Off-grid living has become increasingly popular in recent years as people seek a more sustainable and self-sufficient way of life. Tennessee, in particular, has seen a surge in off-grid living enthusiasts, drawn to the state’s natural beauty and affordable land prices. However, before embarking on this lifestyle, it is essential to understand the legal considerations and regulations surrounding off-grid living in Tennessee.
This article provides an in-depth guide to off-grid living in Tennessee, focusing on the legal considerations and best places to go off-grid. It covers topics such as building codes and permits, sewage disposal laws, water rights and usage, and energy and utilities. Additionally, it provides information on three counties in Tennessee, Polk, Chester, and Lawrence, which are considered the best places to go off-grid in the state.
Whether you are considering off-grid living for environmental, financial, or personal reasons, this article aims to provide you with the necessary information to make an informed decision and embark on a fulfilling off-grid lifestyle.
Table of Contents
- Key Takeaways
- Legal Considerations
- Building Codes and Permits
- Sewage Disposal Laws
- Water Rights and Usage
- Energy and Utilities
- Property Taxes and Zoning
- Finding Land and Building
- Best Places to Live
- Eastern Tennessee
- Morgan County
- Cannon County
- Polk County
- Chester County
- Lawrence County
- Alternative Housing Options
- Frequently Asked Questions
- What are some alternative housing options for off-grid living in Tennessee?
- Are there any restrictions on the size or type of buildings that can be constructed in Tennessee?
- Can rainwater harvesting be used for drinking water in Tennessee?
- What incentives are available for installing renewable energy systems in Tennessee?
- Are there any areas in Tennessee where off-grid living is not allowed?
- Living off-grid is legal in Tennessee except in some urban areas with building code restrictions.
- Biggest legal hurdles for off-grid living in TN are sewage hookup requirements and alternative waste disposal systems.
- Eastern part of Tennessee is considered best for going off-grid due to poverty, drug use, and crime in other areas.
- Tennessee has very relaxed zoning laws with many areas having no zoning at all.
When considering off-grid living in Tennessee, it is important to be aware of the legal considerations that may affect one’s ability to live sustainably and independently.
One of the biggest legal hurdles for off-grid living in Tennessee is the requirement for sewage hookup or alternative waste disposal systems.
Building permits are not always required, but building codes must be followed.
It is important to note that laws in Tennessee do not provide incentives for going off-grid or installing solar power, and there are no laws that prevent disconnection from the electric grid.
However, friendly laws for off-grid living can be found outside of urban areas and conservation areas.
Off grid housing options and sustainable living practices are also important to consider when looking to live off the grid in Tennessee.
Compost toilets and graywater recycling are legal in Tennessee for irrigation purposes, and rainwater harvesting is also legal for potable use.
Drilling a well on one’s property is allowed in Tennessee, but with restrictions on withdrawals.
It is important for those interested in off-grid living in Tennessee to research and understand the legal considerations and sustainable living practices that can help them achieve their goals.
Building Codes and Permits
Building codes must be followed in many areas of Tennessee, even if building permits are not required. This means that even if you own land and are planning to build your off-grid home without a permit, you still need to follow building codes.
Building codes are important because they ensure that structures are safe and meet certain standards. When building an off-grid home, it’s important to research building codes in your area to ensure that you are building a safe and structurally sound home.
However, there are some building code exemptions that can be utilized for off-grid living. For example, in some areas of Tennessee, structures that are under a certain square footage may be exempt from certain building codes.
Additionally, DIY building techniques may be used instead of hiring licensed contractors, which can save money and provide a more personal touch to the construction of your off-grid home. It’s important to research these exemptions and techniques before beginning construction to ensure that you are following all necessary regulations while still being able to build your dream off-grid home.
Sewage Disposal Laws
One major hurdle for those seeking to live self-sufficiently in Tennessee is complying with sewage disposal laws, which can be particularly challenging in areas lacking access to municipal sewer systems. In Tennessee, it is illegal to dispose of sewage on premises accessible to the sewer system. This means that alternative waste disposal systems must be used, such as septic systems or composting toilets.
When it comes to sewage disposal options, composting toilets are a popular choice for off-grid living in Tennessee. These DIY systems allow for the breakdown of human waste into compost, which can then be used as fertilizer for plants. However, it is important to note that composting toilets must be approved models to be legal in Tennessee, and they cannot be used in facilities with running water unless there is an acceptable means to dispose of wastewater.
Furthermore, gray water recycling is legal in Tennessee for irrigation purposes, but it is important to follow state regulations and guidelines to ensure proper disposal and avoid potential health hazards.
Water Rights and Usage
Surface water rights in Tennessee are governed by Riparian rights, which allow for legal use of water on your property or boundary for beneficial purposes. This means that if you have a stream, river, or lake on your property or boundary, you have the right to use the water for things like irrigation, livestock watering, and recreation. However, it’s important to note that riparian rights are limited to the water that flows through or touches your property, and you can’t interfere with the rights of other riparian landowners.
Drilling a well on your property is allowed in Tennessee, but there are restrictions on withdrawals. The amount of water you can withdraw from your well depends on the capacity of the well and the amount of water available in the aquifer. In some parts of the state, droughts may lead to water-use restrictions, so it’s important to be mindful of your water usage and conserve whenever possible. Rainwater harvesting is legal in Tennessee, and in some cities, incentives may be available for installing rainwater harvesting systems. This can be a great way to supplement your water supply and reduce your reliance on wells or municipal water systems.
|Rainwater harvesting incentives||In some cities, incentives may be available for installing rainwater harvesting systems.||The city of Nashville provides a rebate of up to $1,000 for residential rainwater harvesting systems.|
|Restrictions on well withdrawals||The amount of water you can withdraw from your well depends on the capacity of the well and the amount of water available in the aquifer.||In some areas of Tennessee, well withdrawals may be restricted during droughts to ensure that there is enough water for everyone.|
Energy and Utilities
Tennessee has put in place several programs and policies to support the adoption of renewable energy systems. These include net metering, property tax and sales tax exemptions, and a renewable portfolio standard for electric utilities.
Net metering allows customers to sell excess energy generated by their renewable energy systems back to the grid, while property tax and sales tax exemptions make it more affordable for homeowners to install solar panels and other renewable energy systems.
The renewable portfolio standard requires electric utilities to generate a certain percentage of their power from renewable sources, encouraging the growth of the renewable energy industry in Tennessee.
In addition to these policies, Tennessee also has community solar programs that allow individuals to purchase or lease solar panels in larger-scale solar installations.
Furthermore, the state has programs like the low-income home energy assistance program and the weatherization assistance program to help low-income households reduce their energy costs and improve the energy efficiency of their homes.
While there are no specific incentives for going completely off-grid in Tennessee, these programs and policies demonstrate the state’s commitment to promoting renewable energy and reducing dependence on fossil fuels.
Property Taxes and Zoning
Regarding property taxes and zoning in Tennessee, there are a few important things to keep in mind.
Firstly, the state has relaxed zoning laws, with many areas having no zoning at all. This makes it easier for property owners to build their homes in areas with fewer restrictions. However, it’s crucial for property owners to research the zoning laws and building codes in their area before building their homes.
Secondly, the state offers tax exemptions for agricultural land under the Greenbelt Law. This means that property owners who qualify as farmers and use their land for agricultural purposes can save considerable amounts on property taxes. The Greenbelt Law does not require a yearly income of $1500 to qualify as agricultural land, but the assessor of property will take into account the productivity of the land and the portion of land in actual use for farming or agricultural operation.
Thirdly, if land classified as agricultural produces gross agricultural income averaging at least $1,500 per year over any three-year period, then the assessor may presume that a tract of land is agricultural.
Overall, the Greenbelt Law benefits property owners who use their land for agricultural purposes, while zoning restrictions in some areas may affect the building and living conditions of off-grid homes.
Finding Land and Building
To locate suitable property for off-grid construction in Tennessee, interested parties may consult local resources such as the Knoxville Permaculture Guild or Homesteaders in Middle TN Facebook group, as well as plumbers or the TN Department of Environment and Conservation for information on regulations. It is also important to consider the building codes for the specific area in which the property is located. While permits are not required in many areas of Tennessee, building codes must still be followed. Property owners in Carroll County, TN can build on their own land without needing to be licensed contractors, but it is unclear whether a building permit or inspections are required.
Furthermore, it is important to keep in mind that different areas have different rules and regulations. Washington state, for example, has strict rules and regulations compared to Tennessee. Additionally, individuals may face unique challenges when building on their specific property. For example, a property owner in Unicoi County wants to build a small one-room structure on a thin strip of land between a road and a creek, but the water table is less than one foot down, making it difficult to install a septic system or composting toilet. Therefore, it is crucial to thoroughly research and consult with local resources before purchasing property and beginning construction on an off-grid home in Tennessee.
|Ability to live off-grid and avoid regulations||Limited resources for information on regulations|
|Lower property taxes for agricultural land||Challenges for building on certain properties|
|More freedom in building design and construction||Different rules and regulations in different areas|
Best Places to Live
After understanding the legal considerations and building codes for off-grid living in Tennessee, the next step is finding the best places to live off-grid. While there are no laws in Tennessee that prevent disconnection from the electric grid, there are certain areas that are more suitable for off-grid living than others.
The eastern part of Tennessee is considered the best area for going off-grid due to the poverty, drug use, and crime in other parts of the state. Several counties in Tennessee are great options for those seeking to live off-grid.
Morgan County, Cannon County, Polk County, Chester County, and Lawrence County are among the best off-grid communities in Tennessee. These areas offer low property taxes, relaxed zoning laws, and a favorable climate for solar power. However, off-grid living challenges and solutions should be considered before moving to any of these areas.
It is crucial to ensure that sewage hookup requirements and alternative waste disposal systems are met. Additionally, building codes must still be followed, and permits may be required in some areas. By carefully considering the legalities and challenges of off-grid living in Tennessee, individuals can find the best places to live off-grid and enjoy a self-sustainable lifestyle.
The eastern part of Tennessee has been identified as a suitable location for those interested in pursuing a self-sustaining lifestyle. Here are four reasons why this region stands out:
The area is known for its natural beauty and abundant resources, including fertile land and water sources.
The low population density in many parts of eastern Tennessee allows for more space and privacy, making it easier to establish an off-grid community.
Sustainable agriculture is a viable option in this region, with a long growing season and a variety of crops that can be grown.
The poverty, drug use, and crime in other areas of Tennessee are less prevalent in the eastern part of the state, making it a safer and more appealing destination for those seeking an off-grid lifestyle.
Overall, if you are interested in living off-grid in Tennessee, the eastern region may be the ideal place to start your search. With its natural beauty, resources, and opportunities for sustainable agriculture, it offers a unique and appealing option for those seeking a simpler, more self-sufficient way of life.
Moving on to Morgan County, it is another great place for off-grid living in Tennessee. This county is located in the eastern part of the state and is known for its beautiful natural scenery and abundant wildlife.
Morgan County has a population of around 21,000 people, with the majority living in the county seat of Wartburg.
One of the main draws of Morgan County for off-grid living is the presence of an established off-grid community. This community is made up of like-minded individuals who are committed to living sustainably and independently.
Additionally, the county has a strong tradition of sustainable farming practices, making it an ideal location for those interested in homesteading and self-sufficiency.
Overall, Morgan County offers a great combination of natural beauty, community support, and sustainable living opportunities for those looking to live off-grid in Tennessee.
Cannon County, located in central Tennessee, presents a promising option for individuals seeking to reside independently and sustainably. This county has a population of approximately 14,000 people and is known for its scenic beauty, rich history, and agricultural heritage. The county is home to many off-grid farmers who practice sustainable living, making it an ideal location for those looking to live off the grid.
Here are four reasons why Cannon County is a great option for off-grid living and sustainable farming:
Access to Water: The county has many streams and rivers, making it easy for off-grid farmers to access water for irrigation and other purposes.
Mild Climate: The county has a mild climate, making it possible to grow crops year-round. This makes it an ideal location for off-grid farmers who want to grow their own food and live sustainably.
Relaxed Zoning Laws: Cannon County has no zoning restrictions and offers a great deal of flexibility for those looking to build their own homes and live off the grid.
Strong Community: The county has a strong community of off-grid farmers and sustainable living enthusiasts who are supportive and welcoming to newcomers. This makes it easy for those new to off-grid living to get started and thrive in this environment.
Moving on from Cannon County, another great place for off-grid living in Tennessee is Polk County. This county is located in the southeastern part of the state and offers a variety of off-grid communities for those seeking a sustainable lifestyle.
With plenty of land available for purchase, Polk County is a great place to start a homestead or build an eco-friendly home. One of the biggest draws of Polk County is its focus on sustainable agriculture. The county has a strong farming community and offers resources to help new farmers get started.
Additionally, the county hosts an annual Farm to Table dinner, which showcases locally grown food and promotes sustainable agriculture practices. With a mild climate and plenty of water resources, Polk County is a great place for those interested in starting their own farm or joining a community focused on sustainable living.
Located in southwestern Tennessee, Chester County offers a variety of opportunities for those looking to embrace a self-sufficient lifestyle and ‘make a go of it.’
This rural county has few zoning restrictions, making it easier for individuals to build and live off-grid. The Greenbelt Law can also be beneficial for those looking to save on property taxes by qualifying as a farmer. With over 600 farms in the county, sustainable agriculture is a popular way of life for many in Chester County.
In addition to the favorable zoning laws and agricultural opportunities, Chester County also has an active off-grid community. The Tennessee Off-Grid Living Festival is held annually in nearby Lawrence County, and many off-grid enthusiasts from Chester County attend. The festival offers workshops and resources for those looking to learn more about off-grid living.
Overall, Chester County is a great place for individuals looking to live off-grid and embrace a sustainable lifestyle.
Situated in the southern part of Tennessee, Lawrence County offers various resources and opportunities for individuals interested in sustainable living. The county is home to several off-grid communities, which are ideal for those looking to live off the grid and reduce their carbon footprint. These communities provide a sense of community and support, making it easier for individuals to adapt to a self-sufficient lifestyle.
In addition to off-grid communities, Lawrence County also offers sustainable agriculture opportunities. The county’s fertile soil and mild climate make it an ideal location for farming and gardening. Farmers in the area can take advantage of the Tennessee Greenbelt Law, which provides tax benefits for agricultural land. Overall, Lawrence County is a great choice for individuals looking to live sustainably and reduce their impact on the environment.
|Fertile Soil||High Humidity|
|Mild Climate||Occasional Droughts|
|Abundant Water||Limited Access to Healthcare|
|Low Cost of Living||Limited Job Opportunities|
Alternative Housing Options
Alternative housing options in Lawrence County offer unique and innovative solutions for individuals seeking to reduce their environmental impact and live sustainably.
Tiny homes, yurts, and earthbag homes are some of the options available for those looking to move off-grid. Tiny homes are popular because they are mobile and affordable, making them an excellent option for those who want to live off-grid but may not have the resources to build a traditional home. Yurts are another option that provides a circular living space and can be customized to fit the owner’s needs. Earthbag homes are becoming increasingly popular due to their affordability, durability, and sustainability.
Sustainable living is not just about the type of home you live in, but also how you live your life. Lawrence County offers opportunities for sustainable living through the local farmers’ markets, community gardens, and sustainable agriculture practices. The county also has a recycling program and encourages residents to reduce their waste and conserve water.
Living off-grid in Lawrence County allows individuals to reduce their carbon footprint and live in harmony with nature while still enjoying the modern amenities they need. With a supportive community and innovative housing options, Lawrence County is an excellent choice for those seeking a sustainable and off-grid lifestyle.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are some alternative housing options for off-grid living in Tennessee?
For those seeking alternative housing options for off-grid living in Tennessee, tiny homes and Earthships are two popular options.
Tiny homes, which are typically less than 500 square feet, are designed to be energy-efficient and often have off-grid capabilities.
Earthships, on the other hand, are self-sufficient and sustainable homes made from natural and recycled materials, such as tires and bottles, and are designed to be completely off-grid.
Both options offer unique opportunities for those seeking to live off the grid in Tennessee, and can be customized to fit individual needs and preferences.
However, it is important to note that building codes and regulations may vary depending on the location and type of alternative housing chosen.
Are there any restrictions on the size or type of buildings that can be constructed in Tennessee?
Building restrictions and zoning laws in Tennessee vary depending on the location and type of property. In many areas of Tennessee, building permits are not required, but building codes must still be followed.
However, some urban areas have building code restrictions that may limit the size or type of buildings that can be constructed. Additionally, zoning laws in Tennessee are generally relaxed, with many areas having no zoning at all.
It is important to research and understand the specific zoning and building regulations in the area where you plan to build to ensure compliance with local laws.
Can rainwater harvesting be used for drinking water in Tennessee?
Rainwater harvesting in Tennessee is legal and can be used for various purposes, including drinking water. However, it is crucial to ensure rainwater safety before consumption. Rainwater can contain contaminants such as bacteria, viruses, and chemicals, so proper filtration methods are necessary.
Filtration methods can range from simple to complex, depending on the intended use of the rainwater. For example, a basic filtration system may include a mesh screen to remove debris, while a more advanced system may include multiple stages of filtration, including activated carbon filters and UV sterilization.
Therefore, while rainwater harvesting can be a sustainable and cost-effective option for off-grid living in Tennessee, it is important to prioritize safety and invest in appropriate filtration methods.
What incentives are available for installing renewable energy systems in Tennessee?
Tennessee offers solar and wind incentives for installing renewable energy systems. The state has a property tax exemption and a sales tax exemption for renewable energy systems, as well as a net metering policy for these systems.
Additionally, Tennessee has a renewable portfolio standard for electric utilities, a community solar program, and a low-income home energy assistance program. The state also has weatherization assistance and disaster relief programs for low-income households.
However, it is important to note that installing a solar system and connecting it to the grid comes with inspections, permits, fees, rules, and regulations. Property owners can go off-grid to avoid costs and regulations.
Are there any areas in Tennessee where off-grid living is not allowed?
Legal restrictions and zoning laws are important considerations for those looking to live off-grid in Tennessee. While living off-grid is generally legal in the state, there may be certain areas with building code restrictions that prohibit it.
Additionally, sewage hookup requirements and alternative waste disposal systems can be major legal hurdles for off-grid living in Tennessee. Building permits are not required in many areas, but building codes must still be followed.
It is important to research and understand the specific legal requirements and zoning laws in the area where one is considering off-grid living.