essential to assess your climatic conditions and determine the best way to produce food.

Some viable food production approaches include:

  • Gardening: This is only suitable if you have sufficient water and live in a location with a conducive climate for crop cultivation and rearing animals. If so, you can grow beans, vegetables, fruits, mushrooms, and herbs. You should also rear animals like rabbits and poultry due to their fast maturity.
  • Hydroponics: These are excellent off-grid survival food systems. They’re ideal for growing food indoors. You only need sufficient light and pumps to grow almost all types of vegetables, fruits, herbs, and sprouts using this system.
  • Aquaponics: They involve keeping fish and hydroponics in the same tank. The fish produce nutrients for the plants, while the plants filter out the water for the fish.
A gardener tends to a row of beetroot planted in a raised bed.
Growing your own vegetables is a great way to reduce your reliance on the supermarket.

Waste Management

Finally, it’s advisable to create an efficient waste management system to maintain a healthy and sustainable environment in your off-grid cob home.

Composting organic matter like kitchen scraps and yard trimmings is the most effective approach. You can turn these materials into nutrient-rich soil that helps nourish your garden or farm.

Moreover, you can recycle paper, plastic, aluminum, and glass to reduce waste.

Final Thoughts

The main focus for your cob house off-grid living should be to ensure self-sufficiency.

From finding viable water sources, producing food, and managing waste, you can create a sustainable home that’ll serve you well.

Remember to consult experienced professionals in each area before proceeding with your plans — it’ll save you time and energy in the long run.

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