How to build a tiny house mobile solar cart

tiny house mobile solar cart

Mobile tiny power

Energy — a key concern for your tiny house. Especially for you off-gridders out there. In the vid below, I show how to build a tiny house mobile solar cart.

This is Don from Piedmont Pine Coffins. Click here for a guest column I wrote for the website Tiny House Listings on our tiny house mobile solar cart. I used this cart to provide, among other things, night lighting to the coffin workshop.

The comments on the YouTube video are hilarious. Well, one, especially. Nice and all, but gave me the hibby gebbeees, stay in the woods, please… 

Haha, yes, good advice. I’m in the jungle now — Costa Rica — but I’m still in a tiny house and still interested in simple power solutions. Did you know that Costa Rica powers itself with solar? As in, the whole country?

Materials for your tiny house mobile solar cart

It couldn’t be simpler. Buy the guts of the thing — your electronics — as a kit. We used a Xantrex PowerHub 1800 kit that we purchased from Northern Tool. The kit (around $1500) included the two solar panels, two storage batteries, and a simple charge controller. The charge controller regulates the amount of energy the sun deposits in your batteries.

By reading the manual and using some street smarts, I was able to wire the tiny house mobile solar cart myself. The hardest part was that every component is rated in units from a different part of the watts/amps/volts equation, so it’s probably best that I was able to text message with a solar installer during my process of hooking things up. (Thanks, Dave B!) The panels are watts, the charge controller is volts, and the manual refers to the amp-hour limit of appliances you hook up.

I did have one stupid moment involving the batteries. The whole system is 12V, like a car, so I thought it was harmless as far as frying me. At one point, though, the live battery bank came into play when two downstream pos and neg wires brushed. Big spark and discharge. Lesson: I should have had the battery bank disconnected while I worked on downstream wires. Duh, in hindsight.

Another commenter wrote, Red ground clamp? Yes, not up to code. I used a set of auto battery jump cables to ground the system at each location of usage. The panels, as you can see, are clamped to a 3/4″ piece of treated plywood, which in turn is clamped to the top of the cart. A thick piece of black garden plastic keeps the rain out of the back of the cart.

What cart to buy for your tiny house mobile solar cart?

I highly recommend the type shown. The one you see there and in the video had already been through ten years of daily outdoor use and abuse on the farmstead. It was still going strong. The key feature is the big bicycle wheels. With those you can haul your tiny house mobile solar cart over any terrain through mud, rocks, and snow to where you need it.

The best source for the cart is Carts Vermont. They are the originators, not the imitators, so to speak. The cart costs around $400. You should buy one of these just to have it. These carts are one of the top three tools I ever used on the farmstead. They’re the best.

Worth it

Our tiny house mobile solar cart was a great solution for us. We used it mostly to charge phones and whatnot, plus for light. We definitely didn’t max out the batteries, so you could imagine using it for a TV or a kitchen appliance too. The batteries stayed well-charged all year, except for one or two winter weeks of gray skies and low sun-angles where we had to watch our usage and tilt the cart toward the sun.

The tiny house mobile solar cart is both a great DIY project and a great mobile power solution. Good luck and power up!

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