Updated Tiny Solar House Plans

I just finished making some refinements to the Tiny Solar House plans based on the suggestions I got from my last post. I’ve added a little more bracing in the walls, an alternate floor plan, a materials list (with cost estimate), and a sketch of how the photovoltaic (PV) panel array might work. Actually I’d like really like to hear what you think about this idea for mounting the PV panels, but all feedback is welcome as always.

I’m imagining a horizontal pipe attached to the back of the house that extends about five feet out from the front wall. On this pipe a metal rack designed to hold PV panels could be attached. The panels would then be tilted toward the sun and locked into place at the most optimal angle for the time of year and latitude. This would maximize the efficiency of the array. If the home-owner wanted to turn the house away from the sun, like during the hot days of summer, the PV panels could simply be flipped over.

The only tricky part that I can think of would be securing the long pipe against the house and keeping the PV array sturdy in strong winds. The panels would also need to be removed for transport. This is not ideal however I suspect the added system efficiency would out-weight the inconvenience of removing them. But if you have a better idea I’d love to hear it.

I’m also looking into other ways of generating electricity for this tiny solar house. One of the suggestions I received was to add a wind turbine. Grant suggested the Chispito Wind Generator, which is a small low-cost wind turbine kit that can product 100 watts in 30 mph winds. It seems like a good idea to have a diverse off-the-grid system utilizing wind and photovoltaic panels.

Download Free House Plans – 8×16 Tiny Solar House v.1

18 thoughts on “Updated Tiny Solar House Plans

  1. SteveR says:

    Hi Michael,

    Very nice improvements. Thanks for doing that!

    I think the solar panel would ultimately have to go on the roof with an angled bracket, which, when travelling would allow it to fold down and be secured flat against the roof.
    The reason for that is the need for changing angles of the sun during the different seasons and the arc of the sun.
    In the summer, you will find that the optimal angle of the panel is almost flat as the sun goes directly overhead. In the winter, the sun angle is very low and so it needs to be tilted as you have it shown, but it will end up in the shade for about 1/2 of the day from the shadow of the tiny house itself.

    No amount of repositioning the house would give you optimal angles for both solar gain and maximum PV power.

    I would also want solar hot water, so I think with this roof configuration a bracket would be the best option.

    Your materials list is still missing quite a few things but as you said, it’s just indicative. I’ll have to put together a NZ pricing version for you just to show how this would have to be done differently here. My rough calculation was that just the plywood would run 1/2 the cost you quoted. A 5/8 sheet runs $60 here and a 1/2″ would be about $40. Of course that’s NZD but hey, that’s what I have to buy the materials with!


  2. Kieran says:

    Hi, Michael!

    Thanks for your wonderful work, and for taking the time to draw up alternate interior plans.

    After reading version one’s comments, I appreciate the shed design and “window wall” having lived in Michigan, with the ideal of someday moving to Alaska.

    A thought I had regarding the PV: my original idea of having it mounted as a pivoting unit on the roof I could not figure out, because of the roof being made of corrugated (I wasn’t certain whether things can be attached easily to that type of surface).

    However, I thought of this idea, though it’s only based on looking at the sketch of the exterior (the first sketch of yours with the person by the house)… what if the PV unit was attached at the end of the house, on the long side with the windows, right after the last window, placed vertically as a pivoting unit that can attach, say, by hook and clasp, to the wall: would it work out well enough so that in the winter, when the sun is at a certain angle, it could pivot open and rest on a kickstand that rested against the house; and in the summer, when the windows are facing north, and when the sun is overhead, the PV unit could pivot outward, fully flat, so that it faces upwards, horizontally, toward the sun, and the “pivoting kickstand” could rest, like a table-leg, on the ground, holding it up? (Sorry for the long idea description, and for it being one, long sentence.) Just an idea; since I don’t know much about solar energy, I can’t say whether my idea would really work or not.)

    The only problem being is that I like Steve’s idea of having a solar hot-water-heater, too.

    Take care, and thanks again!

  3. rob says:

    Why not fit the panel on the roof? If the problem is that the slope is away from the sun then the third of the house which doesn’t have windows at the front could have a roof section which slopes in the opposite direction to the rest of the roof. i.e. one third of the roof slopes to face the sun. (a diagram would make this much clearer) The panel could then be fixed to this. This would complicate the roof slightly but would be a much more sensible place for the panel.

  4. Tim R. says:

    In the above design the bottom of the solar panels would be shaded by the roof in the morning. I like Kierans idea of mounting the solar panels on the south wall next to the windows. They would be easier to adjust and clean(no ladder required) and would create a porch like awning one could sit under. It could fold up against the wall for transport. Something like this wall mount rack: http://www.newenglandsolar.com/catalog_pages/module_racks.htm
    Or mount them on the ground something like this: http://tinyhouseblog.com/stick-built/elizabeth-turnbull-update/
    The panels and mount could be folded up and put inside the trailer for transport or if you heard a large hail storm was coming your way like what we just had here in Austin, Tx. 🙂 If being mobile wasn’t a priority you could just mount the panels on pole in the ground.
    Keep the ideas coming!

  5. Tim R. says:

    Another thing to remember about being as far north as Alaska is that the orientation of solar panels will be nearly vertical. Another good reason for a wall mount. I’ve seen photos of research stations near the north pole with their solar panels mounted straight vertical. Which is really weird when I think about the sun not being overhead like where I’m at.

    • Michael Janzen says:

      OK… you’re all doing a good job of convincing me to keep it simple… or like my daughter has learned to say… “Duh Daddy” 🙂

      That spot on the right side of the windows is a prime location.

  6. John Boulden says:

    I am passionate about the “Tiny House Movement”. I think is both generous and even nobel that you and others offer free plans to the public. You’re plans serve to free people from the clutches of our own economy, but also as catylists for other new designs. I would like to see more designs with disabled/challenged folks in mind. I have mixed connective tissue disease (lupus and scleraderma). Also a brown recluse spider forced removal of a large portion of my right shin. There will be a time when ladders and lofts will not be an option for me. Although not the norm in a tiny house, a rv type slide room may offer to replace some space lossed by not using a loft. I don’t mean super slides with hydro/pnumatic mechanics. I think with adequate leveraging using long car type jacks, a slide could be moved safely, without wasting electricity or adding the weight of motors. I am an amature in all this, but I will soon post my ideas for handicap/challenge appropriate tiny houses.

    P.S. I like the design pictured above. I would recommend the solar pannels for relocation or shielding from the front door though. Foosball anyone?

    • Michael Janzen says:

      Thanks John… Ironically this very issue came up recently in a little meetup we had a month or two ago. So we (in general) are hearing the message loud and clear. I’ve got a couple designs in the works and an update to my Tiny Prefab ebook that will include a 16-foot wide option. While this will not be trailer based it would much more easily work for those who have some trouble getting around and need to sleep on the same level they live.


  7. mike says:

    I wonder if you used pv panels as the blades of a wind turbine pointed at the sun if that would increase energy collection efficiency?

  8. jay says:

    Maybe put the panels on the opposite end (outside the bath instead of the entry) and on the tall side instead of the short side to reduce shade on them. I didn’t read the other comments, so sorry if I’m being redundant.

  9. Bill says:

    You’ve given me some new ideas for the project I’m working on.

    I’ll come back and post with an update of how I’m making out once I get further along.

    thank you for sharing

  10. Magssno says:

    It must be the time of year! My hubby has been working on a similar project and your post has made him stop and re-think some aspects which may have turned out to be huge errors!

  11. Edward says:

    This is the project that is most necessary now. If we can develop solar panel for household use then we can save a huge amount of pollution. What is the cost for this installation? I think the cost of solar panel is the main reason that people are not heavily interested to the solar panel.

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