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Think outside

The Grid

Utility-free living beckons more than just hardy pioneer types


ff-the-grid living was once an oddity reserved for dedicated survivalists. But there are many ways to live off-grid, and more people are looking into it. Off-grid living means you’re not connected to utility grids. That could mean living in a cabin or a fancy house. It’s become more possible because of improvements in alternative energy sources like solar power and batteries to store it. The trend has also been fed by severe weather events that have stressed utility grids in many areas and created more power outages. Advocates of offgrid living warn that it can sometimes mean a lot of hard work and isolation. Living off-grid conjures images of survivalists in remote places and a rustic, “Little House on the Prairie” lifestyle with chores from morning to night. Yet only a tiny fraction of people living off-grid do it like that, and fewer still live more than an hour from any town. “Living off-grid doesn’t mean you don’t buy your groceries at a store or take your waste to the local dump. It just means you are not connected to utility grids,” says Gary Collins, who has lived off-grid, or mostly off-grid, for a decade. He has published books on the subject and leads online classes. Although precise numbers of offgrid households are hard to come by, Collins estimates that only 1% of those living off-grid are in truly 4 YOUR DREAM HOME | Fall 2022


This image released by Anacapa Architecture shows an off-grid guest house in Hollister Ranch, Calif., one of the last remaining undeveloped coastal areas in California, located on a wildlife preserve. The Anacapa Architecture firm, in Santa Barbara, California, and Portland, Oregon, has built several upscale off-grid homes in recent years, and has several more off-grid projects in the works. remote areas. Overall, the off-grid movement remains small. But it got a boost after the COVID pandemic hit: City dwellers began to explore different ways of living, facilitated by improvements in alternative energy sources like solar power, and batteries for storing that power. More frequent power outages and utility grids’ struggles to handle the severe weather events brought on by climate change have added to

interest in disconnecting from the grid. So have utility bill hikes. “There’s a lot more interest in living off the grid now because energy is costing so much, and there are so many problems with grids,” says author Sheri Koones, whose books about sustainable houses include “Prefabulous and Almost Off the Grid” (Abrams, 2012). There are also those who remain connected to the grid but try to power their homes independent

of it. Koones cites the rise in “net metering,” when your property’s renewable energy source — usually solar — is producing more energy than you use, and your local utility pays you for the excess. Today, off-grid living encompasses everything from “dry camping” in RVs (with no electrical or water hookups) to swank Santa Barbara estates, from modest dwellings tucked just outside of towns to — yes — those remote,

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The Solterre Concept House in Nova Scotia, an off-the-grid home featured in the book “Downsize, Living Large In a Small House,” by Sheri Koones. rustic cabins. “Everyone does it differently, and everyone does it their own way, because it’s their own adventure,” says Collins. For him, off-grid living is part of finding a simpler, less cluttered life that’s more in sync with nature. The Anacapa Architecture firm, in Santa Barbara, California, and Portland, Oregon, has built several upscale off-grid homes in recent years and has several more off-grid projects in the works. “There’s definitely an increase in traction for this kind of lifestyle, especially in the last two years. There’s a desire to get more in tune with nature,” says Jon Bang, marketing and PR coordinator for Anacapa Architecture. One reason for the high cost of homes like this is that it’s expensive to haul equipment to a remote site. In addition, they might be outfitted with things like solar power, an

onsite battery bank, a septic system that treats sewage onsite, a water well, and a dry well to treat and reuse water, not to mention a plumbing system designed to use as little water as possible. Such homes also are carefully designed to take advantage of the site’s landscape features with an eye to sustainability. For example, one of the firm’s homes is built into a hillside and has a green roof (with plantings). Strategic landscaping can minimize the need for watering. “For those with means, it opens up building sites that cannot be connected to local grids and allows for a quieter kind of life, grounded in nature without neighbors nearby,” Bang says. For those without the means to hire architects, there are numerous recent books, blogs and online videos dedicated to the subject. “A lot of people are interested in it now. They contact me after watching

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something on TV or on YouTube and I tell them, ‘If you learned everything you know on YouTube, you are never going to survive,’” says Collins. Growing up poor in a rural area, he says, helped him succeed at offgrid living, first in Washington state and now in Arizona. He makes regular grocery runs but also grows some of his own food and hunts wild game. He has his own septic system and well. While his previous home was entirely off-grid, with solar panels and a wind turbine for power, his current home is hooked up to an electrical grid, mainly because the bills are too low to warrant the cost of solar panels, he says. If you want to be totally selfsufficient, he says, it takes a lot of time and physical effort. You won’t have time to hold down a job. If you’re living in a remote location, you need to consider access to medical care, and whether you are mentally prepared for that much

isolation. He warns, “People die off-grid all the time, because of things like chainsaw accidents. You have to be very careful and think everything through. No EMS will get to you in time.” Anyone interested in living offgrid should try dry camping in an RV or living in a remote area first to see if the lifestyle fits, he suggests. And depending on how it’s done, he says, off-grid living is not necessarily environmentally sustainable — not if you’re driving a fuel-guzzling truck and relying on a gas-powered generator, for example. Still, improved alternative energy sources and construction techniques are making off-grid living more thinkable for more people, including those who don’t want to haul buckets of water from a well or live by candlelight. ­— The Associated Press Fall 2022 | YOUR DREAM HOME 5


Keep it Contemporary H

7 characteristics of modern homes

omes contain a variety of components that appeal to homeowners with different ideas about the perfect place to call home. That starts with the style of a home. Buildings are classified according to share components. A Craftsman style home will have a covered porch with a set of wide base columns, while a Cape Cod home is often defined by a gabled roof and dormer windows. Modern houses, sometimes called contemporary homes even though the terms are not interchangeable, will have their own sets of unique characteristics. Here’s a look at seven features that make modern homes unique.

1. Minimalist approach

Contemporary and modern homes both employ an approach that leans toward minimalism, including clean design lines. Spaces are open and airy without the clutter of too many ornate architectural details. While modern homes may have some curvature to their design, contemporary ones are all about an angular look. 2. Neutral color palette

Modern homes tend to utilize a neutral color palette. Modern homes may use “earthy” elements, such as wood and brick, in ways that do not look rustic. Contemporary homes rely on a color palette of black and white with shades of gray or other neutral colors.


Modern kitchens tend to feature efficient, top-tier appliances with additional storage and space amenities that keep the room from feeling cluttered. homes often have flat roofs, while modern homes may not. 4. Large, unadorned windows

3. Geometric shapes

Most modern homes showcase a lot of natural light by utilizing large windows that are not covered up by heavy window treatments or elements like shutters and thick trims. Large windows are the focus of the interior and shift attention to the view outdoors.

Modern homes have strong horizontal and vertical elements that showcase geometric shapes in their designs. Contemporary

A hallmark of modern interior design, the open concept floor plan removes many of the walls

6 YOUR DREAM HOME | Fall 2022

5. Open floor concept

that tend to separate common areas of a home. This helps to foster the spread of natural light and maintains the emphasis on simplicity of design. 4. Smart elements

Thanks to the proliferation of smart technology, smart homes are cropping up with greater frequency. While smart devices can be included in any home style, they tend to feel like they were designed specifically for modern homes. In a similar vein, modern homes may include environmentally friendly elements, such as solar panels,

upcycled materials, added insulation, and energy efficient lighting. 7. Updated kitchen spaces

The clean lines and attention to technology and open space generally extends to modern kitchens. Modern kitchens tend to feature efficient, top-tier appliances with additional storage and space amenities that keep the room from feeling cluttered. While some may consider modern homes austere, many others are right at home among their clean lines and airy spaces. — Metro A special supplement to The Frederick News-Post

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The Need for Speed Optimize your home’s internet connection


A water tower in Cusseta, Ga., has antennas for broadband internet access. Although Chattahoochee County received millions in grant money to expand rural broadband access, only residents with a line of sight to one of the two water towers can access the internet.


he detective-work part of buying a home has traditionally not extended to verifying the availability of basic utilities — but then broadband internet became one of those basics. And while high-speed connectivity now rates as a must-have, it has yet to reach will-get status. In many rural markets, buyers and their agents must puzzle their way through incomplete or incorrect data to see what access awaits at a new house. Sometimes, new homeowners only learn after a closing that their property is bereft of broadband — leaving them to choose between paying tens of thousands of dollars to get wired connectivity extended or limping along with expensive, datacapped satellite internet. “The MLS [Multiple Listing Service] does say internet yes/

8 YOUR DREAM HOME | Fall 2022

Asking the seller seems an obvious remedy but may not work when they How home buyers can investigate broadband service aren’t clear on these distinctions, n Check a potential new home’s n Check with the relevant local Duncan said: “A lot of these sellers address on the FCC broadband government, civic association or may not know what they have.” map, but don’t take that as the homeowners association to see A survey released in late final word. what other services connect the December by Leichtman Research neighborhood. n For each provider the FCC map Group, a Durham, New Hampshire, lists, check the address on the n See if home wireless broadband telecom consultancy, found that provider’s site. from T-Mobile or Verizon covers 45% of broadband subscribers didn’t the address. know their service’s download n When you go to an open house, ask if you can use the WiFi, n If nothing else is available, check speeds. then run a speed test (Ookla’s Starlink’s site to see how soon Buyers, meanwhile, can set Speedtest app is free for Android service might be available at the themselves up for disappointment if and iOS) on your phone. address. they expect their next home to feature about the same broadband access as their last one did, especially if the new no,” said Jim Duncan, an associate of connectivity might exist at a residence is not new construction. broker and partner at Nest Realty in residence, leaving buyers and brokers “You just assume, maybe wrongly, Charlottesville, Virginia. “The MLS is to determine if it’s speedy fiber-optic that you’ll get service,” said Natalie also, you know, human input.” Roy, owner of the Arlington, Virginiaaccess, somewhat less-swift cable, And, he added, multiple-listing based Bicycling Realty Group of KW or an antiquated and slow digital Metro Center. subscriber line (DSL). services don’t break out what sort

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Christina Deese pays for satellite internet for her work phone and computer. She also has two cellular hotspots, one for her daughter’s home schooling and one for the rest of the family. She cited one client in Virginia who moved a few years ago from Falls Church to a farm in Middlebrook, outside of Staunton. Broadband didn’t come up during the evaluation of the property. “The first year or so she was there, she had to go to the library to get service,” Roy said. The client upgraded, somewhat, to using a Verizon mobile hotspot and then satellite broadband from HughesNet. This common fallback of rural homeowners relies on satellites in geosynchronous orbits some 22,000 miles up that keep them fixed over one point on Earth. That distant perch lets satellite access work almost anywhere in the United States with a view of the southern sky but imposes the trade-offs of notable lag time and strict data limits — at HughesNet,

a 50-gigabyte threshold on a $150-a-month plan, after which the service slows to 2001-vintage speeds. Fortunately for Roy’s Shenandoah Valley client, the connectivity cavalry is finally on the way — she said the local electric coop is building out fiber-optic service. Other homeowners are not so lucky. Christina Deese, an office manager who works remotely, said she was told a few years ago during negotiations for a new house outside the rural town of Adel, Georgia, that her cable provider also offered service at this prospective abode. After moving in, she said the provider informed her otherwise and quoted a rate of $37,000 to extend service across the

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home entertainment

Rooms With a View

3 features to focus on when designing an entertainment room


t might not take a home theater to enjoy the big game with friends or fire up family movie night, but a spacious entertainment room can certainly enhance such experiences. That’s especially true when homeowners give considerable thought to designing entertainment rooms. Film buffs and sports fans may have different notions of the ideal entertainment room, but the following are three design features that merit consideration by all looking to upgrade their entertainment spaces.

1. Screen

It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the sheer abundance of options when choosing a screen for an entertainment room. Televisions have long been a go-to choice, but projector screens merit consideration as well. If the room will be devoted exclusively to entertainment, then a television or a fixed projector screen might be homeowners’ best bets. Fixed projector screens are installed on the wall and projectors are typically hung from the ceiling. Semi-fixed projector screens provide a similar viewing experience but can be pulled down or retracted when residents are not watching a movie. Semi-fixed can even be installed in front of a television so residents can stream a movie on the projector and then watch television through a cable box when it isn’t movie night. Projectors often provide much bigger screens for a fraction of the cost of equally sized televisions. However, sports fans may prefer televisions, as live streaming sports has not yet caught up to streaming movies and TV shows in terms of reliability or even availability. As a result, many sporting events 10 YOUR DREAM HOME | Fall 2022


How will you entertain your guests? Start with an entertainment space you love. remain available via cable television only, while even those that can be streamed tend to have a few hiccups during the game. 2. Sound

Though televisions and projectors tend to come with built-in audio, the quality of that sound often leaves much to be desired. So homeowners will want to choose a sound system that provides theater-quality sound. If the room is being renovated from scratch, such as a full basement remodel, installing speakers in the ceiling can create a genuine theater experience. Ceiling speakers also can be installed in existing rooms, though that will likely cost more and extend

the time it takes to complete the project. Surround sound is a must in any entertainment room. Homeowners worried about wires need not fret, as modern wireless surround sound systems are available at many different price points. Some systems are better suited to small rooms than others, so homeowners should measure the room and choose a system that best suits its dimensions. 3. Seating

Whether you’re using the space to watch the big game or fire up the latest blockbuster (or both), chances are you’re going to be spending considerable time sitting in your new entertainment room. A modular sofa might be ideal, as

it can be reconfigured depending on what you’re watching and how many people are watching along with you. Comfort is indeed important, but you’ll also want seating that provides ample support so you aren’t battling any aches and pains once you leave the room. That support also can keep residents and guests from dozing off. Everyone has their own ideas on what makes the ideal entertainment space. But sports fans, movie buffs and others can all agree that an entertainment room worthy of the big game or the latest blockbuster has a sizable screen, pristine sound and comfortable seats. ­— Metro A special supplement to The Frederick News-Post

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Thrifty Green Thumb Revitalize your landscape on a budget


Free mulch and scavenged stones for walkways can dress up areas of the landscape for little money.


any homeowners think they have to spend tons of green to get green in their landscape, but that isn’t necessarily so. Homeowners can improve their landscapes without digging themselves into financial holes. These strategies can help anyone save some cash and still end up with attractive gardens and more. n Use stones or gravel for a walkway. If commercially installed pavers or cement walkways are not within your budget, there are some affordable alternatives. Flagstone or individually purchased and spaced pavers and pea gravel can be used to create pathways. Some construction sites even offer free stones when asked. Soften the look with moss or other plants on the perimeter. n Remove some lawn. Lawns

12 YOUR DREAM HOME | Fall 2022

can require hours of upkeep that may involve the application of expensive fertilizers and weedkilling products that are not always so eco-friendly. Reduce the size of a lawn by putting in a mixed planting bed of perennials or ornamental grasses, or use landscape fabric and mulch. n Look for free mulch. Municipal recycling centers may offer residents access to free mulch made from grinding up leaves, branches and other plant debris collected throughout the town. Simply bring a few containers to the recycling center and spread the mulch for an ornamental look or to insulate landscapes over winter and protect against weeds. n Repurpose old items into planters. Old wheelbarrows, barrels, watering cans, and other items can be repurposed into

container gardening vessels. Figure out if items marked for the garbage bin can be incorporated into garden features instead. n Invest in plants that are easy to propagate. Perennials are the gardener’s friend when it comes to saving money. These plants sprout anew each year, and many, such as sedum, catmint, ferns, hostas and black-eyed Susans, can propagate by division. Find the best times of year to divide the plants and start growing them in individual containers before planting the sturdy new shoots in the ground. A single variety of plants grouped together in mass plantings is affordable and easy. n Shop end-of-season sales. Garden centers may begin to make room for holiday items come the fall. Take advantage of reduced costs on remaining plants and

landscape accessories during this time of year. Plants can be covered or allowed to thrive indoors until they can be planted in the spring. n Pool your resources. Homeowners planning on a big landscaping or revitalization project may want to speak with neighbors to see if they’re interested in doing the same. Contractors guaranteed business from a few homes in the same neighborhood may be willing to negotiate lower prices for the volume of work on things like driveway repaving, deck- or fencebuilding, or installation of paver patios. Some handy ideas can help homeowners transform landscapes without spending too much. — Metro A special supplement to The Frederick News-Post

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So the Deeses are now on the waiting list for Starlink, the low-Earthorbit satellite broadband service from remaining 2,700 feet. SpaceX that offers faster speeds than Deese and her husband opted for HughesNet for $99 a month and does satellite and grew to resent it. In June not impose a data cap. 2020, she cited a $220 monthly bill To avoid outcomes like this, the first and complained that “we can’t stream step is to be skeptical of the broadband movies or anything on it because map published by the Federal otherwise it just eats up my GB for Communications Commission, work later on in the month.” experts say. It offers a high degree of The Deeses then sold the house, detail but relies on inexact filings by taking advantage of pandemicinternet providers that can lead people inflated housing prices to sell to a astray. Florida couple who was advised of the “They’re riddled with errors,” broadband issue but did not work from then-FCC commissioner Jessica home. Rosenworcel said at the 2018 Atlantic Moving, alas, did not help. Deese Festival conference in Washington. wrote in an email in November, Rosenworcel, now FCC chair, added at “We are still in the same if not worse the time, “It’s wrong about my house!” position.” Checking for service on an In this case, a county venture into internet provider’s site by plugging providing fixed-wireless broadband in the address should work — except only reached houses within sight of the sometimes even that does not, transmitter. So the family is once again courtesy of glitches in the provider’s on satellite broadband, supplemented systems. by one Verizon hotspot for each kid; The infrastructure measure Deese said the 50-gigabyte monthly President Joe Biden signed into law quota on each Verizon device suffices in November may help future home until the younger ones want to play shoppers with these problems. It will Roblox. finance broadband buildouts across Two better wireless options — the United States and require internet residential broadband from Verizon providers to list the features of their and T-Mobile, each without data caps services on a nutrition label-style form, — don’t reach the Deese residence. like what the FCC proposed in 2016. Verizon’s service, available via 4G and, For now, though, buyers and their in fewer places, 5G, runs $25 a month agents have to do the work, even if with a higher-end Verizon unlimitedother parties make that difficult. As data phone plan, $50 without it; Duncan put it, “Trust and verify and T-Mobile’s, also based on either 4G or make sure it’s in writing.” 5G, costs $50. ­— The Washington Post A special supplement to The Frederick News-Post

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Thompson Creek is neither a broker nor a lender. Financing is provided by Greensky, LLC under terms and conditions arranged directly between the customer and Greensky, LLC, all subject to credit requirements and satisfactory completion of finance documents. Thompson Creek does not assist with, counsel or negotiate financing. *Subject to credit approval. Minimum monthly payments required during the promotional period. Making minimum monthly payments during the promotional period will not pay off the entire principal balance. Interest is billed during the promotional period, but all interest is waived if the purchase amount is paid in full before the expiration of the promotional period. Financing for GreenSky® consumer loan programs is provided by federally insured, federal and state chartered financial institutions without regard to age, race, color, religion, national origin, gender, or familial status. Discount applied at time of contract execution. Four window minimum purchase required for advertised discount. All purchase prices to be calculated prior to application of discount. All purchase prices to be calculated prior to application of discount. Excludes previous orders and installations. All products include professional installation. Offer is not valid with any other advertised or unadvertised discounts or promotions. Limit of one discount per purchase contract. Void where prohibited by law or regulation. Offer expires 9/30/22. Offer may be canceled without prior notice. Offer has no cash value and is open to new customers only. MHIC #125294, VA # 2705-117858-A, DC Permanent # 8246, NC Limited Building Contractor Lic. #86050

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Fall 2022 | YOUR DREAM HOME 17

N O S A E S E H T F r a F e Y O e K h KIC The Best Sale of T With

Call Today for Your

FREE Estimate!

*Guaranteed not to clog for as long as you own your home, or we will clean your gutters for free



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*All participants ti i t who h attend tt d an estimated ti t d 60-90-minute 60 90 i t in-home i h product d t consultation lt ti will il receive a $25 VISA Gift Card. Retail value is $25. Offer sponsored by LeafGuard Holdings Inc. Limit one per household. Company procures, sells, and installs seamless gutter protection. This offer is valid for homeowners over 18 years of age. If married or involved with a life partner, both cohabitating persons must attend and complete presentation together. Participants must have a photo ID and be legally able to enter into a contract.The following persons are not eligible for this offer: employees of Company or affiliated companies or entities, their immediate family members, previous participants in a Company in-home consultation within the past 12 months and all current and former Company customers. Gift may not be extended, transferred, or substituted except that Company may substitute a gift of equal or greater value if it deems it necessary. Gift card will be mailed to the participant via first class United States Mail within 10 days of receipt of the promotion form. Not valid in conjunction with any other promotion or discount of any kind. Offer not sponsored and is subject to change without notice prior to reservation. Offer not available in the states of CA, IN, PA and MI. Expires 9/30/22. LeafGuard operates as LeafGuard of DC in Maryland under registration number MHIC License #116693

18 YOUR DREAM HOME | Fall 2022

A special supplement to The Frederick News-Post

Lock, Shop & Home Submit your loan application & lock in your interest rate! Searching for a new home often takes time, and unpredictable interest rates can add stress to the home buying process while you shop. We may be able to help!



Complete your loan application and LOCK in your interest rate.1 A property address is not required.

Then, SHOP for a home with a Buyer Advantage® Commitment Letter signed by our underwriter.2


With most of the financing process complete, focus on your move and getting into your new HOME.

Ask me about our $1,000 Second Opinion3 offer! Ryan M. Fuhrman Mortgage Consultant NMLSR: 450398

Cell: (240) 432-8513 Email: Web:

1. Interest rate lock available up to 90 days. Longer lock periods may be available. Additional fees may apply for longer lock periods. Lock, Shop & Home program is NOT available for bond, jumbo, or renovation loan programs. 2. Buyer Advantage® is not a final loan approval. A Commitment Letter is based on information and documentation provided by you and a review of your credit report. The interest rate and type of mortgage used to approve you for a specified loan amount is subject to change, which may also change the terms of approval. If the interest rate used for credit approval has changed, you may need to re-qualify. Information provided by you is subject to review and all other loan conditions must be met. After you have chosen a home and your offer has been accepted, final loan approval will be contingent upon obtaining an acceptable appraisal and title commitment. Additional documentation may be required. 3. Some restrictions apply. Not all borrowers will qualify. All first mortgage products are provided by Prosperity Home Mortgage, LLC. (877) 275-1762. Prosperity Home Mortgage, LLC products may not be available in all areas. Not all borrowers will qualify. Licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Residential Mortgage Lending Act. Licensed by the Delaware State Bank Commissioner. Massachusetts Mortgage Lender License ML75164. Licensed by the NJ Departmennt of Banking and Insurance. Also licensed in AK, AL, AR, AZ, CO, CT, DC, FL, GA, ID, IL, IN, KS, KY, LA, MD, ME, MI, MN, MO, MS, MT, NE, NC, ND, NH, NM, NV, OH, OK, OR, PA, RI, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, VA, VT, WA, WI, WV and WY. NMLS #75164 (NMLS Consumer Access at ©2022 Prosperity Home Mortgage, LLC. All Rights Reserved. (08/22) #MC221232 Expires 02/23



600 OFF




300 OFF




MHIC # 146736

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PA License#, PA170030

Fall 2022 | YOUR DREAM HOME 19

Mortgages Made Simple! Local Bank. Local Lender.

Our core value, principals, and business ethics have kept us successful and in business for many years. We look forward to helping you with your next mortgage transaction!

Contact the Deibler Home Team Today! 5291 Corporate Drive, Suite 202, Frederick, MD NMLS # 607844 | 240.651.6955 | 20 YOUR DREAM HOME | Fall 2022

A special supplement to The Frederick News-Post