The smaller your home is, the easier it is to make it energy self-sufficient. This is an important thing to think about when preparing to make the move off-grid. Some people have taken this to an extreme, spawning the tiny home movement. And when they say tiny, they mean it – most tiny homes are somewhere between 65 and 800 square feet, with varying levels of comfort.
Of course, living in a tiny home takes some getting used to. For starters, it requires throwing out or donating most of your possessions. If your entire home is now the same size as your former bedroom closet, you’ll have to purge quite a bit. Living in a tiny home can also require some lifestyle changes, since there usually isn’t room to entertain more than a few friends at once. And if claustrophobia is a concern for you, living in a tiny home is a sure way to feel cramped, especially when cabin fever sets in during the wintertime.
For people who can get past those disadvantages, however, tiny homes offer many benefits. Their low cost (most small models begin around $15,000) is a major draw for people who want the freedom that comes with not having to make monthly mortgage payments. Environmentally minded individuals appreciate the low carbon footprint that comes with a tiny home. Heating a tiny home is easy and inexpensive, sometimes costing just $10 a month. And freedom is another benefit of living in a tiny home. Many of them are mounted on wheeled trailer beds, so they’re fully portable – just hitch it to the back of a truck, and when you arrive at a new location, hook it up again much like an RV.
Most tiny homes can be built very quickly, often in just 500-800 hours. A quick online search yields the names of several companies that sell building plans, so you can jump right in and get started. For example, Cabin Plans sells easy-to-build designs ranging from 144-720 square feet for as little as $24.95 per set.
If you don’t feel comfortable trying to build a house on your own quite yet, you can always take a class to learn how it’s done. Peter King, a carpenter in Vermont, conducts weekend workshops to teach people how to build a tiny house (300 square feet or less) in small groups.
Tumbleweed Tiny House Company also offers courses on building tiny homes, but if you don’t have the time or energy for that, the company can deliver pre-built, road-ready tiny homes on wheels – for a PRICE. And yes, we meant to put that in all-caps.
Local building codes can be a challenge, since many cities require that homes have a minimum size. Some tiny home owners work around this by flying under the radar, placing their homes in backyards, in orchards, or even in national parks. If someone complains, they can always hitch it back up to a truck and tow it to another location. On the other hand, a tiny home can sometimes be a great way to avoid building permits all-together, as some locations will not require you to file for permits on anything under a certain square footage (often 100 sq ft).
Obviously tiny homes aren’t for everyone, but even if you aren’t ready to fully commit to living in a tiny home, you can always try to use one for an off-grid office or workshop. Tiny homes also appeal to a certain type of outdoor enthusiast who is committed to living off the grid. If you see the land as your playground, and your backyard as a natural extension of your living room, then tiny homes are an easy, inexpensive option that you can enjoy for years to come.