For some people, ‘off-grid’ means entirely self-contained with no connection to the wider world. However, now more and more people want to go off-grid while staying connected to the internet.
Can you get internet off the grid? Yes, there are several ways to connect to the internet that are suitable for off-grid living. If you get a signal on your cell, you can use it to connect other devices to the internet. If you have no cell signal, you will need to buy a fixed wireless broadband package or connect to a satellite internet provider.
A quick search on YouTube will show you hundreds of homesteaders, cabin dwellers, and campers who live off-grid but still go online. Living a lifestyle that is more self-reliant needn’t mean that you are entirely cut off from your friends and family.
Also, if like me, you’re looking to take your existing house off the grid, YouTube is always a great back up if you’re not sure how to do something.
How Do I Power My Online Devices?
When preparing to go online, your internet connection is not the only thing you need to think about. How will you power your device without grid electricity?
Many off-grid homes use some form of alternative power. They might run a generator or charge a bank of batteries from solar or wind power.
Whatever your method, it is likely that your supply will be limited to some degree. As a result, it is worth spending some time deciding what devices you will use to access the internet:
Battery-powered, portable devices
The best choice is something that can be charged up and then offers long life on one charge. For example, cellular phones, tablets, and laptops are a better option than a desktop computer.
By using a chargeable device, you will minimize the amount of time you are connected to your home power source.
The grape solar portable battery pack is available at Home Depot and is a great way to keep your phone charged throughout the week.
Keep it in good working order
It is essential to check the health of your battery. As devices get older, you may notice that they become less efficient and drain power quicker.
If possible, keep your devices well maintained or buy a new battery if yours starts becoming unreliable. This will minimize the risk of an old battery using a larger amount of power per charge.
When you run a restricted system, every bit of energy is vital. When buying the device, you want to use to go online from your off-grid home, chose one that has a high rating for energy efficiency and a battery that provides a prolonged use from a single charge.
What is the easiest way to get online off-grid?
By far, the quickest way to set up the internet if you’re off-grid is to connect to an existing cellular signal. If you can get a signal on your cell, you can use it to supply other devices.
Most cells now have the option to turn on their cellular hotspot. This can be found in your connection settings, and it creates a mini version of wifi for other devices to connect to. Computers or tablets s can create a wireless connection with your phone to allow them to access your connection to the network.
This is easy to set up, but it can result in a poor signal, drain your phone battery quicker, and you are limited to your phone’s monthly data package. There are some excellent unlimited packages available for mobiles, but if you don’t have one, it doesn’t take very long to run up a hefty bill by using too much data.
Running your router from cell signal
If you want to use your phone as a wifi hotspot but want to be able to connect it to other devices in your house over a slightly further distance, you can boost the hotspot signal with a router.
This way, the actual internet connection still comes directly from the local mobile mast to your phone, but then the router allows you to connect other devices to it from anywhere in your house.
For example, if you connect your phone to a router in the kitchen, your son can connect to the internet via his laptop in another room. Without the router, he would have to come into the kitchen to get access to the hotspot signal.
Another way to get wifi from a mobile signal is to buy a monthly package from a company like Unlimitedville. They give you a router that connects directly with a cellular signal allowing you to get a better connection than the phone itself can provide. While you still need cell signal for this, the most significant benefit is that they offer unlimited data with no usage caps.
Boosting cell signal
If you want to try this option but your cellular signal is feeble, you could try using a signal booster. These can be installed in your home and work in a similar way to a router, but they pick up a weak mobile signal and then give out a strong signal that your cell can pick up.
How do I access the internet without cell signal?
If you are out of range of any cell signal, you can purchase a system that will allow you to connect your devices to the internet via an antenna. These options will require you to buy specialized equipment, and most providers will charge you a monthly fee.
Satellite internet is broadcasted directly to a dish at your house. The signal can then be directed to a router to supply your home with wifi. As with all forms of internet, speed and quality are continually improving, but historically, satellite internet connections are the most expensive and the least reliable. However, of all your options, this is the one most likely to reach the most remote areas.
When selecting your supplier, speak to other customers or look on forums to find which ones have an excellent service and respond quickly to customer inquiries.
This animation gives you a clear idea of how satellite broadband is set up.
Fixed wireless broadband
In the US, there are now over 1,500 fixed wireless broadband providers reflecting its rising popularity. This method of connecting to the internet requires you to fix and antenna to your house.
This will connect to the broadband via radio waves, which are broadcast from purpose-built towers. These towers are often built in rural areas where it is hard to provide bandwidth via cables, so even if your home is in the middle of now where there is still a chance you may be able to access a tower.
When you contact the supplier, they will check to see if there is a tower in your area. As with the satellite signal, you can connect the antenna to a router and provide wifi access for your house.
Most of these packages require a small start-up cost and then monthly payments, which depend on the speed and data you choose.
These three are the most reliable ways of accessing the internet from your off-grid-home. Before you make your choice, it is essential to find out which providers operate in your area and what packages they offer.
If you live close to other people living off-grid, go and talk to them and see where they get their internet. That will give you a good idea of what companies operate in your area or what signals are most reliable.
Check out my picks of best equipment for going off-grid.