A house that runs on rainbows and sunshine

5.20.2015

Three years ago, I dreamed of building a house—something small, something simple, something sustainable. And with the help of a great many friends and mentors and supporters and the long, endlessly rewarding patience of time, that dream became a house and that house became a home. And this week, that home became an ecosystem. This week, the Matchbox unplugged.

The Matchbox was never so much a dream as it was a question: Can one find happiness in a simple life of simple limits? Can one live a life truly in harmony with her planet? Can one survive—and not just survive, but willfully thrive—with nothing but the sun and the rain and the earth below? It may be a long, trying journey to get there, but I think the answer is yes.

For years now, the Matchbox has been "nearly" off-grid, self-sufficient in water and waste but still dependent on a constant source of city-supplied electricity. Until now. Over the past few weeks I've been working under the absolutely wonderful tutelage of Brad, friend of Boneyard Studios, to wire and install a state-of-the-art solar kit, and this past Sunday it went live. The custom kit features a 1,200-watt, four-panel array, four hefty batteries totaling 290 amp-hours, and an absolute beauty of a control center with an AC/DC inverter, charger, and communications hub. After running the house for three days under the thick tree canopy of the Matchbox's (temporary) backyard, the batteries are still about two-thirds full, suggesting the array won't have any trouble keeping up when moved into more direct sunlight.

Coupled with the existing rain catchment system, greywater management, composting toilet, and fledgling garden, the Matchbox is—finally and proudly—a carbon-zero home, DC's first and only fully off-grid small house. With rainbows come drinking water and with sunshine comes electricity and with greywater and compost comes fresh vegetables from the garden; and with all the above comes happiness and a whole lot of harmony with the world around us.

Four 70-amp 6V batteries and a lovely FlexWare system. (Left to right:) Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy. (Top:) Ms. March.




3 comments:

  1. Haha, the title is awesome. Great to hear it's full off-grid! I'm wondering about the refrigerator in the house though. Fridges use A LOT of electricity, so do the solar panels provide enough to give power to everything in the house...and the fridge?

    Also, where did you get the map wrapping around the bathroom, it looks super cool!

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    1. I should admit: its a tiny fridge, a little under 2 cubic feet, so while it is an energy hog, it's a small one. It's hard to get a good sense of just how self-sufficient the system will be while still hidden under a thick tree canopy. The batteries (with the fridge running) can definitely power the house for at least a week without a recharge, but the array should be large enough to top the batteries off almost every day IF they were getting full sun exposure. I suppose I'll have a better sense when the house moves. :)

      As for the map: thanks! I believe I got it from the National Geographic website (it was a while ago)—just a pretty affordable (under $100), pretty large (about 6' x 10') laminated world map. Highly, highly recommended.

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  2. Congrats on being off the grid! If you need a place to park, you're always welcome around here - we have garden space, sunshine, and community in spaces out here. :)

    Thanks for your comment a while back - Chase continues to sweep me off my feet. I am a lucky woman, indeed. I wish I could say we'll be out to see your place soon, but I'm afraid with #3 coming along in a few months, I'm more home-bound all the time. But that will change all to soon and well before I'm ready for it to. So I'll make it out there one day.

    I ran across this article and laughed out loud as I thought about you and your tiny house: https://medium.com/@Hipstercrite/dear-people-who-live-in-fancy-tiny-houses-21fdc639ce55 I've thought of some of these same questions - the Mexican food one in particular. Still, different strokes for different folks, and I'm thrilled you've made a home that fits you. Sending much love!

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