Tiny House powered by Solman Mobile Solar Generator

Earlier in the fall I had the opportunity to go to Solfest which met in Ukiah, California this year. I met Chaz Peling of Sol Solutions and we looked at a tiny house modified from plans donated by Jay Shafer of Tumbleweed Tiny Houses.

Watch how the Solman, Mobile Solar Generator powers this tiny house. From Refrigerators, to lights to computers, this one panel wonder on wheels takes living consciously to the next level of personal empowerment.

tiny house

29 Comments Tiny House powered by Solman Mobile Solar Generator

  1. Grant Wagner

    I really have mixed feelings about devices like this.

    On one hand, this is a solidly build, rugged standalone solution. For what it is and does, it’s brilliant. While definately more than the sum of it’s components in terms of cost, it’s not terribly unreasonable.

    On the other hand, I’m afraid plug in solutions encurage ignorance, expecially in matters of scale. Read a solar map, and you’ll find that many places get between 8 and 2 hours of rated sunlight depending on time of year and local climate. In my area during winter, this system will only provide about 250 watt/hours per day average. While that may be fine for some very simple setups, it’s only a fraction of what most people use.

    Just don’t expect to wire this thing to a suburban house hold and have free power!

    Reply
  2. Moontreeranch

    At just under $4000…it is indeed way more than the sum of its parts…If you’re a mechanically challenged person with extra cash…great you can buy one.

    I’m running my entire 200 sq foot cabin with a system I designed and put together for less than a $1000.

    We use LED lighting and have a 1000 watt inverter…I just picked up a 2500 watt inverter to swap out the smaller unit (to run my bigger tools at the cabin) even with the second inverter I’m still under a grand.

    When we start living there full time I may upgrade with another battery and panel..which should add about $500. This should be enough to power a small fridge.

    All of our lighting is 12 Volt LED

    http://kmswoodworks.wordpress.com/2009/12/29/to-build-a-better-light-bulb/

    Reply
  3. Drue

    I’ve driven myself mad looking for extremely low consumption items for the (as of yet) imaginary tiny house. Not a lot of great options out there to mitigate buying a rather large panel set.

    But I think we’re getting there with both more efficient appliances and cheaper/more efficient solar cells.

    Just like we’re now in the early era of hybrid cars, I think we’re in the early era of hybrid-powered houses.

    I’m anxious to see micro wind power gain some traction. And I think it will. But the math just isn’t quite there…yet.

    Reply
  4. Roger

    As I see it, the main power cunsumption of a tiny house is by the fridge and heating/cooling. Sundanzer and Sunfrost are two expensive fridge brands that can do the job with low power consumption. As for heating, a small wood stove and access to fuel solves that one(although, a propane back up should probably be considered). Cooling is still the toughest one I think. Even the smallest ac units can really drain a systems power. That’s why this portable unit appeals to me. Being able to place a tiny cabin in a completely shaded areas and cooling with solar fans while keeping the panels completely in the sun is the best option I can think of in really hot, humid climates. I’ve researched some solar systems and this price is not too bad considering all of the components and portability. Could a person do it cheaper? Sure, but the time saved could be spent preparing a garden, insulating, adding a ground barrier around a trailer, working on a water collection system, all the while being able to use power tools to do these projects. So, it’s made it on to my short list as items I’ll consider first. Thanks for this article.

    Reply
  5. jon v

    so typical a solar panel on wheels along side some dude too lazy to walk, mounted on a segway.
    Use some sense , tiny houses should be about less, not expensive gimics.
    a video of some of the workings of the solar panel on wheels instead of the nice lady showing us how to plug in a power cord.
    I love this sight but maybe a little editorial judgment is in order

    Reply
  6. Tom

    I’d sooner store my batteries and charge controller/inverter in the house or on the trailer tongue and build a storable movable mount for the solar panel.

    @Grant- Why would anyone expect this product to power a suburban household? Pretty sure the video explains the loads they power with it.

    Reply
    1. Grant Wagner

      While the details are correct, they are in the fine print. A lot of suburbites won’t read past the “Solar Generator”, “Never need fuel again”, “??? pay now”.

      Reply
  7. Moontreeranch

    AC is for Weenies…You just need to get used to it. We camped throughout the SW a few years back for about a month(in august) Yuma AZ, SE California, BAja etc. We pulled into the area near lake mead…it was 116 degrees, later we were at a state park (Picacho) and it was 118..just hang out in the shade and drink fluids…

    At picaho we had the entire campground to ourselves..our cabin is at 8000 feet in N. NM and will never get too hot to hangout…winter cold is fought off with a small woodstove.

    Our cooler can go for weeks during the winter…without the need for ice…in fact we have to put the beer “in” the cooler to keep them from freezing at night…its just a few steps outside. Most people are too lazy and want everything at arms length…or automated (Turn up the thermostat instead of splitting a few logs)

    Reply
  8. alice

    Ha, I remember when we lived without electricity when my kids were young and they were always complaining that we could only have ice cream in the winter. An old fridge or freezer on the porch was just a handy metal box to keep animals out of the food. Things have sure come a long way.

    Reply
  9. Scott

    Is that a solar panel for a table? The pic that shows the interior of the house, that table looks like a solar panel, or is it just me.

    Reply
  10. Chaz Peling

    Hello Tiny Home community;

    Some comments to respond to a few points made above.

    1 – Many of the dedicated do-it-yourself crew can do something similar for less, especially if you ditch the box and wheels, and go with the cheapest Chinese components you can find.

    2 – Others would like something engineered and built to last, with top quality, american made components. Yes, there is a price premium for that.

    3 – One can put the solar components and battery onboard your
    tiny home, and the PV panels on the roof, but you use valuable space, and you are stuck with always having your house in the sun, and always having to face that roof side south.

    4 – With the SolMan approach, you can put your tiny house in the best location, maybe shade, and wheel your electric production into the best sun, which changes in many locations, and you can solar track thru the day also, and gain over 30% more watt hours daily.

    5 – Effective micro solar takes educated power management.
    We put a watt meter right in the AC output, so you always know what you are pulling, and the cumulative watt hours used.

    6 – Yes. Running your tiny home directly off 12 volts DC is a good idea. The SolMan has a heavy DC out plug, and we have many applications where it is used in dual DC and AC setups,
    especially in trailers and RVs where all the lights, and some other apps are running DC. You don’t even need to turn on the inverter then.

    7 – For best use of micro solar, it’s best to change all your heating apps to propane. Cooking, space heating, water heating, toaster ovens etc are really hoggish, in-efficient uses of electric, and are way better served with gas.
    Great if you have a line into the grid, but if not, you have to think differently, and be an aware and responsible energy producer.
    Most everything else though, will work great off the SolMan sized electric setup.

    8 – There are some really great LED lighting products coming on now, both AC and DC, and they will extend your battery life tremendously. but you need to shop carefully, as there is some real crappy products out there coming in on the low price range, usually in the big box corporate stores.
    Once again, you get what you pay for in quality and performance.

    9 – For folks considering sustainability, the tough trade-off is watching how cheap the chinese PV and component prices are getting, along with everything else, but finding out over and over that most of the that stuff just will not last very long, usually just past the one year warrantee, then you throw it away, as it’s unfixable. Meanwhile, our economy tanks as very little is made in the US anymore, and the consumer won’t support that either. In the solar component world, the very best is American or German, but costs considerably more. We are dedicated to seeing and practicing the interlink with buying local, and for the long-term view, as a path back to sustainable communities.
    Please consider that in your buying education, and follow the money. Do you want it to go to Wall Street and China, or stay closer to home?

    Towards our personal and collective empowerment.

    Reply
  11. Rob

    Can I just add something here that may not be obvious to Sol Solution. Don’ t use old non-working solar panel as a table in the pictures you are using to promote and sell your product. The first thing that came to my mind is “these must be cheap chinese made panels that won’t last, I like the idea but will not buy from this company”. Solar panels should last 20-40 years, don’t show me a picture of a broken one being cleverly used as a table unless you provide a back story with a numerous gaffe of how someone dropped it, or wired it backwards and it started a fire…(something along those lines) and now you have a very expensive and “unique” table.

    Reply
    1. Chaz Peling

      Roby and Patty, the folks in the video, built the tiny house.
      SolSolutions and myself didn’t have anything to do with that.
      Since they built it at the Solar Living Institute, it’s likely there were non-functioning panels lying around that they thought to use for the table, as they were really into recycled materials for the project.
      I thought it was pretty cool.

      Most PV panels last a long time, generally. The typical reason they fail is either cracked glass and water gets in, or once in awhile, one gets wired backward, and the diode blows.

      For the do it yourselfer, there is definitely a market in used PV panels, as many contractor solar projects call for a complete upgrade to the newest high power product.
      But the new PV prices are coming down dramaticly these days!

      Reply
  12. Rob

    understood, I just want you to understand that from a future consumer of PV panels, this table dose not inspire confidence in your product.

    Cheers

    Reply
  13. Rianh

    I think that ppl view the idea of solar panels as a straight swap over from grid power. expectations are too high. you wouldnt need a roof full of solar panels if you cut your electricity usage substantially. i run a small lap top computer, a 7″screen dvd player and a charger to charge up AA and AAA batteries. in the evenings i use battery powered lamps and candles. i dont run a fridge, lots of things dont even need a fridge, and i live in Australia, it is hot. i walk to the shops on the few days i eat meat and use powdered milk. one solar panel serves my needs. i dont feel i am missing out on anything living this way, and my tiny house is not a slum. i would rather use solar power frugally as the countries where they are built are suffering from environmental damage from their production, and the workers from exploitation.

    Reply
    1. di

      I agree. The use of less energy is key. Use a spoon to mix rather than an electric mixer or blender. Go without a toaster. Keep cool in the shade with less clothes. Keep warm in the winter with more clothes. There are many ways to use less energy and resources. Rather than a desk or table, just use your lap. Rather than a loft and separate living room, try a daybed or futon couch.

      Reply
      1. alice h

        There are some great hand cranked kitchen doodads out there like blenders, food processers and grain mills. Bicycle or treadle power can be hooked up to some grain mills and other gadgets with a little creative gear work. Googling hand cranked appliances gives several results. Electricity is great for LED lights and small electronics but not always necessary for simple mechanical functions. Some of the hand crank items are expensive, hopefully the price will come down as they become more common. How many gadgets you find useful or how complicated your tools are depends on how you live your life. You can live quite simply with very few things but if you don’t choose to you can still do it without adding a huge load of “carbon guilt”.

        Reply
  14. Pingback: Build Your Own Solar Generator And Reduce Your Electricity Cost | Uses of Solar Power

  15. Edwaard Thompson

    Little Houses are alone my love as well, I am now working on a 28′ GMC Buss, and after insulating it and building the interior , I plane on covering the full roof with Solar Panel. There was a company in Chicago that made a Flexible Solar panel, but they moved to China. Still looking for a provider, But this portable is interesting.

    Reply
  16. groundworks midlands

    love the pictures makes me want to go out too and take pictures outside..
    though we dont have stuff like that here in the tropical paradise I am sure I can still see stuff that remind us all of x’mas plus a very nice photo like yours..

    Reply
  17. jnfla

    I currently live in a two bedroom apartment with two adults and a ten year old. After reading that this unit will provide 250 kw/day in winter (which I thought seemed like a lot, unless that’s a typo) I had to check my electric bill. Last month I used 570 KWH, My average daily use is 19 KWH/DAY. I live in Florida and run my a/c daily. This would more than provide for our electric needs.

    Reply

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