Simple Solar Homesteading

Off-Grid Cabin and Tiny House Designs and Supplies
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Simple Solar Homesteading is a Not-For-Profit social and cultural service organization dedicated to producing affordable off-grid housing designs and projects so that everyone everywhere can have a safe and sustainable home.

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Kenny Foust Dodge Dualie Home On Wheels

Posted on August 19, 2020 at 3:10 PM Comments comments (0)




I wanted to make something that could be scaled up for emergency or temporary homeless housing but not really practical. Pretty tight and well insulated and easy to heat with a Olympic wave 3 on low.

The vehicle is a 1976 Dodge dualie designed for 10,500 gross weight RV that weighs less than 8000 lbs now. It is 24 long, 7.5 wide and 9.5 tall.


This off grid home on the move started as an experiment for how 2" extruded polystyrene (exp) could be made into a structural panel and glued together to create a lightweight shelter. Originally built on a trailer frame and later the RV was found and the front built to fit for setting the trailer box on the frame making it 24 ft long now. By gluing fiberglass reinforced plastic sheets (frp) to 2" exp with gorilla glue and great stuff foam and some Loctite 8x urethane glue and weighing it down, panels were made. A floor and roof made the same way with a second layer with 5/4 deck boards spaced by 16" pieces of 1"exp. All glued together, wrapped in canvas glued to the foam with Tightbond II wood glue. The cedar boards along the top and bottom and on the corners are screwed and glued together and to the deck boards and overlap the wall boards to add external, decorative structure. Almost all the rest of the original 7x11ft box is made with recycled materials. It is about 7 ft high based on wood framing built for the french doors, Additional structure from a solid wood door lag bolted in and forms the shower wall. Thin wood is glued to the outside and protected with marine polyurethane coating.


There is a 20 gallon freshwater storage with an instant water heater for sink and a shower and a diy composting toilet in the shower stall made from an old toolbox to be watertight and store peat moss. The shower stall also houses hanging clothes on a track to slide out when in use. The solar power comes from 1100 watts of residential panels in series parallel run through a Morningstar Prostar 40 amp 24 volt controller into two Battle Born 100 amp hr batteries and to a 3000 watt inverter. This operates a 5000 btu window air unit (into the evening), dorm frig, microwave, induction cooktop and coffee maker. Could add a couple more batteries and extend AC use. It has been driven a couple thousand highway miles, and on rough roads, and showing no signs of problems from this design. having the back deck fold up and the roof fold down and tightly attached it seems to add structure during travel.

Winterizing Your Homesteads!

Posted on November 27, 2016 at 8:15 AM Comments comments (0)

Winterizing Your Homesteads!

Well the temperature at my cabin has dropped to below freezing at night but the days are still sunny and around 45 degrees so I have been busy the last few weeks getting my cabin winterized.

I am at about 4800 elevation and we can get snow 3 foot deep and -20 winters here so I have to be prepared for being snowed in for a few days until they get the roads clear.

Here is my check list:

1- Check my propane furnace and give it a cleaning. Check and tighten propane lines if needed and get my tanks refilled. I use four 20 pound tanks and I refill 3 at a time once a month. One tank lasts me a week for heating and cooking. Propane is around $1.50 a gallon so not too expensive this winter.

2- Bring in my winter hoses and check my free flow lines and empty and clean the stock tanks. I have a free flowing well with water always running in a stock tank fr the animals. It gets pretty dirty over a year so I drain it in fall and give it a scrub. I keep one hose on my covered porch handy for refilling my inside tank as needed.

3- Plastic sheeting installed over my porch. This creates a greenhouse and air lock over my porch and front door that adds heat to the cabin on sunny winter days and keeps cold breezes from rushing in when I open the door. Also creates a nice area to work on the porch for small winter projects.

4- Refill my gas cans. I use a 1500 watt Genny to run a microwve and power tools. The Genny is kept on the enclosd porch so it stays warmer and it will start on even cold days with just a couple of pulls. I have two 3 gallon gas cans I keep full and that will last me a few months generally. Refill the Genny oil and a quart of oil on hand.

6- Put the draft busters in front of the doors. High winds will cause cold leaks around old doors so I use draft busters and I made my own out of old towels and tape. You can also buy them on Amazon.

7- Sealed the chicken coop run in clear plastic. This turns the run into a mini greenhouse to keep the chickens warmer so they lay all winter. I free range my hens and they have access to the stock tank for water. Cold and drafts will kill your birds so get them into a good shelter.

8- Added straw to the dog house. My dogs are outside in he daytime but sleep inside the cabin so I put a bale of fresh dry straw in their doghouse. Good bedding and insulation and it get's composted in to the garden in spring.

9- Gather up my tools. I put away the summer tools and oiled the blades with a sprau of WD 40 so they don't rust. Got out the snow shovels and ice scraper. I have a sled for hauling wood and stuff around so the wheelbarrow goes in storage.

10- Backup vehicle gassed up and tires aired up in case my regular vehicle breaks down. I keep my tanks full in winter and I have an Inverter in my truck in case I need to use it as a power generator.

11- Food supplies stocked up. A few cases of different veggies and staples like sugar, salt, coffee etc. Enough on hand that I can go a month without going to town if needed.

12- Solar panels cleaned and wiring checked. I use AGM sealed batts so no maintenance. Installed a few new lights and DC plugs so I can get power where I need it.

13- Winter clothes brought out. Snow boots, gloves, coat, hoodies, hats and thermal long johns.  I keep extra winter clothes in my truck if I get wet and need a change and also a 12 volt blanket and emergency supplies if I get stranded somewhere.

14- Animal food. I keep a extra bag of chicken and dog food on backup in case I can't get to town that will last a month. Also have some animal anti-biotics and medicines in case they get sick. Fat animals will survive winter better than hungry animals.

OK well I think I am about ready for winter and going to hunker down and work on some inside projects and new cabin designs and videos.

You all have a happy, healthy and safe winter!


5 Watt Solar LED Lights and Phone Charger

Posted on July 31, 2015 at 12:55 PM Comments comments (0)

I needed a couple of LED lights for my cabin and I came across this unit on Amazon that has two LED pendulum lights and it's own 5 watt solar panel, lithium battery and phone charger for $75. I decided to give it a try since that would give me a back-up system in the event my regular system broke down and it is small and mobile so I can take it with me camping or in a bug out situation.

I am very impressed with the quality of the equipment. The solar panel is well made and comes with brackets if you want to permanently attach it. The lights are bright enough for my kitchen and dining area and they will last about 18 hours with a full charge. The phone charger comes with a dozen different phone style connectors and will recharge a phone in about 8 hours of good sunshine.


This would be an inexpensive way to get started with an off-grid emergency solar power system or could be used for camping or even in your cabins or as lights for a shed or animal housing. I have been using this product over 6 months and very pleased.



Here is the link: 5 Watt LED Solar Lights and Phone Charger

Simple Solar Homesteading Amazon Store

Posted on July 31, 2015 at 1:25 AM Comments comments (3)

Hi folks, I have been busy working on some new projects and vids and helping with an online course for MIT on sustainable living. Just wanted to let you know I now have an Amazon store on the website with all the products I use and recommend for off-grid living and homesteading so take a minute and have a look.


400 Watt Ground Mount Solar

Posted on October 13, 2014 at 9:20 PM Comments comments (6)

After many years of shinnying out my window to push the snow off my solar panels I decided to put them on a ground mount to make things easier and safer. Now I can keep the snow off and clean the panels and do maintenance if necessary.

The mount is using my old horse hitching post and some recycled cinder blocks. I ran a 2x4 through the blocks for support and the panles are attached to the hitching post and the 2x4 support with high tensile aluminum wire.

The system is four 100 watt Renogy moncrystaline panels which charges 4 AGM 12 volt deep cycles (storeed in the cabin) to power my laptop, TV, water pump, ARB fridge, chest freezer and LED lights. That is all the power I need for my cabin.

Pushcart Survival Shelter

Posted on July 10, 2014 at 11:25 AM Comments comments (8)

Pushcart Shelter Design


We have all seen the pics of homeless people with all their worldly possessions in a shopping cart and sleeping in a cardboard box and it got me to thinking that these people need a better cart if that is how they want to live (some do choose that lifestyle).


So I designed this Shelter pushcart that is not much bigger than a shopping cart and rolls on casters like a shopping cart. It has an extendable 6 foot insulated R10 sleeping area. A large covered kitchen unit on top for a butane stove and dish pans. A thinfilm 30 watt solar panel for recharging a phone or using an Ipad. An ice chest cooler and storage baskests for extra gear and the bed top becomes a food prep and table when extended.


This could be made easily from 2x2 lumber sheathed in 1/4" plywood and insulated with R10 foamcore rigid board and would be heated by body temperature.


Many homeless people freeze to death or get sick in the winter and hot summers so this would provide them a safer place to sleep and shelter in harsh weather plus a way to cook a meal.


This could be built by churches and organizations that help the homeless and would also be useful in disaster relief situations when there are lots of victims that need shelter and not enough beds to go around. I estimate the wood and insulation material cost to be around $100.


This is a work-in-progress and if you are an organization that helps the homeless and want the plans I will provide them free if you contact me at

This is how they are currently living

Robert Merchel House For Cooks and Artists

Posted on July 2, 2014 at 1:35 AM Comments comments (2)

This tiny house on wheels is designed for a couple who likes to cook and do art. The first floor has a Japanese style bath and an open floor plan. The kitchen area is located near the front door with a vaulted ceiling because activities there primarily require standing. A loft is accessed by a ladder and provide a secondary space. It uses a passive solar design with low windows on the south side and skylights and high windows on the north to passively cool the home with breezes. Solar panels on the roof provides the electricity. Propane heats the water and is used for cooking. The home uses a simple pallet of white and wood creating a serene space.

Ryerson University "µ-haus" Micro-House

Posted on July 2, 2014 at 1:00 AM Comments comments (2)

μ-haus: μ from the Greek “mu” meaning “micro” and haus from the German “house” or “shell” as in a turtle, where home is a livable extension of one’s self.

As the world’s populations shift towards cities, the issue of urban density comes into focus. Laneway housing, tiny homes, off-grid and NetZero dwellings all address a facet of an unknown future regarding over-population, energy resources and climate change.

μ-haus addresses all of these as it is an in-fill build that can be independent from city infrastructure and, if grid-tied in Ontario, it creates an income both in terms of rent and energy sold to the grid.

μ-haus collects water from its roof, stores it, purifies it, and when it comes to disposing of it, does so without the creation of black water, thanks to a composting toilet.

μ-haus is superinsulated; a highly efficient air-source heat-pump supplies its minimal heating and cooling needs. In the fall and winter when the sun is low in the sky, the south facing windows collect solar energy. In the spring and summer, large overhangs protect the home from overheating.

μ-haus is compact and appropriate for even the smallest of urban laneways, demonstrating energy conservation and, resiliency. It addresses density on a human scale. We see a future with a chicken in every pot and a μ-haus in every backyard.

μ-haus is a 200 square foot tiny house, intended for in-fill in an urban context. Though it is difficult to reach Passive House standards in such a small building, μ-haus shows significant energy savings in both space heating and total primary energy due to superinsulation and efficient appliances.

The issue of size was addressed visually by creating tall, sloped ceilings that let light in and create headroom in the loftstyle bedroom, a table that transforms for coffee to dining and a staircase which folds away.

The 20 roof-mounted solar panels collect more energy than the home requires, making μ-haus net positive in terms of energy. The roof also collects all the water necessary for the home, storing it in six cisterns in the crawlspace. Heating and cooling are supplied by a high SEER heat pump. Fresh air is supplies by two synced micro HRVs. The home is small and comfortable with basic  amenities. It is intended for a single occupant or young couples comfortable with sharing the space.


Theodore Ash 10x12 Barn Style Convertable

Posted on July 1, 2014 at 5:50 PM Comments comments (2)

I have designed this 10 by 12 foot barn style house to fit the restrictions found in some rural areas which allow for one or two buildings no larger than 120 square feet, or sometimes specifically no larger than 10 feet by 12 feet, to be constructed without a building permit. If a solar assisted, self-contained constructed wetland were used for black water recovery and gray water were reused whenever possible, you could safely avoid the need for standard septic as long as your local officials allowed these systems, and so long as you engineered them carefully. Water and snow catchment from the roof, as well as an air well system of some kind could negate the need for a well permit and the expense of a drilled well. This unique yet traditionally styled design includes a wet bath with toilet mounted lavatory sink and three foot square shower. It has a small but fully functional kitchen based around a tiled stove, and a guest bedroom in the form of a sofa bed. The tiled stove could be designed with dampers to control hot gas flow around the oven, under the burners, and could even include a heat exchanger for on demand hot water. Thanks to the design of the sleeping loft this quaint home could be built to accommodate four people plus have the futon serve as a guest room. This design shows a very basic aquaponics system, but in truth you could easily include a more complete and densely populated system. Power could be photovoltaic or wind, but an experimental idea is to combine solar thermal convection with an axial wind turbine. I am currently developing this unit as well as other power options such as ambient collection (ala Nikola Tesla) and nanohydro systems. Backups for power and hot water could be provided via propane, or by creating methane from a bioreactor, which could be more affordable. Heating is provided by the thermal mass rocket stove covered in tile or soapstone, sometimes called a Kachelofen. The supports for the folding loft are shown as hinged, but would be more stable if they were permanent. The cover for the fold out deck rolls up onto a pipe spool hung from rafters in the sleeping loft (not pictured) and the loft is accessed through a loft door with folding ladder such as are found on many homes. This design is shown standard framed on a concrete slab, but could be built using concrete piers as well. The storm cellar with pantry would be just off the front door to the north (away from the greenhouse) and would house a chest freezer and full size refrigerator.

Robyn McKinney Mobile House Design

Posted on July 1, 2014 at 11:35 AM Comments comments (0)

My design is made to start with a 16 ft by 8 ft utility trailer designed to hold the weight of a mobile house. It would need to be specially reinforced for this purpose and with proper axel strength for the additional weight of the whole house.

Next I designed it so that the weight would be balanced and not too heavy on the back end such that it would tend to lift the pulling vehicle up off the ground. In my attempt to do that I designed it with the kitchen as the place that one enters into the house and the bathroom being in the rear of the house. Centered in the middle of the house is the Living and Dining area along with the loft. I believe that the weight of the loft and bathroom will balance with the weight of the kitchen. The design includes a removable deck and stairs for both the front and the back of the house, so that when it is in place where it will remain most of the time, access to all the features of the design are made easy and more enjoyable as well as it will help to disguise the fact that there is a trailer below it.

The finished design with the removable decks not counted will measure less than 20 feet in length and it is less than 8 feet wide. The measurement to the very top from the ground including the trailer is less than 13 feet 6 inches. All of the actual dimensions are included in the design graphics shown below. The width is 7 feet 11 inches. The length with the extended decks removed is 19 feet 9 inches. The height is 13 feet 5 and 9/16 inches to the very highest point in the design including the clearance for the skylights. 

The construction design was made such that it is easy to lower the height by adjusting either the knee walls for the loft or the main floor walls. One may need to do that in the event that a floor platform is desired to be taller than the one that has been designed here or as your particular trailer requires and in or to gain or lesson the head height clearance. The head height clearance for the main floor as designed here is 6 feet 4 with a head height clearance of approximately 4 feet in the loft. In my design safety and easy escape from fire was a critical consideration. Therefore I designed it to have both a front door and a back door/window for egress. It is also designed to have access to the loft from either the front by a movable ladder and from the rear by way of an attic style pull down folding stairway along with a hatch door to cover the opening. This hatch cover provides for safe movement around in the loft and more actual usable space. There are specially constructed beams in the ceiling and 3 support posts in the loft.

There is an attractive open and closeable lattice style gate and rail to protect one from falling off the loft while in bed on the front side. Additionally I designed the electrical switch layouts with all 3 way light switches so that all the needed lights to get access to the loft can also be turned off from up in the loft once you are safely tucked away upstairs and so there is no need to risk going back down a ladder to turn off lights. In my design I planned the layout of the floor to allow for fully installed plumbing with an instant hot water unit located about in the middle of the houses right under the dining seats so as to feed both the kitchen and the bathroom. I have situated two clean water storage tanks in the 2 loft spaces that can be easily refilled with a water hose and that use either gravity to aid the water flow and pressure or water pumps as desired. One also would likely consider adding a water filtration system for the clean water. Below the floor are situated gray water and/or black water storage tanks that are easy to empty into appropriate dumping stations. My bathroom design can also alternatively be fitted with a composting toilet if desired. The bathroom shower space also doubles for the storage of a portable laundry washing machine which you would remove when taking a shower. The kitchen is fitted with lots of convenient cabinets, counter tops, and hanging pots and pans storage. On the right side of the kitchen area there is a single bowl sink, with either a built in 2 burner gas cook top installed or a removable 2 burner gas cooking unit that can also be taken out to a picnic table along with the propane gas tank. The window shelf on the front of the house holds an additional counter top for more prep area and appliances. Next space is provided for an under the counter refrigerator that can either be gas or electric. On the counter is room for a large toaster oven for baking. In the cabinets above is a place for a microwave shelf and other appliance storage needs.

Over the cook top area and sink area is located an under cabinet hood vent with lights. Over the sink is also located a window. Over the bumped out kitchen window on the front and the entry door is a kitchen loft providing an additional 12 inch deep cabinet storage space or for bookshelves and your sound system. On the left side of the kitchen area is a tall pantry type cabinet that also can function as a coat closet and provides for hanging storage and brooms. Next to that is a set of drawers for office equipment storage. Above that is a lighted unbreakable glass door cabinet to show off your nice dish and glassware storage. These cabinets can be mirrored inside to help give the appearance of more space and to help reflect the lights. To the left of the entry door is where the trash can and the propane gas boat heater is located. On the outside right front under the bumped out large kitchen window is locate a lockable enclosed gas tank storage garage which can also hold water hoses, extension cords and your tool boxes. This is built on a permanently attached approximately 1 foot wide deck with rails that is mounted and attached to the floor framing and over hangs only a portion of the v shaped front of the trailer base where the hitch is located. The removable deck, rails and stairs attach with bolts to this deck entry structure. If desired a hydraulic lift can be used to raise and lower the deck extension for transporting.

The cantilevered kitchen window and the kitchen loft above going across the front of the house creates a covered porch roof area for installation of outdoor entry lights and helps to protect the front entry door from rain. The front door is designed to swing out to open, but it can also swing inward as long as it clears the wall mounted heater. The dining area with pull out storage under the sofa and a drop down table can double for an additional sleeping space along with a blow up mattress that conveniently stores away underneath when not in use. A swivel mounted TV is attached to the one interior wall, the bathroom wall.

The living and dining area is flanked by 2 huge windows. There is one on each side of the house located at about the mid-point and this helps to give the feeling of a much larger space. This living area is located under the loft and it will have ample head room and lights. The loft is supported to the rear by the bathroom wall and to the front by 2 angled wood braces which tie into the wall construction and help to transfer the load down leaving no need for a post. The dining table is designed to sit two and to function also as a desk office space. Plenty of outlets are planned for this design and are also to be located up from the floor at the normal light switch height for easy access. Some outlets will still need to be down lower for appliance.

The loft can be accessed at the front by a removable ladder and at the back in the bathroom ceiling by a pull down unfolding and collapsible attic style stair case. Access to the bathroom is through a 4 foot wide sliding door. This sliding door can be mirrored with un breakable glass in a way much like a closet door which when closed will give the appearance of great bigness to the whole main floor space. This sliding door is made to be removable as well for easy access to the bathroom. If one prefers, a simple curtain can be hung to partition off the bathroom.

The shower stall is a 3 foot by 2 foot space and can have either a door or use just a shower curtain. The design calls for an additional water tank above the shower but just below the loft. The bathroom is equipped with a small hand sink mostly for teeth brushing and hand washing, which can both be done at the kitchen sink instead if desired.

There is a bathroom window over the toilet space and a small vented window in the shower area to help eliminate excess humidity. Additionally a bathroom vent fan is shown which helps to eliminate any unpleasant smells. The rear of the house can be accessed through a combination window/door. When the bathroom sliding door is open this also gives the appearance that the interior of the house is much longer. All of the windows in this design help to enlarge and bring the outside space in. They also help to cool the space by providing good cross ventilation.

The house is designed to have a ceiling fan and two skylights as well. A large skylight is located over the kitchen area and a small skylight is in the bedroom loft area. Both allow trapped heat to escape up and out which is what heat naturally wants to do. The ceiling fan also helps to circulate the heat from the heater which is located in the front of the house and helps to provide for an even temperature throughout. This house is designed to be energy efficient and fully insulated. All windows should be double paned and well flashed, caulked and sealed. This house has gutters and downspouts for water collection.

For off grid energy the houses roof is designed to be able to position solar panels on either side and on the top. These would be removed when moving the house. The small fixed back deck of the house is where the locked garage storage units are located for the solar system components. These components include the batteries, the controller and the inverter. Located on the back outside of the house is the access door for the breaker panels and if desired the on grid power connection point. Located on both sides of the house are plug-ins for feeding electricity to the house through extension cords, much like any type of RV would have. This electrical design calls for 3 breakers. There is one for the outlets and lights on each side of the house and a separate dedicated breaker for the water heater and possible pumps.

All of the light fixtures should be low energy lights. Designed as an alternative for electric lights, one can use gas camping lanterns and hands free hangers are shown located in several critical locations. Now up to the loft area. \

This design provides for a very nice roomy space upstairs with the dormer like triple windows on both sides and the unique roof design gives plenty of head room for movement around in the loft. As a throwback to the way distant past, when there was no indoor plumbing, a chamber pot can be located in the loft for those emergencies often arising in the middle of the night. No need to climb down. There is a built in closet space with hanging pole to the left and ample cabinets and low dressers for storage of cloths. The headboard of the bed doubles as a lift top storage for blankets, sheets and such.




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