The Ultimate Off-Grid Tiny House Guide
Learn everything you need about an off-grid tiny house: where to buy one, specs, challenges, and off-grid appliances.
Learn everything you need about an off-grid tiny house: where to buy one, specs, challenges, and off-grid appliances.
Want to know how to get started with an off-grid tiny house? This ultimate guide introduces you to the concept, shares upsides and downsides to this kind of living, provides information on the best sorts of appliances for an off-grid tiny house (including ovens, cookers, coolers, lights, and phone chargers) and profiles of those who live in a off-grid tiny house. We will also include our recommended products and an incredible free gift to get you starting with a tiny house -- a cookbook to make incredible off-grid food.
First off, we think you should check out the GoSun Dream for your tiny house (check it out here). An easy home on wheels, the Dream is designed for locations with decent solar exposure and a lack of infrastructure - power, water, or gas. These sites can be found in urban and suburban settings, or in remote countryside or farms.
Now let's get down to the details of tiny house living.
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. 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.
A growing movement of eco-conscious urban dwellers are rejecting consumerism, embracing minimalism and sufficiency, and trading in expensive dwellings for an off-grid tiny house. The options for such houses are growing (there are even groupings of tiny houses being tested as an aid for homelessness) and some are embracing the ultimate freedom of living completely off the grid in their off-grid tiny houses.
There are many factors to consider when making such a move. How do you handle practical utilities issues like plumbing, electricity, sewage, and water? What are the challenges that come with living in an off-grid tiny house? How handy do you have to be to overcome the challenges that will inevitably come? What do you do about appliances that require electricity but you can't live without?
The good news is that you do not have to be a complete hermit to live in an off-grid tiny house, nor do you have to adopt an Amish lifestyle and completely forsake electricity. New solar powered devices are coming to market that make living off the grid easier than ever.
According to a profile from Sharable, off-grid tiny houses are a good way to reduce your ecological footprint, save money, spend practically zero dollars on utilities, and lead an overall less stressful life. They spoke with small house dweller Merete Mueller about this lifestyle.
Off grid homes let you lead a fully independent lifestyle without the need of remote infrastructure, the power grid, or municipal plumbing. The best part about these innovate homes is that you don't have to live like a rustic hermit. Solar panels and other forms of alternative energy keep you autonomous.
But what about appliances for your off grid home? What about cookers, coolers, light sources, and chargers for your electrical appliances?
We're glad you asked! Turns out there are plenty of great solar-powered appliances that make living in your off grid homes as convenient as possible. Below are some of our favorites.
Meet the solar cooler that doesn't need ice.
GoSun engineered a cooler that can keep colder temperatures longer and is more sanitary than anything else on the market. Nothing is cleaner or easier than GoSun Chill.
GoSun Chill can be powered by multiple power sources, including: Powerbank, AC Adapter, 12 Volt Cord (car port charger), Solar Table, or Flexible Solar Panels. This way, you can access the most convenient power sources when you need it. To charge the Powerbank, plug in the included AC Adapter into any wall socket (100-250VAC) or use one of our two solar charging options - the Solar Table or Flexible Solar Panel.
GoSun is pleased to introduce the Flex, a solar cell phone charger which easily folds up and produces and incredible amount of electricity to charge all your USB devices. It can charge up your phone with its built in usb port as fast at your plug in outlet.
Here are the dimensions:
Many aspire to escape the stress and dependency of modern life, but few have started from the ground up to make that vision a reality. Over the last 8 months GoSun Ambassadors, Jesse and Alyssa, have done just that on their 5 acre lot in Idaho.
Cataloging everything about their journey on their homesteading blog Pure Living for Life and YouTube, they have created a plethora of resources on essential topics such as purchasing land, saving money on building materials, mending soil from scratch, milling your our own lumber and even expense reports to boot!
What inspired you two to jump ship and take a more self-sufficient lifestyle?
A couple of years ago, Jesse and I were living in a tiny apartment in Boulder, CO. Jesse was running a business remotely and I was working a 95 corporate job. Both of us had a lot of stress and didn’t feel satisfied with our lives or where we were going. Life was okay but we wanted more we wanted freedom. We had this dream of buying our own land, building a home with our bare hands with trees from our property, being in control of our water and power, growing our own food and being debt-free. We also had the crazy idea that if we made a few sacrifices that we could own our land outright, own our home, and be fairly self-sufficient within a short amount of time. Shortly after realizing our dream, we took action immediately and started trying to make that dream a reality. Two years later, and we are living on our own land in a remote part of the United States, with a beautiful view of the mountains to wake up to every morning and we’re working on building our first home.
What has been your largest hurdle so far?
So far, our largest hurdle has been that our eyes are larger than our stomachs! Because we’re so driven to achieve our dreams, sometimes (okay, always!) we take on more than we can chew. On any given day, we’re trying to run multiple online businesses from our cabin, build a home, start a garden, keep up with blogging about our journey, and make sure our basic needs are met. We haven’t had a slow moment since we’ve arrived on our land, but we’ve never been happier and every day we are getting closer and close to being self-sustainable.
How does the GoSun play into your journey? Any GoSun tips to share from a power user like yourself?
Because we’re completely off the grid (off the power grid, that is), we don’t have a stove yet. We’re currently living in a travel trailer while we build our home, and all we have to cook on is two small propane burners. Having the GoSun Stove allows us to enjoy some of the comforts that we miss such as baked goods. Some of the things we’ve enjoyed include brownies, chocolate chip cookies, gingerbread and even coconut flour bread. If you’re new to solar cooking as we are, I think the GoSun is a great way to start out as it’s extremely straightforward and we’re able to cook most anything in an hour! Jesse wants to make sure that I say a big “thank you” to GoSun for him, for satisfying his back-home banana bread craving!
What part have your fans and followers had to play in your journey?
We’re so thankful to be part of a large community of like-minded folks that are interested in pursuing a more self-sustainable way of living, whether they’re completely off grid as we are or whether they find ways to be more self-sustainable in an urban setting. We’ve received a large amount of support from people that follow our journey on our blog or social media channels, and we are thankful for that every day.
What advice would you give to others looking to take the leap as you two have?
I think the most important piece of advice we can share is to start taking action today. Most people we connect with are stuck in some sort of analysis paralysis when they could be taking action right now. Tiny steps each day will put you on a path to living your dreams sooner than you think. It really is that simple. Whatever your dreams are, walk confidently in the path you choose, and you can always be closer to achieving your dreams today than you were yesterday.
Many of these recipes came from our incredible user base. In the future we want to feature many more recipes like these. If you have one please always feel free to send them our way and we'll do our best to feature them on this website and on the GoSun social media channels.
Here's the description of the book:
Solar cooking is rocking the foodie world. More and more chefs are discovering that solar cookers can produce food every bit as amazing as those prepared with conventional stoves and ovens. Some argue that solar food is even tastier—since there's little air movement in a solar oven, the food cooks evenly and stays moist and tender.
This book is designed to give you the tastiest, easiest solar recipes to discover for yourself how great it can be to cook with the sun. They were developed by the GoSun community, a group of true believers in the power of solar food prep, along with the environmental benefits of cooking without producing any CO2.
It includes 36 recipes for breakfast, lunch, supper, and dessert. They include egg fritattas, chicken biryani, and pumpkin risotto. Other favorites include poached pears with maple cream, butternut squash arugula salad with pomegranate seeds, tandoori chicken, and green bean casserole.
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