Posts Tagged Electrical

Which Tiny House Water Heater Should I Buy? Advice From A Full Time Tiny Houser

Which Tiny House Water Heater Should I Buy? Advice From A Full Time Tiny Houser

tiny house hot water heatersIf there is one thing I love about my tiny house, it’s the tiny house hot water heater I currently have. After living in my tiny house for over 7 years, I’ve actually gone through a few tiny house water heaters, but there has been one that stood out from the rest. I’ll get to that soon.

My Top 5 Tiny House Hot Water Heaters:

Rinnai
V53DeP
Precision Temp RV-550 Eco Temp
L5
Eco Temp
L10
Rheem
RTEX-11
Rinnai V53DeP Precision Temp RV-550 Eco Temp L5 Eco Temp L10 Rheem RTEX-11
My Ranking
Flow Rate 5.3 GPM 1.5 GPM 1.5 GPM 2.9 GPM 2.68 GPM
Energy Type Propane/Natural Gas Propane Propane Propane Propane
Why Consider Best performance and build quality Good option for 12-volt systems Great for outdoor showers Budget friendly with good functionality Super compact
Who Is It Best For General and off-grid water heating RVs Weekend cabins and seasonal outdoor showers Budget-minded tiny house folks Those on the grid
Price $550 $1,195 $129 $349 $275
BUY NOW BUY NOW BUY NOW BUY NOW BUY NOW

tiny house hot water heater comparison

how to build a tiny house

Rinnai V53DeP

Rinnai V53DeP hot water heater

Rinnai V53DeP
Rinnai V53DeP
My Ranking
Flow Rate 5.3 GPM
Energy Type Propane or Natural Gas
Why Consider Best power and build quality
Who Is It Best For General and off-grid water heating
Price $550
BUY NOW

I mentioned that of all the tiny house hot water heaters I’ve had over the years, there was one that stood out, and this was it. Rinnai has been in the tankless hot water scene for a very long time. Way before most of us even heard of this company, they were building hot water heaters.

I think it’s very telling that every time a plumber has come to my house (not to fix the water heater), they always say something to the effect of “that’s a great choice” or “Rinnai is the best for tankless”. After using my V53 for close to 5 years, I have to emphatically agree.

You can order these units in a propane version (denoted by the P at the end of the model number) or in a natural gas version (N model). This is a direct vent style that is made to mount outside your tiny house, which is very important. Venting is a huge pain in a tiny house because you need to use such large ducting. It’s much easier to just mount it on the outside.

These units have freeze protection and you can buy an optional dump valve if the power goes out. This is the best option for an off-the-grid hot water heater that I’ve found. Running on propane is easy. I just have normal 20 lb. propane tanks hooked up to it and can heat my water and cook on my stove (also propane) for about 2-3 months per tank.

At 5.3 gallons per minute (GPM) this will give you endless hot water even if you have a shower going and two sinks. These units come in at around $550 and it’s money well spent. These units are built to a very high standard, in my experience.

Precision Temp RV-550

Precision Temp RV-550 hot water heater

Precision Temp RV-550
Precision Temp RV-550
My Ranking
Flow Rate 1.5 GPM
Energy Type Propane
Why Consider Good option for 12 volt systems
Who Is It Best For RVs
Price $1,195
BUY NOW

I put this one next because I know it’s a very popular water heat for tiny houses. However, I’ve had three of these now and each one of them was plagued with issues. At a price of $1,195, there is no excuse for it to not work well when it’s already twice the price of the next most expensive competitor.

I’ve detailed why I don’t recommend this company for tiny house hot water heaters in this post. The biggest issue I had was when I received my first unit, I noticed an odd rattle inside it. I decided to open it up, only to find the internal vent loose, so all the carbon monoxide created by the unit would have blown right into my house instead of venting outside. That could have killed me.

Now there are some reasons that people like these units. First off, it’s designed for RVs and campers, so it can handle lower flow rates than some of the competitors. At 1.5 GPM this will be able to run a low flow shower head or a sink, but not really both at once.

Another thing to know is that this unit doesn’t have the same BTUs as the other units. My Rinnai has a max BTU output of 120,000 BTUs, while the RV-550 only has 55,000 BTUs. What that means in practical terms is that in my mild winters in North Carolina, the best the RV-550 could do was make my water warm, but not hot.

To be fair, Precision Temp is very transparent about this, but I didn’t understand what 55k BTUs really meant practically even after reviewing their site and literature.

So to sum up, it’s twice the price, half the BTUs and, in my experience, workmanship on these units is not acceptable.

Eco Temp L5

Eco Temp L5 hot water heater

Eco Temp L5
Eco Temp L5
My Ranking
Flow Rate 1.5 GPM
Energy Type Propane
Why Consider Great for outdoor showers
Who Is It Best For Weekend cabins and seasonal outdoor showers
Price $129
BUY NOW

This is another very popular tankless hot water heater that many people consider when thinking about building a tiny house. I actually recommend this to a lot of people… In very specific circumstances. I think if you use this hot water heater in the right case, you’ll love it. But if you try to do something it’s not really meant for, you’ll be disappointed.

This hot water heater is designed for those who need hot water in more remote or austere conditions: your weekend rustic cabin, going camping, setting up a temporary shower or if you need hot water in some remote part of your property.

This unit is designed to be used seasonally with less-than-permeant usage.

What that means is if you have this as your main tiny house hot water heater, you’re going to be disappointed. It’s an attractive option at $129, but for everyday use, you’ll want something more robust.

What I use this for is my outdoor shower. I’ve used the L5 for years now as an outdoor shower and it’s amazing for that. I have a simple platform I stand on and I mount this unit on a single screw on a vertical post. I connect my garden hose and a 20 lb. propane tank and in literally 2 minutes I am taking a nice, hot shower.

For the price, this unit is a great buy. One downside I’ve found is that if there is any real wind, the unit’s flame will go out. You can do some shielding around it, but because this unit is a direct vent unit, you need to keep it outside — never bring it inside!

Eco Temp L10

Eco Temp L10 hot water heater

Eco Temp L10
Eco Temp L10
My Ranking
Flow Rate 2.9 GPM
Energy Type Propane
Why Consider Budget friendly with good features
Who Is It Best For Budget minded tiny house folks
Price $349
BUY NOW

If you’ve considered the other Eco Temp model but want something that’s going to be more reliable for your house in everyday use, this is a great option. The L10 is designed to be used on a house for everyday use at 2.9 GPM, where the L5 is more for camping applications.
At $349, this strikes a very good balance of cost vs. value. I’ll be upfront and say that this company is a lower-tier manufacturer from China relative to Rinnai, but I’ve found they do a good job for the price. While you can see the products are no frills, they do a decent job with the important things.

The biggest difference between this one and the Rinnai is that the heat exchanger on this unit is made of less copper. You can see that this heat exchanger is silver in color from the different (cheaper) alloys used to make up the most important part of the unit. The Rinnai uses high-quality copper in it, which makes for a better product, but copper is much more expensive.

This one is also an outdoor mounted version, so venting is a breeze and it also runs on propane, which I find to be the easiest fuel source.

Rheem RTEX-11

Rheem RTEX-11 hot water heater

Rheem RTEX-11
Rheem RTEX-11
My Ranking
Flow Rate 2.68 GPM
Energy Type Propane
Why Consider Super compact
Who Is It Best For For those living on the grid
Price $275
BUY NOW

The last option here is the Rheem RTEX-11, and this is one that I looked at seriously for my tiny house. The biggest benefit of this unit is that it’s so compact — only 8 inches wide x 13 inches tall x 4 inches thick. That’s about a tenth the size of all the others on this list.

The reason for that isthat Rheem units use electric to heat your water. This unit comes in 8, 11, and 13 kilowatt versions. The 8 KW version might be a little too small for your needs, while the 11 KW version would be perfect for tiny houses at a flow rate of 2.68 GPM. One benefit to electric models is that you don’t have to vent, so this unit can be tucked under your counters, back in a corner of your cabinets.

If I was able to be on the grid, this would be the unit I’d have gone with. A lot of the plumbers I talked with said Rinnai was their personal favorite, but Rheem was a close second. Being that I live off the grid, I have to heat my water with propane.

It is also hard to beat the price at $275. With this high quality of a unit in such a small housing, this is a great hot water heater option for your tiny house.

tiny house plumbing

Tiny House Water Heater Buying Guide

Tiny House Water Heater Buying Guide

Choosing a hot water heater for your tiny house is an important decision because it will impact your designs, utility connections and if you can go on or off grid. Hot water is also one of those hallmarks of civilization if you ask me, nothing is better than taking a long hot shower.

Here are some things to think about when choosing a tiny house water heater:

Tankless Vs. Traditional

Tankless Vs. Traditional hot water heaters

Let me make this simple: you want tankless. Traditional hot water heaters have large tanks that hold water and heat it constantly. Not only is this pretty inefficient because you’re heating water when you aren’t using it (which is most of the time), but these are also very heavy.
Water is about 8.2 lbs. per gallon and in a tiny house, every ounce matters. Having a traditional water heater means you need a much bigger trailer, and that adds up fast. Along with weight, traditional water heaters are also much larger, which isn’t ideal in such a small space. Tankless hot water heaters typically take up a lot less space, making it easy to mount in a corner under a cabinet or on the outside of your house entirely.

Tankless hot water hearts are also a huge step up over tanked hot water heaters because you can never run out of hot water. The price of traditional models isn’t that much cheaper either, so the cost versus benefit of tankless is a clear winner.

If you want to be off the grid, tankless running off of propane or natural gas is really the only practical method unless you use a wood stove, which is a real pain.

Indoor Vs. Outdoor Installations

hot water heater Indoor Vs. Outdoor Installations

This is another simple decision: outdoor installation is ideal. Indoor mounted hot water heaters require you to vent them with vent tubes. These tubes are pretty hefty and mean you have to cut a large hole in your wall to vent properly.

Compared this to an outdoor installation that you can vent right outside with no extra work involved. Mine mounted in about 5 minutes and the vent was already built into my unit, so I couldn’t screw it up if I tried.

Indoor units can be tricky to vent, requiring certain offsets and maximum vent lengths that are shorted by each elbow you put in the vent tube. The only time I’d opt for an indoor mounted unit is if I lived in a place that was prone to super cold temperatures.

Between the ease of installation and the fact that you aren’t taking up any indoor space, I’d suggest an outdoor mounted tankless hot water heater.

Energy Source: Propane Vs. Natural Gas Vs. Electric

Propane Vs. Natural Gas Vs. Electric

This really comes down to if you want to be off the grid or not. If you’re going to be off the grid or might be some day, propane or natural gas is the way to go.

If you’re going to be in one spot and have a gas delivery truck fill up a larger tank, natural gas is most likely the way to go. If you’re on the go or just getting your own gas, I’d suggest propane because it’s more readily available.

If you’re on the grid, the electric models from Rheem are really nice and super compact, plus there are no gas lines to mess with — a bonus in my book since running gas lines can be dangerous and always makes me nervous.

Off-Grid Hot Water Heating

Off-Grid Hot Water Heating

Much to my point above, if you’re going to be off the grid, a gas option is really your best bet. I crunched the numbers on what it would cost to add additional solar panels to my system to offset the need for propane and it was going to cost me an additional $15,000 just to have an electric hot water heater.

I like to keep in mind that my house is totally off the grid, running on solar power, so I’m already treading very lightly on the earth. If I use 80lbs of propane per year, I’m still much better than most out there.

Many people ask about heating their tiny house and their water with a wood stove, but my advice is to avoid this unless you already live with a wood stove that is your primary source of heat. Wood stoves are often romanticized by people when designing their tiny house. The reality is that you’ll be waking up to a pretty cold house each morning, hot water won’t be ready for at least an hour, and it doesn’t heat much water to begin with.

Go with a gas option for heating water off the grid — you’ll thank me later.

solar power for tiny houses

Hot Water Heater Venting

Hot Water Heater Venting

If you have a hot water heater that is installed inside your tiny house, you’ll need to vent it if it uses any form of combustion. Venting isn’t something to take lightly because there are so many ways to do it wrong and mistakes can lead to deadly results.

Vents are usually metal ducting that captures fumes and exhaust from your hot water heater and directs them outside. They may also have an air inlet to bring in fresh air for combustion.

Venting usually has a lot of technical parameters from the manufacturer around how far the vent tube can stretch, the type of ducting you use, offsets or clearances from combustibles materials, and other technical bits to make sure you do it right.

I prefer to have outdoor mounted hot water heaters because it avoids all the headaches and potential dangers. If you do decide to use a unit that requires venting, follow the manufacturers directions carefully.

Preventing Freezing

Preventing a hot water heater from freezing

Another area that you can go wrong with hot water heaters in a tiny house is having pipes freeze. Most units today have some sort of frost prevention mechanisms, usually a heating coil for outdoor mounted units. Indoor mounted units don’t really have to worry about this.

If you live in a very cold climate, indoor mounted options might make a lot of sense, even if it’s an indoor mount in an unheated enclosure that’s been insulated well. The best advice I’d say is to follow local wisdom on how to prevent freezing.

You want to try to minimize the PEX lines outside your heated space and, where possible, insulate and apply heating strip tape to them for frost prevention.

Your Turn!

  • What are your plans for your tiny house hot water heater?

Solar Panels For Tiny Houses: How I Went Off Grid With My Tiny House With Solar Power

Solar Panels For Tiny Houses: How I Went Off Grid With My Tiny House With Solar Power

solar power for tiny houses

It’s hard to imagine that I’ve been powering my tiny house off solar panels for my tiny house for over 7 years now! Not having a power bill for almost a decade has been incredible. With that in mind, I wanted to get some real-world experience with my system to give you all the full picture of what it’s really like to power your tiny house with solar: how many panels, how much does it cost, and more.

 

Solar Panels For A Tiny House

choosing solar panels for a tiny house

Many people have asked me about putting solar panels on a tiny house because I’m one of the few out there that is totally off the grid in my tiny house. I’ve had to figure things out like how to run my air conditioning off solar, how to cook with solar in a solar oven, and how I use solar generators as backup power in a pinch.

Tiny houses are a great candidate for solar power because the smaller space makes for low power needs. While the traditional home in America uses around 30 KWs per day, my tiny house uses around 3 KWs per day.

Every decision I made during my tiny house build, from choosing LEDs lights, to a super-efficient minisplit system, and an on demand hot water heater all were chosen to reduce my power consumption. Since I built my own house, these decisions were pretty simple and, in the end, didn’t cost me much more. Any additional costs for things like a high SEER rating HVAC system quickly paid for themselves by letting me have a smaller solar panel array and batteries.

How Much Power Does A Tiny House Use?

A tiny house will use around 4 KWs per day. Typically, around 80% of that power will be used for heating and cooling, assuming you cook and heat water with propane or natural gas.

Here is an example of my power usage breakdown:

  • Minisplit (heating/cooling): 3,000 watts per day
  • Fridge: 780 watts per day
  • Lights: 100 watts per day
  • Cell Phone: 30 watts per day
  • Laptop: 240 watts per day

Total: 4,150 watts per day

How Many Panels Do You Need To Power A Tiny House?

how many solar panels for a tiny house

15 solar panels will power a typical tiny house. This assumes an average sized solar panel of around 300 watts, which would generate around 4,500 watts of power from the sun. This would cover all your power needs including some heating and cooling, but require you to have a gas cook range and a propane heated hot water heater. If you live in a particularly cold climate, you’ll most likely need to supplement your heating with a propane heater too.

How many solar panels can you fit on a tiny house roof?

how many solar panels can you fit on a tiny house

Generally speaking, you can only fit around 2 solar panels on a tiny house roof. This presents a real challenge because today you can really only expect to make around 20 watts per square foot of solar panel in ideal circumstances. That means you’re only going to be able to fit around 600 watts of solar production on a tiny house roof, which isn’t a whole lot.

Mounting Solar Panels On A Tiny House Roof

mounting solar panels on a tiny house

Many people want solar panels on the roof of their tiny house, but I opted for a ground mounted solar array, which I highly recommend. Tiny house roofs only have around 200 square feet of space and since most roofs are pitched, you can really only mount panels on one side. This means you only have around 100 square feet of space for panels.

What I did was mount my solar panels on stands on the ground. After considering all the options: roof mounted, pole mounted, solar trackers, and fixed ground mount, I’m really happy with my decision.

solar panels for homestead

The benefits of a ground mounted array are huge: being able to easily clean my panels, clear off snow that covers my panels after a snow fall, keeping the panels cooler (increases their efficiency) and being able to shade my house while placing the panels in an open field.

The biggest benefit of ground mounting my panels is that I could have a way bigger solar panel array. This meant instead of 600 watts on the roof of my tiny house, I could put 4,000 watts on the ground in the field right next to my tiny house.

My Tiny House Solar Panel System:

My tiny house solar panels system

To get your tiny house setup on solar you’ll need the following parts: your panels, batteries, a charge controller and an inverter. Simply put, your solar panels take the energy from the sun an converts it to DC power, that then flows to the charge controller which regulates the flow of power to the batteries or the inverter, the batteries stores power for later and the inverter converts the DC power to AC power, which your house uses.

solar panel system parts list

Here’s the key details of my solar power system:

  • 3,975 (3.9 KW) of panels Schneider SW 4024 – fifteen, 265 watt panels
  • 1,110 amp/hr battery storage
  • 24 volt system

My Tiny House Solar Setup:

  • (15) Canadian Solar CS-6p 265 Watt Poly Black Frame
  • Schneider SW 4024 Inverter
  • Schneider MPPT 60 Charge Controller
  • (12) Trojan L-16 6v 370 AH Flooded Lead Acid Batteries
  • Schneider System Control Panel
  • Schneider Interconnect Panel
  • Midnight Solar MNPV 80AMP Dinrail Breaker
  • Midnight Solar Surge Protection Device AC/DC
  • 50 Amp RV power Inlet

 

How To Build A Solar Power System For Your Tiny House

how to build a tiny house solar panel system

Before anything I needed to determine the best placement for the solar panels to make sure it had good solar exposure and didn’t fall into shadows too much. To do this I used a tool called a “solar path finder” which is a semi reflective dome that you position at the location, then snap a photo.

The photo is then loaded into a program and spits out a whole bunch of calculations.

solar path finder tool for calculating solar gain

 

Calculating Power Production

calculating your power needs

Once you upload the image into the software and then trace the tree line outline, you enter in your location, date and time. It then can calculate how much power you’ll produce based on 30 years of weather patterns for your exact location and tree coverage. Then it spits out all the calculations:

solar pathfinder reading from photo

solar power production chart

 

With that in mind, I knew what I could expect out of the system I had designed. It also was a way to verify my assumptions.

Once I verified that the system was going to be well suited to my needs, I had to build my panel support racking. I did this out of pressure treated 4×4’s that were each 10′ long. These things about 300 lbs each so I don’t have to worry about the wind picking up the panels.

I opted to build them because it was cheaper than some of the turn-key option out there and most of the for purchase ones required me to cement in the ground; I rent my land, so I wanted a mobile solution. If I remember correctly it was about $500 in materials to build this part.

solar panel supports for panels

Many people have asked why I didn’t mount these on my tiny house roof. You technically can mount on your roof, but honestly, the number of panels that you need to practically power your house is too many for the roof.

There are some other major bonuses of being on the ground:

  • Much cooler, roofs are very hot places in the summer and solar panels drop in efficiency when hot
  • I can put my house under deciduous trees, this means in summer I’m in the shade, in winter I get the solar gain
  • Way easier to clean and monitor

solar panels outside my tiny house

Cleaning your panels is pretty important because you loose efficiency as residue (bird poop) builds up. Also, as I learned just a few days ago, when it snows, you need to clear your panels. Cleaning becomes super simple and a lot safer when you don’t have to climb onto a roof via a ladder.

Just this week we got a decent snow, 3 inches, which is quite a lot for Charlotte. The first thing I had to do when I woke up was clear off the panels because, with the snow, they made no power. This was compounded because since it was cold, I needed more heat. I can’t imagine having to drag the ladder out and try climbing on an icy roof… No Thanks.

Choosing To Wire For AC Or DC From Solar

wire your home for AC or DC on solar

Many people have read around the internet that DC (direct current) is a more efficient power way to power things. Generally speaking, everything in a traditional house is wired for AC (alternating current), but if you’re putting solar in a tiny house and building your own house, the question becomes relevant when you’re starting from scratch. Solar panels produce DC power, so you have to decide how you’re going to handle it.

tiny house kitchen powered by solar

Most of the advice to wire a house for DC power comes from older sources who haven’t updated; these could be old articles written on the topic (consider anything more than a year out of date with how fast solar is improving) or from someone who hasn’t caught up with the latest equipment.

Back in the days, the drive to wire a house in DC power comes from two main things: there was power loss through inefficient inverters (converts from DC to AC) and from the fact that on paper DC is, in fact, more efficient.

Where this falls down in modern times is that inverters have come a long way and while there is some loss in power through the converting of AC to DC, it’s quite minimal. The other factor here is that any inefficiencies (of both the conversion to AC and the less efficient nature of AC) can be easily offset by the addition of 1-2 panels to your array.

This begins to make even more practical sense today because if you wire for DC, you’ll be limited to DC powered appliances, which typically cost two to three times the cost of their AC equivalents. That all means that you can actually have more power with AC, even after the losses through inefficiency, for less money. This is because the savings from going to AC appliances over DC will leave you with more cash, even after you buy 1-2 more panels.

To put it simply, convert to AC, add a few more panels to your array and stop worrying about AC vs DC.

Installing Solar Panels For My Tiny House

Installing Solar panels for my tiny house

After calculating the ideal location and building my stands, I installed the solar panels. This part was pretty quick and the stands worked out perfectly. The panels are 250 watt Canadian solar panels. They are wired in groups of three, then paralleled into the system. To give you a sense of scale, these panels are 3.3 wide and about 4 feet tall.

Building My Battery And Inverter Cabinet

building a cabinet for my batteries and inverter

Next, I built a cabinet to house all the gear. I wanted a stand alone space because the batteries are so heavy. At 118 pounds each, plus cabling and other equipment, the whole unit is over 1,100 lbs. The top and bottom sections are divided so that the gasses from the batteries don’t go up into the electrical section for a very important reason.

solar power cabinet

Looking at the cabinet, on the sides of it, you can see the vents. When you use lead acid (LA) batteries you have some off gassing as the batteries discharge and recharge. These gasses are volatile and can ignite, possibly leading to an explosion. To take care of this I installed two vents like this which provide adequate venting.

battery vent

 

Choosing Batteries For A Tiny House Solar Panel System

choosing batteries

I choose lead acid batteries over AGM (absorbent glass mat) because LA’s have more cycles and cost a bit less. Lithium Ion at this point is cost prohibitive, around $10,000 for the equivalent capacity. I choose these 6 volt batteries because it was more economical over other options and trojan is a pretty reputable name in the industry.

My batteries should get about 4000-5000 cycles (11-14 years) before I need to replace them. I figure in about 5 years battery technology will have progressed so much I’ll change early. New batteries will cost me about $5,000 of the lead acid variety.

solar batteries for a tiny house

 

Wiring My Batteries For 24 Volts

wiring batteries for 24 volt

The batteries are wired in series parallel. The batteries are 6 volt each, in series of 4 the create a 24 volt unit. Then I have two of these 24-volt units in parallel. The reason I choose to go 24 volts over a 48 volt (which is more efficient) was that the equipment was a little cheaper and it allowed me to future proof my setup.

Future Proofing My Solar Panel System

future proofing my solar setup

Going with a 24 volt system also allowed me to select components that I could add more panels and batteries very easily without doing equipment upgrades (just a factor of the abilities of the units I choose). This way I can add up to 15 panels and a lot more batteries without upgrading the electronics. A big draw for me to the system I choose was that I can also stack these inverters, so if I ever go to a normal sized house, I just add another unit and it just plugs into my current one.

Wiring A Tiny House For Solar

wire for a tiny house for solar

In this photo going left to right: Din Breaker Panel, Charge Controller, Interconnect w/ control panel, inverter.

solar power connection panels

In general, the power flows in the same manner (but not exactly).

  • Breaker Panel: manages power from solar panels
  • Charge Controller: manages power to batteries etc.
  • Interconnect: a main junction box and breaker, holds control panel interface
  • Inverter: takes power in many forms then outputs to the type of power you need

 

How To Connect Solar To A Tiny House

how to connect a tiny house to a solar array

Once the power goes through the system it outputs from the inverter as AC power. This AC Power flows out through a huge cable that you can see sticking out of the bottom of the inverter then goes right. From there it runs to this:

This is a 50 amp RV style plug. The reason I did this was twofold. City inspectors are less picky when it comes to non-hard-wired things. This setup also lets me roll into any RV campground and hook up seamlessly.

The plug goes into a 50 amp RV female receptacle. This is important that you don’t have two male ends to your cord. This is dubbed by electricians as a “suicide cord” because if you plug into a power source, you have exposed conductors that are live; accidentally touch them, you complete the circuit and zap!

how to connect solar panels to a tiny house

You want a female end to your cord so that you reduce the chance of being shocked. I also turn off my main breaker at the power source when I make this connection, then turn it back on.

If all these mentions of watts, volts, amps, amp hours etc are making your head spin a little, you may need to go back to the basics. I have an ebook called Shockingly Simple Electrical For Tiny Houses which guides you through all the basics. As of now, it doesn’t go too deep into the solar aspects, but the basics of electrical, wiring, power systems and determining your power needs are covered in depth and designed for those who are totally new to the topic.

So once the power passes through the power inlet it goes to the panel. Near the bottom you can see the backside of the power inlet, it has a large black cord coming out of it, into the box and ties to the lugs. From there it goes out to the house.

Grounding Your Solar Array

grounding solar panels

Here is my grounding wire for my system. This is actually one of two, another is located at the panels themselves. My house is also grounded to this through the cable hook up and to the trailer itself.

A really important note: ground depends on a lot of things, one of which is if you house electrical panels is bonded or not, if you don’t know what that means, read up on it, it’s very important.

ground solar panels

Using A Backup Generator

using a backup generator

The other component of this system is the generator which I used for the first two years and then opted to upgrade my system because they were such a pain to use. In the winter months, I sometimes needed to top off my batteries every now and then, basically when it’s been really cold and very cloudy for a week or more.

I had a Honda EB2000i already which I really like. It’s very quiet and small. The one downside to the Honda is that it only does 1600 watts and only 120V and I needed more power and 240V. To charge my batteries, I had to have 240 Volts, which lead me to get another generator, a 5500 watt 240 volt Generac for $650. This generator proved to be a major headache and lead me to upgrade my system just to not have to use it anymore.

Here is a video that compares the two generators in terms of size, noise, output, and price.

Tiny House Solar Panel System Costs

how much does solar for a tiny house cost

The big question when it comes to doing solar or not is of course cost. Everyone would like to have solar, but costs are a real barrier. My decision was made pretty easily when the power company informed me that I would have to pay $15,000 just to run their power line to my house, only to have a power bill each month.

My initial version of my solar panel array and batteries cost me around $14,000 with the added benefit of no power bills ever again and a $7,500 tax credit back, the decisions was a simple one. I later upgraded to a larger system for another $5,000, of which I got another $2,500 tax credit.

So, for me, I was able to actually save money from day one. That said, I had to bank roll that huge cash payment which most people cannot do.

Here is a rough break down of costs for my upgraded solar panel system:

  • Inverter: $4,500
  • Charge Controllers: $1,200
  • Control Panel: $300
  • Batteries: $4,000
  • Solar Panels: $4,000
  • Breakers + Boxes: $800
  • Battery Cabling: $300
  • PV Wire + House Tether + Romex: $500
  • Electrician (labor): $2,000

Is Solar Practical For Tiny Houses?

can you run a tiny house on solar

In general, I think for tiny houses in one spot, solar is very realistic. Even if you don’t start out on solar, the cost savings of living in a tiny house can let you save up for the install pretty quickly. When I rented an apartment, I was paying $1500 a month, compared to my tiny house that costs me about $15 a month (not a typo). Living in a tiny house allowed me to save a ton of money while having a comfortable home.

So that’s the surface level details of the system, I’m going to be doing something in the future which will be a how to size, choose parts, hook up and all the other details of doing solar for your tiny house.

Your Turn!

  • Do you want to do solar for your tiny house?

 

Shedding Light on Solar Generators: Are Portable Solar Generators Worth the Investment?

Shedding Light on Solar Generators: Are Portable Solar Generators Worth the Investment?

Shedding Light On Solar Generators

I get asked a lot about solar generators when people find out I’ve been off the grid full time since 2013. People want to know if a portable solar generator will work for their needs, how to find the best solar powered generator, and how to determine the wattage and size needed. There is a lot of confusing information out there and the fast pace of solar innovation makes it hard to keep up with.

Jakery solar generatorUsually, the people drawn to portable solar generators are beginners in the solar world. It’s often the guy who lives in a typical house, but who would like to start dabbling in solar power. He might have a goal to live in a tiny house someday, or even to purchase a full solar panel system to power his regular-sized home.

It’s important to note the term “solar generator” is a bit of a misnomer. Usually, what people are referring to is a power pack with solar panels. It’s either a setup you can piece together yourself or purchase off the shelf. These are low-power units. They can also get expensive since they’re a turnkey solution, but they’re an excellent way to dip a toe in the world of solar.

solar panel arraySwitching to solar panels completely, without experience, is quite a daunting task (especially if you’re trying to power a typical-sized home). It’s also a significant investment, which I’m all too aware of after writing a $19,000 check for my solar panel system for my tiny house. But after getting over the initial pain of paying so much money for my system, it’s definitely worth it. In fact, it’s hard to describe how awesome it is–I literally haven’t paid a power bill for years! Not to mention that 55% of my system was eligible for a tax credit.

That’s why solar powered generators are a nice way to explore the world of solar without a huge commitment or undertaking. Most of the people asking about solar generators possess a DIY outlook. They’re often wondering if solar is something they can set up on their own. If they purchase a Harbor Freight kit, can they build a small solar power system themselves?

So, are solar generators really worth the investment? Here’s what you need to know before you spend the money on a portable solar generator.

Managing Expectations About Solar Generators

managing expectations on solar generators

My biggest piece of advice to anyone exploring solar generators or solar power, in general, is to keep your expectations realistic. Now, I’ve been on solar power for years, and I really like my system. That said, it was a lot of work and a big investment to set up. There are also limitations.

With a solar panel system, there will be adjustments to your lifestyle that is required when you go off the grid:

  • Bad Weather – if it’s cloudy for a week straight, you might be reaching for a blanket as your battery wanes.
  • Snow – Are you ready to get out and clean snow off your panels in a blizzard?
  • Something breaks – there is no power company to call, if your power goes out, it’s up to you.
  • Maintenance – Batteries to fill, terminals to clean, fuses to change, and panels to clean.

Before you go fully solar, a portable solar generator is an excellent gateway option. It allows you to explore the fundamentals of solar power generation and to understand how the larger systems work. It also lets you get an idea of the capacity (on a small scale) so you can scale up later. This is really useful because you begin to really grasp what you need to do different things.

How to run a tiny house on solar

Now, I’ll be honest, the smallest solar powered generators aren’t super useful. The smallest ones can’t charge more than a cell phone or a small laptop. Don’t expect that a small investment or even a small DIY solar generator kit is going to get you enough power to live off the grid or run your household appliances.

Most small solar generators are under 500 Watts (typically around 2-300 Watts). You’ll invest $500+ or so for the battery and power pack, and you’ll need one or two panels at $3-400 each. These solar generators won’t work for running your stove or your air conditioner (for those larger items, you’ll need a full solar panel system).

Figure where a traditional larger scale system with lead acid batteries you can get it for $1 per watt, in a solar generator you should expect to spent $2-$3 per watt because it’s turn key and often uses lithium ion batteries which are higher performing.

What Are Portable Solar Generators Good For?

What are solar generators good for?

Where portable solar generators really perform is when you’re camping, or if there’s an emergency. If you’re stuck in a hurricane or there’s a big power outage in your city, then a small solar powered generator is great to own. People often purchase them for emergency preparedness kits and shelters. You may not power your whole house on it, but at least you’ll get light and the ability to power your small electronics, which is lifesaving in certain scenarios.

These little solar generators are also handy for tailgating and camping. If you own an RV or a teardrop-trailer, you can use the portable solar generator to power your needs for a weekend trip. They’re excellent for keeping your phone charged or running a small amount of power to an item (like a light). If you tailgate often, a solar generator will easily keep your radio going without draining your car battery during the game.

What can you power with a solar generator?

Possible

  • Small Fans
  • LED Lights
  • Laptop charger

Maybe Possible

  • Television
  • Mini Fridge
  • Microwave

Not Possible

  • Refrigerator
  • AC Unit
  • Furnace

Solar generators work great for small fans, LED lights, charging your small portable electronics, and other small, low-power tasks. Some high-efficiency televisions work well with solar powered generators. You can charge a laptop or tablet with a solar generator, too.

I’ve also known many construction workers and builders who love these portable solar generators for keeping their tools charged on the job. It’s great to use a solar generator at a building site as a continuous source of power for battery driven drills, saws, power tools, and small pieces of equipment. Solar powered generators are perfect if your build-site is away from a power source and you’re working for a few days. If you’re building a cabin or a tiny house in a rural spot, then a solar generator will help keep your tools going.

There are also many jobs where a solar generator won’t cut it. These items require too much power to run efficiently (or even at all) on a portable solar generator.

Things that won’t run well on a portable solar generator include:

  • Anything with a heating element: Coffee pots, hairdryers/straighteners, hot plates, toaster ovens.
  • Small appliances: Microwaves, slow cookers, blenders.
  • Large electronics: Desktop computers, game consoles, and some projectors.
  • Heating and air conditioning: Any size AC unit (window or otherwise), heaters of any size.
  • Refrigeration: A small modern fridge will only run a few hours on a large solar generator.

Like most jobs, it’s all about having the right tool. This is advice I preach in any scenario: if you want to do a good job, you need to invest in the right tools. If you pick the wrong tool for the job, it won’t perform up to your expectations.

How a Solar Generator Works

How do solar generators work?

solar generator parts list

The battery is a power bank. Depending on the voltage of your battery, it holds power until you’re ready to plug-in and run your device. These batteries are also used to charge phone, computer, and power tool battery packs as well. Solar batteries are often finicky and delicate. While many of these solar generators use higher quality lithium ion batteries, it’s still best to use caution so you don’t damage them.

When people think of solar, they forget about the battery component, but it’s essential. If your power source is the sun, then what do you do on a cloudy day? What happens at night? Solar isn’t consistent. The battery stores the power, so it’s available whenever you need it. If the sun is making enough power, then it’s shunting the energy into the item you’re powering. If you overuse your solar source, then your generator goes into the battery.

The other component of a solar generator is the inverter. The inverter converts DC (direct current) power into AC power, which is used by most tools and appliances. AC typically runs at 110-240 volts in the USA, so the inverter ramps up the voltage from the battery to 100-240 volts.

running air conditioning with solar panels

Some people prefer the DIY approach to solar generators. They buy the base pieces of a DIY system and put it together themselves. This is certainly possible, but it’s often a challenging project for a beginner. What I’ve seen happen time and time again is people start down the DIY path but get frustrated and go out and buy an off-the-shelf solar generator instead.

How to Decide Which Solar Generator You Want and Need

what is the best solar generator to get?

If you’ve weighed out the pros and cons of solar generators and feel like you have a realistic idea of what you need (and what the solar generator can do), it’s time to decide which solar powered generator is best for you.

My biggest recommendation for anyone looking to switch to solar power is to figure out precisely what you want to charge first. Determine your power requirements (what’s sometimes called your power profile). What is the breakdown of exactly what you need to charge and plan to use when you use your solar generator?

To figure this out, I’ve created a workbook to help you determine your exact power consumption. Exploring your needs first is such a critical step, even if you’re starting with a portable solar generator because these are big purchases. Even a small solar generator with panels and a power bank will cost you a significant amount. You’ll want to get exactly what you need upfront before you invest a few thousand dollars on something that can’t do more than recharge your phone or run an LED light.

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Once you’ve decided what you want to charge and exactly what size solar generator you need, it’s time to determine your approach Are you more of a DIY type? Do you feel comfortable buying the pieces and building a solar generator yourself, or would you feel more comfortable with an off-the-shelf generator system?

If you buy off the shelf, it’s important to ask the following questions:

  • Can you plug it into the wall with a power manager for back up?
  • Does it do what you need it to do?
  • Is it compatible with other connectors and components or does it only use proprietary components?
  • Is it portable enough for your needs?
  • Can it be charged by a wall socket, car outlets, and solar panels?
  • Does it come with a wide range of power hookups?
  • Can you daisy-chain panels to get more power?

Buying off-the-shelf is a great option, but it’s important to note that different brands use different proprietary connectors (so you must buy their brand’s solar panels and components). Always check before you start investing in a product that won’t work with components you already own.

Solar Generators To Compare

Comparing solar generators

When it comes to solar generators, there are three leading brands out there: Jackery, Goal Zero, and Inergy. Here’s what I’ve learned about each brand to help you compare.

Jackery Explorer

Jackery has three sizes of portable power stations (100 Watt, 240 Watt, and 500 Watt). I had the opportunity to check out the Jackery Explorer 500 Watt Portable Power Station as well as the Jackery Solarsaga 100 Watt Solar Panel. The Power Station looks a bit like a fancy lunchbox with a battery and a bunch of power hookups. This worked well.

The one feature that made this solar generator my preferred choice was that all the connectors were standardized. Other companies used proprietary connectors which was an instant deal breaker for me, making Jackery an easy choice.

Jackery Solar generator
Some aspects I really liked about the Jackery Solar Generator:

  • Doesn’t use proprietary connectors.
  • Well-built, with a robust solar panel (this one impressed me with it’s sturdiness).
  • Compact and easy to use.
  • Lightweight (the Power Station is 13.32 pounds).
  • LCD screen with charge/discharge data and battery life status.
  • Quiet operation.
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Goal Zero Yeti

Goal Zero offers an array of Yeti power stations. These power stations mainly feature lithium batteries and are available in a range of prices and capacity. They’re built to pair with the Goal Zero solar panels, but with some configuring, they can also pair with other panels.

Goal Zero solar generator kits
Some pros and cons of the Goal Zero Yeti systems:

  • Portable and most include Wi-Fi capabilities, as well.
  • Overall positive reviews on the Goal Zero products.
  • Not recommended for radio communications.
  • Concerns about the AC inverter not holding up and shorter battery life.
  • Configuration is necessary to pair with other brand solar panels.
  • Widely available on Amazon, REI, and other retailers.
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Inergy Apex

The Inergy Apex Portable Power Station (previously Kodiak) also has positive reviews. The Apex offers a peak 1,500 Watt pure sine wave inverter and 1,100 Watt-hours of peak battery capacity. It’s also lightweight and compact.

Inergy solar generators
Some pros and cons of the Inergy APEX Portable Power Station:

  • Portable and lightweight.
  • Optional battery expansion option, which is helpful for upgrades and kits.
  • Doesn’t support the Neutrik adapter for third party panels.
  • 500 Watt max output.
  • Reliable and durable according to reviews.
  • The LCD screen is easy to read.
  • Quiet operation.
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When it comes to solar generators, my biggest word of advice is to manage your expectations. You aren’t going to be able to run your refrigerator, blender, microwave, and television on a solar generator. It’s not going to happen. You can, however, use a solar generator to learn how solar works. It can help you get used to the quirks of relying on solar power before you scale up to a full system.

Solar generators are great for camping, charging tools, and for hobbyists. If solar energy is something that interests you and you don’t know where to start, solar powered generators are a cool option to explore.

Your Turn!

  • Have you ever used a portable solar generator?
  • What would you like to power with a solar generator?

How to Run Air Conditioning On Solar Power

How to Run Air Conditioning On Solar Power

Today I wanted to share information about running air conditioning on solar power.

When I was first planning to move into my tiny house, considering the possibility of running a solar powered air conditioner and cooling system weighed heavily on my mind. After all, living in a humid state, I’ll tell you, I’m one who can’t tolerate the heat. This is especially true, coming from New Hampshire—I’m a cold weather guy and here in North Carolina, it gets hot! An AC unit is critical, even if you’re running on solar power.

How to Run Air Conditioning On Solar Power

Well, Charlotte’s heat really came full force this week.  I know for many their climate doesn’t get as humid as it does here, so there are other options besides running a house air conditioner. Unfortunately, here, it’s necessary.  Without AC I can’t really sleep, even using a fan to passively cool the house.

Right now, the humidity is still tolerable, but it’s HOT and the humidity is coming soon.  It has been in the high 80’s and low 90’s outside, which made my house in the mid 90’s inside.

So, what are the tiny house air conditioner solutions? How do you cool off your tiny house (even off the grid) and beat the heat?

Deciding to Buy a Solar Powered Air Conditioner

I thought I’d do a post today because I’ve been able to run a few real-world experiments with my tiny house and solar powered AC.  I haven’t seen any experienced reporting on the topic of running air conditioning on solar power, so I figured it would be helpful for you all to hear what I did.

When it comes to cooling a tiny house, there are three areas to look at: isolation, such as shade, seals and insulation; ventilation, such as fans and setting open windows for cross-winds; and artificial cooling. Many tiny homes, by their portable nature, don’t have basements, where you can retreat if you need to cool off. Since heat rises and your entire home is above the ground, you need alternative methods to cool down.

Desert-dwellers may be able to rely on swamp coolers and evaporation-based cooling systems Here in the humid part of the world, these setups never work because our air is already humid. It’s impossible to cool humidity with MORE humidity.

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Isolation, using shade and insulation to your advantage, is important if you live in off the grid. You can keep your house fairly cool by simply, closing off your space, especially in the heat of the day. This is why I decided to park my tiny house under the trees for shade and run my solar panels in the wide-open field.  While these methods help and should be employed, of course, chances are you’ll still need to rely on a solar powered air conditioner system to get through the hottest days.

After doing my research on what unit would work best with my solar panel set up and power levels. I ordered my unit before I found an installer. I have yet to hook up my mini split air conditioning system (see the update below where I talk about life on solar with my mini split) because it has taken me a long time to find a HVAC installer who would install my mini split AC. As I discovered after buying my mini split unit, most installers insist they need to sell you the air conditioning equipment if they are going to install it. Obviously, this was an unknown factor to me when I ordered my house air conditioning unit…but these are the bumps in the road you experience when you live The Tiny Life.

Fujitsu air conditioning system.

Fujitsu Air Conditioning System

How Much Power Does an Air Conditioner Use?

For heating and cooling, I opted for the Fujitsu 9RLS2 which is a 9,000 BTU Ductless Mini Split Air Conditioner Heat Pump System with a SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) rating of 27.  To give you an idea, older, less efficient mini split air conditioning systems have a SEER rating of around 8 to 10. Modern air conditioning systems, labeled highly efficient may have a rating of 15 or so, but most today are around 12-13.

The SEER rating was very important because my tiny house solar panel system simply couldn’t handle the less efficient cooling systems.  The SEER rating is determined by BTUs (British Thermal Units) to Watts.  The higher the number, the better.

The other big reason I choose this particular mini split air conditioning unit versus a standard window air conditioner was aesthetics.  My air handler is wall mounted, out of the way and above eye level.  This has a few advantages. First, it keeps my limited square footage clear of clutter. Secondly, it keeps my windows looking nice because there’s no window unit blighting a good design. Lastly, keeping it above eye level also helps you forget about it because as humans we don’t often look up.

Tiny House Friendly Air Conditioning

While I’m working on getting an HVAC installer lined up to put in my Fujitsu Air Conditioning System, I’m using a portable air conditioner, which has worked pretty well.  The downside to using a portable AC unit is it takes up a lot of space and it’s not as efficient. The portable AC unit I’m using has a SEER rating of 12, which means my new mini split system will be 225% more efficient once it’s installed.

UPDATE:  It’s been several years now since I first wrote this post and I’ve been living full time totally off the grid and it’s wonderful.  I was able to find an installer to pull the vacuum in my system and this thing cools like a dream.

During the summer the AC pulls between 450 watts and 700 watts, on “powerful” mode it draws about 1,000 watts.  As a side note for heat, it pulls about 700 watts to 1,000 watts, 1,100 on “powerful”.

If I had to do things all over again I’d go with a Mitsubishi brand mini split over the Fujitsu, because they seem to be a bit more well-designed. The Mitsubishi has also the critical feature of auto dry, which dries the coil of moisture before shutting down.  I’ve had to clean my coils several times in the 5 years and a drying feature would almost eliminate this.

Stress Testing My Portable AC Unit and Solar Panel Power System

I decided to “stress test” my solar panel system by turning the portable AC unit on high and setting the thermostat to 60 degrees. I wanted to see how long it would take for my solar panel system batteries to bottom out (50% discharge).  The charge controller on my solar panel system automatically turns off the power to my house if the batteries power discharges down to 50%. This automatic shut off on the solar panel system prevents damage to the batteries by discharging too deep.

Solar panel batteries and a chart of number of cycles and depth of discharge to determine battery life.

As you see by the chart above, keeping battery discharge at 50% or above gives me a little shy of 2,000 cycles or 5.4 years for the life of my batteries.  I plan to add another set of four batteries to the solar panel system pretty soon, which will give me improved capacity and keep my discharge rate much higher than 50% (though I don’t often get that low).  In about 5 more years we should start seeing really interesting battery technologies hit the market. This should coincide with the life of my current batteries, so I plan to hop on these new technologies as soon as my batteries begin to fade.

UPDATE:  It’s been several years now since I posted this. Last year I bit the bullet and added 6 more solar panels and 4 more batteries.  This was mainly to avoid needing a generator in the winter months because they’re a royal pain.  Cooling my house in the summer is still pretty simple since my house is so small.  I usually turn my air conditioner on when I get home and shut it off when I leave.  This allows the batteries to fully recharge and doesn’t really impact cooling.

My solar panel battery stress test was an interesting experiment. I ran the less efficient, portable air conditioner for three days solid, starting with a very warm house.  At the end of the three days, I was very close to hitting 50% on my battery reserve, but it didn’t ever dip below that threshold.  I decided, after three days, the test had gone on long enough to get an accurate reading and I stopped the test.  I typically turn off the AC whenever I’m gone.

Following the test, the past few days were a bit trickier because since my solar panel battery system was so low, I needed it to build back up. Unfortunately, we had a series of cloudy days, making it tough to get more energy.  While I’ve had plenty of power to run the AC overnight, the battery reserve is lower than I’d like.  To give you an idea: on a normal sunny day my solar panel power system makes about 8,000 Watts, but on a cloudy day (when the clouds are very thick with no gaps) I get between 2,000 and 4,000 Watts.

The Advantage of Solar Powered Air Conditioning

When it’s hottest and the sun is shining the brightest, I can make lots of power!  This allows me to run the AC full blast to keep my house nice and cool. Even with the air conditioner on high my solar panel system still makes enough power to add 2,000 Watts into the batteries. Compare this to heating, where you often need the heat the most at night when the sun isn’t out. This results in a major drain on your batteries.  Compounding the issue of running heating off solar panel energy, heaters are more energy intensive than cooling and air conditioning units.

The other night I decided to conduct another experiment.  I got my house very cold by running the AC unit. Then, I turned off the cool air at midnight (when I usually go to bed).  Outside it was about 65 degrees and about 45% humidity–so not bad.  I left all the windows closed to see how much my body heat would warm up the house. In the summer, opening the windows doesn’t often doesn’t help anyway, even if it is cooler outside because the humidity increases the “feels like” temperature.

As it turns out in just three hours my body heat warmed up the loft of my tiny house to the point I woke up from being so uncomfortable from the heat!  Around 3:30 am I woke up and it was very hot in my loft.  I checked the time and was surprised how little time it took.  I should note when I fall asleep, I usually stay asleep all night, even if I get warm. The fact I woke up from the heat, shows how uncomfortable it was in my loft because it takes a lot!

Fortunately, I had prepared for this and all I did was crank open my skylight (the highest point in my house) and the loft end window. I switched on a fan to draw in cool air.  Within 5 minutes the whole place dropped about 5 degrees and I was back asleep.

So that has been my real-world experiences with the tiny house, AC units and solar panel power systems.  I know I had always been frustrated by not enough stories and real-life examples of AC and cooling issues, so hopefully my story will help others.

Key resources for those wanting more technical stuff:


My Setup For Solar Power

  • Details of my tiny house solar panel system
  • Calculating solar power system requirements
  • Building racks to hold solar panels
  • Adding a solar panel gear cabinet
  • Understanding solar panel electric systems
  • Choosing a backup generator

Building A Basic Electrical Kit

My sister is a new home owner and with it comes a lot of handy man projects that she and her husband have to figure out.  So I was called in to teach them how to install a new chandelier in the dining room.  As part of it I decided to put together a little kit for them to handle all the basic needs of a DIY homeowner when it comes to basic electrical work.

Things like changing lights, adding a fan, swapping a switch of plug all are done very easily and most people can figure out how to do it safely and successfully with a few basic tools and a little know-how.

Here’s What I Put In The Kit

 

First is the tools of the trade.  A good set of wire pliers and a box cutter.  I used to think it was silly to have a set of pliers just for wiring, but when I had to wire my own house I got a pair.  It was there I realized the value of these very specialized set of features.   I’ll often strip wires with the pliers themselves, but sometimes a good ole box cutter is needed.  The pliers ran me $15 (get yours here) and the box cutter was $5 (found here)

Next was electrical tape, I don’t skimp here and I always buy name brand.  Nothing special, but a must have supply to have on hand for any electrical work. You can get them here

wire tape

Next were wire nuts.  Often lights and fans come with some, but if you ever need to redo the connection, it’s best practice to use a fresh wire nut.  These are pretty basic, but I found a good deal on them here

wire nuts

Zip ties are just one of those things that you can’t have enough and they are amazing useful.  I just buy them in packs for cheap here

zip ties

Finally I included a small bit of 14 gauge wire which is good for low power draw items and things up to 15 amps.  For 20 amps I’d go a bigger wire, but for most uses this is fine.  Having some extra is great when you need to make a pig tail or extend a wire because you had to cut it kinda short and need some working room.

14 gauge wire for 15 amp

Finally I packed it up in a nice box for them as their gift.  electrical tools

If you want to learn more about doing your own electrical for your tiny house or even a big house, check out our guide to electrical, click here.