NEW YORK (MainStreet) -- Tired of all those utility bills? You might want to try going "off the grid," or OTG.

OTG refers to homes that are mostly or totally self-sufficient without relying on public utilities. These homes generate their own on-site heat and electricity using solar, wind or geothermal energy and get their water either from an on-site well, a stream, a lake or harvested rainwater.

This three-story home atop a ledge in the foothills of the Colorado Rockies in Conifer, Colo., is powered, cooled and heated by solar panels. It sells for $915,000.

Thankfully, living OTG doesn't mean you have to sacrifice comfort or style. Whether it's a traditionally designed home or a more innovative and sustainable straw bale, rammed earth or monolithic dome style home, you can live well while being self-sufficient and making a low environmental impact.

The number of households living OTG is growing every year in North America as it becomes an increasingly popular way for people to reduce their carbon footprint, assert their independence and avoid reliance on fossil fuels. These high-style OTG homes are on the market.

Conifer, Colo.

This Monolithic Dome home near a suburban community just west of Denver is set on 38 acres that are totally OTG, and is listed for $915,000. Built in 1996, its original owner, Bilby Wallace, was a former astronaut.

Sitting atop a ledge in the foothills of the Colorado Rockies, the three-story home boasts 4,049 square feet of living space. Its dome construction and rock ledge location are part of its passive solar design, keeping it cool in the summer and warm in the winter. The home is also powered by an active solar photovoltaic system and has a backup generator.

The lower level of the home include two bedrooms, a bathroom, an exercise room and a greenhouse centered around a waterfall, indoor pond and multilevel planter. Large, sliding glass doors lead to the greenhouse and hydroponic garden. The waterfall and fireplace are faced in natural stone.

The main level consists of the garage and workshop, an outdoor deck, the main entrance, plus storage, laundry, bathroom, living, dining, kitchen and office space clustered about a large open area overlooking the indoor pond and waterfall below. The open floor plan and dome construction lend themselves to great acoustics. According to listing agent Steve Travers, the piano sounds amazing in the space.

The master bedroom loft looks over the indoor oasis as well as the surrounding pine forest and features a bath suite, large walk-in closets and balcony-level planter. There are clear views to the mountains wherever you look.

For information, contact Steve Travers (303-548-2744) or visit the



Almont, Colo.

On offer for $1.8 million is an entirely OTG sustainable homestead and organic farm. Ten miles south of Crested Butte, the homestead includes an octagonal straw bale house (yes, walls built of compressed straw bales). The interior walls are plastered with lime and the exterior is wrapped with stucco to help maintain passive solar heat. There is also a solarium on the front three sides of the home facing south to warm things up. Comforts and amenities include claw-foot tubs, an efficient Sun Frost refrigerator/freezer and a Bosch washing machine.

The property also includes a 2,700-square-foot passive solar year-round greenhouse, a 30-foot diameter tricked-out yurt, or permanent tent, and 40 acres that include 17 acres of irrigated hay meadow. All of the electricity for the house and whole farm come from solar photovoltaic panels and an on-site wind generator.

For information, call Channing Boucher/Benson Sotheby's International Realty at 970-596-3228 or visit the



Ridgway, Colo.

Built in 1998 on 4.5 acres in Colorado's western slope is a totally OTG home with backup systems for heat, water and power that's on the market for $495,000. The unique home is an example of an Earthship - a type of passive solar home made out of old tires filled with dirt and recycled aluminum cans to create dense thermal mass walls that store heat and slowly release energy.

The home is just three miles from the famous 8,500-square-foot Earthship mansion owned by former actor and environmentalist Dennis Weaver.

The entire front of the house is glass and metal trim to allow for minimum maintenance, maximum view and solar gain. The total efficiency of the passive solar design eliminates the need for most heating or cooling year-round.

There are 750 new but blemished tires (mostly Michelin and Pirelli high performance) in the foundation of the house that were given to the owners by Weaver. There are also about a thousand beer bottles and around 600 soda cans - mostly Mountain Dew - in the matrix of the walls of the house. According to the seller, Bob LeCour, who also built the home over a year with he and his wife serving as their own contractors, "we had to search at a lot of bars for all those bottles! Folks asked why I used expensive new tires, and I tell them you get better mileage that way!"

The solar array is mounted behind the house and a passive solar water heater is in front, heating the bulk of the house's hot water needs. Water is harvested from the roof the catchment system that drains down into 6,000-gallon underground cistern holding tanks. There are optional line valves that will divert all gray water (nontoilet wastewater)from the house into the huge indoor planters.

The inside walls are not painted, but finished with oxide pigment-dyed adobe mud applied over 3-foot-thick earthen walls, resulting in unique finishes throughout the house. The owners, Bob and Karen LeCour, mixed mica bought from a mine in New Mexico into the adobe to give it a luminescent effect similar to what the Pueblo Indians used to bring more light into their homes.

The home is not far from the famed Telluride ski area and three hot spring resorts and has unrivaled views of the Sneffles and Cimarron ranges in the western San Juan Mountains.

For information, contact Bob and Karen LeCour at 435-644-8455 or visit the



Nelson, British Columbia

A completely self-sufficient OTG home nestled in West Kootenay - the southeastern region of British Columbia - near Kootenay Lake is listed for $1.3 million. Set on 11 acres with a river running through the property, residents can enjoy the conveniences and culture of the nearby artsy town of Nelson along with rural privacy and access to skiing, hiking, biking and all varieties of outdoor adventure.

Built in 2007, the 2,700-square-foot three-bedroom/two-bath home is made of 20-inch-thick sealed "rammed earth" walls made with a combination of a yellow-gold pigments, white cement, white sand and limestone that gives the walls a subtle luminescence. Some walls are treated with two colors and given a "fire fingerling" effect. In addition to being uniquely beautiful, these rammed earth walls are also termite-resistant, nontoxic, inherently fireproof and ultimately biodegradable.

While OTG, the home fully supports such high-end amenities as Bosch appliances, a Sun Frost off-grid refrigerator, satellite TV and Internet. Designed for maximum efficiency without sacrificing style, the open living plan home also features modern exposed tresses and a 16-foot-high post-and-beam clerestory with 22 windows flooding the living area with natural light.

The living room features a white marble central fireplace and round "porthole" windows. There are also built-in surround-sound speakers.

The home is powered by remote solar panels that are backed up by a contingency propane boiler and diesel electric integrated systems so heat, plumbing and electricity are all fail-proof.

For information, call Kul Nijjar/Century21 Mountainview Realty Ltd. at 250-505-4722 or visit the



Julian, Calif.

Listed for $1.4 million is this high-tech OTG home perched 5,000 feet above sea level in the gated community of Cuyamaca Wood near the historic "gold rush" town of Julian. Made of more traditional nonsustainable building materials (including the 3,400 square feet of Travertine marble throughout the home) and with 4,490 square feet of living space on 5.1 acres, the owners don't pay a dime to the local utility company, San Diego Gas & Electric.

The all-window, 1,700-square-foot great room features 21-foot ceilings, two fireplaces, a 10-foot projection TV and an indoor decorative fountain. The home is powered and heated by solar panels, while the water comes from a well and an on-site water filtration system.

The gourmet kitchen has a giant walk-in pantry and stainless steel appliances, including two professional gas ranges and two dishwashers. The kitchen is also outfitted with granite countertops, Brazilian Cherry hardwood floors and a butcher block island with a prep sink, garbage disposal and instant hot water.

The master bedroom has his-and-hers walk-in closets, a fireplace and an en suite spa and whirlpool bath. From the library, which has dark cherry and marble bookshelves, a spiral staircase leads to an observation room with 360-degree views all the way to the ocean on a clear day.

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