Tiny House Electrical: How to Wire a Tiny House for 50 AMP

Wiring a tiny house can be difficult. You have to ensure that you have the fixtures correctly to get the best results. If anything goes wrong, your tiny house may lack power, at worst it can lead to electrocution or a fire outbreak. How do you avoid this?

The best way is to follow the right guidelines and ensure due diligence when wiring your tiny house. But how do you go about that?

Don’t worry, this article will show you how to go about wiring your tiny home step by step. We will cover extensively all the answers to your questions about wiring and powering tiny houses in this guide. Keep reading to get all the information that you need.

How Does a Tiny House Get Power?

Power is one of the most vital utilities you’ll need to keep your tiny house running. If the weather outside is good, you can go on without power for days, just like when you go camping. However, if you plan to take a hot shower, use lighting and electronic systems, and generally live as if you’re in a conventional home, you will need to use power sources for your tiny house. 

Here are some power sources that work:

Tiny House RV Hookups

Most tiny homes on wheels have RV hookups. There you can plug in an extension cord. This is because the side of the house has an adapter. This type of connection is most functional for people who want to use electrical appliances. These include washers, ovens, and dryers, among others. 

You may plan to anchor your home. In cases like this, you can request your builder to fix a permanent power receptacle to your home. This will go near the roof as overhead wires or underneath the floor if you want the wires to be hidden.

Solar power systems

Solar power systems are also a good option. It can be expensive to install a solar power system upfront. As a result, some plans allow you to pay for up to ten years. 

If you want a solar system that powers your entire house and it’s off the grid, you have a good choice. You just need to create enough outdoor space for the solar panels. You also need indoor space such as a battery closer and a control center. 

To work well with solar power, you’ll need to choose the ideal appliances. For instance, use a gas fireplace instead of an electric heater. It will help you conserve energy. 

Some people prefer grid-tied solar systems. Here, it supplements power from the power lines and then sells energy to the grid when it’s not in use. It means that your meter starts to run backward. 

Another benefit of grid-tied solar is that you won’t run out of energy on cloudy days. It is because your system automatically switches to grid power if your battery depletes.

Permanent Power Connection

The major difference, in this case, is that professionals wire the power line directly to a panel without using any plug. 

The first thing is to install the power box and the power access. After installation, inspect it properly. Then you can connect the power to your tiny house. 

A power company will be in charge of this. It is usually the same people who bring the line to your house and connect it to your power box. You need to remember that depending on your location, the process will be a little different and inspection will still have to follow.

How Much Power Does a Tiny House Need?

Tiny houses only consume very little energy in comparison to conventional homes. For instance, a tiny home can consume about only 300kW per month. This sums up to about $27 monthly in energy costs. However, this calculation is based on energy usage by homeowners. 

If you are wondering how to calculate energy consumption for your tiny home, here is how:

First, let’s define power

Power= current x voltage

Most tiny house appliances will run on 120V. If your builder wires your tiny house this way, then:

Power = current x 120

Let’s assume your electric cooker uses about 2A of current. It means that the power usage =

Current x voltage = 3A x 120V = 360W

You can know how much current your appliances consume when you look at their manual. 

Knowing how much current your house consumes in total is simple. Just plug all the power consumption of all your appliances. 

 

Here is a table of how much power some appliances consume.

Item

Power (Watts)

Energy in watt-hours (Wh)

Window air conditioner

500W to 1500W (depending on size)

8000Wh (averaging)

Well pump – 1HP

750W

750Wh

Radio

1W

6Wh

Blender – Powerful

1500W

125Wh

Blender – Conventional

500W

41Wh

Space heater

Low/ Medium/ High

600W/1000W/1500W

8kWh

Solar booster pump (for water pressure)

100W

50Wh

Ultra-energy efficient fridge

180W surge

168 Wh

Full-size fridge

83W

1000 Wh (1 kWh)

Internet router

6W

72Wh

Cell Phone

5W

15Wh

Laptop

Charging/running

42W/14W

168Wh

Incandescent light

60W

240 Wh

LED lights

6W

24 Wh

 

For most tiny houses, using a 6000W service is enough to power. It is because you will not use all your devices at a time. You only have to separate your appliances into groups.

Once you can ascertain how much power you consume, you know your tiny house needs. You can also use a solar sizing spreadsheet. It will help you figure out the size of the solar system that will be ideal for your home. 

You can work with a professional if you find this process difficult. They will help you make the right decision.

Can I Wire a Tiny House Myself?

You can wire a tiny house yourself if you have basic electrical knowledge. You don’t need to go to college or have an engineering certificate to do that successfully. 

However, you need to know enough about what you are doing. You can take courses or watch online videos that show you how to wire a tiny house. 

If you feel unable to wire your tiny house, you should hire an expert to do it.

Tiny House Electrical Basics

Let’s take a look at how to wire a tiny house (basics). 

The way you wire your tiny house depends on usage and design. But people often wire their houses like this:

  • The right side of the main floor
  • The left side of the main floor
  • Loft
  • HVAC
  • Kitchen
  • Appliances
  • Other important areas

Ensure that you design each circuit to carry expected loads plus extra 25% power. It means that each circuit breaker in your house requires a 20-amp circuit.  It excludes heavy-draw appliances like HVAC.

When you read a diagram of your tiny house plans, you will find some shorthand symbols. These are electrical symbols that tell you how to wire quickly. They can also let you know what is going on within your tiny home.

Several components go into wiring a tiny house. Ensure that you choose the right components and connect them correctly. It helps you with safe installation and prevents hazards. Ensure you follow appropriate guidelines also.

How Does Electricity Flow Through a Tiny House?

  • Electricity flows through a tiny house in the following order:
  • An electrical outlet – (RV outlet, solar from off-grid, an outlet from an existing home).
  • RV electrical cord (rated for 50A)
  • Electrical inlet (it carries power from the inlet to the electrical box. Has a rating of 50A)
  • Electrical panel (carries electricity from the supply line. It then distributes it to several electrical circuits. Has a rating of 00A)
  • Electrical circuits (transmission of electricity to the switches and outlets)
  • Switches/Fixtures/Outlets (endpoints for electricity usage)

Electricity flows into a tiny house through the above order. Most tiny houses use a 50A 120V set-up. If you have a lot of equipment, a 100A sub-panel that uses 6 breaker slots is enough.

How Do You Wire a Tiny House For 50A Service?

You will first need to consider the National Electrical Code (NEC). It is a set of rules and guides that puts you through the electrical wiring in a building.

Every rule is informed for your protection. For instance, the circuit around sinks needs ground fault protection. It is so that getting electrocuted is difficult.

The National Electrical Code

The National Electrical Code (NEC) is a standard that is adoptable by region. It ensures the safe installation of wires and other electric equipment in the United States. 

NEC is a part of the National Fire Code Series that the National Fire Protection Association, a private trade association, published. Although NEC is national, it is not a federal law. Instead, states and municipalities adopt the code so that they can standardize their enforcement of wiring. It also helps them to promote safe electrical practices. 

In certain cases, the NEC undergoes amendments, alteration, and sometimes rejection by some regions. It all depends on the governing body of that region.

In regions that accept NEC, the jurisdiction authority carries out an inspection. It is to ensure compliance with important standards. 

The NEC and the National Electrical Safety Code (NESC), which the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) publishes are two different entities. The NESC oversees electric power and communication utility systems. It includes underground lines, power substations, and overhead lines.

Now, let’s see how to wire a tiny house for 50VA systems.

The Basics: Understanding Amps, Volts, and Watts

Of course, you don’t need a thorough understanding of engineering or memorize electrical theories to wire your tiny house. But if you must do so effectively, you need to understand the basics. Knowing Amps, Volts, and Watts will make the whole process a lot easier.

You can see signs like this on your electrical wiring equipment: W, V, A.

  • W stands for watts
  • V stands for volts
  • Stands for amperes

This is easy, but you’ll need to do one basic math. It is because you’ll be needing all three at different steps of the wiring process. However, you’ll only have two sometimes. 

The situation can demand that you have your watts and volts but not the amperes. Or you have the watts and the amperes but not the volts. Sometimes, you have the amperes and volts, but need to find the watts. It is quite simple math. Basic math too, not algebra!

Multiplying your amperes by the volts will give you watts. I.e

An x V = W

Let’s assume you know the watts and the volts, but you need to find the amperes. 

W ÷ V = A

What if you have the amperes and the watts but you need to find the volts?

W ÷ A = V

One way to go around this is to understand that these three are interconnected. They play around with each other.

Let’s look at a major example:

If your electric stove is about 1,800 watts and you need to know the amperes, you can calculate it. 

Most houses run on 120-volt circuits. It means you know the watts and the volts. Now, you need to solve the amperes.

1800 watts ÷ 120 volts = 15 amperes

Your election stove may not be up to 1800 watts of course. Since you live in a tiny house and power your whole house on 50A.

Calculate the Electrical Needs of Your Tiny House

You will have to decide how much electricity you will use in your tiny house. Consider if it is going to be mobile or stationary. 

Both types of tiny houses may have the same kind of wiring if the power source is in the house. But if you get it from a power source, the service panels will differ according to location.

You will also need to make a full list of all the electrical items in your house. Use a column spreadsheet. Mark out the equipment, amperes, volts, and Watts. 

You may want to plan the number of hours you want to run your electricity if you use solar power. If this is the case, add an extra column on the spreadsheet.

Then fill in all the details about each item you will be using. There are several ways to find this information. You can:

  • Check the website of the manufacturer. You may find a manual or spec sheet for the item.
  • Check the label. Some usually come with electrical numbers. 
  • Use a clamp meter or plug-in meter to measure it directly.

Bring the Power From Pole to Panel

It’s easier to do this with a tiny house on wheels. Install an electrical inlet port. The port enables you to hook up to an extension cord on the outside of your home. 

Then, wire the electrical inlet to the panel of the system service. It can be the fuse box or breaker box.

It may be difficult to find a service panel that is the appropriate size for your tiny house. It is because, unlike a conventional home, you don’t need a 200 Amp main breaker or several circuits. 

You can save yourself stress by getting a panel that has the label of a sub-panel. It will get you down to a reasonable size.

The major breaker is a switch that enables electricity to enter the service panel. It also potentially powers other circuits. 

A vital safety measure is turning off the main breaker when working on a circuit. 

Further safety protection includes:

  • Unplugging
  • Turning off the circuit that feeds the plug.

Plan Your Circuitry

You’ll need to plan the different circuits in your house next. These circuits will interweave through the electrical system of your tiny house.

While it may be possible to fit everything onto one circuit, it’s not advisable. Especially if the electrical system of your tiny house is small.

It is important to be able to shut off a single circuit and not shut down the electricity in the entire house. Even more so when you need to troubleshoot something. 

If you also overload a circuit and throw the breaker, it’s important to not suddenly be in the dark. 

As a result, you need to break things down into circuits. Base the breakdown on the type and replacements. Your tiny house may have 4 circuits including:

  • Kitchen receptacles
  • Outdoor receptacles
  • Other indoor receptacles
  • Lighting

Each circuit should have a set of wires that runs from the service panel through your house to complete the circuit. You should also ensure the appropriate sizing of these wires to meet your electrical needs.

Important Note

The measurement of wire sizes is in different gauges. The wires get bigger as the gauges get smaller. It means that a 10 gauge wire is larger in diameter than a 12 gauge wire.

A wire gauge determines the amount of current it can carry throughout a circuit. So, a 14 gauge wire can carry about 15 Amps. A 12 gauge wire can carry about 20 Amps. A 10 gauge wire can carry about 30 Amps. To make it easier, they all have color codes that you can work with.

The next step is to plan what each circuit will carry. Your lighting circuit can include kitchen lights, bathroom lights, and loft lights. You can also include porch lights, living room lights, and other lights. You’ll need to do the same with each of the other circuits. When planning, determine the number of receptacles and where you plan to locate them 

Knowing these locations will help you plan out the materials you’ll need for the electrical system of your tiny house.

Check the Electrical Work of your Tiny House

You can make mistakes in the wiring process, so you need to cross-check your work. Ensure you did not undersize your electrical systems and that you use the right circuit breakers. 

Also, tiny living does not mean you should give up luxury. It simply means that you focus on what you enjoy and eliminate the excess. So, if you need air conditioning in your tiny house, you can calculate the power consumption while preparing for your wiring.

Wire Stripper

A wire stripper is a portable tool that workers, especially electricians use. It is handheld and useful for removing the protective coating of an electric wire to repair or replace the wire. 

It is also useful for stripping the end portions of an electric wire so that an electrician can connect them to other terminals or wires. 

A wire stripper is a vital tool for professional electricians and other personnel in related fields.

Wire strippers fall into two major categories:

  • Manual wire strippers
  • Automatic wire strippers

 

Manual Stripper

A manual wire stripper is the most versatile kind. To use it, you need to rotate it manually and apply pressure around the insulation when cutting and adjusting the wires. 

 

Automatic Stripper

An automatic wire stripper will hold one side tightly while cutting and removing the other side. An automatic wire stripper can help novices and DIYs cut wires more effectively. But it only works for certain sizes and ranges of wires. It. And break small wires. But large wires may not fit into its jaws. 

You can find wire strippers in various sizes and shapes. Their raw material is usually steel and they have serrated teeth which are useful for stripping wires. The handles may be straight or curved, with rubber coating to assist in firm grips. Wire strippers also often have wire cutters.

120 volts wires vs 240 volts wires

Most houses in the United States run on circuits of 120 volts. You may find circuits that are 240 volts. But the houses that require this amount of volts are houses that use larger appliances such as HVAC and other appliances that draw high currents of power.

People might often refer to it as 220 bolts, 230 volts, or 240 volts when referring to these types of circuits. There are little disparities but they mostly mean the same thing and relate to each other. 

When dealing with 120 volts, it means a wire of 120 volts is going to the outlet. 240 volts will mostly mean two wires that are 120 volts going to it. 

When dealing with wires that are 240 volts, you’ll mostly find a black wire and a red wire, typically the hot leads. You will also see a single neutral white wire. It may be a bare copper or ground green wire.

Electrical Material List for a Tiny House

Several elements go into wiring a tiny house. The key to the safe installation is understanding how to choose the right components and correctly connect them. You can follow the NEC guidelines and considerations in your region. They’ll prove very helpful.

Here are some key elements to consider for wiring your tiny house. We will also include a few helpful recommendations. 

Tiny House Breaker Box

Another name for the breaker box is the electrical panel. The breaker box is the central hub of power. It controls your entire tiny house. It gets its power from a power source (solar panels, the grid, etc). Then, it breaks down into smaller runs, i.e circuits. 

We suggest that you have up to ten spaces in your box for a breaker box of 100 amperes. 

In some situations, the power company in your region will use a service of 200 amperes by default. You can however request a smaller one. 

It is not a bad idea to have a larger box and a larger service than what you estimate you’ll need. It is even advisable to have something slightly larger for future purposes. Mostly, the difference in costs is not much.

Wire for Your Tiny House

Most likely, you will use a Romex when wiring your tiny house. Another name for this wire is a non-metallic sheathed wire. Professionals often use it for wiring residential houses. 

Note: Romex is a brand name that broadly describes this brand of wire. 

You need to understand the difference between wires and cables. A wire is a single solid copper conductor. A cable, however, entails a bundle that contains several strands of smaller copper conductors. 

Most people often casually use the word “wire”. But you should understand that when they say “wire”, they are most likely referring to a cable.

Cable Sizing

A cable comes in several sizes. A wire gauge helps take wire/cable measurements. Here is a typical example of a wire gauge, the amperage by rating, and the common uses.

 

Wire Gauge

Rated Amperage

Common Uses

10-3 Romex

30A

Electric Clothes Dryer

10-2 Romex

30 A

Baseboard Heaters, Electric Water Heater.

12-2 Romex

20 A

Refrigerator, Lighting & Outlets. 

14-2 Romex

15 A

Lighting Circuits

What Are Romex Labels?

Romex has different numbers of conductor strands. These strands bundle up to make a wire.  Usually, most Romex will have two conductors, including a ground conductor. You may also come across some that have three conductors including a ground conductor. 

You will find labels on the packaging of Romex wires. These labels are a combination of the wire gauge and the number of conductors that make up the cable. 

For instance, a cable that has two conductors including a ground conductor, and has a gauge size of 14, will have the label 14 – 2.

Color Coding of Conductor Wires

In most cases, manufacturers make wire conductors using standard colors. But do not always assume that this is the case with every wire. 

Normally, the conductors in the wire are the same. However, the color coatings are different so you can tell them apart. 

The most common method for color coding wires are:

  • White for the neutral lead
  • Bare copper or green for the ground
  • Black for the hot lead
  • Red for the second hot lead in 240 volts.

Major Exceptions for Color Coding

The colors of wires do not usually differ from each other. When you come across a wire, there is every likelihood that the wiring is perfect and correct. But since you did not perform the wiring, you cannot be too sure. As a result, you need to be careful.

There are certain cases where the colors of wires will be different from conventional colors. For instance, you may find a three-way switch. Here, the white wire will represent the “traveler” and the three-way circuit may even be hot!

The standard way to go about this is to wrap the paper tape around the white wire. Doing this wrapping around all the boxes will present the right signal for future purposes. While this situation is not usually a common occurrence, you now have an idea of what to do.

Circuit Breakers

By simple definition, a circuit breaker is an automatic protection system for circuits. Electricians install breakers in an electrical panel. Another name for this electrical panel is the breaker box. Here, there is an attachment of each circuit to a single breaker. 

The function of the breaker is to monitor the circuit. If any complication occurs, the breaker will shut off that circuit immediately. For instance, in situations of overload. Laymen often refer to this situation as a “breaker trip” and it usually happens when appliances act up. It can also occur when too many pieces of equipment that draw large power are put together in a single circuit. 

Assuming, a home outlet has a television, space heater, and vacuum all plugging in at once, this would be too heavy. Certainly, the breaker will “trip off”. Then the access and operation of the circuit will shut off until the electrician or any personnel fixes the issue. Once they reset the beaker and place it back into position, everything starts to work fine again.

Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCI)

Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCI) are electrical safety devices. It functions to protect people from electrocution and electric shock. Usually, you can find GFCIs in areas where electricity and water are close to each other. It includes tiny house areas like the kitchen, basement, bathroom, garage, and outdoors. They are mostly useful for appliances and equipment that have cord connections beside the water. 

GCFIs help to prevent deadly shock. It quickly shuts off the power to the circuit if the electricity that flows into the circuit is different from the one returning. It doesn’t matter if the difference is only a slight one, what it indicates is a loss of current, so it shuts off.

Arc Fault Circuit Interrupters (AFCI)

Another name for an arc fault circuit interrupter (AFCI) is an arc fault detection device (AFDD). It is a circuit breaker that functions by breaking the circuit whenever it detects the electric arcs that signify a loose connection in the wiring of your tiny house. 

Loose connections can develop with time. They can sometimes become hot and be the cause of house fires. An AFCI selectively differentiates between a harmless arc and one that is potentially harmful. A harmless arc can be incidental to the normal operation of plugs, switches, and brushed motors. A potentially harmful arc, for instance, can be a lamp cord with a broken conductor.

Grounding a Tiny House

Grounding is a backup pathway that enables the flow of electricity from the source to the ground for proper dissipation. Grounding your tiny house is easy. You can achieve this by connecting the breaker box ground bar to the trailer and then a grounding rod. 

A grounding rod goes into the earth and has a conductor that ties to it. It is usually 10-foot and mostly copper. You should ensure that there is a free and direct flow from the ground outlets to the ground bar in the beaker box. Then make sure that it flows from the beaker box to the ground rod. 

You can also ground the house to the trailer to ensure that all safety measures are in place. It means that when you’re on the road, driving your tiny house, the current can flow into the trailer. The current can then either dissipate through the hitch foot. It can also arc a closer proximity from the trailer to the ground.

12 Volt Wiring for a Tiny House

If you decide to live in a tiny house that is off the grid, you may be wondering about a 12 Volt wiring for your tiny house.

If you stay off the grid, it means you will be connecting to an alternative power source for instance solar energy. Considering a 12 Volt wiring for solar power is a very bad idea. 

You may have come across discussions that ascertain that 12 volts of direct current power are more efficient than alternating current power. Usually, this can be a result of the need to convert the power from direct current to alternate current. 

Using 13-volt wiring for your tiny house would work if you do not use efficient inverters. However, solar energy is now a modern solution for power and so it is improving. 

This means that you cannot use the same wiring application from many years ago for now.

DC wiring can also appear to be more efficient. So you may be tempted to choose the DC wiring on a 12 volts setup. This may be true, but not in its entirety. 

Assuming you wire your tiny house for 12 volts, it means that all your appliances will need to be 12 volts. You will end up spending more than you bargain for on tiny house appliances. You will also lack a wide range of options when it comes to choosing the equipment to buy for your tiny home. 

If any inefficiency occurs from the DC to the AC, you can deal with the conversion process by adding an extra panel to your solar array. 

Using AC power enables you to have a huge range of options for a fraction of the amount that you will spend on DC appliances. You will be saving a lot of money which is one of the objectives of going tiny. 

Therefore, you must choose AC power when wiring your tiny house.

DC wiring can also appear to be more efficient. So you may be tempted to choose the DC wiring on a 12 volts setup. This may be true, but not in its entirety. 

Assuming you wire your tiny house for 12 volts, it means that all your appliances will need to be 12 volts. You will end up spending more than you bargain for on tiny house appliances. You will also lack a wide range of options when it comes to choosing the equipment to buy for your tiny home. 

If any inefficiency occurs from the DC to the AC, you can deal with the conversion process by adding an extra panel to your solar array. 

Using AC power enables you to have a huge range of options for a fraction of the amount that you will spend on DC appliances. You will be saving a lot of money which is one of the objectives of going tiny. 

Therefore, you must choose AC power when wiring your tiny house.

How Much Does It Cost to Wire a Tiny House?

The cost of wiring your tiny house differs according to the materials you choose to use. Also, if you hire a professional electrician or someone in a rated field, it will have an impact on the cost. 

Generally, you should be spending about $500 to buy materials. If you hire labor, you should spend between $1,000 and $3,000. All these costs exclude appliances and lighting fixtures which also have a wide range of price points.

 

Here is an estimation of what you will need and their price points:

Item 

Quantity

Estimated Costs

Bath fan

1

$24.56

Led puck lights

3

$29.43

AFCI Breakers

1

$52.31

GFCI  Breakers

2

$46.15

Breakers

10

$4.18

Breaker Box

1

$43.67

Wire Staples – 225 pack

1

$4.83

Electrical Boxes

15

$0.68

Outlet/Switch Covers

15

$0.49

Outlets/Switches

15

$14.49

Romex-250 feet

1

$42.65

Estimated Total $625.31

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I Wire a Tiny House Even If I Don’t Have Any Experience?

Yes, you can wire a tiny house even if you lack any form of experience with wiring a house. If you follow the NEC rules and guidelines and observe all safety precautions, you will be fine and get good results. 

This article already gives you background knowledge about how to go about wiring a tiny house. But if you are unsure of doing it yourself, it is better to call a professional.

How Long Does It Take to Wire a Tiny House?

Wiring an entire tiny house will not take long. Everything including pulling wire, drilling through studs, and installing boxes should take about three to four hours. 

If you want to do it faster, you should put together your electrical diagram ahead of time. It will help you create the most efficient wiring flow in your tiny home.

Conclusion

Wiring a tiny house is not difficult. You can achieve good results even if you do DIY without any experience. Ensure you follow the NEC codes available in your region. Also, follow all safety precautions.

If you put together your electrical diagram ahead of time, wiring your tiny house should only take about 3-5 hours. The total estimated cost of wiring your tiny house is between $1,000 and $3,000. It excludes the cost of fixtures and lighting materials.