Marsha’s Tiny House and Solar Setup

by Kent Griswold on March 19th, 2014. 70 Comments

by Marsha Cowan

Added inside photos.

My tiny house is only 6 x10 with solar lanterns that have their own tiny solar panels, propane heater, alcohol stovetop, and so I do not need much electricity. I am hoping this set up with a 100 watt panel, 1000 watt charge controller, 1000 watt inverter, and a 12 volt sealed gel marine battery. I am hoping to run a fan in the loft window, and maybe a computer for an hour or so each night. Anyway, thought I would pass along the picture. I am painting the cabinet the colors of the house.

tiny house solar

Here is a picture of the inside of the cabinet and the “stuff” inside. You can’t see the two plugs on the front of the red colored inverter in this picture, but you can see the air venting slit I left on the low side of the cabinet. There is an air slit under the drip cap in front of the cabinet, too, so plenty of air can draw through there, but both are protected from rain and other weather.

inside solar box

solar generator

The best piece of information I got on actually hooking everything up was on Grape solar’s own site. They have videos, and in one of them, a man with an Australian accent stood there and showed step by step how to hook up a charge controller to a solar panel, and then to the battery. The only thing I had to figure out was hooking up the inverter to the same battery.

As it turned out, I was able to loop the silver hoops (crimped to the ends of the wires) of the charge controller over the battery pins and bolt them down, then clamp the claw like things on the ends of the inverter (like on a jumper cable) onto the rounded nubs sticking up next to the pins, so they both did not connect at the same place.

spring

Those black things you see part way down the charge controller wiring are actually clips that can be undone quickly. I took off the inside of the controller to hook up all the wires and the grounding wire that runs under the cabinet into the ground through an electrical steel conduit pipe. Next, I made the adjustments to two controls recommended by the instruction book. Then, I replaced the back being careful that the tiny lightbulb went into its hole because it shows me when the battery is charging and when it is fully charged (blinking green when charging, solid green when charged).

tiny house

I can’t tell you that I wasn’t holding my breath! This was a first for me. I have never wired anything in my life, but there is now so much information on the internet that I honestly think that anyone can make a small off grid solar generator, even this 60 year old grandma!

By the way, there is an on and off switch on the inverter. When I first plugged up my TV and fan, nothing happened. Then I noticed that switch. Whew! I was so happy.

computer desk

Computer desk before I moved the computer out there. Screen attached to the wall on a swing out arm. Printer, keyboard, and mouse were all wireless. Composting toilet behind the desk. My printer set on top of my horizontal tower.

storage

Looking into the loft on the storage end. Barn boards were cleaned up and used to finish both the outside and inside of the tiny house.

kitchen

Kitchen area. Small electric cooler would fit below the stovetop. Water crock for water. Can’t see the bar sink in this shot.

loft

Wonderful cozy loft bed! Below are ladder back chairs with storage built under them. I had 4 chairs instead of a sofa.

chairs with storage

Alcohol Burners

In my state, you can not get a hose to connect an RV propane stovetop to propane without inspections and a contract for at least 120 lbs. of fuel at a time from a local dealer, so I converted my propane stovetop (took out all the insides) to use alcohol burners instead. I ordered White Box burners which fit into short small square metal canisters I found at Walmart, then sat them inside the burner space on the stove.

Today I did my first test run, and it worked great! I was afraid that everything around the burner would get too hot, but they did not get hot at all. It was a very controlled flame. I only used enough to boil about 3 cups of water, so it went out in about 20 seconds after I took it off the burner. The window was open because the weather is so beautiful right now, but even in cold weather, I would open the kitchen window a little for oxygen, and I would shut off the propane heater as well while cooking. Just safe practice.

Thank you for letting me share my tiny house experience so far.

tiny house build

tiny house build 2

tiny house build 3

Little House in the Potato Field

by Kent Griswold on January 28th, 2014. 51 Comments

by Caroline Stilwell

This is our 24 x 14 foot shed being pulled up the narrow mountain road. It is paved, barely, and about the width of one good truck. The final resting place was a former potato field (1940-1950) and our little house was dropped in place with minimal damage. The house was placed on a gravel pad which we later reinforced with concrete footers and 4 x 6s.

We had purchased the 24 x 14 foot shed the winter before and had the inside modified. We enlarged the windows and added French doors in the back long wall of the cabin. The interior, walls, floor, and vaulted ceiling are wood.

cabin

We considered solar, but after much debate we decided to go on the grid for power. We did not a well, which would have been very expensive. So we have baseboard heat, lights, and an electric composting toilet. We bring water in for the kitchen, which has not been a problem, and supplement for washing and showering with a rain barrel. We built an outdoor shower, great for summer, but a bit too cold when it snows!! Winter showering is done at our friends’ house just up the road.

unloading cabin

Above all we wanted the cabin to be easy and accessible to us as we aged. We were almost 65 when we bought the cabin and we want to be able to come and stay here as long as possible. So a loft was out and an outhouse might be a little uncomfortable at 80! The composting toilet, which has a fan to speed up the process, is working great and a source of wonder to our visitors. We are close to the road so we feel that we have years to look forward to enjoying the cabin.

interior 1

We installed a kitchen counter and sink, which drains outside so we do not have any messy sloshing of waste water. We have a small fridge under the counter, a two burner electric hot plate and a much used electric skillet. Everything fits in the base cabinets or hangs on the walls.

interior 2

The cabin has a living area at one end, dining area in the middle and kitchen, bathroom and sleeping in the other end. The sleeping area is currently a fancy electric air mattress but we are considering switching to a built in with a full size mattress. It will take up less room and allow storage underneath.

bathroom

We have adequate storage with a cedar chest, storage in and above the bathroom and are going to add a storage box of sorts outdoors. Our next project is a deck to sit on and enjoy a view of those beautiful Appalachian mountains.

bedroom

yard

view

cabin in the snow

January 28th, 2014and filed in Your Story
Tags: cabin, little house, potato, Solar
51 Comments

Wes and Zamp Solar

by Kent Griswold on September 20th, 2013. 23 Comments

by Wes Nave

Being from the era where we take a lot for granted, one thing constantly stands out in my mind. Why don’t we take advantage of our naturally occurring resources to provide for us?

I remember my grandmother telling me about the early pioneer days when building sod houses (a common practice during the early 1900’s for people coming west) over a creek worked as a refrigerator to keep milk and butter cold – and probably great grand dads home brew cold as well! She also told me they would orient the house to catch the morning sun, but be away from the afternoon sun to help keep the house cool.

During my career I have taken an interest in understanding these practices and helping other people understand how to use natural resource to live more sustainable lives.

I’ve chosen a career in Solar Energy. I am not an expert and certainly I do not pretend to be one, however, I successfully help people understand and take advantage of solar energy, primarily in the lower voltage arena used primarily for the RV and Marine, Agricultural, and Light Industrial Industries.

portable and cabin solar

We have now ventured into the realm of off grid power for remote cabins, tiny houses, cottages, outbuildings, and any other place where the minimalistic lifestyle comes into play, not by accident, but purely on purpose.

Our understanding of lower voltage systems has enabled us to excel and be somewhat of an industry leader in bringing new and imaginable battery charging systems to market to help solve one difficult problem at a time.

In the following weeks I would like to help you understand how Solar Energy, used in the right way can, help the Tiny House Market solve some very important energy and power restriction issues that plague mobility, home location and cost.

I invite you to ask me questions and I will do my best to help answer those questions. Please keep in mind that my education is in the area of re-charging battery banks and not in providing ways to “put power back to the grid” that my friends I must direct you to the residential and commercial side of Solar Energy. We believe in keeping it simple and affordable.

The name brand Solar Panels are Zamp Solar panels with Solar Cells manufactured by Bosch in Germany.

Our 3000 watt inverter is our own brand and it is one of the only complete Pure Sine Wave inverters that contains an adjustable 90 amp battery charger, built in 60 Amp MPPT Solar Charge controller, and many more standard features that are listed on our website, or I would be more than happy to distribute.

Our kit is designed as a simple plug n play system. Mount the panels, plug them into the weather proof combiner box with built in fuses and fuse block, then twist on the terminal ends to the supplied cabling to your batteries. Its that simple.

You can certainly save money by buying individual components and shopping around, if you can ill afford the luxury of buying a custom designed, self contained complete kit with 25 year warranty, the largest wattage panels with the smallest footprint A+ Monocrystaline panels available today.

You can check out our products at Solardealz.com and get a special 10% discount using the coupon code tinyhomesolar for the cabin systems.

Zamp solar deal

September 20th, 2013and filed in Solar
Tags: Solar, solar dealz, Solar energy, Wes Nave, zamp solar
23 Comments

Erin and Dondi’s Off-Grid Tiny House

by Christina Nellemann on August 5th, 2013. 82 Comments

More and more young people seem to be ditching the typical suburban “first home” for a tiny house and Erin and Dondi Harner in Colorado are no exception. Their 100 percent off-grid tiny house has just recently been completed and contains all the necessities for a totally self-contained 181 square foot home on wheels. The couple named their home “Soleil” because it runs off the sun.

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Dondi is a civil engineer who works in Fort Collins and Erin is a nutritionist, author and business owner who is working on her second master’s degree in nutrition. Their home is 29 feet long and 8 1/2 feet wide and contains a shower and bathroom sink, composting toilet, six solar panels and a 300 gallon water cistern for fresh water. Water is heated with an on-demand heater. The home also has a loft with a small staircase for quick access, a kitchen and dining space, an office, a closet and even a sofa that converts into a guest bed.

Some nice details of the home include lodge poles on the deck and by the stairs, tongue and groove aspen paneling on the walls and bright red panels on their kitchen cabinets. You can read more about their build and traveling adventures by visiting their website. Continue Reading »