Building a Simple Off-grid Solar Cabin: A Beginner's Complete Guide
Moving off-grid can challenge you while providing an ultimate sense of freedom. Off-grid cabins let people move from their stressful lives into a more calm and serene environment. Most of these cabins are built by the people living in them and can be a challenging, but rewarding process.
The dream of building your own off-grid solar cabin is beautiful, when you go to start the process, it’s easy to feel confused. Browsing the internet for everyone’s personal experiences can be helpful, but also overwhelming as you watch practiced hands construct a log cabin in under 24 hours.
A simple off-grid solar cabin can be built by almost anyone at all. When you know the step-by-step process, it’s as simple as breaking the job down into small slices and starting to gnaw away.
What is an Off-Grid Solar Cabin?
When we talk about an off-grid solar cabin, we’re talking about a cabin built without any connections to the water or power sources that your home in the city is connected to. That means that there’s no running water and no electricity until you install it.
Off-grid cabins get their water from a well, a creek, or a water catchment system that harvests the rain. Their power, more often than not, comes from a solar system installed separate from, or on top of, the cabin.
An off-grid solar cabin will have all of the classic frills that you would have at your home, with all of the power coming directly from the sun. You still get to light up the house, run a refrigerator, and charge your electronics, but it’s done a bit differently.
Set up well, an off-grid solar cabin won’t even seem too different from what you may be used to living in a modern home.
How Does a Solar-powered Cabin Work?
A solar-powered cabin works by connecting all of the electrical systems directly to a solar panel and storage system rather than to power lines surrounding the house.
Typically, your power comes from an external source that’s being produced by the burning of coal, hydropower, geothermal, or whatever method your local area uses to make energy. In a solar-powered cabin, the power is caught by the solar panels and then stored in whatever storage system you have chosen to use.
From there, the power can be drawn to any outlets around the house, or you can hook up directly to the power storage device. Portable power stations like Growatt INFINITY 1500 and INFINITY 1300 both are capable of holding a huge amount of power, and you can plug directly into them.
These systems are designed to easily connect to solar panels to create what is referred to as a solar generator. Like a normal gas generator, they produce power, but these also store them for future use, all while working away silently.
The Pros and Cons of Living Off-grid
Many people love the freedom that comes from living off-grid. It’s seen as a much more sustainable way of living because you are producing your own energy, rather than relying on others to use environmentally-damaging methods to power up your home.
These same people will also remark about how much independence and control they have over their lives because they are the ones that are designing everything. Oftentimes, living off-grid also means growing your own food and providing everything for yourself. This movement back toward olden times is growing for a good reason.
The biggest drawback is probably having to do everything on your own. When your power system goes down, you can contact the energy company for remote assistance, but you have to fix it on your own. You are the one that needs to go onto the roof in a storm, or go out and manage your sewage system. You do it all by yourself, rarely with much help.
Many people don’t see this as a drawback. They love taking responsibility and being in charge of everything in their lives, including being able to flick a switch to have a light bulb turn on.
Building Your Simple, Off-Grid Cabin – Step-by-Step Guide
Choose the Right Location
The first step to building an off-grid cabin is knowing where to put it. Determining the perfect location can be difficult, and also can prove to be quite expensive. If you already own land, you’re one huge step ahead, but buying land can be difficult as the demand continues to increase.
Try and buy land that’s affordable, but has enough space on it for you to do what you want. Pay attention to water access and the direction it faces. For example, a plot on a north-facing slope won’t get much sun, which is bad for long-term solar power production.
Find a spot on your land that’s level enough to build and clear of any potential threats such as a hillside that could create a mudslide or avalanche. Avoid any trees that are taller than your house, and always consider the views!
Selecting Appropriate Power Source
Once you start to design your cabin to fit the space you’ve chosen, you can select the right power source. For many, this is going to be a solar system or a series of solar generators.
The only time that solar isn’t the best idea is when your home is completely shaded by a mountainside or thick trees. Even then, you may consider clearing a space away from your home to set up solar panels.
The other option that some people use is hydropower. If you’re located close enough to a reliable stream, you may be able to install a small dam that can produce enough energy for your home.
Install Water Pump and Plumbing System
If you want running water, which most of us do, then you’ll have to install a water pump and plumbing system. This kind of plumbing system operates less from the pressure of the water and more from the power of a pump.
If you are going to dig a well, you need to research digging them on your own or call someone in to get an estimate. This process can be incredibly expensive if you are far above the water table.
Make the Most of Natural Light in Your Solar Cabin Design
Although solar power is reliable the majority of the time, you want to design the cabin to let in as much natural light as possible. This will let you save on your energy expenditure, so you have more stored for when you actually need it.
This goes for all energy use in an off-grid cabin. If you can reserve some extra energy, choose the route that allows for that rather than the one that spends more power. It’s more than just flicking the switch off when you leave, it’s actually incorporating this into the design.
Manage Waste Regularly
Since you are in charge of your property, you need to manage the waste produced as well as bring other things in. You’ll need to learn how to manage a composting toilet, how to dispose of your trash sustainably, and what to do when you need to get rid of larger items as well.
A lot of times this will just require cleaning and storage until you can deliver the waste to a facility close by. Do your best to keep all of your waste and gray water systems as clean as possible to prevent them from leaking out into water sources or your gardens nearby.
Solar-powered cabins can be simple, yet highly efficient. A lot of people dream about having their own off-grid getaway, but people don’t get that chance if they don’t take risks. If you are determined, you can learn what you need to know and start building your solar-powered cabin in no time at all.