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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Jay Craig U Haul Conversion Home

Posted on October 4, 2020 at 4:55 PM Comments comments (0)


I’m building an Off Grid Tiny House out of a 17’ UHaul, which I found to be a great platform.

 I’ve got a 3’x8’ bathroom (with door) with an on-demand hot water shower and a composting toilet. I mounted a deck light (a glass prism used to add light below ship decks) in the roof for natural light.

 On the roof are eight solar panels and an 8’x10’ rain collector for the shower. I have a skylight over my bed, which provides natural light in the day and a view of the stars at night.

I kept a small propane fireplace from the last boat I lived on and it keeps my well insulated home nice and toasty. I also use propane for my shower and for cooking with a stove, oven and outdoor grill.

I used reclaimed materials as much as possible, and, not counting my labor, I’m into it for about $15,000. I bought the box truck for $5,000 and have spent about $10,000 in parts and materials in the two years I’ve been working on this project.

My composting toilet is the most efficient and odorless composting toilet I’ve seen.


I built a box less than 3’x2’x2’ in the corner with a seat on top and a hatch on the outside. The solid waste drops into a 5 gallon bucket that is lined with a 100% compostable bag and is covered with a scoop of sawdust and coffee grounds (you can also use coconut coir but you have to buy it). Every two or three days I dispose of the solid waste which can go into a barrel and let to compost for 6-12 months, or simply double-paper bagged and thrown in the trash.

The liquid is flushed with a little water and diverted outside and into a flower box and the nutrients are used to help grow succulents-

Water heater, 5L 1.32 GPM- Rainwater hits the 8’x10’ panel, goes into the downspout, through a filter and into the interior tank. To turn on the shower all you do is pull a knob that turns on the electric pump. As the water enters the water heater the propane fires instantly and heats the water.

I used one five gallon tank of propane last year, so between that, the rain and solar power to run the pump, I had a hot shower every day for a year for about $15.


For the sink I have a five-gallon jug that I fill at Whole Foods for 45 cents a gallon. It sits below the counter and I use an electric pump I found online for about $15 that works great. 

Solar- I got two 100 watt solar systems from Harbor Freight for about $350. They’ve been great from the start and I don’t even think about them anymore. It cost another 6 or $700 for two deep cycle batteries and cables so that was about $5/watt. I’ll be adding another 300 watts when I can.

Natural light- Skylights can be problematic with solar panels and a large rain collector so I ended up with a deck prism for my bathroom and a skylight on a bump out I made for my bed.


The deck prism adds as much light as probably a 50 or 60 watt light bulb but requires no electricity. I have an LED battery powered lantern for nighttime.

When I built the bump out for my bed, I thought it would be cool to have a skylight but it turns out to also add a tremendous amount of light and it doesn’t take away from my solar or rain collection. I also have a small skylight over the bump out I made for my stove and oven.

Materials- I used salvaged items and materials whenever possible. I got a locker from a bowling alley for $100 and turned it into a hanging clothes cabinet. I also found a great solid mahogany door with beautiful leaded glass for $100 and chopped it down to fit. I got a lot of my wood from Home Depot, though, because it was affordable. But what I did was either burn it with a torch to look cool, or use the rough side and paint it with oil base paint because I love the look of rough wood and shiny paint.

 Jay Craig

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.



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