An Off-Grid Tiny Home: Upsides and Downsides

An Off-Grid Tiny Home: Upsides and Downsides

An off-grid tiny home brings together two lifestyle choices that are practically soul mates. The tiny-home movement advocates living simply in small houses, generally less than 400 square feet. It encourages frugality, shared community experiences, and rejecting the worst of consumerism. This philosophy goes great with off-grid living, since these houses have low energy demands and many of them come with roof-mounted solar panels pre-installed. An off-grid tiny home is likely the easiest entry point into off grid living.

But there are challenges that come with accepting a radically different style of living.

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In this post we present those for and against being off the grid if you decide to live in a tiny home.

Off-Grid Tiny Home Account #1: The Home Builders

The Fontanillas are a Hawaii-based family of three that built their own off-grid tiny house complete with a solar powered array and rainwater harvesting system. Their house is 360 square feet, built on a 26-foot-long trailer that they built themselves. 

This was made possible by the family's handiness and a long history in the construction industry.

Zeena Fontanilla recounts the journey:

My husband grew up in a family of builders so he always had the dream to build his own home. I don’t think he imagined it to be this small, but I think this was the perfect size for our first build together. This project was the best premarital counseling we could’ve asked for. Prior to starting our project I knew many joint decisions would need to be made. ‘Many’ was an understatement, try one billion decisions needed to be made. Let’s just say our communication skills are top notch.

For utilities the family uses a 3,200-gallon water catchment system, which they built themselves. Their solar array has photovoltaics mounted on a custom adjustable rack which can be moved as the sun's path changes during the seasons.

The couple spent about $45,000 total to build their home, compared the standard price tag of half a million dollars in their locality.

Off-Grid Tiny Home Account #3: The Skeptic

For an alternate point of view, Andrew Odin argues that you should not go off-grid with your tiny home.The gist of his argument is that to live off the grid one hundred percent means you must become completely self-sufficient, somethign almost impossible in our globalized world. You must produce all the things you need for daily living; which can be achieved but it requires a very low-tech life style. 

Here's how he breaks it down: 

Imagine the life of a subsistence farmer. It first takes capital in the form of land and tools. You can subsist off a 10’x20′ plot in your backyard. It just isn’t possible. Once you have the land and tools you still have to work the land for years in order to create a revenue of any sort. In fact, you can live at a much higher standard if you work for money (either at a job or for yourself) and then use that money to buy the things you need. Even flipping burgers at the local greasy spoon will net you more money that most subsistence farmers are able to make. Granted you are allowed the feeling of satisfaction and success for providing for your needs with hard-work and sweat equity you still have to face a life void of many things you once enjoyed. Oranges in December? Not unless you live in South Florida or Mexico. Instant pudding? Nope. Refined sugar for your favorite recipes? Not likely. Oh, and did we mention meat? Yep! Meat. If you want that as part of your diet you either have to raise and process animals or you have to learn to be a bit of a hunter/gatherer. Of course that depends on where you live. In eastern North Carolina we are able to enjoy venison, dove, quail, rabbit, and even turkey. But that isn’t the case everywhere.

So there you have it. Three different ways to approach living in an off-grid tiny home that take into account the different life experiences we bring to the table.

Cheers to you on your sustainability adventure!

This article is part of our larger information resource on off-grid tiny house living. Please click here to learn more.

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