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tiny solar house

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tiny solar house

A couple of weeks ago I got some exciting news from my friend Kent Griswold that someone was building a house from one of my tiny free house plans. I’ve had a few people tell me they are planning on building one of my designs but these are the first photos of an actual house I’ve seen.

After much research Bill Brooks (Central Valley, California) chose the 8×16 Tiny Solar House because it met his needs for a rolling tiny house he could pull up to Alaska for an extended visit. He didn’t want to buy a normal travel trailer because they are not as well suited to the extreme weather as a tiny home.

Read the full story over at Tiny House Blog

Visit my Free Plans page

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I’m still making small edits to the next version of the house plans but I wanted to share a better picture of the murphy bed. It’s a queen size bed mounted horizontally. This allows some space to walk around side of the bed past the main windows but more importantly allows the whole thing to fit under the ceiling. The bed is a bit higher than normal so that it clears the wheel well. I’ve also included the latest Google SketchUp file in case you want to take a closer look.

wall bed out

wall bed in

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I got so much great feedback on the last Tiny Dogtrot House design concept that I decided to whip up a revision. Below is a slightly modified variation that now includes a screened porch between the two 8′ by 12′ sheds, a solar box around the water tank, radiant floor heating, and a tiny gap between the roofs of the two sheds. Justin at materialicious reminded me that a true dogtrot house has a contiguous roof. I wanted the two buildings to be independent structures; so I figure a tiny 2-inch gap seems like a reasonable compromise.


In addition to the porch and tank changes I extended the deck and roof a little too. It seems like a good idea to have a screened porch for buggy days and nights but it also seems like a good idea to have an open deck for sitting outside under the stars.

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Honestly I’m trying to keep this simple, no really. I could just slap an RV photovoltaic (PV) panel rack on the roof and be done with it but it just seems like that would be harder to live with day-in and day-out. PV panels need to be kept clean and tilted toward the sun to be most efficient. So it seems reasonable that a mobile tiny house should have some kind of flexible mount that is easily accessed, quickly deployed, adjusted, stored for transport, and mounted in a way that makes it hard to steal.

After posting a few other ideas and listening to all the great feedback I think I have stumbled on a really simple solution that meets all the requirements I just mentioned and could be built out of 2x4s, a sheet of plywood, and door hinges. I think these sketches illustrate the simple idea. In fact I think Kieran might have suggested this and I’m just now figuring it out. But thanks to everyone for all the great input. It all added up to this latest design.


Above: The panels mounted to a bi-fold set of 2×4 frames, folded away for transport.

Below: The panels folded out toward the glass-side of the house, assuming that side is facing the sun. The panels themselves would be mounted to a metal rack with hinges at the top so they can pivot up. A piece of wood or metal could be used to hold the panels at the correct angle.



Above: Now the bi-fold mount is opened to face the other direction assuming that the homeowner wants the windowless side of the house to face the sun, like during in the hottest days of summer.

I think this could actually be built easily and inexpensively. It could also be added to virtually any tiny house design. PV panels come in a lot of different sizes so before constructing the frame you’d want to buy your panels and build the frame to fit. If you’re handy with a welder it would actually be better to build this out of metal, but 2x4s with ample cross-bracing would work too, especially it you boxed the 2×4 frame in with exterior grade plywood. The whole thing would be fairly heavy so use heavy duty door hinges. So… did I solve the solar panel mounting issue? Please let me know.

Oh… as far as wind power and this tiny solar house, I think I’m going to have to leave that out because from what I’ve read you really need a tall pole and guide wires for a wind turbine. This would be very difficult to add to a mobile tiny house. I suspect a wind turbine installation is just as permanent as a micro-hydro set-up. Please chime in if you know of a mobile solution.

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I just finished making some refinements to the Tiny Solar House plans based on the suggestions I got from my last post. I’ve added a little more bracing in the walls, an alternate floor plan, a materials list (with cost estimate), and a sketch of how the photovoltaic (PV) panel array might work. Actually I’d like really like to hear what you think about this idea for mounting the PV panels, but all feedback is welcome as always.

I’m imagining a horizontal pipe attached to the back of the house that extends about five feet out from the front wall. On this pipe a metal rack designed to hold PV panels could be attached. The panels would then be tilted toward the sun and locked into place at the most optimal angle for the time of year and latitude. This would maximize the efficiency of the array. If the home-owner wanted to turn the house away from the sun, like during the hot days of summer, the PV panels could simply be flipped over.


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It’s 1:00 AM and I just put the finishing touches on the first version of the 8×16 free tiny house plans. This house is designed to be an inexpensively built passive solar tiny house on a trailer.

In the next few days I’ll draw up a few more interior layout variations that will include floor-to-ceiling shelves where the kitchen is now and a built in sofa that flips-out into an extra bed. The primary bed is in the loft above the bathroom and cabinets. I’ll also add a materials list to the next version but for now take a look and let me know what you think.

This is also ironically my 200th post on Tiny House Design. I guess I’ve been keeping busy; but I’ve also been having a ball drawing tiny houses and blogging on the stuff I find out on the web. Below are a few images from the plans but to see all the details just download the PDF version for easy printing.

Download Free House Plans – 8×16 Tiny Solar House v.1 ( Updated Version Here )


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I really enjoy Kent’s Tiny House Blog. He’s got so many posts to a lot of really hard to find tiny house resources. One of them is a post on a 400 square foot, 14′ by 14′ cabin in Utah built by a fellow named LaMar.

LaMar has taken his project one step farther and written a book on his experience and house. Included is a bunch of different ways of building stuff cheap. For example he explains how to build a solar cabin for less than $2000 and a solar panel and generator system for less than $1000. Great Stuff.

The Ebook is only $5.00 or you can buy a print copy via lulu.com for about $15.00 plus shipping. I plan to buy it and when I’m done reading it I’ll post a short review here. For more information check out the Simple Solar Homesteading website. Photo credit to LaMar at Simple Solar Homesteading.

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The Kerley Corners Cob Cottage is located in Tivoli, New York. It was designed and funded by Ross Anderson and Julian Perez and one day house will be the home to one or two stewards of a garden and fruit tree farm. Its foundation was crafted from local stones by Thea Alvin a master stone mason from Vermont. The structure was built while giving workshops on cob and straw bale construction.

This is an excellent example of how a simple yet aesthetically pleasing home can be designed and built inexpensively from natural locally sourced materials. I’m not sure how or if the local planning department was consulted before this little house went up but I can imagine with the right set of plans and carefully pitched story even a tiny natural home like this could be approved and permits issued. It would really just depend on the local planning department’s comfort with alternative building techniques. Photo credit to The Kerley Corners Cob Cottage project.