Self-sufficient life on a boat? Not possible!

Last week I explained why I believe that using propane will not make you off-grid and self-sufficient. Today I will show you something similar.

Many people think they can live off-grid and be self-sufficient on a boat. To some extent it’s true, but is very much dependent on where this houseboat is to be located.

In european climate, where you need a lot of energy to heat your house in winter, it’s not possible to keep your houseboat warm without using some external heat source, like electric heater, heat pump or gas furnace. Even if the boat is built to fulfill all the passive-house standard’s requirements.

If you own a homestead and a piece of land, you can produce your own biomass (like coppice willow) to heat your home. You can’t produce biomass on your boat, as it would have to be really huge so that you could have arable land there. If you live in tropical areas, you can build your own floating island using recycled plastic bottles, but I can’t imagine the number of bottles you would have to use if you wanted to have even a small garden there.

Such a houseboat may produce it's own electricity, but probably it won't be enough to heat it in winter. It even has an air conditioner!

There’s another concern — water and waste. The only water sources you can use on a boat is water from the lake, river or sea on which the boat is located (and you would have to clean it thoroughly) and rainwater harvesting. In the latter case in cold season you probably would have to melt the snow or use water harvested earlier in the year. And what to do with waste? Septic tank would have to be emptied from time to time, and a sustainable solution like a full sewage treatment system is not possible to be installed. And you can easily have one in your land home. 😉






3 responses to “Self-sufficient life on a boat? Not possible!”

  1. 90%water Avatar

    Biolets are completly plausable for using and eliminating waste.
    If you were to have a small garden of tomatos and other vegs the humanure would positively be put to good use if you create a enclosed “greenhouse” you could harvest your humidity as a source of drinking water if you were afloat on the open salty sea.

  2. Erik Avatar

    Actually your diatribe has many flaws in it. It is entirely possible to live self sufficiently on a houseboat. First off solar and wind power (or wave power) are all good and well IF you have good weather, wind, etc. But a far easier source of perpetual motion electric generation of power is magnetic power. By using bar magnets on a wooden hub aligned at a 30° angle and then having a frame around the hub with bar magnets on the same pole at an angle the wooden disc (which is affixed to the shaft of a DC generator) will spin when the outer frame is slid into place.
    This creates endless free power. With a regulator, a series of deep cycle golf cart batteries, and an inverter to shift the power from DC to AC it is easy to store power. 6 batteries is more than sufficient for an average small house, but 12 is better.
    And screw solar heating. Go electric and tankless. Its energy efficient and easy. Rainwater harvesting works well but so too does having a distillation system. You can then take fresh, brackish, or salt water and boil it to create steam which then cools and is released into a cistern where a simple pump will create the pressure needed for water usage.
    Chickens can be kept for eggs and/or consumption though it is easier to just keep a few for egg production. With a greenhouse on the boat any number of vegetables can be grown and a HUGE variety of dwarf fruit trees and plants can be maintained. Enough to easily sustain a few people. Fish can be caught and harvested as well as crustaceans etc.
    Propulsion can be done using electric impellers such as those used for pond systems to create waterfalls. Some of the more powerful pumps can lift water 40 feet and move 14,650 gallons per hour. Two such water jets would be more than capable of moving a fair sized houseboat. Heating and cooling can be done by electric air conditioners and heaters. Just as freezers and all standard household and boat appliances can be powered that way. Solar systems and wind systems can be added for back up. But its really not needed and rather redundant.
    Composting toilets not only efficiently manage waste but along with biodegradable food and garden waste can be used in composting to create rich fertile chemical free soil to keep the greenhouse garden healthy and productive. Also chickens can be supported in part by garden scraps.
    To some degree such as servicing and maintaining equipment, cleaning and maintenance of the hull, and getting toiletries, drinks, clothing, etc you will still be dependent on land based amenities. But a well stocked, well set up boat can actually function not only entirely off the grid, but just about entirely independent of any other considerations.


  3. Krzysztof Lis Avatar
    Krzysztof Lis

    You’re kidding with this “free energy”, right?

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