Image Source: Simple Solar Homesteader ebook
LaMar Alexander, is one eco-friendly-building-machine and he's ready to share a few things he's learned along the way in his new ebook, Simple Solar Homesteading. This book is not for just anybody, as the house is small, the appliances are few and while you can get creative in the interior design and layout, there isn't much room for furnishings. Still, for those of you looking to build a vacation home or who don't need a ton of "house," then this guide is a great start in helping you visualize what it would take to build your off-grid dream home in the woods.
At least 12 different projects are included in the book, complete with pictures, step by step instructions, a resource/materials list and costs. Lamar did each of these projects himself on the cheap and if he can do it, you can do it. DIY'ers beware: while all of these projects sound quaint, there is a lot of work to install them and even more involved in maintenance once they are up and running. Even if you aren't planning on building a new home, the tips on building a rainwater catchment system or a solar oven are helpful and could be constructed without building permits or major construction.While his house is only 400 sq.ft., the pictures make it look cozy and spacious. It took only two weeks to make and roughly 80 to 100 hours for one person. Clearly if you need more space, you could take his basic plans and modify the concept to create more rooms or a slightly larger structure if you need it. Before you get started you will need land and LaMar offers advice on how to purchase homestead land, including how he's purchased several properties from Ebay.
The Book is Full of DIY Advice
He is very honest throughout the book. He offers tips of when to spring for the more expensive items like windows and doors to keep from losing heat and offers tips of when its fine to purchase used items. Other tips include where/how to get items for free, as well as, how to find the best recycled items and ways you can plan ahead to maximize passive solar to heat and cool your new home. It's probably best that you read the book several times, and consult neighbors for advice before beginning as some of the explanations make sense the second or third time around but are not always obvious the first time you read them.
LaMar also suggests you build the home in stages in order to stay out of debt and build only what you need. Its "easy" to add on additions, especially if you plan ahead. His solar panels system, for example, is fairly small and if you have more appliances that you want to use at the same time, there is no reason you couldn't upgrade and add a few more to your array. When designing your home, one interesting point is to remember that some rooms you only use for a few minutes a day, so don't devote all of your space to your kitchen if you're not much for cooking, etc.
What the Book Left Out
Instructions on solar installation, for example, are a little skimpy and probably not optimal though he does offer good advice to try and live with a smaller system and add on at a later time as you upgrade (or purchase that electric car). Also, for many of the items you will need land and you will need approval from local building and planning offices before you can get started. While you can read the book and fumble your way through it, you will more than likely need someone who at least has a little experience building homes.
Not all of these suggestions are good for everyone, such as the solar composter, which involves carrying your waste across the yard to the composter and is good to know before building as not everyone is going to want to go to this length. LaMar doesn't offer suggestions for what might go wrong, or better yet what to do when it does - in this case you are on your own.
Building Your Own Home Brings You Closer to Nature
One nice thing about almost all of these projects are they force you to get closer to the land by caring for your rooster tractor, watch less tv because it wastes electricity generated by your solar panels, or take shorter showers because you have limited hot water. But, to do all of these projects takes a lot of time and responsibility so definitely best to start with one or two projects and get other family members involved.
What do you Learn from Simple Solar Homesteading?
LaMar teaches you step by step how to build a simple cabin, size a solar system for your house, build a solar composting toilet, make a solar batch water heater, make a rainwater and greywater recycling system. Other projects include a solar air food dehydrator, a solar oven, a garden cart (wheelbarrow), a garden compost tumbler, a portable chicken tractor, a root/storm shelter, and drilling a water well all of which are under $50USD to construct.
LaMar's located in Utah so he does have the issue of cold winters and takes this into account when instructing on what to watch out for with batteries and water heaters, for example. Its good to know that a home you build for less than $2000 can withstand cold Utah winters. For the DIY enthusiasts, this guide requires and harnesses a willingness to get creative, reuse materials and live with an "imperfect" house.
Cost of the book: $5USD. Cost of a simple, solar homestead: $2000 USD. Cost of saving the planet: priceless.
Take that $99K House!