Tiny House Electricity: Let There Be Light!

Marc Bilodeau/ Building, Tiny House

As the weather gets colder and the days shorter, work continues inside. With that said, the first item on the list is electricity. The goal has always been to build an off-grid tiny house. However, I realize that I don’t have decent estimates to size a home solar system correctly. Therefore, the entire electrical system will be completed in three phases.

  1. On-Grid Use. First, wire all lights, switches, and electrical outlets. Then, attach to the grid using a 30-amp inlet.
  2. Measure. Next, purchase equipment to measure and trend watt-hours.
  3. Off-Grid Use. Lastly, install a home solar system capable of handling the average and peak usage of electricity.

Phase 1!

[more photos of this process]

So far, this step is the most time-consuming of my tiny house endeavor. However, it is one of the most exciting to date. The feeling of finally turning on lights and using outlets is exciting and almost indescribable. The process of installing electrical components is certainly interesting. However, electricity is dangerous and caution must be taken. Always take precautions.

  • Overview
  • The Great Room
  • Sleeping Loft
  • Kitchen
  • Bathroom
  • Celebrate!

Overview

The overall goal is to have a 30A Power Inlet and separate each room with its own 15-amp circuit breaker. 30-amp was chosen for three reasons. First, most RV parks have 30-amp and 50-amp hook-ups. This flexibility is important if the tiny house project turns into a tiny house cross-country adventure. Secondly, 30 amps of power is more than sufficient based on rough estimates. Lastly, the electrical system must be flexible enough so it can be upgraded to 50 amps if necessary.

30A inlet with extension cable
30-amp inlet with the 30 Amp Right Hand Angle Locking Cord.

The 30-amp inlet connects to the grid using a 30 Amp Right Hand Angle Locking Cord and a 15-amp Adapter.

The electrical panel splits into six separate circuit breakers. During the planning stages, I decided to use propane for refrigeration, heating water, and cooking food. This effort helps keep power usage down, as I’m trying to use a single 15-amp extension cord to power the entire tiny house.

Tiny House Electric Panel
The electrical panel with one 30-amp and four 15-amp circuit breakers.
  1. Main (30-amp)
  2. The Great Room (15-amp)
  3. Sleeping Loft (15-amp)
  4. Kitchen (15-amp)
  5. Bathroom (15-amp)
  6. Open – intended for a split heating/cooling system

The Great Room

The Great Room is the main room of the tiny house. Therefore, switches and outlets are easily accessible for convenience no matter where one chooses to sit or stand. The switches by the door control the outside light, ceiling fan, and overhead lights.

The switch for the overhead lights is dimmable. Since the lights are a high Lumen, the dimmable switch helps adjust the brightness to fit the mood. Additionally, all lights are LEDs to minimize the wattage. Although it’s not time to track usage, Im being conscious of how much could be in use in an effort to keep it as low as possible.

  • Four overhead lights = 52 watts
  • An outside light = 14.5 watts
  • The ceiling fan on high with the lights on = 55 watts

Overall, the great room uses a total of 121.5 watts.

Tiny House Great Room Electrical Layout
(top / left) The couch area with outlets under the window and far left wall. (top / right) outlets available between the windows and underneath the right window. (bottom / left) the switches that control the outside light, ceiling fan, and overhead lights. (bottom / right) ceiling fan and overhead lights.

The Great Room uses 15-amp outlets with two fast charging USB ports to conveniently charge most modern devices. In fact, all outlets throughout the house use these outlets except for two GFCI.

4.8A-24W Dual Port Smart In-Wall USB Charger Outlet Ultra-High-Speed/2 Receptacles 15A, 9 Face Covers Free Wall Plates
TOPGREENER TU21548A 4.8A-24W Dual Port Smart In-Wall USB Charger Outlet Ultra-High-Speed/2 Receptacles 15A, with Multi-color Face Covers and Wall Plates

Sleeping Loft

When entering the loft, the switches on the wall control the overhead loft light, ceiling fan, and overhead great room lights. This avoids that eye-rolling groan and lumbering walk downstairs when I forget to turn a light off. Also, most light switches throughout the tiny house illuminate. This way they can be easily located in the middle of the night.

Tiny House Illuminated Light Switches
Lights switches illuminate to easily locate them in the dark.

The first switch controls the overhead light in the loft. The primary use for that light is to illuminate the closet area and help someone get from the stairs to the bed. The middle switch controls the ceiling fan. The dimmable switch on the right controls the overhead lights in the great room.

Tiny House Loft Lights
(left) the switches and overhead loft light. (right) full picture of loft lights and outlets. The paper cutouts represent the bed, side tables, and closets.

Each side of the bed has an illuminating switch that controls a reading light and outlet with fast charging USB ports. The electrical draw by all loft lights is only 20 watts. The overhead light uses 13 watts and the reading lights each use 3.5 watts.

Tiny House side light and outlet
A reading light and outlet for each side of the bed. Once the wall is up, the reading light will be positioned properly.

Kitchen

The kitchen will be a galley style kitchen, also known as a walk-through kitchen. It will have two parallel countertops with a walkway in between them. Galleys make great use of every square inch of space, and there are no troublesome corner cabinets to worry about. Each side will have two outlets above the counter space. One outlet is a GFCI since there will be running water nearby.

Tiny House Kitchen Area Outlets and Switches
(left) The switch for the overhead kitchen lights and two outlets for the sink area. (center) The kitchen area that extends to the bathroom. (right) Two outlets and an overhead light above the stove area.

The main switch for the overhead lights is on the left side of the kitchen where the stairs will be. There is a light on both sides of the kitchen to light up each counter. The overhead lights use a total of 26 watts, which is another win on minimizing electricity. The left counter will have the sink under the window, and the right counter will have the stove. This provides sufficient light for all kitchen activities.

Bathroom

The bathroom has two outlets, and a motion detector switch for the overhead lights. It will automatically turn on when someone walks into the bathroom. After a minute of no movement, the lights will turn off. There are overhead lights above the toilet and shower, which together use a total of 26 watts.

Tiny House bathroom and electrical layout
(left) Electrical Panel, GFCI, and outlet for the Magic Mirror. (right) Complete view of bathroom showing toilet, sink, and shower area.

There are two outlets in the bathroom. One outlet is a GFCI which is near the sink. The second outlet is for the magic mirror that will be the nerve center of the tiny house. The magic mirror will certainly be a fun topic to discuss in a later blog.

Lastly, a Heat Recovery Ventilator (HRV) will be installed in the bathroom and great room. An HRV provides fresh air and improves climate control throughout the tiny house. The lunos e2 HRV system will be installed at some point in the future.

Electricity: Celebrate!

With everything on, the tiny house looks fantastic! Although there will certainly be more appliances and devices that use electricity, a total of 193 watts is used with everything turned on. For now, I’m pretty proud of the total watts considering the amount of lights.

After 42 hours of work between two people, phase 1 of the on-grid electrical rough-in is complete. With each milestone make sure to take the time to reflect and celebrate the work, and treat any friends and family for their efforts.

Tiny House - Electricity: Let There be Light!

[more photos of this process]