An example of off-grid apartment living in Manhattan

From Ars Technica:

tl;dr – An NYU professor living in an apartment goes off-grid for 8 months.

“Today, more than half the world lives in cities. I’ve always thought that living “off the grid” meant living “off in the woods,” where you can live simply and set up an alternate power source. But I’m a professional in Manhattan and need to earn a living…

…Even though corporate and policy choices matter more than those of any individual, I was still curious to see if I could make my own practices more sustainable. Personal responsibility matters to me, so polluting less motivates me; it’s a small thing, but one I can control, even if it’s important to make policy and political changes, too.

And I wanted to see how easy (or difficult) this might be for other city dwellers—both to help with sustainability and with utility bills.

In addition to the obvious benefits that reduced power consumption brings, there’s also the issue of grid resilience. If everyone could stand a few days without grid power, we could build grids that aren’t made for 99.9 percent uptime but for 95 percent or lower uptime (with dedicated power for essential services like hospitals, police, and subways). At some level of local resilience, we could power cities exclusively with solar and wind despite their intermittency, with much lower battery needs.”

There are some major caveats:

1) Heat (which he’s basically leaching from the building and neighbours)

2) This is a VERY minimalist setup that just won’t be practicable, especially for a family or someone with medical devices

However, I thought some folks here might find it kind of neat as a proof of concept or food for thought. The classic ‘cabin in the woods, plop down as many solar panels as you can’ setup is not really compatible with the way most people live, which is in more urban environments.


  • Comments (2)

    • 1

      I lived in NYC for several years.

      Most (1,700) commercial buildings in Manhattan are heated and cooled by the largest steam system in the world. Manhattan Steam System.

      The practical benefit is that if power goes down in Manhattan, your apartment is still heated or cooled and you have hot water because it’s powered by the steam generated from excess heat at the electric generating plants in the city. Heating and cooling is built into your rent so turn it up or down as much as you like.

      When I lived in Brooklyn, my apartment building was also steam, and it was so warm in the winter that I turned the thermostat off and always had a window open.

      A lengthy grid-down problem in NYC will ultimately become a crime problem, in my opinion. All food is trucked in – no gardens or farms in the city. The objective, for me and my wife, when we lived in Manhattan, was getting out if there was a bad grid down situation. Thankfully, we had a car.

    • 1

      This was not a grid-down experiment, it was personal grid-less experiment. He gave up many technical things to run the experiment. But he was also running a personal cultural experiment. And he had his ‘NYU cheat’ when necessary.

      HE GAVE UP:
      no electric (replaced with solar batteries)
      no NG – no stove (he could BBQ on his terrace)
      no elevator

      heating and cooling was maintained
      hot water too
      Internet and telephony was maintained
      a dry apartment

      Uber & cabs maintained
      All food and other deliveries were maintained
      Police & fire department were good
      All his neighbors on the East Side, in fact, all of NYC had their stuff without shortages so no societal impact.

      no doormen and no door locks in their absence = no personal security in his building other than the door to his apartment. Not good on the Upper East Side.

      No regular, ongoing critical deliveries.
      No fire alarms and fire control systems in buildings.
      Very limited police and fire services due to increased crime and fire.
      Poor communication systems.
      No easy way out of the city.