Camping & Survival

Michael Bane Builds an Off-Grid House

Michael Bane

I got up this morning, turned on the coffeemaker, walked the puppy, watched a little television news, booted up my computer and went to work.

Michael Bane
Michael Bane made his dream of an off-the-grid house a reality.
I bring this up not because it’s particularly remarkable—quite the opposite—but because the New Improved Secret Hidden Bunker in the Rocky Mountains connects to no power lines. There’s no cable for cable television, no phone lines, no sewer or water connection. In fact, it is untethered from what we’ve come to call “the grid.” And, at least for the moment, it’s working.

The journey began as so many epic adventures do—with a simple question. My Sweetie and I were living in the little Colorado town of Nederland at 9000 feet, where to quote actor Will Geer’s Bear Claw in Jeremiah Johnson, “Winter’s a long time going … stays long this high.” After 13 winters, it was time to Go Down.

When we moved to Ned 13 years ago, it was a quirky place whose only real source of income was the Frozen Dead Guy, a Norwegian grandfather kept on dry ice in a Tuff Shed—Google it, even I can’t make stuff like that up — and the eponymous Frozen Dead Guy Days each bitterly cold March. We even marched one year in the Frozen Dead Guy parade through the one-block-long town. As newcomers, we got the ideal position between the herd of alpacas and the bondage sluts riding on the hoods of hearses. Really.

When we decided to leave Ned, it had become the epicenter of the “marijuana revolution” in the United States. The little mountain town of 1200 people and some dogs sported five medicinal marijuana outlets, one retail marijuana outlet, a “smoking room,” three hydroponic gardening centers, a pipe store, 30 grow rooms blossoming with designer ganja and a startling number of vintage Volkswagen buses and tie-dyed T-shirts, as if the Grateful Dead tour had just trucked in from 1968. My Sweetie and I were the only two people in town with reliable short-term memories.

After a year of searching, we found a stunning 34 acres with breathtaking views, close enough to go into the northern Colorado cites of Ft. Collins and Loveland for a good dinner and upwind enough from Denver to miss most of the fallout — joke, JOKE! After all, I was the producer of the first “survival” show, “The Best Defense/Survival,” which laid the groundwork for those that followed. One London newspaper reporter referred to me as “the most depressing man in America” after my guest appearance on the History Channel’s special, “After Armageddon.” I told her I thought I was upbeat and perky as well as heavily armed. You’ve got to expect a certain level of paranoia.

As we looked out over this amazing property, which equally amazingly we could afford, we both noticed an absence of power lines, telephone poles and the other accoutrements of the 21st century.

“What would you think,” asked my Sweetie, “about building an off-grid house?” “Yippie!” my Internal Survivalist shouted. “Hmmmmmmmm,” I said out loud. But the die was cast.

Do you dream of living off the grid? If so, let us hear your motivations and challenges in the comment section.


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Comments (35)

  1. Solar produces more in sunny ,cold temps and less in the heat, generally…which is a big bonus as there is less solar exposure in the winter (shorter daylight hours)…rsbhunter

    1. We got into solar power way before it was fashionable and before the web really had lots of information, and well before tax credits. Today, most if not all is on the web – just Google it and start reading.
      Much of the research we obtained was from the Federal’s Government’s National Labs in Golden CO (where they did lots of original research in wind and solar), and there are studies that have been made by geographic region for the efficiency of solar. So, recommend that you overlay your location with these studies to gain the output. For us at the time (15 years ago), we built our solar structure to hold 15 150 watt panels stationary at a 45 degree incline (roof line to edge)… facing due south and that is the best trade off for year-round power at our latitude – with maximum performance in Spring and Fall. If installed properly, the only maintenance is the deep cycle batteries replacement every X years, depending on usage, load exercised and how you engineer the system. Go for it!

  2. I would appreciate some advice from those of you who live in less temperate areas as to how viable solar electricity is?

  3. Wish you the best love your story. I am getting to old and my wife likes the comfort might convince her if I could get the whole family to go sounds like a dream. Will just have to wait for heaven. God bless you both.

  4. “off grid” does not mean “outlaw, nor outcast” . This is a life style , not a cop out. I don’t think that most off grid people believe they will become “invisible” to the Gov’t.. It’s hard to hide from thermal cameras, satellites, etc… What my goal is , includes being able to live within my means at retirement age, not living in fear that my water bill, electric bill, or other bills that i don’t control for day to day existence , don’t control me. Yes, sacrifice is a major part of off grid…but what i sacrifice in “creature comforts, i more than make up for in living my life by mostly my choice of style.. This is not running away, nor disconnecting from society….it’s just having a few more freedoms, than by being on grid…..When i’m on my property, at most i hear a chain saw, a jet flying overhead, or an atv. I can honestly say i know more of my neighbors there, only working on the cabin on weekends there, than i do at the home i have in the city….that iv’e lived in for 10 years…..It is not for everyone, but then again, that’s why we choose to live in America, because we have the right to choose for ourselves….As for the cost of solar, it’s not cheap, but it is cheaper now than ever….i know people that got into it when panels cost between 3-5$ a WATT!….But again, each to there own….rsbhunter

  5. You did not define “off grid”. I would prefer to have a house owned by a dummy corporation or trust such that there was no record associating my name and my address, but that is tricky. You must know you cannot put a PO box address on the papers you fill out when you buy a pistol, and I like mail, UPS deliveries and trash service. I am on the grid, but I have a propane Generac and a good deep well in anticipation of grid and water delivery problems. A solar energy system would be nice, but not at current prices. This way seemed more practical than a real hideout.

  6. Were we able, we’d do the same. Nothing would make me happier than to be independent from the tethering of forced society. I’m not anti-social, just the opposite but independence, privacy and security offers more peace of mind than any other. Good for the Banes and anyone who can achieve it.

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