The original goal for this year was to build a custom tiny house on wheels. However, a few things have made me hit the pause button. Building a tiny house requires a lot of planning after it has been built.

Where and how much is it to park a tiny house? We found out there aren’t a whole lot of affordable places that you could park it. You basically have to treat it like an RV, and RV parking is quite costly. 

We also learned that an SUV isn’t going to cut it for towing a 8×16 tiny house. We would also need to install a parking pad addition on my property. That $20,000 budget is looking more like $30,000 after going all in. This kind of tempered my enthusiasm. We really needed to do more research to figure out how to make it financially feasible in the long run.

Then, we happened to hear more and more about how we didn’t have very much time left to avert climate disaster (triggering the next mass extinction). This got me thinking about our priorities and re-assessing the lifestyle we wanted to live. We decided tiny house living could wait another year. We needed to lead a lifestyle of zero waste and lower our carbon footprint. Before we could make a decision on our zero waste lifestyle, we had to decide if we really wanted to do this in Rochester, Minnesota. Despite some of the obvious cons (weather, family/relatives all moved out of state), staying put was the most sensible thing to do for our careers and our health. We could always re-assess our situation after another 5 years.

We decided that we should kickstart this zero waste/carbon free lifestyle by installing solar panels. We found out that we could install a decent 7.7 kWH system for $15,000 after a $3000 RPU rebate and a $7000 federal tax credit. We went with Solar Connections, since they came highly recommended. We calculated it would take about 8 years for us to break even with the solar panels, as long as electrical usage and rates stayed about the same.

Since we were going to be generating all our electricity, it made sense to see if we could go with an electric vehicle for our transportation needs. There has been a lot of progress made in electric vehicles (EVs) and the charging infrastructure ever since Tesla kickstarted the revolution. We saw that RPU had a $3500 rebate on the new 2019 Nissan Leaf and there was a $7500 federal tax credit (being phased out this year). After trading in our SUV, the total cost of the Nissan Leaf (after all the rebates and tax incentives) was $5000. It seemed like a decent price to pay for not having to pay for gas ($1000 yearly) and contributing zero emissions to the planet. The only downside is that long road trips would be a challenge, because a single charge only last 150 miles versus 220 to 300 miles for the competition. We rarely venture out of state, so it should not be a huge issue for us. Once the fast charging infrastructure gets better in the next couple years, it should become more feasible to take the Leaf on longer road trips.

In summary, we are spending about $20,000 to go all in with electric. However, the money we need to put in (2019) is actually $34,500. Then, once we claim the tax credits ($14,500) in 2020, the end cost is $20,000. This gives us a year to save up and decide how to tackle the tiny house project.