Do you know that more than half of Americans would love living in tiny homes? However, the installation of electrical wiring for powering a tiny cabin seems to be the biggest challenge or fear among the user’s to maintain a quality environment no matter how rough the situation outside.
Solar panels, generators, and regular electricity are the smartest way to power a tiny cabin. Transmitting electricity to energize your essentials must be safe and sound, for which you can use non-metallic wiring (commonly used among modern homes). However, you must have calculated electrical needs with a diagram before deep-diving into the activity.
In this article, we will reveal an essential step-by-step guide for how to wire a tiny house, because a perfect home needs to combine form, function, and freedom to succeed on a wider scale. So, let’s get started and discover tons of valuable information that will be vital to your success.
Understanding the Basics of Tiny House Wiring
So, if you are planning to power your home from any source of electricity (either solar panel, generators, or regular electricity)? Then you must check or conclude following before proceeding.
Understand The Importance of NEC (National Electric Code)
To make your tiny home a comfortable place for living with maximum safety, you should have known about NEC because it’s important for your tiny cabin wiring.
The NEC (National Electric Code) is the broad collection of ultimate guidelines for the safe and secure installation of electrical wiring for the residential, commercial, or industrial equipment in the United States. The Code was first published in 1897 and has been updated every three years usually. Every rule or code inside the codebook ensures maximum protection of people living in the vicinity.
Moreover, National Electric Code uses manufacturer’s recommendations as an installation standard, because nobody knows the product better than the manufacturer (presumably) and one should simply follow their recommendations.
So, if you’re looking for the answer to “what is needed to wire tiny house”, then this guidebook has everything you need to operate using specific safety codes results in less injury and death related to electrical work.
Hence, laying the wiring network correctly by yourself, you’ll need to study this flawless codebook and save thousands of dollars by hiring some professional to get the job done.
Understanding & Calculating Your Electrical Needs
Step One – Understand Your Needs
Knowing your home electrical system is essential for anyone wanting to do-it-yourself upgrades, repair, and installation in and around your home. Many home improvement projects require some sort of electrical work. Knowing and having a basic understanding of your home electrical system and its operation will help make the job safer and easier for you.
Step Two – Get Help from NEC Codebook
Inside the National Electrical Codebook, there are several methods and formulas available, which you can refer to calculating the designed electrical “load” for the building, or dwelling.
Step Three – Prepare a List of Electrical Devices
A list is usually made of the electrically operated devices, appliances, heating and/or cooling plants, domestic hot water system, all kitchen and laundry appliances, garbage disposal, warming drawers, microwave ovens, fans, and else.
Step Four – Document the Load of Each Appliance
The various units’ electrical usage is documented on the list, including whether the appliance or system should be considered at 100% demand (including their daily operation hours).
For each appliance, a value is inserted, which represents the voltage and current needs of the individual unit. These are tallied, using what are known as operating factors, or demand calculations.
Planning a Circuit
Most areas of the United States are powered with 120 / 240 volts / 60 cycle electric current, for use in dwellings and residential buildings, be they condominiums or apartments. All that said, your house’s power choices are probably limited to what the local electrical utility company has an available overhead on the poles or in the ground in front of your property.
So, before a tiny cabin can be adequately powered, some initial calculations need to be done by you to determine the size of the circuit that must be installed. Remember, the best source for designing an electrical system of a tiny cabin is 120V (considering simple appliances).
Step One – Calculate Lighting Load
Measurement is taken off the tine cabin’s perimeter to determine the square footage of the constructed space. Depending on the use of the various spaces, a watts/feet meter variable is determined and applied to the formula and multiplied out to arrive at a total load for general lighting and power receptacle needs. Here is an example:
i. Suppose a cabin of 10 meters by 10 meters.
ii. Multiply the number by 3.28 to convert into feet.
iii. So, ( 10m x 10m = 100 sq. m) then (100 x 3.28 x 3.28 = 1075.8 sq. feet)
iv. Now, obtain energy consumption (in watts) for the whole cabin.
v. Suppose, the lighting in this cabin comes from 25, 70 watt & 20, 50 watt bulb, which equates (30×75) + (8*100) = 2,750 watts.
vi. Finally, divide the wattage by occupied area to calculate the watts per square foot: wattage/area = 2750/1075.8 = 2.55 watts/sq. ft.
vii. So, total wattage will be 2,750 watts.
viii. Converting – 2750/120 = 22.91 Amps
Step Two – Calculate Appliances Load
Suppose, you have a simple set of appliances such as toaster, electric kettle, and mini waffle and their load are as follows:
i. For toaster – It will be 8.75 Amps, as 1050 watts/120v
ii. For kettle – It will be 12.5 Amps, as 1500 watts/120v
iii. For waffle maker – It will be 2.9 Amps, as 350 watts/120v
iv. Total appliances load = 24.15 Amps
These two figures are then added together to arrive at a total load calculation. The professional then must determine the size of the main electric service based on this number, and an additional 10% for future expansion of the system.
i. On combining the load required (lighting load + appliances) = 47.06
ii. Future expansion factor (10%) = 4.70
iii. Final yet required load becomes = 4.70 + 47.06 = 51.75 Amps
Note – If your whole tiny cabin is supported with a main breaker rated at 45 Amps, you may face a problem of tripping a breaker (when all essential are operational at a time). So, for a safe side, you can install 02 Nos. of 25 Amps circuit breakers.
Step Three – Choosing a Power Supply Cord
Now, you have your calculated load in hand – It’s time to choose a perfect power supply cord to energize your tiny cabin.
i. You can opt 50 Amps receptacle
ii. And, go with 30 Amps RV power cord
iii. You’re ready to energize your house via the panel
Step Four – Energizing Your Tiny Cabin
After setting up the electrical network and connection points, the wires are then connected to a meter socket in which the electric meter housed. Your electric meter keeps track of all power consumed at home.
From the meter, the wires then travel to the main service panel or the breaker box. This breaker box then branches out with several circuits delivering power to lights, receptacles, and your appliances.
Depending on the service’s amperage, the type of electric breaker panel will determine the number of breakers one will have.
This whole cabin electrical system is then grounded with a ground wire through a metal water pipe and ground rods buried outside the house.
This is a very important part of your system.
In the case of a short circuit, this ground system will remove excess current to the earth or ground thus protecting your home electrical system and you.
Important Safety Note:
i. When working within electrical boxes, make sure all of the wires and devices in the box are without power, use a voltage tester to be sure that power to every switch, and/or conductor is without power.
ii. Tag the fuse or circuit breaker off, so that another knows that you are working on the electrical system.
What Tools Are Needed To Wire a Tiny House?
So, if you’re not in an electrician by profession, this section is undoubtedly for you, which covers most important yet must-have tools to safely and accurately do the job.
Surprisingly, it takes only three tools to do the job perfectly which are:
It’s an essential tool required to strip and cut wires while laying an electrical network to your cabin. It would help if you had this simple cutting tool to wire a tiny house on your own, making cable cutting tasks more manageable.
It’s an advanced tool for cutting bulkier wires. It’s a smartly designed tool to bend or straighten sheet metal components, especially where smaller pliers or wire cutters don’t offer enough mechanical advantage. The flat side and square nose of lineman’s plier s particularly useful for creating accurate right-angle bends. Moreover, it has a large gripping surface that connects and binds wires together for better strength.
Having a voltage/current tester cum screw is the vital tool you need to check voltage and install switchboards. It might be a critical tool for every electrician, and their speed of use has resulted in their becoming the most commonly used screwdriver today.
How to Wire a Tiny House for Solar Power?
If you have decided to go with solar panels as a power source of your tiny cabin, you need a few additional things to set up an efficient power supply system. For your information, planning a solar system for your cabin helps to save costs and become the smartest solution ever.
Following additional equipment you need:
a. Solar Panel
b. Charger Controller
Now, let’s discuss each one separately:
The solar panel helps to convert the sunlight into electricity as Direct Current (source of energy for your cabin). It’s important to choose the solar panel size wisely, which has the capability to charge you’re the battery fully during day time. So, to calculate the number of panels here are the steps, you need to follow:
i. Your required wattage = 2,750 watts (as calculated above)
ii. Now, divide your wattage with 12 hours = 2,750/12 = 229.16 ~230 Watt
iii. So, you need 230 watts panel to charge your battery.
Another important essential while setting up a solar system and we called it a charger controller. This smart device located between solar panels and batteries, which regulates the current coming from solar panels and prevents overcharging.
As mentioned above, the solar converts sunlight into DC (Direct Current) – Afterwards, the current is then converted into AC (alternating current) by using a device we called it inverter. This is the current flowing into your house to energize your appliances safely.
The DC received from solar panels can be generated in day time only. So, if you want to run the appliances during nighttime, you just need a backup energy source, and we called it batteries.
These batteries solve your problem by storing energy during daytime via solar panel and then supply that stored energy at night without any disruption. It will provide a constant source of stable, reliable power.
In this way, you can energize your tiny cabin via solar systems.
We hope that most of your concerns regarding how to wire a tiny house have been covered in this article so far. So, either you want to energize via solar panel or regular electricity, there won’t be an issue until you followed the guideline mentioned in the NEC codebook.
You can easily route the triplex wire, main feeder wires, panel feed wires, and non-metallic sheathed wires to energize your appliances via a proper networking system. It all depends on your appliances list that your tiny cabin will be hosting, so don’t forget to plan wiring activity before executing.