Off-Grid Tiny House Living: Hip, Affordable, and Energy-Savvy

You don’t need a mansion to enjoy the prestige of a Victorian home. Source: Wikimedia commons

You don’t need a mansion to enjoy the prestige of a Victorian home.
Source: Wikimedia commons

“Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.” – Epicurus.

Greek philosopher Epicurus was right on target when he said this. Even in 300 BC he understood that materialism makes you sad. In the modern world, not only does constantly wanting that new iPhone or Prada bag stress us out, it contributes to a culture of excess consumption that contributes to the deterioration of our environment. Simply put, our shopping sprees and electronic gadgets are wasting energy, polluting the earth, and spilling carbon into our atmosphere.

That’s why I want to live in a tiny house. I really do. (More specifically, I want to live in this tiny house.)

Is the old-fashioned American Dream of a big house in the suburbs with a white picket fence transforming?  Maybe. A new trend of small-scale and off-the-grid living is surfacing, and I think it looks like fun!

Tiny is Trendy

Tiny houses are a popular topic on the internet and social media, and even cable TV. So it makes sense that people are taking notice. It’s a new niche real estate industry that is growing fast, and if you need convincing that tiny houses are gaining popularity and prestige, just take a look at this house in Seattle that recently sold for almost $400,000. (Yes, you read that right: Four. Hundred. Thousand. Dollars.)

Tiny apartments are even the latest urban real estate craze. In high-density cities like New York or Tokyo, tiny living space saves money on rent and utilities. Little apartments can offer amazing locations at affordable prices. If you’re willing to trade off some living space, you can live in the heart of London or New York – places most people would envy. After all, it’s tough to afford thousands of dollars in monthly rent for an apartment in New York City, but $750 a month can pay for 78 square feet in Midtown Manhattan.

Micro-living: Energy Savvy

Tiny space living is sustainable; it’s probably the most sustainable living option available. Small size means many houses are able to generate enough energy from solar panels or small windmills to meet the needs of the entire home. As a result, these little dwellings are completely off the grid. Off-grid living is ideal for anyone who wants to nix their utility bills and be self-reliant. Solar systems that power tiny houses range from just 250 watts to over 1000 watts depending on the energy needs of the home, and these systems include batteries for energy storage.  Solar is an excellent choice, because distributed generation, i.e. generating your electricity at the point of consumption, might be the wave of the future anyway. Why not be proactive?

Even if your tiny space is grid-connected, you still won’t use much electricity because the size of our homes dictates the amount of energy we use.  A house one-tenth the size of an average sprawling 2,500 square-foot home will use one-tenth the energy!  Imagine an electricity bill of 10 to 20 bucks a month! All energy use, from heating and cooling to appliances is downsized in a miniature space, and some people even go without the commonplace, energy-draining appliances most of us take for granted. They live without dishwashers, washing machines, and even ovens. (I can’t remember the last time I used my oven anyway, so I think I could deal with that.)

Obviously, tiny homes lack extra storage room, but this also saves money, energy, and resources. A small kitchen is particularly eco-friendly. With limited food space to store food, you will buy less and consume only what you need. That’s a big deal for energy and the environment. The Natural Resources Defense Council explains why food waste is such an important issue;

Getting food from the farm to our fork eats up 10 percent of the total U.S. energy budget, uses 50 percent of U.S. land, and swallows 80 percent of all freshwater consumed in the United States. Yet, 40 percent of food in the United States today goes uneaten.

We spend 10 percent of the U.S. energy budget producing food, and then we throw away almost half of it!  Reducing our consumption to only the food we will eat could reduce carbon emissions by consuming less energy, and it will also save an enormous amount of water. Water is an especially important resource now, as the Southwest is still in the midst of intense drought. The same applies to other goods. If we consume less, we waste less. It’s pretty simple.

Shrinking our living quarters is one way to curtail consumption, but the good news is that we don’t need to abandon our comfortable suburban dwellings to be energy-efficient and less wasteful. Let’s just take a lesson from those who happily dwell in small spaces with only the essentials. We can all be that happy and relaxed, if we concentrate on making our lives sustainable, clutter-free, and energy-efficient.

I think I’ll try to adopt a tiny house lifestyle even though I don’t actually live in a tiny house (yet). I’ll stay diligent about using only what I need and when I need it, and see what I save in energy, time and money. Besides, I’ve been meaning to clean out my closet for months now.

Let’s all give tiny a try!



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