Introduction: Build a Solar House on Wheels

Contest Info:
My name is LaMar Alexander. I am  a long time off-grid homesteader, architectural draftsman, designer and builder of small efficient off-grid homes. I have published several books on building small solar cabins and installing solar and wind power and creating passive solar appliances. My website is (

I started designing small inexpensive solar cabins because I have seen a real need for people that do not have much money to own a home and there is a need in rural areas that are not grid connected for homes. With the housing market meltdown and many people out of work and many people moving where the jobs are I now see a need for a mobile solar home on wheels that will be better than a camper for long term living and has the same features as a conventional home but much less expensive and is big enough for 4 adults or a family of 5 with children.

This design could also be used for emergency housing and would be more efficient than the campers that were used after the Katrina disaster and it would provide sleeping, cooking and shelter space for 6 adults. Aproximately 90,000 US soldiers may be returning home in the next few years from Afghanistan and the jobs and homes they had no longer exist and they will need a place to live and start over where there is work. This design would be perfect for that purpose.

The Solar House On Wheels is designed to be built by anyone with basic carpentry skills for under $20,000. It utilizes an 8 X 20 tandem axle HD trailer commonly available. It has a full bathroom with shower, galley kitchen with propane stove, microwave, full size fridge and over/under washer dryer.

There is a living area with a pull out queen size couch bed. Under the bed is water tank and pump storage. There are lofts on both ends for two more queen beds.

The power system would be solar electric and six 200 watt panels are attached to the roof. Batteries and propane tanks are stored in the nose at the front of the house.

There is a huge amount of interest in these small houses on wheels but the plans being sold are too expensive and the designs do not allow for enough room for a family and would require a grid tied power system. My design is more open and has more sleeping space and full size appliances with a built in power system for rural areas, off-grid or emergency shelter use.

Other home on wheel designs are generally not useable by older people or people with disabilities and I have designed the Solar House On Wheels to have wider walkways, walk in shower, wider doors and a bed downstairs so older people and people with disabilities do not have to climb into a loft bed.

I am a writer and I have published Ebooks and I own a small local business so I have the business experience to make this venture work. My plan is to create an Ebook and printed book that includes step-by-step plans for constructing the Solar House On Wheels including installing the solar electric power system, propane system, water, sewage, and appliances.

The plans will include detailed schematics for all systems, step-by-step construction instructions, lots of options and I will inlude the complete Sketchup file so anyone can use the free Google Sketchup drafting program to modify the Solar House On wheels to fit their needs. You will be able to change colors, materials, dimensions, and add any feature you desire. You will be able to walk through the design and see it in 3D and make changes before you build!

I need $20,000 to build the prototype Solar House On Wheels and $5,000 for Ebook and printed book creation and marketing/advertising.  The prototype solar house on wheels will be used as a demonstration model and this would also be used as a traveling marketing tool at fairs, home shows, colleges and events.

I have a website already set up to market the plans with over 30,000 subscribers and will also create a series of DVD videos of the building process and market the plans as an Ebook, printed book and on DVD.

I have a youtube account ( and presently have over 2 million views and over 100,000 subscribers and potential customers for these plans and I am an active member on numerous small house and solar forums to promote the ebooks and I intend to use paid promotion in magazines like Mother Earth News to promote the plans. I will also use my youtube, websites, forums and facebook to promote the plans.

I plan to sell these plans very inexpensively so everyone can afford them and the Ebook would be $10. Printed book $25 and DVD $15. This is a reasonable amount that most people can afford.

I will travel with the solar house on wheels to colleges and events and use the house as a teaching tool to educate people to this style of living and to the use of solar electric power and alternative energy systems.

I believe this project will give many people an opportunity for independence from a house payment and utility bills and freedom to live where they want in a comfortable and efficient home at a reasonable cost.

This is a very worthwhile project and I hope you will help me with this vision.


LaMar Alexander


wayne holcomb (author)2016-10-19


I am really interested in your tiny house on wheel concept mentioned above and would really like to get the plans that you talked about sharing. I am talking about the 8x20 color house. Please let me know how to acquire the complete plans. I have already acquired the trailer and am looking forward to start on it.

MarcioWilges (author)2015-12-18

Now that's going to be rather handy in helping you get your things moving across the country when you travel!

Gilly_Bean (author)2015-10-28

I would be willing to send the money with the promise of a future printed and eBook and DVD but, I am like the people you are looking to sell to and cannot send the kind of money you seem to be asking for. Have you looked into crowd funding (or whatever it is called?) I think you have some GREAT ideas and would love to have some access to them.

Bonnie Gordon (author)2015-08-01

I would love to build a tiny house, I can't find anyone to build it

julianne.yates.3 (author)2015-03-28

Hi LaMar,

My husband and I are very interested in this concept. There is great potential for countless applications. How are your efforts going towards your business proposal. What region of the U.S. do you reside in. There is a real future in this market it would be nice to be collaborating and making the best of the early ground breaking years before it really catches on and becomes commonplace

Anyway good luck in your endeavors

JeremyOlm (author)2015-01-12

I hope that you find a way to get these produced man! These specialised type of housing could really give us estate agents a real advantage over representing traditional homes.

cbarker12 (author)2014-08-30

could you post some blue prints?

ShaggyCtes (author)2014-08-26

Your model is amazing, I currently don't have money to support you but rest assure I will as soon as I can, In the mean time I will follow you to support you and yopur projects!

legamin (author)2014-05-13

in using a 5th wheel extensively (Dutchman brand, model: Duck, 30') I've been very satisfied with the extreme longevity of the brand. It's a 1994 and has never required repairs! (20 years is GREAT for a working live in trailer!). But the appliances are both electric and propane. Lighting (all) is both 12 volt or 110/220v plug in. The deep cell marine batteries operate the entire system off grid for two weeks. Water is either positive flow by hook up 12 volt pump or combo hand/foot pump. Refrigeration is combo propane evap. Circulation or electric 12/110/220v. We've put hardwood floors and coriander tops and Novafoam bedding to make it a little more livable. The only reason we are now looking for a larger alternative with pull-outs is visits from the children with grandchildren. But the idea of sinking a well and septic and hooking up solar panels on larger acreage is a great idea. And while we will be going back to Dutchman for the "known quality" in product, you've given me some fantastic ideas for a guest house as well as off the grid hook ups for our Summer land.

burb72 (author)2014-03-21

Hey Lamar,

I've never seen passive solar incorporated in tumbleweeds. It would provide shade in the summer and heat in the winter. basic solar screen heater on foldouts. On roof solar water heater. Could have an insulation barrier on front glass either rolled from one side, or like an accordian.

daredevil499 (author)2014-02-20

Hello Lamar. I'm 16 and I've been watching your YouTube videos often. I find them quite interesting. I think I would love to live this way also. If I were to build a house on wheels, the one in your latest video, what kind of permits would I need? What about licenses? What do I need to legally haul it down the road? Thank you

desertsniper (author)2012-07-27

very interesting.

something like this would be impossible in the peoples republic of california... or atleast the part i live in. but i have oftenthought of living like this.

I KNOW exactly what you mean from your comment. I live in the L.A. County area, but I definitely want out of CA completely and live a more peaceful and less restricted life style. I know that an idea for such a Solar House on Wheels to be built here in SO CAL would be definitely a NO GO.

mvillalpando (author)2014-02-14

Great idea, and I am looking in to seeing a concept model being built for everyone to see. In the last few years I have been dwelling more and more on the idea of going mobile and not being restricted to one area of the world. There are a few things that have hindered me from actually going and buying an RV or something similar, such as how to dispose of sewage water, safety on the structural design of the home (On the Move and While not in motion), Insurance (Medical, RV, etc), how much electricity one consumes, of course one can never get by without being fully reminded of what laws are in place that govern the use of such vehicles on public roads, etc. There is a lot to learn in this field, at least for me, this has been what's been holding me back from buying an RV. Your idea of building a Solar House on Wheels does interest me quite a bit, and I definitely look forward to reading your eBook and seeing your DVD as well. I do hope that you incorporate in to your book how to handle the challenges above, at least what solutions one has when faced with issues as such. Thank you for sharing.

belugita (author)2013-09-15

Great idea, wonderful realisation !

Neolp (author)2013-01-07

Nice idea, I think a reasonable improvement beyond reinforcing with hurricane clips would be a geodesic style roof on the front and back to lessen some of the stresses during transit and improve aerodynamics . You could add more solar panels there to help collect solar energy throughout entire day without moving your house :). If I could afford it and my vehicle could lug it I would gladly setup a portable home similar to this.

Toga_Dan (author)2012-07-28

What must be done to conventional 2x4 stud construction to make it worthy of the freeway? Wind, cornering, potholes, acceleration+ braking are forces seldom seen in a stationary house.

schou (author)Toga_Dan2012-07-30

Probably best to transfer the geometry into a 3D CAD program and simulate conditions and stress. If someone plans to drive one down the freeway its probably not a good idea to have a gambrel roof like the one shown in the video thumbnail.

OhByteMe (author)schou2012-12-10

I'm very close to building one myself and intend on implementing a gambrel roof. I'm no engineer so I don't know the basis for concern while driving with one attached to the structure. Can you enlighten me? I'd be very grateful as to your insight.

Toga_Dan (author)OhByteMe2012-12-12

When there are forces that change directions, nails can wiggle out.

Hurricane clips keep a roof from blowing off in high winds. That's probably a good idea here.

Screws might be a good alternative to nails, but probably not drywall screws. Although people do use them for structural stuff, they aren't approved for it. Deck screws might be good.

flyingpuppy (author)schou2012-08-01

Has anyone here used Phun software? I wonder if it would simulate potholes, etc. Saw some interesting examples on Youtube.

Toga_Dan (author)schou2012-07-30

I was thinking that hurricane clips might keep it together with wind loads, but I'm a bit concerned about a high center of gravity, depending on how wide it is.

formula for CG height:

((M1)(H1) + (M2)(H2) + (M3)(H3)...)
divided by
(M1 + M2 + M3...)
Height of center of gravity

where M1 is the Mass of first component
H1 is Height of CG of 1st component

schou (author)Toga_Dan2012-07-30

You can probably approximate it as one big box. Even then, if you have all the major appliances on the floor then it shouldn't be a huge issue. Again, the safest way to find out is to simulate it using CAD. I wonder if there are transportation laws for these.

PhantomX999 (author)2012-09-16

if i may sagest. you could use a steel shipping container. they come in a number of sizes. your recycling since many can only be used a few times like those from over seas cargo ships and just sit in cargo junk yards. they're really strong and very weather proof. many people have been using them to make homes for years.

zogworth (author)PhantomX9992012-11-28

its a good idea in theory, but they need a lot of preparation before you can use them because they contain a lot of toxic anti corrosion coatings. Also steel is not good insulation!

Subconscionaut (author)2012-09-19

you might want to take this on Kickstarter too.
I like it and I like the Tiny House movement a lot.
Please excuse my ignorance
but how does vibration act on all these woodframed guys?
(i take this from the basic carpentry skills part)
Here in earthquake land we're always thinkin that way.
Is there a method of dealing with the framing to deaden it to the constant tiny "earthquakes" while moving?
I know Romani have had vardos for centuries,
( a type of beautifully carved trailer, designed for horses originally.image search it. pretty.) but I am just curious.
the deal with shipping containers is you need a bigger truck to move them without killing your engine
I think you could actually cut a refrigerated shipping container to make two
insulated car-towable houses
and furthermore, it'd be cool to have a camera wired in the back so you could see behind you better.
that was my two cents!
nice work!

hyneman (author)2012-08-09

why not a travel trailer set up with solar and wind they are all ready wired for 12v and 120v on the bigger appliances they stand up to pot holes and have electric breaks witch are important for a heavier trailers like the one shown. A used one would cost for the same price or cheaper than it would coast to make this. Sorry for coming across negative not my intention.

flyingpuppy (author)2012-08-01

If my vote counts, you get mine! Very ingenious and timely design given our economy and carbon footprints. You can throw in the wind-powered water pump made from bicycle parts for locations that have a lot of wind. Capture all the green energy you can.
Good luck in the contest!

Cole396 (author)2012-07-29

whats the name of the thing that you used to make an online model of your solar house on wheels

schou (author)Cole3962012-07-30

The "thing" or software (if you prefer) is Google SketchUp.

Toga_Dan (author)2012-07-28

Is it possible to estimate how high the center of gravity is? I could help with this. figure out the weight and position of each component. Wouldn't want it to tip on a corner and/or with crosswind.

Schmidty16 (author)2012-07-26

ok i see the shower now um but not to effiend u but ur missing all the smalls

Toga_Dan (author)Schmidty162012-07-28

What do you mean by "smalls?"

l8nite (author)2012-07-26

Id like to see this as a slide show so I could get a better look at the pics

Schmidty16 (author)2012-07-26

where is ur heater /cooler does ur bathroom have a show u could make it more compact

Schmidty16 (author)2012-07-26

could u make it have a dome roof that might be better if it ever got snow on it or rain or hail i think u should make it out of alimunium

About This Instructable




Bio: I am a long time off-grid homesteader and I live year round in a solar cabin I designed and built myself. I use solar and ... More »
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