Casestudy: Offgrid Living

The Nicholson House

It's a straw bale house, which means the outside walls are constructed of bales of straw pinned together with steel rods. The straw is then covered with chicken wire and a stucco coating is then applied. This coating keeps the straw from getting wet and increases the fire protection. A straw bale house constructed this way has a better fire rating than a normal wood frame house. The insulation value of a straw bale house is about R-45, which is way better than a super insulated frame built house.

The walls are protected from rain with stucco, and tar paper is used on the bottom and top of the walls to prevent water from seeping in. The large over hang around the house is also great for keeping the rain away. The large over hang also keeps out the summer sun. The high thermal mass of the straw bale wall helps to keep the heat inside in the winter and the heat out in the summer.

The walls around the house, built for esthetics, are also made of straw and stucco.

We have wireless internet connection and an antenna on the roof for four local stations and we use a cell phone. There are no power lines/or phone lines out here. We use propane gas to heat our hot water and for the stove. We are living off the grid!

This 1200 sq. foot house was built in 1997.
Concrete floor with open floor plan
2 Bedrooms, 1 bath, carport, with 200 sq. foot workshop
Propane for hotwater and stove.
Appliances included
Solar for electric
Rain water harvesting with two 1500 gallon tanks
Taxes approx. $1,300.
Mesquite Groves throughout fenced property.

Homestead is tucked away on 10 acres in a hidden magical valley in the Sierrita Mountains, about 45 minutes from downtown Tucson.

Coming up the driveway
Front porch-"D" doing what she does best.
The porch goes all the way around the house as the next four pictures show.
This one is the front of the house.

Side view of yard and carport/workshop.
The carport is constructed with 2 x 4 metal studs and insulated. Rainwater is also harvested from this roof.
Side of house that faces the driveway. Pictured is "Henry" who was left behind and loves to hang there. He was too scared to be captured by the old owners, so they had to leave him behind. He can't be touched but does follow us around as we walk the property. He eats our food and by barking at the coyotes keeps them away. He gets along with our two dogs and instead of sleeping in the dog house that was left behind he sleeps on the hay in front of it.
Kitchen and dining area.
Living Room with wood stove. This little stove is all the heat that is needed for an Arizona winter. It takes the chill out of the air, and with the strawbale construction the heat is retained nicely
Front door on right, hallway toward bedrooms on left.
Hallway from bath. Portia on her favorite windowsill. The windowsills are two feet deep.
Main bedroom-the hang out for Sundance and Cheyanne.
Approx. 13x13
The second bedroom is our computer room
Approx. 11x13
Two tanks that collect the water from the roof of the house and carport.
Solar panel that supplies the electricity for the house. Batteries store power for night time and cloudy days.

The solar panel tracks (moves) with the sun.

The next few pictures are of the area around our house. Shemp checking out the view.
You can see the roof of our house here.
From google earth--elevation about 3800
Topographical of our house--property boundries
Every night there is a different beautiful sunset