Shipping Container Project: Solar is up!

When most people ask how my “tiny house” is progressing; they want to see pictures of the interior. Everyone is fascinated by the flooring choice, wall materials, countertops, and bathroom fixtures. However, I get very few questions about the systems that actually run everything. The entire thing is designed to be 95% self sufficient and operate in an off-grid format.

For all my fellow Energy Nerds out there — this one is for you!

Solar System Overview:

  1. Three 330 watt panels on the roof connected to custom tilt + turn mounts (Roughly 1kw of solar input total)
  2. Charge controller for managing the solar power (Renogy Rover 60 AMP)
  3. 24V Battery bank = 4x 180AH 6V deep cycle batteries wired in Series
  4. 3000 watt inverter with 9000 watt surge capability.Β  (AIMS Pure Sine)

Now the above system overview is probably too simplified for some people and a bunch of gibberish to others. First, I’ll provide a basic description of how this all works, and we can get technical later.

View of the 3 tilt turn panels installed

Whenever the sun is shining it’s releasing Energy that can be captured and used. The three solar panels on our roof are harvesting this energy and sending it (through thick wires) down into the container where it hits the Renogy Charge Controller. The charge controller stabilizes the solar power and inputs it safely into the batteries. It insures the batteries do not receive TOO much solar electricity (which would result in battery failure and be unsafe). It also keeps the solar electricity moving in one direction — you wouldn’t want electricity going BACKWARDS towards the panels. Basically, a charge controller is required in any off-grid solar system.


After the charge controller — the electricity is pumped into our battery bank. This is essentially four large batteries designed to be capable of holding various amounts of electricity at any given time. The amount of electricity contained in the batteries is displayed on the charge controller as a percentage. 0% meaning we have no usable solar electricity stored in the batteries and 100% meaning we are fully charged. Above you can see that I currently have 71% of usable electricity remaining, with 102watts of electricity going into the batteries from the Solar Panels. (the sun was setting at this point, because normally our panels are inputting around 700W on a sunny day) Making sense?

6V batteries wired in series creating 24V battery bank

The next step is getting the sunlight energy from the batteries to the house. This is done with our AIMS 3000W Inverter which converts the battery electricity to usable “household” electricity and sends it to all the outlets, lights, appliances, etc… Whenever the Inverter is turned on, the outlets throughout the shipping container are active. Plug something in and it works! Just like a standard household outlet. The 3000W part of the Inverter is describing how much maximum electricity we have available through this size Inverter. FOR EXAMPLE: 5 lights, radio, the mini fridge, fan, and my laptop use about 265 watts — well within the capacity of this Inverter. As you turn things on, the amount of watts rises, with the maximum available being 3000 watts.

This particular AIMS Inverter also has the option to charge the batteries from a standard “on-grid” source of electricity. If the container was near a structure that has grid power available; you can plug the container into a outlet (insuring proper breaker size for the amp draw) and have this charge the batteries or even bypass our entire system and run the shipping container off standard power.

AIMS Inverter hard at work

We will get into mechanical systems in a separate blog — but I want to note that our Minisplit (which is how we have air conditioning during summer) uses roughly 825 watts and is the biggest electrical user in the shipping container. Recently, during a sunny 90F day — I worked for 6 hours with the Minisplit providing AC the entire time. The batteries had a 100% charge when I arrived and were at 45% when I left.

Using a very inexpensive wall mounted power meter; you can view the total amount of electricity being used at any given time. Below you can see that I am using 463 watts of electricity at this point in time. By looking at this little power meter, and comparing it to the Renogy Charge controller — you can actively see if you are using more energy than the sun is currently inputting. Pretty fun thing to do as you turn things on and the sun moves around πŸ™‚

Solar used monitor
We were using 463 watts of electricity when this picture was taken

Solar System Budget:

  • 330W Solar Panel x3
    • $215 each = $645 total
  • Renogy Rover 60 AMP Charge Controller (12/24V)
    • $215 total
  • AIMS 3000W Inverter/Charger
    • $925 total
  • Solar LCD Power/Energy Display
    • $20 total
  • 400 AMP/Hour 6V Batteries x4
    • $85 each = $340 total

$2,145.00 total cost before wiring, disconnect, switches, etc

I’ll write up a technical article later that outlines how/why we wired everything including wire sizes, connections types, lengths etc.

For now, this is a good overview of where we started at for our Shipping container tiny house renewable energy system. We plan to double the battery bank in 1-2 weeks, but for now this is working great.

Thank You,

Written By:

Luke Langhals

Shipping Container Project: DIY Steampunk Bathroom Vanity

Material List for this project is at the bottom of this page:

PART 1: Countertop

It began with a question…..what should I make the bathroom vanity out of for the Container? Given the off-grid, and tiny aspect of this home, I wanted something that fit the ‘fun’ aspect of this construction. It had to be a little funky and it also had to be pretty cheap. I’ve done Penny Countertops, I’ve tried copper, I’ve done reclaimed materials, I’ve experimented with concrete…what should I try in this particular project?

The answer was to jumble everything together and see what happens. I nicknamed the project Steampunk Vanity.

I began with the the cabinet box itself. A jumble of reclaimed 2×3, 2×4, and live edge wood off cuts that were spliced together into the bathroom box. The bathroom counterop space was drawn in the plans as a 24″x56″ surface. It would sit on top of the condensing (all in one) washer/dryer, and it would house the bathroom sink + faucet +storage.

I went to the garage and cut myself a 24″ x 56″ section of 3/4″ plywood to give me a platform to work with. I then walked around my basement to find a suitable sink shaped vessel and discovered and older copper looking wash-bin that would eventually work as my sink.

Steampunk Counter wood 2019
Here is pretty much what I started with!

The copper wash-bin was pretty deep but I wanted part of it to stick up above the countertop surface. I traced a circle around the bottom and then made a second circle slightly larger; this would allow part of the wash-bin to go underneath the countertop and the other part to be exposed on top. This is more understandable in the next picture…..

Steampunk counter wood cut 2019
Wallah! it fits!

Next, I decided to re-utilize my leftover “feather” concrete for the surface. This would lightweight and should give offset the copper with a nice modern/industrial feel. I mixed up a small bath and began applying it as I did before. One….layer….at….a…time πŸ™‚

Steampunk Counter First layer 2019
First Layer being applied

Each layer of feather concrete is about 1/8 of an inch thick. I used 5 layers to get a solid feeling surface over my plywood base. I love it when friends stop by and say “hey, can I help with whatever weird project you’re working on….”

Steampunk Counter Bridget 2019
Bridget lending a hand. Friend’s do help out sometimes!

With my multiple layers of concrete smoothly applied, I next pulled out an old sock and rubbed applied the concrete sealant. This process again is outlined in my previous BLOG.

Steampunk Sink in No Edge 2019
Sealant on + sink dropped in

After 2 applications of sealant, I could tell that the trim/edges of this project just weren’t going to do it for me. I wanted something to surround the concrete countertop and frame the project with a fun application. Of course I turned back to my favorite thing…pennies.

I cut a 1.5 inch trim board to size and screwed it into my newly made concrete countertop. The back side and right side will be against walls, so I only required trim on the front and right.

I painted the squared off trim black, and began gluing pennies to the top edge and front edges. This was my first time doing pennies on a vertical surface and liquid nails secured them perfectly. I supported them from the bottom with the table so they wouldn’t slide down before the glue set, but after this they were attached pretty well before Epoxy.

Steampunk Pennies before epoxy 2019
Penny edge held on with glue before Epoxy

I taped the edges the best I could with HVAC foil tape to prevent Epoxy from getting on the concrete counter. Push the tape down firmly to insure the Epoxy doesn’t make it’s way under your tape barrier. I poured a very think line on top and spread this around using a foam brush. I continued to go over the surface with thin lines of Epoxy, using the foam brush to ‘pull’ it down over the vertical pennies where it (for the most post) would stay put. Drop clothes on the floor stopped any drips.

Steampunk Counter Penny Edge 2019
Foil tape on — ready for Epoxy pouring

After the Epoxy dried for 12 hours, I carefully pulled the the tape off and removed any excess using a razor blade and fine sand paper. I placed the copper sink back into place to insure everything fit.

Steampunk Counter Done 2019
Trim finished, counter finished, before installation


So…..we now have a countertop with trim, and a spot for a copper wash-bin. However, this is not a functioning bathroom vanity unless I find a way to make this copper bin into an actual working sink vessel!

First step was insuring the basin was waterproof. I filled it up to the brim with water and allowed it to sit for 2 days straight. The water level did not lower at all, and this was a very good sign for my DIY sink!

I wanted to protect the finish and insure the sink held up over time. I brushed water based Polyurethane to coat the entire inside of the basin with 3 different coats. Allowing each coat to dry 2-3 hours between coats. This insures the Poly is still tacky to the touch when the next layer is going on and supports adhesion between layers.

Next step was installing a functioning sink drain. I stated by purchasing a pop up drain from Amazon. It’s important to choose one that does NOT HAVE OVERFLOW, because DIY sinks don’t have a built in overflow section.

Next, I used a 1.5 inch hole saw bit to drill a hole in the center of the basin’s bottom. I dropped in the drain and realized that the sink bottom would need to slope towards the drain. Without an indented area around the drain, water would collect and sit within the basin.

I used a hammer, flat head screw driver, and wood blocks to pound the edges of the 1.5 inch hole and create a sloped area for my drain to sit. I inserted the drain per it’s directions and tested it ability to hold water.

Steampunk Sink Testing 2019
No leaks!

With the drain working, the countertop complete, and the penny edging installed — the next step was relocating my “Steampunk” bathroom vanity project was nearly complete. Next, I started a DIY faucet project….but we can talk about that later.

Steampunk Counter In Container 2019
Countertop + Sink Basin installed in the container

Written By:

Luke Langhals


Material List:

3/4 Inch Ply Wood — — — — — — — — $19.00 — — — (Had extra laying around)

Concrete Layers — — — — — — — — — $26.00 — — — (Ardex Feather Cement – Amazon)

Concrete Sealer — — — — — — — — — $24.00 — — — (Quikrete Cure & Seal – Lowes)

1.5″ Poplar Trim Board — — — — — $7.00 — — — (Had extra laying around)

600 Shiny Pennies — — — — — — — — $3.00 — — — (Got at the bank)

Epoxy — — — — — — — — — — — — — — $23.00 — — — (Famowood 1 qt. – Home Depot)

Pop Up Drain w/o Overflow — — – $10.00 — — — (Antique Brass – Amazon)


Zero Carbon Yard & Garden Care

It seems like every homeowner I meet has developed a collection of gas powered tools to help them maintain their outdoor spaces. Lawn mowers, chainsaws, hedge trimmers. edgers, and weed whackers whirling away during any given sunny day is commonplace in all neighborhoods.

When I first purchased my semi-urban home, I immediately began looking into getting my own collection of carbon fueled monsters and yard care toys. My yard and gardens were overgrown from years of neglect. I knew that the only answer was horsepower, gasoline, and carbon fueled machines. However, that was before I saw my first reel mower being used by an older neighbor….I was intrigued, and set out to see how many non-carbon fueled yard care items I could acquire.

I went to the big box hardware store and found myself in the midst of an onslaught from various types of gasoline lawnmowers. I asked the clerk to show me a reel mower, and his blank stare proved that I was barking up the wrong tree. I next asked for some hand shears, and was shown a battery powered trimmer. The collection of options at most Big Box stores was clearly not going to suit my new Carbon Zero desires. Online shopping would be the best option per usual πŸ™‚


Amazon has a variety of options in reel mowers, saws, watering cans, and hand shears. I bought one of each and set to work on the overgrown jungle that was my backyard. At first, I had a lot of neighbors offering me to let me borrow different gas powered items to assist with the job. I actively had to resist people bringing me over different tools to help with my outdoor maintenance.

Below I’ve provided links to the items I use most frequently

American Reel Mower: Cost = $100 (Reel Mower: LINK to AMAZON)

This is 4th year with this mower. I’ve sharpened the blades each year and had to replace the handle grips after 2 years. It is still working well for my lawn care, and maintains a nice cut. Overall, it’s very lightweight and I can carry it with one hand. Here is a link to the sharpening kit which should last me over 5 years of sharpening for $16. (Sharpening Kit: LINK to AMAZON)

Folding Saw: Cost = $23 (Saw: LINK to AMAZON)

This is the closest comparable saw I can find to my current one. I’ve two of these for over 5 years now; one for lawn care and one for backpacking. They are amazingly lightweight and have held up well for cutting branches, small firewood, fences etc.

Steel 6″ Hand Shears: Cost = $18 (Shears: LINK to LOWES)

I’ve had these shears for 3 years now. I used them very often for trimming bushes, cutting out weeds, and edging my grass around flower beds and sidewalks. They have three different positions and although have developed some blade rust, still cut nicely.

On a weekly basis I use 3-6 tools to keep everything ship shape. I have over 30 perennials planted, roughly 1100 sq ft of grass, 2 large garden boxes (vegetables & herbs), 6 bushes, and a mixture of small trees.

Nowadays, my neighbors has become used to my strange yard care tactics. If you ever drive around Columbus and see a man trimming his grass edges with a pair of hand shears….that is probably me!

I honestly believe that storing gasoline, charging batteries, replacing spark plugs, maintaining engines, and mixing oil ratios takes longer than grabbing a trusty hand tool and getting to work. No pull starts for me; just a little time and effort.

The benefit of my carbon zero approach? Everything is quiet, lightweight, and doesn’t admit nasty fumes. Further, hand tools give me superior control when compared to larger gas powered options. Finally, the sustainability aspect is rewarding to me. I feel like I’m operating my own little organic garden in Columbus’ urban core πŸ™‚


Written By:

Luke Langhals

McAfee Knob: 1 Day Backpacking Trip

Driving from Columbus, OH to Myrtle Beach takes roughly 10 hours. About halfway through this drive, you cross the Appalachian Trail, and I never like to miss an opportunity to hike on the AT!

The McAfee Knob view point is one of the most famous sights on the AT. It has graced book covers, movie screens, and countless social media sites. It is a true gem in the Appalachian mountains and a pretty easy hike.

Parking access is simple to find at VA 311 (you can literally type McAfee Knob into google maps). The Appalachian Trail crosses the parking lot here and although the parking is often crowded — I didn’t have any trouble finding a spot on a Thursday in April 2019.

Parking lot
Parking area

The hike is about 8.5 miles from parking to summit and back to parking. Out and back.

We didn’t arrive at the parking lot until 6 pm; our plan was to reach the second shelter and camp for the evening. Saving the majority of this out-and-back hike for the morning and enjoying the sunrise on McAfee’s Knob.

We parked our car and headed across the road where the elevation immediately starts to rise. Being as this is on the AT — you can follow the white blazes for this hike, which makes for easy navigation.

Within 1/4 of a mile, you will reach a information kiosk that directs you towards McAfee’s Knob — bear right of the kiosk and continue following the white blazes.

Along the trail you will pass two shelter locations with ample camping sites nearby. Both shelters have a well maintained privy and several established fire pits. The first shelter is within a mile of parking and is named John’s Spring. We met two through hikers here and I was able to hear about the exciting life on the trail….the comradery of long distance hiking is something I miss very much, and I always enjoy talking with people who are making the long trek.

Dave in a shelter
A standard Appalachian Trail Shelter

After leaving John’s Spring shelter, we continued for another mile and found ourselves at Catawba Shelter while dusk was quickly approaching. The shelter itself was crowded with eager backpackers and we set up camp roughly 100 yards away at a designated camping area.

I had my friend David with me as a first time backpacker, which I always enjoy. We made camp and settled in for some campfire stories and an early bedtime. I used my old faithful backpacking tent and David slept in a hammock. There were various semi-flat tent sites near Catawba Shelter and many well spaced trees for hammocks. In April, I was toasty warm in my tent, but David said he was pretty cold in the hammock. Insure you check the temperature before your hike and more importantly the wind speed. Hammock’s can get cold pretty fast when the wind picks up….especially at elevation.

Tenting at McAfee.jpg
My old faithful friend. Over 1000 backpacking miles together

We awoke at 5 am and used headlamps in the darkness to get back on the trail. We wanted to reach the famous McAfee knob sunrise and we flew up the trail for the remaining 2+ miles of this hike.

As dawn began to approach, so did massive amounts of fog. The trail was coated in a beautiful white cloud that made hiking spooky and beautiful. I knew we were growing close to the viewpoint, which is about 30 yards off to the left of the trail. However, the fog made us miss the McAfee Knob sign and we accidentally traveled too far. The trail started to descend quickly which was our clue that we were leaving the summit. Luckily, we were able to notice this mistake and turn around to find the correct viewing location. If you make the same mistake, you will eventually reach the Pig Farm Campsite or Campbell Shelter — Turn around and retrace your steps back to the summit.

The sign for McAfee’s Knob is mounted on the side of a boulder to the left of the trail. Keep your eyes open and you shouldn’t have a problem finding it.

Walking up to the summit; I was hoping for a viewpoint that spanned across miles. I was planning to be stunned by the rolling landscape and beautiful sunrise…..

Stock Photo of Knob
I was expecting to see this!

However, mother nature disagreed with my plans. She chose to give us a slightly different view on this fine morning. We approached the jutting stone ledge and found ourselves fully encompassed within a foggy cloud. No distant view points for us this morning — but I still was not disappointed in the summit. The stone outcropping is beautiful and continues down for 100 yards. Obviously, the biggest photo opportunity is on the ledge/knob, but there are several different stone ridges that awarded us some fun while meandering around the summit.

Below are some pictures from on top of McAfee’s Knob

Luke on the edge

Me on McAfee’s knob in the fog

Dave near edge
David viewing into the fog
McCafee Knob FOOL AT 2019
Seeing if I can give my parents a heart attack (Not nearly as dangerous as it looks!)

After playing in the fog for awhile, we returned to the trail and had a pleasant downhill trek back to the car. A very enjoyable 1 day backpacking trip!

Written By:

Luke Langhals




Shipping Container: Windows and Doors

We began putting the windows and doors into the shipping container. The holes were cut with a plasma cutter and windows were inserted similar to any standard construction.

There will be 3 windows total and two sets of double doors. The windows are triple pane to increase comfort and air-tightness; we are trying to eliminate thermal breaks and keep the entire container under 2 ACH (Air Changes per Hour). Unfortunately the doors are only double pane for affordability but they have a decent U-Value for being low cost and off the shelf.

Interior framing is underway. A full wrap of 4 mil plastic for our vapor/air barrier and then 3″ of continuous Poly Iso on the floor, walls, and ceiling. No thermal bridging for us πŸ™‚ Having a continuous blanket of insulation makes the shipping container a lot like a very large Yeti Cooler. The goal is to be able to heat/cool the entire 320 sq ft interior with low amounts of energy.

Door Install Feb 2019
Sub flooring is installed directly over the rigid Poly Iso floor insulation
Jason Cutting inside 2019
Jason – Cutting the window penetrations

Shipping containers come with a set of double doors for loading/unloading contents. We decided to make this end of our container the Master Bedroom and provide it with the secondary entrance and sliding glass door. This should let plenty of natural light into the sleeping area.

Further, the original steel shipping doors can be closed over the new bedroom door. I think this will be a cool feature for security, transport, and privacy.

Container Bedroom Exterior door Feb 2019
Sliding glass door framed and installed off the planned Master Bedroom – February 2019

Another update coming soon! This project is developing quickly πŸ™‚

An Introduction!


I’m Luke Langhals.

I am an adventurer. I am an environmentalist. I am a history buff. I am an old home enthusiast.

I hope to be able to teach you something! It might involve my misadventures in home renovation or maybe just some cool things happening inΒ  the world of sustainability. Either way, I look forward to sharing my experiences.

Let me start by telling you that I work in the world of “Green.” My firm engineers and manufactures efficient and renewable energy products in the United States. However, i am not an engineer or a scientist. I am a businessman. I often do not understand the technical aspects of what we do, but that does not mean that I am any less passionate. I believe that a clean future will be built upon the backs of advocates like myself. I strive to take knowledge from work and implement it into my everyday life. My work allows me to attend green technology conferences around the country. Many of these feature groundbreaking technologies and sustainable focused projects taking place in North America. I believe that someone, somewhere, can use my experiences to better their own lifestyle. Hence, the purpose of detailing my adventures.

This site will serve as an outlet for my experiences. I own and live in a 90 year old home and I recently purchased three other older homes which I rent. I try to update all my properties in the most sustainable way possible. I also try to experiment with new trends in the world of green technology. Every time you swing a hammer in an old house….problems are sure to arise. Hopefully, you can learn from my mistakes and successes.

“It usually takes more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech.” –Mark Twain



As I’ve stated many times — I like to take Adventures!

Many of these revolve around nature, exploring, and traveling. I get a rush from roaming through mountain ranges, hiking among the trees, and staring at the stars. I believe my love for hiking has had a direct impact on how I view my mission for a sustainable future.

Mainly this website will detail home renovation, clean technology, and sustainable living. However, I might throw a travel blog in every now and again πŸ™‚

Feb 2018 full download S8 985

Past Hiking Adventures:

1. Angels Landing at Zion National Park in Utah: Completed in 2017

2. The Appalachian Trail: Completed 550 miles from Georgia to Virginia in 2015

3. Redwood National Forest in Oregon: Visited in 2014

4. Devils Causeway in Colorado: Completed in 2014 and repeated in 2016

5. Pictured Rocks in Michigan: Explored in 2017

6. Cottonwood-Marble Canyon Loop in Death Valley: Completed in 2018


Zion resized