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Home Forums General Discussion Off-grid living on the cheap!

This topic contains 6 replies, has 3 voices, and was last updated by  Kathleen 7 years ago.

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  • #36691

    lamar5292
    Participant

    If you are like me and do not like to spend a lot of money or don’t have much money to spend then you might be interested in my solar cabin for off-grid living.

    The cabin is 14×14 with a full loft and just under 400 sqft of living space. It has a living area, kitchen, dining area, and bathroom downstairs. Upstairs is the Bedroom and office.

    I built the cabin for under $2000 from all new materials excluding doors and windows which were free salvage.

    My power system was put together over time and total is under $3000. I have 480 watts solar and 125 watt wind turbine which powers two tvs, laptop, water pump, lights, and small appliances and gadgets.

    Fridge, stove, furnace and OD water heater are propane and fuel cost is about $200 a year and we have cold winters in Utah. A woodstove would reduce that expense.

    I drilled my own water well but before that I hauled water in. I use a solar composting toilet of my own design.

    All of my appliances were salvaged from an old camp trailer I had been living in and I also salvaged the lights, water pump, sinks, cabinets, and lots of hardware from the trailer so my cost to furnish the cabin was almost nothing.

    I have no house payments and no utility bills except for the small amount or propane I use.

    I have lots of videos on youtube showing my cabin and system for anyone interested in a cheap solar cabin homestead:

    http://www.youtube.com/solarcabin

    LaMar

    #40836

    elnav
    Member

    LaMar how do you keep the composting toilet going in cold weather? I asked the local health inspector and he said these were not approved because they stopped working in cold climates. Evidently you know a trick or two not known to the local health department. We do see – 30 tempratures for weeks on end.

    #40837

    Kathleen
    Participant

    LaMar, it sounds great. I can’t view videos or I would definitely go see your’s. I have heard about them before from one of my friends.

    elnav, we have always used a composting toilet, even in cold weather. In the beginning we used a SunMar composter and then switched to a sawdust one my husband built. And we are still using that. As for the local health dept., in NY we are “grandfathered in” due to also having an outhouse that was all this house had when we moved here 11 years ago. As long as we keep it then it gives us the option of doing what we want in our own house. Though we are planning on putting in a flush toilet in the future when we get the running water inside.

    #40838

    elnav
    Member

    Someone on another thread specifically asked about new installations of composters in BC which is why I asked the health inspector. Grandfathering may be an option where an existing dwelling is located. I’m familiar with NY weather having lived there for about 25 years. This place gets colder for longer being at latitude 54 not 44.

    For occasional week-end use it might work but for full time use by a family some heat is needed to keep the bacterial activity going during prolonged cold weather. Other wise you end up with a thawing dung heap come spring. Why invite even more flies during fly season?

    #40846

    lamar5292
    Participant

    The microbes that decompose waste work best in Temps above 50 degrees and if your composter gets below that temp the microbes hibernate.

    The commercial composters use a heater or have the tank inside the house to keep that from happening.

    A sawdust compost pile can be used because the center of the pile stays warmer but still may freeze in cold winters.

    I use a solar composter of my own design that is basically a small insulated greenhouse over my compost pit that will keep the compost warm even in winter.

    The key is to not add excess moisture to the compost or it will freeze and harm the bacteria.

    Some people use a separate bucket for urine and some commercial composters have seperate tanks or use fans to dry the waste.

    #40848

    elnav
    Member

    Thanks Lamar. Up here it gets so cold even insulated green houses freeze but you have given me an idea. Solar heat collectors of the evacuated glass tube type can deliver heat even if the weather is well below freezing. Seperating out liquids to prevent freezing is also a good idea. Somehow I had assumed moisture was needed to maintain the microbial decomposition. Up here we need styrofoam seats in the outhouses. < smile>

    #40853

    Kathleen
    Participant

    I meant to say that our toilet is in our bathroom which is in the house. The heating woodstove is right outside the door so it never gets cold in there. We basically use composted compost instead of sawdust, works much better.

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