Tiny House – Solar Powered

In an effort to be “off grid”, my house will be entirely solar-powered.  Like I said earlier about the confusion around electricity, solar isn’t much better.

How many watts do I need?  What inverter will handle the wattage?  How big do the batteries need to be?

Sweet Jesus.

I’m so glad that part is over.  Unless you’re “down with electricity” or whatever, be prepared to devote many hours (even weekends) to researching this system.  The good news is that technology has improved to the point that solar is a lot cheaper and much more powerful than it used to be.


I found the best deal on solar panels (and the widest variety of brands and components) at Wholesale Solar in Mt. Shasta, California:  http://www.wholesalesolar.com/

They are super helpful when you call them and have engineers on staff that will set up wiring plans for you.  It’s an extra fee and I’m cheap so I searched online until I found one that included all the components I bought:  https://rvseniormoments.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/ms2000_newmar_inverter_wiring_01_20_2013.jpg

I ended up choosing 2 panels that are 315 watts a piece.  That means they produce 630 watts in ideal conditions (direct sun).  The batteries will hold a total of 5,000 watts (I’m estimating that’s about double what I will need on a super hot day).  I’m also planning to have a generator for just in case…but I haven’t gotten that yet.

The entire system was purchased from a variety of places even though Wholesale Solar carries everything you need.

Since Mt. Shasta City is so close, I decided to make a road trip up there to pick up the panels and batteries….also, that saved me $400 on shipping 🙂


Lake Shasta ^

Panels all loaded up …


Batteries that weigh 120lbs a piece…I can barely get them to move.


Other components fit in this box in the front seat….pretty sure there were switches, a mini breaker box and a few cables in there as well…


Being that I just spent over $2000 for the solar stuff, I had Spendingitis (the technical term for being weary of seeing so much money go out the door).  Naturally, I was hesitant to call Wholesale Solar and ask about the solar panel racks….I just had a feeling they would be expensive.  When I talked to the guy on the phone he explained that for the panels I got, they only sold racks that would hold 6 panels, nothing smaller.

Of course they don’t.

But the good news is that I could build my own out of 2x4s if I wanted!

Um, what?  It’s that easy?  And cheap?


I do believe he said the magic words!

So I immediately got on the old Youtube because where else do people go to learn stuff these days?  After watching a few videos that were WAY too technical for me (ie. they used huge drills to make holes in the ground and started welding stuff…so I turned it off).  I got the idea for the design of the frame from this guy:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0aQSrIrqZRg

It’s pretty amazing how much you can learn from there.

Also, thank you Lowe’s for the screamin’ deal I got on the Build-It-Your-Dang-Self solar panel racks:  just under $50!

Parts for the racks:

1 box 2″ Deck Screws

2x4x8 – 15

Industrial hinges – 2

Bolts – 3 (for the supports)

Little bolts – 20 (to hold down the panels) 3/8″ I think…

The bottom has hinges so I can adjust the panels for the season/angle of the sun…


It went together pretty fast since I didn’t cut any of the 2x4s.


The blue box in the background is the batteries and inverter and other wires and switches.  They sit up on a platform that I need to build a case around, just haven’t gotten to it yet.


The only thing I’ll do differently from the video is on the supports.  Instead of permanently screwing them in, I’m going to attach them with bolts; that way I can easily change the angle of the panels.

But more on that later…

Tiny House – Wiring 

Of all the systems in the tiny house, electric is the one that I understand the least.  I vaguely remember my physics class from high school and talking about amps, watts, and voltage, but I can’t for the life of me tell you what they do or why they’re important.

Oh, electricity.

For the past several months I’ve been researching wiring, solar-powered systems, batteries, and I still have a headache.  Some blogs I find say, “Oh, wiring is EASY!  Just run wire in the walls and attach it to the box with the blinky lights and switches and the thing and the face.”  At least that’s what it ends up sounding like in my head.  Those people that say electric stuff is easy must be electronic geniuses.

I actually did consider installing all the wire myself, but then a friend told me I needed a “wiring plan” and I about had an emotional breakdown.

how that works

Therefore, I hired an electrician to install all the things.  Sorry, beyond wires and light switches I don’t know the names for electronic stuff.  My electrician’s name is Tom Weldon and he really is an electronic genius.  If you need electric work, here is Tom’s website:  http://www.welldoneelectric.com/

I’m so glad there are people like him who see an electric system as “no big deal” as opposed to…other people…who research electric systems until any mention of a breaker panel makes them tear up so they decide to go on the youtube and watch cat videos instead.

Tom told me that yes, I do need a wiring plan, but it can be as simple as telling him where I want switches and outlets.  Sweet!  I can handle that.  To make it all “pretty” I put the plan in Excel.  Why?  Because I’m in finance, that’s the program I know, and it looks better than drawing on notebook paper.  Also, it worked, so who cares.


In my research, I did learn that in order to get insurance you need to have one of two things:

1 – Inspection of the wiring work, or

2 – A licensed electrician do the installation

This is the Portland, OR, insurance company where I found the information:  http://www.insuremytinyhome.com/

Insurance was the biggest reason I hired out the electric.  Also because I don’t want my cool little house to go down in flames because I didn’t get the “right gauge” and I “accidentally crossed” all the “wire connectors.”

Once I pick up my solar panels and other stuff that I just ordered, we can finish out the electric system!