Tiny House – One month in: What it’s really like living in less than 300 square feet and taking care of your own poop.

Welp, it has officially been a little over a month (1 month and 8 days) and I have to say, I don’t love it.

Oh wait, I ABSOLUTELY love it!

With all the things about living in this space that I expected and even the things I didn’t really see coming, I love it more than I thought I would.

There are definitely things I expected…

Like I can’t leave crap laying around….at all. Two things quickly become a mountain that blocks a window making it necessary to put clothes, shoes, groceries, mail, etc., away immediately when I get home. I mean, I already did that before I moved in…

I expected that my toilet would be a 5 gallon Lowe’s bucket.

I expected that I would really like having my closet in the bathroom so when I get out of the shower (which is like standing under a searing firehose of awesomeness), I’d have my clothes ready to go.

I expected that I’d be so thrilled at having a gas stove, the kitchen designed with all the things I need right at hand, miles of counterspace, and a ridiculously cool sink, that just reheating leftovers would inspire tears of joy.

And then what I didn’t see coming…

I didn’t expect that a 5 minute shower would overflow the drain bucket outside making the ground muddy around the bucket. Emptying it is a tricky endeavor in your clean clothes and newly-scrubbed self.

I didn’t expect that I’d be nervous using my toilet for…..big jobs. At one point I really had to go but I chickened out and went to Target instead. I have since mustered up the courage to just do it and it wasn’t the crisis situation I thought it would be.

I didn’t expect that propane would be $4.54/gallon, but my 5 gallon tank has lasted 1 month and 8 days and still going strong. I’d say that was $23 well spent.

I didn’t expect that my downsizing efforts wouldn’t be sufficient. I still have several boxes I haven’t brought in to the house and I’m thinking they’ll end up donated.

Here are some pictures of “real life” I took yesterday:

Countertops. Good for washing dishes, prepping food…..and the turkey is brining in that bucket on the floor…

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Bathroom vanity still doesn’t have the front piece.  I’ll get around to it eventually…

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One of my favorite places to sit…read cooking magazines and do crossword puzzles…

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It was sunny yesterday so it was a good time to do laundry…

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The drain bucket for the shower…

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that gets emptied on the garden…

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…and the compost bin

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The only books I can keep for now…

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and the shoe storage! which turned out SUPER cool and totally works!

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And the couch, post-straightening. It cleans up pretty well, right?

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Tiny House – Finishing all the things

Oh boy… the last few weeks have been crazy, stressful…and I’m at a loss to describe it. I just need a nap for a few days.

Why all the crazy? Because I needed to be moved in to the tiny house by last Saturday. So yes, technically I’m moved in and sleeping in my awesome loft! Unfortunately, the finish plumbing isn’t done, I’m surrounded by piles and piles of boxes, and the solar doesn’t want to work. Basically, I’m camping in a box with windows and candles.

So that’s why I haven’t been updating the blog and the next pictures will be a mishmash of unrelated things.

You’re welcome.

Lights…

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Bathroom door…

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Water line…

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Cabinets WITH doors…

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Shoe storage…

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Bathroom vanity….that I decided to paint blue…

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Shower rod…and the only fixtures that are in…

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Kitchen…

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Closet Drawers…

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And the tiny house move-in process…

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So, so crazy.

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Make-It-Your-Dang-Self Light Fixtures

Saturday morning I spent 4 hours making light fixtures. This didn’t include all the time spent beforehand researching design blogs, how-to websites, Pinterest, and Youtube.

I came to the conclusion I needed to make these things when I initially priced light fixtures. Goodness. It is possible to buy them for about $7 a piece at Lowes. But they look weird. As in, circa 1982 weird. Those that are marginally cool will run anywhere between $35-$50 and depending on how trendy or elaborate, the sky is the limit.

So. What do I do about my 10 light fixtures? Yes, 10. Eight wall sconces, one main room ceiling light fixture, and one porch light. What can I say, I didn’t want to live in a dungeon.

Seeing as how I was looking at a $500 price tag (at least) for just light fixtures, I decided it was a good idea to look in to alternatives. I found a bevy of blogs on how to make them…there were all kinds of clever ideas using galvanized pipe and found parts.

Since galvanized pipe is a theme in my house, I decided that will definitely make an appearance.

So here is a breakdown of what I needed:

  • twisted wire (vintage look and just cool)
  • sockets
  • strain reliefs (apparently this is a thing)
  • mason jars (12oz Kerr jars…already had these on hand; spray painted the lids bronze)
  • light cages (spray painted with bronze)
  • scrap wood (for the back piece of the homemade sconces)
  • bulbs (edison bulbs, of course. what is the point of seeing the bulbs if they aren’t cool)
  • Main Room ceiling light (I wanted something amazing, so I decided to turn an antique tin ceiling tile into a light fixture…got that on the Electronic Bay for $25!)
  • Wall Lights that were waterproof for Bathroom (not that I’ll be hosing them off, but I needed something that is good for wet environments)
  • Porch Light that was ok if it got rained on

For the Porch Light and Bathroom Lights, I decided to buy them. They absolutely have to be rated for wet environments and I can’t make anything like that, so off to Lowe’s I went. I went with a semi-nautical theme for those (they are also the :

 

For the other fixtures, I went online to Vintage Wire and Supply for the sockets, strain reliefs, and twisted wire: http://www.vintagewireandsupply.com.

The process of cutting wire, stripping wire, and attaching all the things took a while….

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I had to google “How to wire a light socket”….

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Strain relief…

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Oliver helping…

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Cages with pipe…those will be attached to blocks of wood for support.

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It’s tough being a supervisor.

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Tiny House: Interior Flooring

THE FLOOR IS IN!

It’s taken me a total of 3.5 hours to measure, cut, snap, and stick. The trickiest parts were getting around those dumb corners. But for all the bobbles there is trim, right?

It’s a vinyl sticky, floating floor and I LOVE the grey/driftwood color… Yes, I know it’s vinyl that’s not *exactly* environmentally friendly and lets off all kinds of fumes and whatever. Oh well. It’s waterproof, lightweight, and looks like weathered wood, so it stays.

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Looking toward the bathroom…

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And looking in to the bathroom…

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Tiny House – #bubbleinthemiddle

On the docket for today: the tiny house deck. As with all things in this project, the goal is to be perfectly level…gotta make sure that bubble is in the middle!

The deck itself went together pretty fast…as decks go. I designed it to be a floating deck; built on deck blocks (as opposed to pier blocks), not that high off the ground, and not attached to the tiny house.

The wood is also in a pre-cut size that I can find at Lowes. Meaning, I don’t have to custom cut any lengths. Just lay it out and GO!

All the materials just laid out…somehow I thought there would be more…
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Since I bought unfinished wood (it’s cheaper than treated wood or redwood decking), I had to seal it myself. I found this stuff online….it’s chemical free, water based and turns the wood a cool weathered color. Oh yeah, and it waterproofs the wood too…

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Before the stain…

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…..and after!

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Since this is chemical free, I’m also staining the tops of what will be my countertop…here’s a comparison of the color…

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Lining up the deck blocks…the deck is 8’x12′

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Checking for level…and it wasn’t quite there yet. I had to do some rigging to make sure side-to-side and front-to-back were all set. There is probably a scientific or otherwise “proper” way to lay out a deck. But I don’t know what that is and didn’t feel like spending a few hours on the Youtube. So I figured it out my dang self.

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The long support beams are 2x8x12…the top of the deck is made of 2x6x8

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Finally can start screwing down the deck boards…

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But 5 boards in, I ran out of screws. As a side note, if you’re planning on building a deck, get the bigger box of screws.They are sold by the pound and I thought “oh, 1 pound sounds good.” No. I ended up making a total of 3 trips to Lowes…one trip was just to get a 5 pound box of screws.

Also, there is actually a difference in brands of screws. The brand in the 1 pound that I bought first…horse pucky. I mean, yes, the screws went in to the boards…eventually. I had to lean my full weight on them and they kept clutching out my screwdriver. I could feel the screwdriver overheating and drained out 1 full battery in only 4 boards. When I switched back to the Grabber brand (I used that brand on the interior), problem solved! Maybe the size made a difference, I don’t know, but I had the same problem with the Fas-N-Tite in other places. I guess it’s just a trial and error thing. They both look the same, but you can feel the threads on the Grabbers are sharper. But enough of that…

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And DONE!

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***UPDATE***

Lest you think I whipped this thing out in just a few hours, it took a total of 12. Also, I stopped in the middle to take a nap.  This morning I was so sore and tired I stayed in bed until 8:30 watching reruns of Blue Bloods and eating Peanut Butter M&Ms for breakfast.

Tiny House: Water Heater…making the outside the inside

One of the many challenges of building a tiny house is trying to fit all the things you need inside.  Either you find a smaller version of said “thing” or you throw it out altogether.

For the water heater, I had to find a little one.  As much as I like the idea of kickin’ it pioneer style, I still want a hot shower now and then.

I chose a gas-powered instant hot water heater by Eccotemp.  BUT it is technically an indoor water heater.

You guys…I tried to get it to fit inside.  It just wouldn’t go.  Either it wouldn’t fit in between the studs (so it could be hidden), or it needed to be vented outside and would make for a weird hole in the wall (so much of this project comes down to aesthetic for me), or it stuck out from the wall in an obnoxious, HERE’S-A-WATERHEATER, kind of way.

So, I put it outside.

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Now the challenge was, how do I make it an “inside” waterheater again?  The only option was to build a case around it that was vented, but protected from the sun.

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Lack of pre-drilling sometimes leads to this…

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Leftover screen (from a screen repair project) made for a perfect  bottom and top cover!

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Also, leftover siding…

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The hinges work and everything! I’ve since stained the wood to blend in a little better 🙂  If you have leftover materials, fight the urge to throw it away until after you’re completely done.  You never know what you could repurpose next!

Thanks to Lucy and Tacy for coming out and helping me finish the doors 🙂

Tiny House: Shower…continued

I love 3-day weekends.  Not only was this July 4th, but I got a LOT of stuff done on the tiny house!  Progress AND fireworks?  Yes, please.

Because what is more American than celebrating freedom by lighting things on fire?  And, you know, building stuff.

We last left off at the shower pan…  I finished the curb with cement board, which was then completely grouted…

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As long as it looks like brownie batter, we’re good…according to the Youtube.

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Then I wanted to make the transition from the wood to the rubber sheet a little smoother (not that it really mattered, but I did anyway).  I used the webbing stuff that is used to patch holes in drywall.  Why?  Because I found it in a box and thought, “Hmm, I bet that’d work.”  Other than that, I have no official word from a real contractor as to the “correct” way to do this…but, my house, my rules.

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More waterproofing…  That’s called Aquaguard (I think)…it’s Lowe’s version of Red Guard.  It paints on turquoise and dries dark green.  I ended up painting it on the loft floor above the shower too…

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Aaaand my favorite!  RIVER ROCK!

I’m glad it turned out pretty because it was a pain in my backside to lay out.   Since the pan isn’t perfectly 2ft wide, I had to cut off sections of rocks.  But because they aren’t uniform in shape, I had to cut off A rock here, and A rock there.

Also, it was 102 degrees.

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I was able to stay ahead of the thinset drying (just barely) in order to get all the rocks stuck down.  Then I grouted it a few days later.

Decent!

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The next part of the shower was figuring out how to keep the metal surround from touching the rocks.  That is a big No-No apparently. The only thing I could think of was weatherstripping used mainly in doors and windows.  As I perused the aisle in Lowe’s, I found a rubber silicone kind that had an adhesive strip on it!  The adhesive isn’t super amazing at sticking, but it was enough to hold it while I caulked the top and bottom of the strip.

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Then we flash the corners.  I was STOKED that I saved the leftover flashing from the underside of the trailer…remember this?  All those strips I had to cut and screw to the bottom of the trailer in the dirt and heat?  Well, the 10 feet that was leftover I never threw away…

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It was PERFECT!

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Flashing up…

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Then first panel up…kind of…

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The shiplap…

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The bathroom is now about 80% done!  I do believe it’s coming along nicely 🙂

Tiny House: Shower Pan Extravaganza

The shower. This is the last big project left to do. It’s not so much that the materials are super heavy or that it covers a big area (the shower is only 2×3), but it’s involved.

You can’t put in the tile before you pour the mortar shower pan, but that has to dry and it has to be waterproofed…which also has to dry.

But first…the frame.

Until last weekend, the bathroom was just a box.  In order to have the shower that I want (ie. the shower that would fit), I had to build a frame for the shower pan. I literally could not find a pre-made plastic shower pan that had the dimensions I needed. That is by far the easiest way to go, but since I couldn’t find it I had to figure it out my dang self.

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Most of my ideas start on a sticky note.  I work out all the measurements and make sure I have enough wood, then have at it with the saw.  The shower goes in the corner (obviously) and the box-looking thing will be the cabinet for my composting toilet!

Next…the drain.

We needed to connect all the pieces (literally glue with black sticky stuff) and bolt it down.

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Oh, and that white stuff? ^ That’s the spray foam insulation.  I used what was leftover underneath the trailer.  It expanded so well that it sealed the flange to the floor and we had to pry it up.  Be careful with that business.

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Buuuut it turned out when we finished the process, the bottom flange ^ stuck up from the floor about 1/4 inch.

Not to worry!  All that can be fixed with scrap plywood.

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See?  🙂 So much of building is on-the-fly and creative problem solving. Whoever said construction is for those who aren’t smart probably thinks changing a light bulb counts as manual labor.  But I digress.

Then on to the waterproofing.

One major “take away” from this project is WATERPROOF ALL THE THINGS. Whether it’s caulk or spray or thick, intertube-esque sheeting, when in doubt, seal water out.

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Pictures make it look so fast. But Nooooooo.  This was quite a wrastling match.  The sheet is thick like an intertube…the black ones that are used for tires and sometimes floating down the river.  It DOES NOT want to cooperate, especially in the corners. Speaking of which, that bottom right corner is bugging me.

The edges are screwed to the wall – above the curb level which is important – to make sure it stays in place.  I left the size pretty much as it came out of the package. I’ve watched some professional tilers on the Youtube who cut it all pretty with very little excess. But I’m not professional.

There’s grace for that, right?

Now we’re on to the bigger stuff…the mortar bed.

First let me say, concrete is surprisingly heavy. It’s super fine like baking flour or powdered sugar, but HEAVY. Especially once you get it wet. Again the Youtube guys were all “oh just get it a little wet, enough that it will hold together when you squeeze it then smooth it out with a 2×4.”

So that’s how I started mixing in the wheelbarrow.  Just a liiiiittle water.

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But oh my word~! I could NOT get this stuff to move in to place. I struggled through 3 bucket-fulls of mortar before I was over it and dumped some water on top of the “only-a-little-wet” mortar in my soon-to-be shower.

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That worked MUCH better. Actually, it was a lot like pottery class. I ditched the 2×4 and used my left hand (that’s the good one for now…the one without the stupid router bit gouge) to smooth it around.

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And I’m happy to report it is perfectly unlevel….sloping from the right down to the left hand drain 🙂

This is far from done, but I think the major part is over. If you’re wanting to install a shower pan, I learned from watching this guy:

He builds a demo on a smaller scale so you can see what’s happening.  I also used his direction for building the curb and more waterproofing…but that’s for later 🙂

Nobody makes me bleed my own blood…but router bits do.

Today was such a good day!  My friend Steve stopped by to say hi, I learned I’m getting a new niece or nephew in October (YAY Steve and Daisha!), got to eat at my fav food truck, AND I finished painting the interior!

Friend Steve …

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I was SO excited to have finished painting that I went down to the Home Depot and bought a router.  This tool I have to have to cut out the wood I put over the windows (so I could paint).  I was stoked that I even knew what tool to get (due to previous research and scouting)…you can imagine my excitement when I got back home and there was daylight left!

But in the middle of opening up the router-bit clamshell package that is designed to survive Armageddon, something slipped.

I looked down and saw this…

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That was nothing compared to the crime scene that was now on my hand.

Annoyed that I couldn’t finish the windows, I walked over to the spigot to wash off the torrent of red and see how deep this cut really was.  After about a minute of thorough flushing, I still couldn’t tell.

I had to go in to the main house for a second opinion:  Stitches…or No?

When we finally got the bleeding to stop, this is what it looked like…

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Not amused ^

The split…

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Pretty clean, right?

My friend Lisbet and I decided that it could probably go either way with the Urgent Care and the stitches.  I could go wait for hours and pay several hundred dollars for stitches, or I could butterfly it at home.  Also, we have wine at home.

Can you guess which one I chose?  🙂

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The kitchen ER ^

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The butterfly ^

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The “I’m Super Excited About This” face, also the “I Can Feel My Heartbeat in My Finger” face ^

The paint turned out really well though so at least there’s that… I’d explain more but it kind of hurts to type and 3-finger typing is weird.

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Lessons for the day:

  1. Rent paint sprayers.  They are worth the money when you can finish painting in 15 minutes.
  2. Gallons of paint are expensive.  Be prepared.
  3. Routers are cool.
  4. Router bits are rat bastards.
  5. Kitchen ERs are far superior to other ERs .
  6. Butterfly, butterfly, butterfly.

Dang.  I could really use some chocolate.

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.

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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 🙂

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Lake Shasta ^

Panels all loaded up …

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

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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…

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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?

Yes.

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…

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

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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.

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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…