Simple Solar Homesteading

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Jay Craig U Haul Conversion Home

Posted on October 4, 2020 at 4:55 PM


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

Categories: Off Grid Houses On The Move Contest 2020

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