Go Green with Low-Budget Housing

Take advantage of low-budget housing options, such as campers and teepees, for off-grid lifestyles.

| March 21, 2014

Convert a camper trailer into an off-grid home

Camper trailers are designed for off-grid use and make the perfect low-budget housing option if you can find the right one. Many are already equipped with solar power and self-contained water systems.

Photo by Fotolia/Rafael Ben-Ari

Creating the Low-Budget Homestead (Paladin Press, 2011), by Steven D. Gregersen, provides practical advice for building the dream homestead. Living an off-grid, independent lifestyle takes a lot of planning, but with Gregersen’s help anyone can save time and money making their dreams come true. In the following excerpt from “Housing and Outbuildings,” see the variety of ways to go green with low-budget, or temporary, housing options.

Purchase this book from the MOTHER EARTH NEWS store: Creating the Low-Budget Homestead.

Green, Low-Budget Housing

These include campers, tents, teepees, yurts, dugouts, and other low-budget, temporary, or “replaceable” housing options. I’m going to include mobile homes in this section, for reasons I’ll explain next.

Mobile Homes

First off, I have nothing against living in mobile homes. When it’s wet outside, they are dry inside and when it’s cold outside they are warm inside. That’s pretty much the basic requirements of any shelter, so there’s nothing wrong with living in one.

The reason I’ve put them here is that mobile homes are not designed for off-grid life. They are especially not designed for life without running water, if that’s what you’ll be doing. Their windows are small, so they are dependent on artificial light. They have long hallways and remote bedrooms, which make them difficult to heat without a forced air furnace. The small windows and metal sides make them difficult to cool naturally during hot summer days. Many are woefully lacking in insulation. Water pipes are run alongside heating ducts to keep them from freezing in the winter. This means that if you are using radiant wood heat, the water in the pipes is more likely to freeze in cold weather.

5/6/2014 10:30:01 PM

Double wide and mobile home folks - Here's an easy one to ck and fix. Is it open under your home? Is there only an alum metal skirt, a row of concrete block, or other equally uninsulating skirt between your home and the ground? I'm betting YES. Good news, close that gap with air tight insulation and you should notice a difference. In short, foam sheeting - but God is in the details. Feel free to email me at info@roughdesigns.com. I did it to my house (100 yr old w/ loose rock foundation around crawl space, real wind tunnel under there, you could feel the breeze! Now, toasty underfoot. Heh, back to the subject, how about a simple garage, single glazed folding panel wall behind an insulated roll up door, some minimal insulation in walls and ceiling. Most of this is easy DIY stuff. Then put your camper / tent (or two) in that. Hmmm, could even try one of those temp. / portable hoop and tarp garage kits. Give you someplace "outside" out of the rain, keep the chilling wind off you, etc..

4/11/2014 12:16:47 PM

***CHERYLK, I, too, live in a double-wide mobile home and find it reasonable to heat with a small wood stove (backed up by a propane furnace) here in northeastern PA. The windows are of two widths and we find perfect-fit mini blinds at a very reasonable cost in Walmart!

4/11/2014 12:12:04 PM

***I wonder how many campers the Duggar family would require??? ;-)

4/11/2014 12:04:24 PM

Hi, we live in a 32' Yurt in Northern British Columbia, outside cover has 20 year warranty. Minus 35 degrees with wind in the 40 mph range for several weeks, solar water pump in well 850 feet from Yurt, 4 liters (1 US Gal./minute) using one 100 watt solar panel do run 80 watt pump. I cheated though, used straw bales for skirting, coated with brown coat and cob, sitting on a ring foundation with rubble trench. Ring foundation is cement mix & straw, no re-bar. 7foot high ceiling in basement, nice root cellar also. Very little material used compared to regular Box construction. We need to live outside a box to be able to think outside the box. Working on Star Dome Greenhouse, connecter kit from World Garden Domes, Ernie Aiken) with Chord Wood 3' high wall and Rocket Stove for thermal mass heating. 2 pigs have prepared a super berry orchard and are now waiting for snow to melt to continue with next orchard area. Already using rocket stove in small 11' x 20 greenhouse.

4/11/2014 7:18:59 AM

I live in a brand new double-wide mobile home and wouldn't recommend it to anyone. It's expensive to heat, and hard to replace the doors and blinds, because they are irregular dimensions. It's hard to add onto, hard to to find studs to add shelving, etc.

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