Is Cutting the Cord or Going off the Grid the Right Move?

If you’ve considered cutting the cord due to increasing monthly utility bills, you’re not alone. The 2015 American Consumer Satisfaction Index revealed that customer satisfaction with subscription TV, internet and telephone service is the lowest it’s been in seven years. This is no surprise, as cable companies’ average revenue per customer increased from about $119 in 2010 to more than $160 in 2015, according to research cited by NBC News.

Cutting the cord, or taking that notion even further by going entirely off the grid, is easier than ever. But it’s essential to understand the benefits and drawbacks of each choice before deciding what’s right for you. Here are some things to consider if you’re thinking about it.

Cutting the Cord Means Changing Habits

Eliminating cable and its costs is as simple as calling your provider and canceling your monthly service. But the level of tech-savvy and expense afterward depends on the TV services you want to maintain, if any. The best solution depends on the TV you have, the services you want and what you’re willing to spend and sacrifice. If all you want to watch are a few local networks like ABC, CBS and NBC, an antenna plugged into the back of the tube may be all you need to cut the cord.

If you have a Smart TV, you might not need to purchase an additional streaming device to access services like Netflix, Sling TV, Hulu and the like. But if you don’t, you may need to buy a Chromecast, Roku or Amazon Fire Stick, and maintain service with your internet provider to access those services.

How Much Commitment Are You Ready For?

Going off the grid means relying on wind, water and similar alternative energy sources. It can manage your carbon footprint and limit what you spend on energy over the course of your lifetime. But Echotech Institute recommends that if you’re considering going off the grid, you should seek help from a professional who’s trained in off-the grid power system design. They can determine what kinds of alternative energy you need based on your location, budget and the energy you consume on a daily basis.

Weigh the Costs and Benefits

Ending your relationship with traditional utility providers and/or old-school cable could lower your monthly utility expenses, but there are still upfront costs to going off the grid. Daniel Wesley, author of the “The True Cost of Living off the Grid” infographic, estimates that the average family of four living off the grid in a rural area should be prepared to invest in the following when setting up an alternative energy system:

  • Wind turbines (which he says cost about $11,000)
  • Hydropower (which can range in cost from less than $7,000 to more than $50,000)
  • Access to well water and septic systems (about $12,000)

Echotech Institute notes that most people off the grid also want a backup battery system, which can cost an additional $100 per month.

Small Steps Can Yield Big Results

Not ready to bag cable or go off the grid? They’re major steps for sure. Luckily there are plenty of small changes that can reduce your energy use and the expenses attached. Half of the average American’s energy use is related to home heating and cooling, according to the U.S. Dept. of Energy. Consider leafy landscaping, which blocks the sun’s rays in the summer but heats the home naturally in the winter, when bare trees let in natural light and heat.

Be mindful of the energy vampires at home, too. These stay plugged in constantly (DVD players, kitchen appliances, computers, etc.), wasting more power and money than you’d realize over time.

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