Simple Solar Homesteading

Off-Grid Cabin and Tiny House Designs and Supplies
Not-For-Profit Social Service Organization


Tyler Rodgers Ty-ny House

Posted on July 1, 2014 at 9:30 AM

The design of this house is meant to integrate elements of a simple and open floor plan with those of an environmentally-conscious off-grid lifestyle. The house is 400sqft, with a 200sqft 10’x20’ living space, and a 160sqft front porch and 40sqft back porch, which are included in the house’s footprint. Key features of the house include the large arrays of windows, rainwater recycling system, solar energy systems, solar water heater, solar water purifier, woodstove water heater, and greywater system. I estimate that the house could be built for $15,000, but cost could be reduced with the inclusion of recycled and salvaged materials.


The house utilizes standard 2x4 framing, and conventional white siding. The house could be insulated with fiberglass, foam board, or SIPs. The roof is metal, and is the platform for the set of solar panels that serve as the house’s power source and the solar water heater. The roof over the house is one single sloping surface, and can channel rainwater into a gutter at its bottom. The windows are double-paned and can open.

Water Heating and Circulation

The primary source of water for the house is rainwater. A well could also be included in the design to supplement this. In the dwelling’s rainwater collection system, rain hits the roof and flows down to a gutter at the front. The gutter has a slight downward tilt, which carries the water to the right side of the house, where it travels down a pipe to a set of rain barrels. While traveling down the pipe, the water turns a set of water wheels, which generate part of the power needed to pump the water through the system to the solar water heater. Excess energy generated by the water wheels would be used to power the appliances in the house.

The house has two systems for heating water. The first is the solar water heater located on the front porch roof. The second is the woodstove, located next to a water storage tank on the back porch. The woodstove method is a backup system, and works by heating water as it travels through a copper coil wrapped around the stove pipe. This water can then go to the shower or kitchen.

The back porch of the house contains a small reflector pool that can have several functions, depending on the preference of the homeowner. The first would be a solar water purifier, in which rainwater is placed in the pool, sunlight hits the glass above it, and then the purified water which hits the glass is carried by a slight slope to a small basin where it is collected.

(See this design: The second use would be as a hot tub, connected to the solar heater or woodstove heater. The third use is simply extra water storage.

The house also has a greywater system, in which used water from the kitchen and shower are directed to an underground tank and filtration system. From this point, the greywater is used to water the hanging gardens on the back side of the house and for the lawn irrigation system. (In the garden, the water would touch only the soil, and not the edible parts of the plants.)

Energy Sources:

The house’s main source of energy is the set of solar panels on the roof, which powers the kitchen appliances, digital projector that functions as the TV, and other electrical components in the house. The panels are connected to a group of batteries stored under the daybed in the house’s interior. The waterwheels in the rain system also provide some additional power.


The house’s many windows enable the house to be warmed by passive solar heating during the winter. During the summer, blinds could be used over the windows to reduce the solar energy entering the house. (The windows would also be opened during the summer to provide ventilation.) A small Dickinson Marine Propane heater is the house’s main source of heat in the winter. The stovetop in the kitchen also uses propane.

The Interior:

The arrangement of the living and kitchen spaces and the large windows are meant to give the home an open feeling and ample natural light. The kitchen space contains a five foot long counter, which has a large sink and propane stovetop. (The stovetop can be stowed to free up counter space.) Under the counter is a mini refrigerator, drawers, and a pullout spice rack. The kitchen also has a circular table that folds up from the front wall. Folding chairs are stowed under the table. (Not pictured in model.)

The bathroom is 4’ 5 ½” x 5’. It is accessed through a sliding barn door. It is a European/marine style bathroom, with all of the shower water draining through a central hole in the floor. The bathroom has a small sink and sawdust composting toilet.

The living area of the house has a daybed that doubles as a couch and sleeping space. Under the bed is a set of drawers and the components of the solar energy system. The headboard of this bed is a large set of shelves. If a loft were to be included in the design over the kitchen and bathroom, this shelf would double as a ladder to the loft space. On the left side of the house is a storage area that has two closets and a dresser. The first closet is for hanging clothing, the second houses the marine stove. (The inside is lined with metal sheeting.) In front of the left wall there is also a lounge chair.


The large 4’x 6’3” window on the back wall of the house is directly across from the one on the front of the house, and doubles as a door out to the back porch. This porch has the reflecting pool, as well as a hammock. Next to the porch on the back of the house is the hanging vegetable garden. The front porch has a hanging daybed, and could also have a small table on its left side.

Categories: 2014 Contest Submissions

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