Off-Grid Power Station

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In the previous two posts we discussed a couple of off-grid options. Wind and Solar and how they can generate power for your tiny home.

For both these power sources you need a place to store and distribute the power. In this article I will show you a basic power station set up to run a tiny house on a part time basis.

This unit consists of a box that contains all of your storage requirements. Propane to fuel your stove and hot water heater and batteries and inverter to power your electrical needs.

powerbox-assembly

Here is the basic box under construction. Built with three compartments. The right one holds your propane bottle.

The top left is for your inverter and meters and wiring. The bottom left holds two batteries for your storage which is generated from either your solar or wind power or both if you are set up that way.

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The next photo shows the inverter and the wiring involved with the setup. One cord coming up from the batteries and the second one going into the inverter to convert the electricity to the right output.

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In the following photograph you see the meter that lets you know the status of your charge, etc. battery-connection

The next photo shows the connections to the battery and the wiring going up to the inverter.

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Following are the two batteries that power this unit. This power station is set up as a camping unit which is mainly used on weekends so two batteries are sufficient. If you are living in your home full time more batteries may be required to fill your needs.

This photo shows the completed unit with the exterior wiring and switches and adaptors for bringing in the power and also using it externally.

This article is not a how to article but an illustration of a power station set up. You should consult a professional in setting up your home power unit so that it is done the right way and you can sleep peacefully knowing that your power unit is working properly.

Written by Kent Griswold (Tiny House Blog)

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Written by Kent Griswold — October 19, 2009

Filed under: Build it yourself   energy efficient home   solar home  

Off-Grid Wind Power

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Wind power is a great source of energy in some areas of the country. If you live near the coast or in the desert you will have a steady stream of wind on a regular basis. In other areas of the country the wind may not be as consistent so wind power may not be the best option.

Where I live it the winds pick up usually for two or three hours in the late afternoon, so wind energy would make a good back up source to solar energy as we get a high amount of sun in this part of the country.

There are many type of wind generators out there from extremely large to small. For a tiny house on wheels you might consider a marine type wind generator as these are small and can be rigged to fold up or down for travel. They have few moving parts so are very dependable and surprisingly affordable.

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Rooftop generators are becoming a hot item and there are several versions being designed with the goal to make them affordable and available to the masses. I discovered this neat link to a website that shows several of these ideas in movie form. To learn more visit the The Rhode Island Alliance For Clean Energy and the page Residential Wind Power.

The following video proves that wind power can be built and manufactured using recycled materials and very inexpensively. How would you like to use everyday recycled products to manufacture residential wind turbines, which will give you your own energy independence!

As with any type of off-grid power you will need a way to store your energy and your power station will need the correct inverters and batteries to make your  home fully independent. Below is a picture of a power station with the batteries, inverter and connections all in one unit. This one is designed to have a nice size propane container built in also.

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This unit is set up to accept the wind generators power, plus connect solar panels also. With the propane setup you could also install a propane generator for back up purposes.

Hopefully, this article will inspire you to research the wind energy potential out there and you will figure out the best solution for your current and future needs. Wind is a free source of power, you just need a good way to harness it and store it.

Please add any suggestions and/or resources to the comment section below.

by Kent Griswold

Written by Kent Griswold — September 29, 2009

Filed under: Build it yourself  

Mobile Solar SolMan

Adding Solar to your tiny house can be a daunting task if you are not up to date on all the latest technology and how it works together. 082

A couple of weeks ago we had a "Meeting of the Tiny Minds" and Bill Kastrinos of Tortoise Shell Homes told Stephen, Michael and I about this great solar solution that was out there.

What if there was a simple solution to this and all you had to do was plug and play? SoleMan a company based in Willits, California has come up with just that kind of solution.

They call their system the "one small, easy to move, all in one integrated unit, ready to point towards the sun at your best location, and deliver up to 1200 watts of AC power, and 12 volts DC power, and even charge all your Ni-Mh smaller batteries."

This little unit is on heavy duty bicycle wheels so you can have your Tumbleweed home in the shade and easily roll your solar unit where it gets the most sun.

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The cool thing about the SolMan is that if your needs grow, so can the SoleMan. You can add another solar panel easily and even a third. The second one sits on it is own stand and can be adjusted as needed. If you chose to get a third panel they have a bracket that attaches all three together that can be folded up for moving. No need to deal with big panels and connecting them to your roof and knowing you have to park your home in the sun to get the most voltage to your system. Here are list of the SolMan features:

  1. Silent Operation: No sound whatsoever. Won't bother your neighbors or you with gas generator noise.
  2. Clean Operation: No gas needed, no gas cans to transport, no fumes or exhaust to worry about.
  3. No additional costs EVER! : Once you buy a Solman, it doesn't cost anything else to run, as long as you can point it towards the sun.
  4. No recurring gasoline costs, that are only going to go up, no oil changes, no short life span, as unit is designed to keep working for years. ( 20 year PV panel warranty)
  5. Completely self contained, integrated unit: Ready to go, plug and play green power. No engineering or electrical skills needed.
  6. Transportable: With ramps, the Solman can go with you in the back of a small van, SUV or truck. It can be laid horizontal safely.
  7. Mobility: 26 inch heavy duty aluminum spoke and rubber bike tires and perfect balance allow the unit to be wheeled to any location for the best sun, and can easily be turned thru the day for maximum solar tracking and optimal PV energy input.
  8. Deep Cycle Batteries: "2 or 3 -100 (200 to 300 amp-hr total) deep cycle sealed gel cell. No acid spills or venting. No maintenance.
  9. Enclosed battery Container: Optimizes battery life.
  10. Two 12 Volt Auto Plugs: Plenty of places to plug in your 12 volt accessories, lights, chargers, etc.
  11. One heavy 30 amp marine trolling motor plug on exterior, for water pumping, external battery charging, or additional external inverter.
  12. All external plugs have covers and are set up for outdoor use, even in the rain, and all critical components are inside and protected from the weather.
  13. Array only switch: to route unused, excess PV power during the day to external battery charging or water pumping.
  14. Blue Sky Solar Boost 2000E MPPT PV Charge Controller: can handle up to 25 amps or 3 PV panels, and Maximum Power Point Tracking gives additional 10% to 20% charging efficiency to PV input.
  15. 120 Volt Magnum MM-AE 1200 watt Inverter/Charger: this unit has a built in 70 amp charger for when your batteries are down, and you have access to a gas generator, or the grid, you can just plug in the unit and bring your battery bank up to full charge in as little as two hours, also has an AC transfer switch, that automatically senses external power and switches load to that when on.
  16. Magnum Inverter remote switch and status lights on back of unit.
  17. Fuse Protected: 150 amp inverter fuse, triplex plug 20 amp and exterior 30 amp plug.
  18. Heavy 15 amp solar PV-in plug, wired to solar controller for adding an external solar panels.
  19. Toe piece L on bottom, allows for easy transport of optional external PV panel.
  20. Solar PV panel hinged for easy access to internal box, and latches and locks if needed.

So if you are looking to take your tiny house off the grid and become independent and want to use solar as your main component this SolMan option is worth looking at. Of course there other other RV and home options so do your research and choose what is best for you and your situation. I just like the idea of plug and play and having everything put together where you need it and mobile to boot. by Kent Griswold

solfest

Written by Kent Griswold — September 21, 2009

Filed under: Build it yourself  

Living off the Grid

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When we think of the term off the grid, we generally think of systems that provide electricity. However, many of these systems can do much more than that. For example, solar collectors can be used to heat water, which could be be transferred into heating your structure.

Wind power could be used to pump water. They also could be combined with other sources such as propane or wood to power a refrigerator or furnace.

You need to figure out which source of power is best for you or what combination will generate the most electricity for you.

Lets look at a basic set up and what you will need.

  1. A Generation Source: You will need either solar-electric panels or wind generators or maybe a combination of the two. Another idea could be water power. Your plan is to generate electricity.
  2. Energy Storage System: The most common way is deep cycle or golf cart batteries, which you connect to your system. The batteries store the energy you create for when there is no sun or wind to sustain your needs.
  3. Inverter: This is a devise that converts the 12, 24, or 36 volt DC coming from the batteries we discussed above so that they are usable with 110 or 120 AC needed with most standard appliances.
  4. Backup Generator: When natural conditions such as wind or sun fail you, you need a back up system to generate and charge your batteries. A generator of some type is needed for this. Some options include propane, diesel, or gas. These you would want to run during daylight hours so the noise does not bother your neighbors.
  5. Interface Connector: This devise is used so that you can be connected or disconnected with the grid. A lot of utilities will let you put the power you generate back onto the grid and thus reducing your grid costs.

sol-man

It is recommended that you get work with professionals to get the best setup for your home. They can advise you on the best components and the correct amount you will need to meet your needs. So get to know your local alternate energy experts.

Often buying a complete system will save you money versus buying each part individually. Keep that in mind as you research your off grid needs.

By Kent Griswold (Tiny House Blog)

Written by Kent Griswold — September 15, 2009

Filed under: Build it yourself  

Why Buy a Tiny House?

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Why would  you want to spend $15,000 to $50,000 on a small house when you could add a real addition to your house and have a permanent improvement built right on to your existing house? This article is assuming you are building a tiny house as an additional room along with your existing home. Here are a few suggestions that may also get you thinking of other  reasons this might apply for building that tiny house.  You can then decide what would work best for you and your circumstances.

  1. Permits Costs: The cost of a permit has grown by leaps and bounds over the past few years. I want to give you an idea what an average permit will cost you today. In most places in the U.S. they range from $15,000 to $50,000. Just to add another room or addition to your existing home. Remember that is just to get a permit to build your addition.
  2. Permits may not be available at all: Some towns, cities and counties no longer will issue a permit. You are banned from any new construction or additions in some areas of the country. This takes the ability to add to your home completely out of your hands. The answer is NO!
  3. Permit Time: Once a permit is requested it can take up to one to two years to process. If you need a space addition right away, it won't happen. It is necessary to plan way in advance and to know your needs are long before the construction can even start.
  4. Mobile: If you build a small house it can be moved when tenancy or purpose changes. It is not contained by a permanent foundation, but can be connected to a truck and towed to your new location and used again for the same purpose.
  5. Little Houses can be Sold Separately: When it comes time that you no longer need the additional space you can sell the little house separately from your real estate. It is easy to get back your investment, without completely selling your existing home to downsize. Or if you are living in this home and need to upsize because of additional family members, etc., you can sell it and migrate upwards.

These are five good reasons to buy a tiny house or space on wheels. Do you have other ideas or good reasons to do this? If so please use the comment section to give us your suggestions. by Kent Griswold (Tiny House Blog)

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Written by Kent Griswold — September 10, 2009

Filed under: Build it yourself  
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