Having pioneered many of the green technology features found in today's new homes with my luxury home building company, Bryan Smith Homes, founded in 1977, I tried a lot of new products and energy saving approaches long before building green became a real focal point. Because of all the large homes we built, and the subdivisions my company developed were tied to the grid, I never built an off-grid home before, or one with a solar system included. When I launched Texas Tiny Homes in December of 2012, I began to realize many of our plan customers around the world were planning to build off grid, so decided to educate solar and wind generated power.
One of the first questions I had was; can an off-grid solar system handle an air-conditioning system? That is also one of the first things people in Texas and most southern states want to know as they consider an off grid lifestyle in a tiny house, or small home. This video, by DIY Homesteading provides some helpful information and his personal testimony on their own tiny RV home they just constructed in Arizona. Heating a tiny, or a small off-grid home doesn't require solar, so that's not the problem. You can go with a wood burning iron stove or some of the popular tiny home propane heaters work well. You can also go with a heat pump system as discussed below.
The good news is; it IS possible to have air-condition system with a reasonable size and priced solar system, but you have to plan wisely when designing and building the home; including minimizing your exposure to the west sun. How you situate your home on the property is an important part of the equation. If your home is going to be one on a trailer, or it's one of our tiny or small homes that are too wide for trailers, they are usually rectangular in shape. And because of that you will want to place the trailer, or build the home with the narrow ends facing east and west, therefore minimizing your exposure to the sun. It would be best if there were no windows on the end that catches the west sunset, but if you do have windows, you would want to go with super efficient units with triple pane glass that are argon filled. Making that exterior wall, 2" X 6" or 2" X 8" thick would also be an excellent idea. You will want to foam insulate that wall too, as well as all the exterior walls in the home as well as any ceilings that are also the roof rafters.
We plan to add 4' X 8' X 1" foam board sheathing on the exterior wall first before adding radiant barrier sheathing and then siding. Adding radiant barrier decking on the exterior walls before the siding goes on will reflect 97% of the radiant heat entering the home. The additional "R" value those items add to the exterior walls will help make the home even much easier to heat and cool, as well as maintain the temperature inside the home. Once the home is acclimatized to your desired temperature, it's much easier, and more economical to maintain that temperature with a super insulation design and installation as outlined above.
Another important step you will need to take in an effort to reduce the heat from the sunlight during the hot months is to use a radiant barrier roof decking before the the roof material is applied. That type of decking can reduce attic temperatures dramatically by reducing the radiant waves by 97%, and a cooler attic or roof keeps the inside of your home cooler. Using reflective, light colored roofing material is also an important part of the off-grid home when cooling it down. You would want to avoid a dark colored roof.
Using this type of roof will reflect the sunlight rather than draw it into the home as popular, darker colored composition roofs will do, unless they have been manufactured with energy saving elements in the materials used. The good thing about a metal roof, manufactures apply paint to the metal that reflect infrared wavelengths, and you can actually receive a tax credit when installing energy saving roof materials.
Another requirement with having an air-conditioner in your off-grid home is installing a low-voltage, high-seer mini split-system, which is much more economical to operate and uses a lot less valuable wattage from the battery bank. Because of how the tiny or small home is designed and built that include all these energy saving features mentioned, it will be much easier on the solar system to keep the home cool and also warm if you use the heat pump in the mini-split system. Having large shade trees on the end of the home that faces west is also another great idea, as long as it doesn't interfere with the solar panels sun exposure.
This shower water conservation video is by Steven Harrell, who launched Tiny House Listings about 6 years ago. His website was instrumental and inspiration in Texas Tiny Homes formation in 2012. This video features a low flow shower head that can save thousands of gallons of water each year depending on the setting you chose. We have selected six water saving shower heads in our online store.
Water conservation is so critical these days, but it’s also a requirement when living small, or off grid when water is hard to come by, and safely disposing it if your tiny and small home is not tied to a city sewage system, or if you are using a grey water filtering system. Texas Tiny Homes is looking at all the black and grey water disposal options for the new homes we are going to be build on our lots in Granbury, Texas and the less amount of water coming out the home the better. Water conserving shower heads will be an important and necessary feature in some of new home we build.
The tiny house movement has caught up, from the numerous adverts for tiny house designs to TV shows such as: “Tiny House, Big Living,” “Tiny House Nation” and “Tiny House Hunters.” The debate has been raging too, where the advantages and disadvantages of this movement have been laid bare for all to explore. However, one thing is for sure, this is an idea whose time has come, people are looking for ways to simplify life. Own a place without having to be tied down for close to fifteen years paying for a home.
The tiny house movement is a design and social movement where people are downsizing and simplifying life, owning small houses, which measure 400 square feet or less.
So why are people going tiny houses?
There are a variety of reasons why people are opting for tiny luxury homes. Some are doing it as a way to make ends meet. The fact is; the majority of us live from one paycheck to another and our homes require most of our income, either in the form of rent or a mortgage payment. People are looking for ways to change this. Own a place, live comfortably, and enjoy all the facilities that a person in a big luxurious home would have and above all, save some money. Sustainable living is a concept that has caught up with many people looking for ways to maximize the use of resources without jeopardizing the capacity of future generations to do the same. It involves using what you have effectively, and avoiding waste. Through the tiny house movement, land owners are maximizing the use of their spaces, making extra income and reducing wastage of land.
Homeowners are taking carbon footprints seriously; they are making their homes eco-friendly. The tiny and small luxury homes are occupying spaces which are unused, but also offering a quality home to somebody who doesn’t want to buy a big place and contribute to more in terms of their carbon print.
For tiny luxury home owners, self-sufficiency is all they need. They have a chance to live independently, they are able to save, and free themselves from larger mortgages, which make some people live from hand to mouth. With a tiny luxury home, one looks forward to saving more, retiring early or having a higher disposable income.
To get these benefits, you will need the services of someone like Texas Tiny Homes, who not only designs some really great tiny and small homes, they are also reputable long-time home builders. They can provide you with tiny, small or mid-size house plan that can fit your goals and budget. You will be on your way to financial freedom, and reduction of your carbon footprint, as well as enjoying the same quality of life that you would with a larger home.
This adventurous couple purchased 5 acres of land in the Pacific Northwest where they will be working to develop our off grid homestead 100% from scratch. While they will be working to build their timber frame barn and eventually timber frame house, winter has arrived and they had neither! They are boondocking in their RV and needed a way to winterize + stay warm.
They decided to build this little cabin as an add-on to their RV. Right now, their RV is under a ShelterLogic Garage-in-a-Box which has no insulation whatsoever. They thought that if they could build a small 10′ x 12′ cabin onto the end of the carport that we could heat the entire enclosure with a wood stove. They have been working to insulation the carport fully, so between all of their efforts they have managed to heat the inside to 68 degrees!
The best part of all is that they built this off grid cabin ourselves with reclaimed materials. Instead of spending $3,000+ to build this cabin, they did it for about $300. Most of these materials came from a demolition they were able to help out with which you can see in their other videos. They also were able to salvage many second-hand building materials with a barter flyer they put up around town.
They are loving their little cabin! Have they ever built a cabin before? NOPE! Do they feel more confident about their building skills? Yes! Did they learn a lot that they can implement when building their barn and house? YES!