Powering Our Tiny House

One of the most common questions we are asked is how  did we set up the electricity in our tiny house. I’ll be the first to admit that I am not that familiar with all the technical aspects of our system so here is what we said about it on our blog:

“We designed the solar for our cabin by first minimizing our needs - energy hogs like electric stoves, fridges, washer / dryer, air conditioning, water heaters, microwaves and such were ruled out. Our system provides lights, small fans, and plugs for small appliances. When we need to run construction tools or other items with large power needs, we use a portable generator. The generator can also recharge the batteries if we need it to.”

We both work from our tiny house. I use a laptop computer which probably draws the most power. Matt is able to do most of his work from a tablet which uses a lot less energy to run.  

We don’t have a traditional refrigeration system. We did find a great invention called the Coleman Stirling Engine Cooler that was used by long haul truckers and boaters. Coleman doesn’t make them any more. Even at its coldest setting it draws very little power. We don’t use it as our primary cooling source, however. We set it on freeze and put ice packs inside which we then transfer to a regular cooler.  We also changed the way we buy and eat food. We bought into a CSA and we make frequent trips to the farmer’s market to get fresher ingredients that we use faster.  

We also didn’t install the recommended propane fueled boat heater in our tiny house. We live in the southern Appalachian Mountains and during the summer it will never get cold enough to need it. For now, we don’t plan to live in our tiny house over the winter months because we’ll take that time to travel and see family in other parts of the country. 

Next time, I’ll share our water systems and how we have a pressurized shower without any indoor plumbing.  

Written by Laura LaVoie — June 04, 2012

Filed under: 2012   20122   Build it yourself   green building   green home   home design   home plans   Power Station   small house   solar home  

Get ready Portland! It's a tiny house jamboree!


The lineup at the Portland Tumbleweed Workshop June 14-15 is going to be amazing! Portland is big on community spirit and we will bring it to this workshop with a panel of guest speakers, a tiny house tour and an after-hours round-table discussion of tiny house life. Dee Williams, our first Tumbleweed client and workshop host extraordinaire will lead the workshop. Check out her TEDx talk about her life in a tiny house then read on to learn more about our speakers: 


Joan Grimm has designed and delivered local and international environmental education and sustainability programs for both public and private entities including Oregon Departmental of Environmental Quality, OMSI, and Association of Oregon Recyclers. Over the past 25 years she has educated thousands of people about simple and smart ways to lighten their impact on the planet. She is the founding board chair of SCRAP (the School and Community Reuse Action Project) and the Oregon Green Schools Association. She and her partner have a little house in their backyard. 

Brittany Yunker: Brittany works for the WA State Legislature as a staff to the Senate committees. Brittany built a Fencl in 2009 with the help of a few friends (including Dee!). She taught herself carpentry from library books, YouTube videos and chatting with Dee and another friend with building experience. She lived in her tiny house for 2 years before meeting her current partner and deciding to up-size slightly to a small, 2 bedroom bungalow. Brittany is currently in the process of obtaining a business license to open her house up for daily rental to people interested in seeing if a tiny house could work for them.

Lina Menard: Graduate Student in Urban Planning, Little House Enthusiast, New Carpenter, and recently helped her friend build a new tiny house and has plans to build her own tiny house. She's written a blog about her project at This Is The Little Life.

Michelle Jones: Professor at Concordia University, Portland; teaching organizational management, ethical leadership, and other courses. For the last two years, she's worked with students and the community to host a TEDx event in Portland. She's lived in her tiny house with cat, dog and boyfriend for about year and a half.

Tammy and Logan: Tammy blogs at RowdyKittens.com as a simple living advocate. Her story has been chronicled in the New York Times, USA Today (as part of a cover story), Yahoo, MSN News, United Daily News (one of the top three newspapers in Taiwan), and The China Times, as well as a few Hong Kong newspapers. She and her husband have also appeared on The Today Show, MSNBC, CNN, and dozens of local television programs and NPR affiliates. Tammy is currently launching a book, “You Can Buy Happiness (And its Cheap)”. The Portland workshop takes place June 14-15 and we expect this one to sell out. If you haven't purchased your tickets yet, you can still enjoy the 40% early bird discount until May 31st. Click here.

Written by Bridget Thornton — May 30, 2012

Filed under: 2012   20122   Build it yourself   Business   green building   In the News   See a tiny house   Tumbleweed   Workshop  

89 Square Feet Off the Grid

It is a tough time to be getting tossed out into the “real world”.  That’s what a lot of them call it, the high school kids I see in my classroom every day.  These kids are crazy powerful.  Give them ten focused minutes and their smartphone and they can become conversant in just about any subject you throw their way.  But when they make those first forays into that real world, they are finding that colleges have cut their intended major and there is a guy with an M.B.A. bussing the tables at the restaurant where they were trying to land a job.  A lot of these kids come back defeated.  Those of us that are in the business of working with these young women and men in the last stages before they graduate into adulthood have seen a generation ground down by constant talk of dried up jobs and foreclosed homes.  Too many in this most promising generation, the group of kids who have been Googling since they were five, have given up and resigned themselves to playing X-Box and eating Hot Pockets in their parents’ living room, just waiting it out and hoping things get better.

But it is a teacher’s job to make their students grow into their potential.  So a group of us are getting together to show these soon to be twenty somethings just how powerful they are.  A cohort of five teachers at Rancho Cotate High School in Rohnert Park, California are teaming up with the Tumbleweed Tiny House Company and local clean technology leaders to journey with our students through a project we call “89 Square Feet Off the Grid”.  Using Tumbleweed’s Epu plans as the foundation, students will build the home’s trailer in Welding class, frame and do the finish carpentry in Woods class, design and install the clean technology systems (a solar PV system, a composting toilet, and a water cistern and filtration system) in AutoCAD class, and will study the math and science behind it all in Geometry in Construction and in Physics.  

We tell them that they, more than any other generation before them, have the power to design their world, to bring their dreams and ideas to life, and they are starting to get it.  As they pour over the blueprints and start to see the material flowing in, there is an excitement building.  The freedom and vision that a tiny house on wheels represents is winning them over.  And while they might have been born into strange and challenging times that can wear at their young spirits, they are beginning to see what they are capable of building.  Our hope is that while it might start by building “89 Square Feet Off the Grid”, they will take the lessons learned on this journey and continue to design and dream their way out of all the challenges they face in our rapidly evolving world.  

They hold so much promise, more then we have let them see with our doomsday news cycle and our adult cynicism.  They are rising up to the challenge of this project, just as they will rise up to the challenging times they have inherited.  And then we will see just how powerful they truly are.

Cole Smith is an educator at Ranch-Cotate High School in Rohnert Park, CA. He will share the progress of his student build on a regular basis as a guest blogger for Tumbleweed. 

Written by Bridget Thornton — May 04, 2012

Filed under: 2012   20122   epu   epu plans   green building   student builds  

Meet Sage at the Boston Workshop

Hey all, 

I'm excited to announce that my friend, and fellow tiny house dweller, Sage Radachowsky (who lives in a tiny gypsy wagon in Boston that he built), will be one of a few guest speakers will join us at the Tumbleweed Tiny House Workshop in Boston May 19th and 20th

Sage walks the walk, raises chickens, keeps bees, and lives partially off the land in the city- yes, in Boston. He'll have some very interesting stories of his run-ins with inspectors, the law, and more, while doing what he does, where he is, and how he wants. He spoke with me at Walden Woods last year for a "Tiny House Seminar" I headed, and it drew THREE TIMES the crowd the park hoped for (and now they want to make it a yearly event)- score one for the tiny house movement! This guy will be a big draw at the Boston Workshop so make sure to get your tickets ordered quickly!

Here is a video tour about Sage and his gypsy wagon that videographer Steven Sherrick and yours truly shot. More on Sage can be found at GypsyLiving.org and SelvaGuitars.com. You'll love this guy- he's all heart. 

Written by Derek Diedricksen — April 25, 2012

Filed under: 2012   20122   Build it yourself   Events   green building   off-grid  

Our largest house yet!

Over a dozen new green home designs are almost here. Pictured to the left is the updated Enesti. We added an optional bedroom on the ground floor. These plans are complete, and the new  house measures a tidy 774 square feet for the 3 bedroom version (ground floor pictured on top). When you purchase the plans, you'll receive plans for both the 2 bedroom and 3 bedroom versions. The bottom picture features the side view of the house with the additional room.

The following five houses will all be updated shortly:

  • Harbinber
  • Bodega
  • Loring
  • New Vesica
  • Sebastarosa

...with more plans to come next month.

Written by Steve Weissmann — June 07, 2008

Filed under: 2008   green building   green home   Houses   manufactured homes   mobile home   See a Tiny House   Touring the US  

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