A Short Guide to Off-Grid Huts

It doesn’t get more simple or sustainable than an off-grid hut.

No monthly bills coming through, more independence and a way of life that’s completely in sync with the environment. 

Whilst the off-grid living movement is much bigger and well established in the US, it’s certainly picking up momentum here in the UK.

Although most people won’t jump straight into off-grid living, an off-grid getaway is usually the first port of call to test the waters, as is more eco-friendly living.

Getting away from it all and going for an off-grid staycation in the UK is a fast-growing trend and you can find plenty of holidays and off-grid places to visit online. More on that below.

A shepherd’s hut lends itself perfectly to off-grid living thanks to its natural compactness, dimensions and potential mobility.

So, if you’re interested in an off-grid hut, whether it’s looking at one for sale, one to rent, for environmentally friendly reasons or if you’re just inquisitive about off-grid huts in general and want more information, you’re in the right place.

Let’s take a dive into off-grid huts.

What is an off-grid hut?

An off-grid hut is one that isn’t connected to the national infrastructure delivering electricity and gas.

In Great Britain, the national infrastructure system and operator is known as the National Grid. Through a complex system of high-voltage power lines, gas pipelines, connectors and storage facilities, the National Grid manages the whole network and delivers electricity and gas to homes and businesses in England, Wales and Scotland.

For off-grid huts, it’s precisely these national networks you are not connected to anymore. This means off-grid huts have to produce their own power for energy and potentially gas if needed.

An off-grid hut also has to overcome other obstacles, such as water supply (not provided by the National Grid) and access to the internet, which for many is now considered an essential.

This being said, there are different forms and levels of off-grid living that a person or hut can take. Being ‘off-grid’ can mean different things to different people.

One thing is clear though, an off-grid hut won’t be connected to the National Grid, which is what makes it a ‘greener’ alternative.

off grid hut in wales field next to forest
An off-grid shepherd’s hut in Wales

What are the benefits of an off-grid hut?

There are many reasons and benefits to living in or renting out an off-grid hut. For many it’s the pure thought of being free and independent, whereas for some it’s the reduced impact on the environment that is the driving force to go off-grid.

Here are a few of the main benefits to an off-grid hut:

  • Independence – an off-grid hut is completely self-sufficient and allows you to get back to basics
  • Greener, environmentally friendly – reducing reliance on mains power and energy will have a positive environmental impact and allow you to reduce your own carbon footprint
  • Closure to nature physically and mentally – being off-grid means you need to use the land and nature, naturally bringing you closer to it
  • Save money – no monthly bills and reduced costs to maintain over the long term (often an initial investment)
  • Freedom – the hut can be fully mobile to travel wherever you like
  • Home comforts – it doesn’t mean you are living in a cave! You can still enjoy the home comforts inside

Although an off-grid hut will save on running costs over the long term, they do tend to cost more when setting up. Think of this as a small investment.

hafren forest with stream in wales
It’s the draw of getting back to nature (like this beautiful spot in Wales) that inspires many to go to or visit an off-grid hut

How to power an off-grid hut?

When it comes to an off-grid hut, your new energy provider is going to be the sun.

It may be 93 million miles away, but the sun produces so much energy that it seems illogical not to use it. Roughly, more energy hits the earth from the sun in one hour than the world consumes in one year! The latest scientific expectations predict that the sun won’t burn out for another 5 billion years.

Considering that is longer than the current age of our solar system, let’s safely say that the sun is a renewable energy source!

To harness the sun, you’re going to need solar photovoltaic panels, also known just as solar panels. The job of solar panels is to use the sun to produce electricity. You can then use this electricity to power your systems and appliances in your hut.

The great things about solar panels is that once they are bought and installed, they are completely free to run and require very little maintenance. Solar panels on a hut can be installed on the roof or on sunny-side outside walls or even ground mounted.

If you are completely off-grid then it may be advisable to invest in a solar storage battery if you can, so that you have access to energy around the clock. There are also other battery packs that can be installed, which when charged will store power ready to use.

solar photovoltaic panels facing the sun to power an off grid hut
Photovoltaic solar panels attached to the side of a shepherd’s hut in Wales

Other renewable energy methods to power an off-grid hut

There are other ways to power an off-grid hut with the most popular being other renewable energy methods.

It’s possible to generate electricity from wind and water power, but this is more difficult to implement. Micro wind turbines will only produce electricity when there’s breeze outside and hydro power requires a constant stream running close by and buying into the engineering and technology to harness this natural energy.

You can use a generator to power your electricity but they aren’t really a good option if you care about air and noise pollution as they are petrol or diesel powered.

Typically someone who wants to live in or create an off-grid hut will be aiming to use energy as a whole.

How to heat an off-grid hut?

There are a number of different ways to heat an off-grid hut.

The number one option, especially for getting back to basics, is a biomass burner or multi-fuel stove. The term ‘biomass’ is an all-encompassing one that covers all many of wood types, including logs, woodchip, wood pellets, leftover timber, plus turf briquette and peat bricks.

Did you know you can burn coffee logs now? These are made from used coffee grounds and environmentally friendly.

The good thing about biomass burners or log burners is that they can be fully sustainable and renewable.

Although fuel such as pellets requires processing and transporting, they are often made from waste products or recycled from the likes of sawdust, shavings and grass. As they are crushed and pressed together, the pellets do make for a very clean burn due to the their lack of moisture.

As long as your hut is air tight and well insulated (see section below) a simple small log burner will be enough to heat the space very effectively.

With new regulations coming into play from January 2022, all multifuel stoves and wood burners now have to be Ecodesign complaint.

log burner good way to heat a off grid hut

It is possible to heat an off-grid hut in other ways.

You can get solar air heaters (which operate a different system from the solar photovoltaic panels). With solar air heaters, cool air is pulled up into a solar collector where it is heated and then blown back into the room. You can also get solar water heaters.

There are ground source heating options, sometimes called geothermal heating. This is a fantastic, environmentally friendly way to heat a hut using the constant temperature of the ground but there are a few downsides. Firstly, it’s very expensive, it does require annual maintenance and it means your hut won’t be mobile.

Read this blog for more details on the best eco-friendly ways to heat a hut or small space.

How to insulate an off-grid hut?

It’s no good finding an effectively heat source for your hut if your insulation is rubbish and inefficient. Good insulation helps to keep your hut a more stable temperature all year round. Keeping the heat in its rightful place, inside the hut, will help to reduce costs and also your energy footprint.

Good ways to insulate a hut include using sheep’s wool, wood wool, cotton insulation (have a read at cottons environmental impact here) and mineral rock wool.

To get a better handle of the different types of eco-friendly insulation, have a read of this blog.

What about water in an off-grid hut?

Getting access to water in an off-grid hut is surprisingly quite difficult. The cheapest way is to install a large storage tank and collect water by any means necessary.

Other options such as drilling a borehole (which is possible) is very expensive as is rainwater harvesting by installing a very large tank underground connected to a filter system.

What’s the best toilet in an off-grid hut

As stated above, an off-grid hut generally won’t have access to running water, which limits the toilet department.

In this scenario, it’s best to go for a composting toilet.

As times have moved on, a composting toilet can look very much the same as a standard toilet and work just as well for you. When maintained properly, they shouldn’t omit any bad odours, will decompose waste efficiently and will be a perfect addition for your off-grid hut.

No plumbing and no septic tank, just a bit of good old nature with fantastic engineering.

The liquids get fed away in one area that goes outside and the solids get broken down till not much is left at all.

Read up more on composting toilets for huts here.

Where to find an off grid shepherd’s hut for sale?

Many shepherd’s hut builders are also well-versed on building off-grid huts. The vast majority of the production process is the same aside from a few details to finish the hut.

You can find a large list of many hut builders across the UK, nicely split up into regional areas, for you to explore and contact.

Where to find off grid shepherds hut holiday UK?

If you’re toying with the idea of going off-grid or would like to learn more about the process and how you’d go about it, then book yourself in for a shepherd’s hut holiday weekend away to an off-grid hut where you can have a first hand experience.

There are plenty of places online where you can find an off-grid hut holiday getaway in the UK. Places such as hostunusual.com, quirkyaccom.com, canopyandstars.co.uk, hideandsleep.com, oneoffplaces.co.uk and of course Airbnb.

Wrap up on off grid huts

Off-grid huts are a wonderful thing. Simple, incredibly sustainable and nature friendly.

Set up correctly with access to power as necessary, heating and a source of water, they are true havens of all that is good and important in the world.

For many people they offer a way to get back to basics and re-tune with a freer, more independent way of life. For others, they offer the best holiday experience to getaway from a busy, stressful lifestyle and disconnect from technology.

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Ben & Murphy Peaks Mam Tor

I’m the Creator and Editor of Tiny Eco Home Life. I write and publish information about living a more sustainable, environmentally friendly life. Away from the laptop, I love spending time in nature and with my young family (plus Murphy the dog!). I write and send out the Eco Life Newsletter.