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Man Builds Two Off-Grid Cabins in Northern Arizona

This is a guest post by Michael Scheer about his two off-grid cabins in Northern Arizona.

My name is Michael and about 5 years ago I wanted an off grid place for vacation and retirement. Like many others I am tired of bills, bills, bills and knew I would never have enough money to retire on unless I became debt free and my home was paid off.

A couple years passed and as things happened I had a friend who went through a divorce (I recently moved out of my ex-girlfriends home 8 months prior) and he needed help monetarily in order to buy a home and asked me to move in. The move cut my rent in half and enabled me along with my bonus check to purchase some land I found in northern Arizona at about 6500 ft elevation. Summers are mild with highs in the low 90’s high 80’s and winters are in the 40’s and 50’s with light snow. I picked up 6 acres for less than $4k.

Months later I decided to put in my first cabin. I bought a 10′ x 18′ cabin shell from Weather King Portable Cabins for approximately $4,200. I put in paneling, bed, couch, small coleman table/sink combo and shelving. I also purchased some solar panels and four 35amp hour batteries for power. I camped out until the cabin was delivered, this was in late May.

I had everything unpacked and was getting ready to work on the cabin when long behold a blizzard hit, my paneling was flying across the land, stuff was getting wet and the temperature went from 75 degrees to 30 degrees in a matter of minutes. Luckily, I have one neighbor (only one) who lives about 100 yards away who came to help, we got everything inside and covered and the learning experience began. Please enjoy, learn more and re-share below. Thank you!

Man Builds Two Off-Grid Cabins in Northern Arizona

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Images © Michael Scheer

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After a couple of years of trials and errors, and frustrating problems I am close to being done. To make a long story short the biggest hurdles are toilet, water and power, here is what I did.

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The toilet was expensive but I settled on a composting toilet, Nature’s Head. I was able to hook the fan wires up to my solar charge controller load and it works perfectly. It never smells and is as big as a conventional toilet. The cost is about $1,000, but worth it. Using a bucket with a bag and hauling it really smells, especially in the summer, so I HIGHLY recommend this composting toilet instead!! If I have guests I also have a flushable portable toilet on hand which I can put in the large cabin.

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The small cabin on the left is 10′ x 18′ and the large cabin on the right is 12′ x 30′. In the end the small cabin became my bedroom/bathroom and the large cabin is my kitchen, dining and family/guest room. Inside the large cabin there is a sofa that folds out to a queen size bed for guests.

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The water is still a work in progress but I am happy where I am at with it now. I have a 600 gallon water buffalo and two 300 gallon tanks. I can get water at the fire station in town which is about 10 miles away. I use 5 gallon buckets, one full and one empty and Zodi portable instant hot sprayers for my sinks and shower. So far they have lasted over a year on the same batteries, I highly recommend them. My shower is in a resin shed on the outside of my small cabin, I heat water up on my butane stove or wood stove on colder weather. A well is the next step but we shall see, so far it is out of my price range.

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When it’s hot I have a portable swamp cooler which does cool by 20 degrees. I have a 5.0 cubic freezer for food. It’s an igloo and uses less power then a small refrigerator. I know this because I bought both, first I purchased the refrigerator, which is 1.8 cubic feet and uses 185KW a year vs. the freezer which uses 174KW a year. I also went with the freezer not only for room, but I also bought freezer packs and use a cooler as my refrigerator. This way I just switch out the freezer packs every few days and my fresh food stays cool, during the winter I can put everything outside on my porch.

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Last of all power. I ended up with four 100 watt panels, ten 35 amp hour SLA batteries and a 30 amp charge controller on the small cabin. I have a cobra 1500 watt inverter that works very well.  The large cabin has six 100 watt panels, a 45 amp hour charge controller and a 2500 watt Whistler inverter. The challenge was what size wire to use on the batteries. The small cabin I use 4awg and the large cabin I use 0/2 awg. Since using these gauge wires I have had no problems.

For the solar panels, I nailed 4×8 plywood to wooden sawhorses and then tarred the plywood (3/4 in thick). I then glued the panels to plastic solar panel moldings and it seems to work just fine. Its heavy but movable (if need be) and durable. It is very windy up here, and so far no issues and it’s been about 2 years.

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Images © Michael Scheer

This has been one heck of a learning experience and all I have left to do is put in the wood stove in the large cabin, which will be done very soon. I watched a ton of Youtube videos and read hundreds of articles, believe me this was not easy. I changed some things more than two or three times, so, for whomever tries this, be patient.

A big thank you to Michael Scheer for sharing his story with us!

You can share this off-grid cabin story with your friends and family for free using the e-mail and social media re-share buttons below. Thanks.

If you enjoyed this off-grid cabin story you’ll absolutely LOVE our Free Daily Tiny House Newsletter with even more! Thank you!

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Andrea
Andrea has lived simply in small spaces for more than 7 years and enjoys sharing her space saving (and space multiplying) tips from experience.
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{ 43 comments… add one }
  • trisha July 18, 2015, 12:54 pm

    Dos Michael have a contact address he might be using to answer questions about his experience/share experience?

    • michael scheer July 18, 2015, 3:21 pm

      hello Trisha, feel free to email me

      • Edith July 19, 2015, 7:25 am

        Michael,
        I lived in Sierra Vista AZ for 4 years while stationed there at the military base. I feel in love with AZ and I am intersted in obtaining land as well before I retire. Where did you purchase your land at about $1000 acr. I think a few acr will be perfect for homesteading my tiny home project, building over weekends and time taken off in preperation for retirement.

        Edith

        • michael July 20, 2015, 12:26 pm

          Edith hello, I used 2 websites, landcentral.com and landwatch.com, they have the most informative and abundant lists of land readily available. I bought from a gentleman named Ron Millette, I know he is on both of those sites and will do payments and transfer of deed with out using a title company, he is trustworthy.

      • Michael Streicher May 28, 2016, 12:50 pm

        Michael Streicher
        I am very interested in using a weatherking 12 x 32 in yavapai county. Is this where you built? How did they react to using a weatherking as a cabin???

        • Carletta Patterson August 1, 2016, 1:51 pm

          I’m planning on relocating to AZ for off grid living. I need a little more information on getting water to my property.

    • Kelsey McCauley March 1, 2017, 12:19 pm

      Michael – I would love to email you if possible, I have quite a few questions I’d love to have answered!

  • alice h July 18, 2015, 1:11 pm

    Looks like a comfy setup. Had to look up water buffalo, wasn’t familiar with the reference but I’ve seen portable water tanks. Had to laugh about the resin shed, first time I saw one I called it a plastic outhouse. Almost got one for my place but went with a plywood shack instead. Interesting decision about freezer instead of fridge, makes sense.

  • Sheket July 18, 2015, 3:37 pm

    Great background information and functional guidance, thank you.
    I still have two years before I make ‘the leap’ and I’m waffling between a stackwall self-build vs pre-fab self-finished shed. I have many of the items you mentioned using in your lifestyle already on my planning list 🙂

    Thanks for sharing.

  • D. Lowery July 18, 2015, 7:05 pm

    Have been looking at these sheds from this company for several months now. Having formerly lived in Arizona on the Colorado River…am now in Colorado Springs. How have these cabins held up in the two years you’ve used them? Are you going to be insulating the roof of both of them? Has the county or the state given you any grief about using these cabins on your own land? When I get ready to take the plunge…am considering Walsenberg about 90 miles south of me where the zoning has been changed to allow tiny houses. Since I am wanting to make this into my retirement home in the town…is there anything you would recommend to be able to do this?

    I know…a lot of questions…but you are the first I have read about using this company for your homesteading. Thank you!

    • Michael July 19, 2015, 8:02 pm

      Hello, I thought about insulation on the ceiling but decided not to. The weather isn’t extreme enough to call for it. As far as my land rules, there isn’t any, I’ve read where folks are running into issues with off grid but here in AZ its legal and common in rural areas. The cabins are well built and the only maintenance is sealing every 5 years. Good luck

      • D. Lowery July 20, 2015, 12:00 pm

        What company did you use to purchase your land? Am very interested in this…especially since I used know people in the Kingman area who are doing exactly what you’re doing. Thank you!

        • michael July 20, 2015, 12:15 pm

          I didn’t use a company but 2 main websites, landwatch.com and landcentral.com, they both offer the most information and amounts of parcels available. I bought my parcel from a local gentleman and we did a transfer of deed without using a title company which saved another $500.00 to $1200.00. My 6 acres cost a total of $3600.00. good luck

  • Monika Jayne July 18, 2015, 8:52 pm

    I’m TOTALLY interested in having all the above questions answered for my research into finding land in Northern Arizona, near Pine Top, Show Low, or other nearby location at a higher altitude than your 6,000 feet if possible. I went to school in Flag and want to return for my retirement years. Would like to be off grid, but scared of all the technical stuff. But who isn’t? Right now, finding land, and if I can legally live there in a small house, tiny home, off grid would be enough. Thank you!

    • Michael July 19, 2015, 8:17 pm

      Hello, AZ laws for off grid are very lax. In fact Apache county website even warns that off grid is difficult and has guidelines to help people. The technical stuff is not that bad, if you need help I am more than willing. I choose this elevation because its good weather all year round, higher and its freezing like in Alpine and lower its hot in the summer. Not to mention the price is unbeatable. I have close to 6 acres, 2 cabins and its all paid off but also don’t have utilities, sewage, etc. Water in town is about 2 dollars for a 100 gallons. I have satellite at 30 bucks, cell phone at 75 bucks and did property taxes are 25 bucks a year. It’s almost to good to be true.

  • Lorraine July 18, 2015, 10:43 pm

    One of the most straightforward, practical, and informative posts I’ve ever read on Alex’s newsletter-appreciate the wealth of knowledge you’ve shared with us, Michael! I wish you much happiness.

  • tim July 19, 2015, 5:46 am

    The really helpful thing about this excellent post is that you tell us what works in practice – and even better, what doesn’t. So it saves us that experience / time / cost. Thanks very much indeed !

  • Ski Guy July 19, 2015, 7:56 am

    Very nice set-up and its your own Michael !! I guess after purchasing the land there was limited funds left over to purchase a larger 1st cabin. I am assuming that the 2nd cabin was purchased when you had more dollars. When you have minimal bills to pay its surprising the money you can save. Thanks for sharing your story – all the best.

  • Bill Scott July 19, 2015, 2:32 pm

    Really good info, and very helpful , along with the tons of help on the Internet. For people trying to find restriction free land, the people at “your own acre”. Com are a god-send. They have land all over Az. And so easy to buy, you won’t believe it. I’m one of there customers.

  • Susanne July 20, 2015, 2:07 am

    Wonderful set up! Amazing price on land! So nice to be a guy where ya don’t have to worry about safety out in the middle of no where like that! 🙁

    • Michael July 20, 2015, 12:21 pm

      Susanne, fear is relative anywhere, but to be honest, you are safer in a rural area than a big city, there are no gangs, almost no shootings, and really, people in small towns are very friendly and helpful. In fact since I have been here, I have bartered to get a flat fixed, get my water tank fixed, both my wood stoves done, my fence and several other things. People don’t care about wealth as much as they are not keeping up with joneses, so my advice, stop fearing, pick a town and get to know some people and if you feel safe then move or buy land, you’ll see, its much, much different.

  • daizy July 20, 2015, 2:18 pm

    Hi Michael, your post is very helpful to me because it is not polished and finished but it shows the process you are going through to figure out each problem. I have 4 acres outside of Tucson and purchased a WeatherKing 12×30 building a few months ago. I haven’t started working on it yet because I decided to fix up the old mobile home that was already on the property since it had electricity already. I also have to haul or have water delivered and am looking at alternative bathroom facilities. I hope to install gutters soon for water collection. I have a blog if you want to see my project. I’m just about out of money for now and, frankly, tired of spending every weekend remodeling but I still love to research and find new ideas. Thanks for all the photos and I love your dog (I have 3).

    • michael July 20, 2015, 10:29 pm

      Thanks Daizy, I enjoyed everything I did and have done, even though there were times I wanted to stop, the finished product is great and I am currently enjoying it. I would like to see your blog, please email it to me. I hope you work on the 12×30 soon, I think you’ll find it to be a more satisfying outcome then finishing an already built mobile home. Not to mention the weather king cabins are much more studier and solid. I have been through some wicked storms and weathered them easily. All I did was put in that garage insulation and paneling and it works great, keeps it col in summer and warm in winter. Take care!

      • daizy July 21, 2015, 1:04 am

        If you click my name it will take you to my blog. What kind of insulation did you choose? I have been trying to compare fiberglass, spray-on, rigid foam, blown-in… so many choices. I’m considering a spray-on insulation kit from Lowe’s to seal all cracks and keep out scorpions, spiders, etc. I would need additional insulation to make it comfortable. So many little decisions. I also bought a bucket toilet but I see that you moved up to a composting one. I will probably do the same.

  • Elle July 20, 2015, 10:38 pm

    …what everyone else said, and thank you so much Michael for generously sharing all of your priceless information and pictures of your cozy little home. I’m selling my current home and intend to do what you and so many others are doing who are tired of being bank-pranked, ruled and regulated to death. The closer I get to it the more I’ve been questioning my ability to accomplish this. Your invaluable contribution here has convinced me that I can. And thank you (!) and the other poster who shared the dot-com websites for land sales. You said you’ll be digging a well so do you have water, mineral (etc) rights? Lastly, forgoing a title search/insurance, did you ensure that there is no lien on the property and that the title is absolutely free and clear? I wish you the all the very best and hope you will keep us posted on your progress.

  • Thomas DeSiena August 3, 2015, 12:04 am

    I am in NY and very ill. looking to Tiny Home in Mohave County between bullhead city and kingman..Hosp done and I hear a regional one is being built..I have done a lot of homework but need someone who can give me more..I’confusing myself..The comments I have just read was very informimg. If anyone has the time and knowledge, Please help. Looking for 1-2.5 ac, not to far from main roads. want to be there by winter, to sick to build and budget is around $40-$45k. TU for reading….will take references too.

  • Brenda March 26, 2016, 4:48 pm

    We are looking to buy land in Apache county to build an off gird yurt for our family. Have you encountered many rattlesnakes or scorpions? This is my main concern has I have done my research and have learned that Apache county is very lax on off grid building.

  • Steve Young April 12, 2016, 3:21 pm

    Michael, drop me an email, I,m just down the street from you, Steve an amatuer radio operator, [email protected] .

  • Roamer June 29, 2016, 8:49 am

    I just can’t believe the zoning people have turned a blind eye to this. I think they just haven’t discovered it. You SHOULD be able to do this on your own property. Way should. It is just another shoe waiting to drop before the man comes down on you.

    • Don Lowery June 29, 2016, 12:33 pm

      Having lived on the other side of the state in the Kingman area…you will find many people living off-grid. Many of these folks use solar/gas generator…have their water hauled in for giant tanks or dig their wells. The way to get around this is to look into a general area and contact those who are already there. You will need to find out if these people have recently arrived or have been grandfathered in. The latter…you may have issue. If the former…you should be okay. Just make sure that you and your neighbors/anyone driving by can’t see your home.

  • Roamer June 29, 2016, 9:01 am

    Weatherking has a 50 mile delivery area. You didn’t mention how you got them there.

    • Don Lowery June 29, 2016, 12:37 pm

      They are here in Colorado and if you’re outside of the 50 mile radius…you will pay per dollar per mile. I could be wrong…but I believe the amount is .50 cents per mile. If you have a big box hardware store close to you or a roadside shop…you would get more of a selection and maybe no shipping charges outside of that 50 mile area.

  • Ron February 10, 2017, 6:30 pm

    Hello everyone! I personally used Craiglist & purchased 2 1/2 acres for $2,500.00 20 miles from Kingman-(off Grid), $12 yr for taxes, I got it on the internet for $200 down, $200 a month til paid, have the Deed, etc, 2 rv’s on it, 1 pu camper & a 29ft camp trailer! also building my own 1 room cabin, Mohave County said u can build 6ft tall fence w/no permit & 20 x 60 buildings at my location w/no permit! of course have to get permit for septic.

  • Melissa March 26, 2017, 12:24 pm

    Hi Michael! Thank you so much for sharing your experiences! My husband and I are looking at land either in Apache or Cochise County, and would really love to pick your brain a little on the rules associated with off-grid living, especially a setup with no septic/water/electric. We are really struggling to find any concrete information on the topic.

    Thanks again, hope to hear from you!

    Melissa

  • Brian April 6, 2017, 3:06 pm

    Hey Mike,

    I’m financing some land in Pearce, AZ which is in Cochise County. Do you know if they have any minimum size requirements for buildings? From my understanding a lot of other counties in AZ do not have any set requirements. Just wanted someone to chime in on this. Thanks!

  • Brian April 6, 2017, 4:20 pm

    Are there any size limitations in Cochise county, AZ? I’m financing some land in Pearce and would like to do something similar.

    • Natalie C. McKee Natalie C. McKee April 7, 2017, 4:42 am

      Hi Brian, You’ll have to ask your local zoning and building committees. Here’s what I found for contact info: Email Planning & Zoning
      [email protected]

      Bisbee Office Hours
      Monday through Friday – 8:00am to 5:00pm
      Permit Intake Hours: 8:00am to 4:30pm

      Sierra Vista Office Hours
      Monday through Friday – 8:00am to 12:00pm & 1:00pm to 5:00pm
      Permit Intake Hours: 8:00am to 11:30am & 1:00pm to 4:30pm

      Building Permits may be submitted in the Sierra Vista or Bisbee office through out the week.

      Planning & Zoning Offices in Benson and Willcox: Building permits will need to be submitted by appointment only. Please call (520) 432-9240 to schedule an appointment.

  • Harold April 18, 2017, 1:11 am

    I live in Navajo county, not to far from Mike. ALOT of people come out here to live off the grid. Im not gonna sugar coat it but it can be very difficult. Land is very cheap out on the high desert. Around Show Low and Pinetop-Lakeside can be expencive. But there are places to buy cheap land right outside of Show Low. Our water is horrible but good water can be found deep sometimes around 150 to 200 ft. In the spring the wind howels so make sure any structure is anchored down or ealse it will end up in Amarillo Tx. The people are nice but they love to hunt and fish. Just saying live and let live. Bring a good truck with you, our roads get slimey. Not very many rattle snakes but they are here. Same with scorpions.

    • Natalie C. McKee Natalie C. McKee April 18, 2017, 4:38 am

      Thanks for that insight Harold! Always good to hear from a local about the reality.

  • Lee August 9, 2017, 3:11 am

    Mr.mike….Aloha my friend….I can’t believe your story man….I’m so happy to here someone is really doing the same thing I am doing !!! Almost a year ago I began building a 10×20 she’d to live in…went to weather King for a price list but was assured from my bud that I could totally build a cool cabin for a lot cheeper…. HORSE PUCKY !!!!!no way…I have spent well over $12,000.00..ok.$13,000.00…Geeesh was he wrong…I had a pretty good job and the money was coming I’m no prob..I had a couple of guys help me build the deck the building would be constructed on and there were went!!..so the place is 14 feet high and as I mentioned 10×20..I was going to get the same building you have from weather King but I wanted lot’s of visible space inside… everyone helping me in the beginning left soon after we started this project…Well,,,ha.. it’s funny but just like u I went to YouTube in Hope’s of finding anyone to explain to me how the HELL to build a shed/cabin..the structures skeleton was just about finished and that’s where I came in all by myself…,O,, forgot to tell you I was dismissed from my job and things were just about to start to get interesting man…ha !!! FYI this is all going on in Cornville Az.. outside of town a ways…I’ll continue this text for a little while longer then I must crash,, busy day tomorrow..I sertenly won’t get the whole story out so if ya don’t mind I’d love to continue the story I have for u another day very soon..so I had no idea what flashing was and put the siding most the way up and yes had to take a big several panel s off to get the dang flashing on…thanks YouTube..I didn’t have anyone helping me with the flashing so I’m going to climb the latter around 14 feet ,screw in 2 screws at the top and hang 2 tie downs straps that u can adjust..I put the 4×8 siding on the hooks at the bottom of both tie downs and went back up the latter and slowly moved both adjustment s so the siding would slowly rise up to a point that I could place it in the correct spot to tack it in…wow !! About 5 or 6 day’s..done…on from there not knowing anything I’m back on YouTube asking questions..can’t tell the whole story but man you know what I mean when I say I felt so helpless…sidings up and then went to Windows,,after that insulation !! God !! The worst man..I insolated the underneath of the building the walls and the ceiling too..the floor is under my she’d now it’s some nice fake wood flooring from home Depot…And yes I’m a huge dork !! Cuz,,,yep I got the home IMPROOVER Credit card from HAD…so stupid ..30 percent interest…geeeesh…with the new card like an dunce I got about 40.. 6 foot long planks of beautiful cedar to put up on the ceiling and wow was it going to look good !! As I starved and had my credit slowly go to almost crapola…close call I stopped using the DAMN card..so here I am that’s it,,,, I haven’t put the floor in nor have I put the beautiful cedar up on the ceiling… I’ve stopped the whole project except for some trim I’ve recently put up on all 4 windows…I don’t know man….. it’s like I’ve had the breth of go,go,go….build this sucker !!! Punched out of me…after I finely built the loft 10×7…Mike,,I just gave up and had nothing !!! I have no idea,,I guess I need a brake from this ya know…I can totally relate to you sometime s just wanting to STOP !! What am I doing ?? It’s not like it’s a real house,,,,YES IT IS HA !! ,why did I spend the damn $ on the ceiling,,,I don’t really know…..it was a cool idea at the time I don’t know !! Lol….. Think God I found your post,,I really needed to HERE your words,, I think tomorrow will be a grate day to continue beginning again man !! weird and unconventional ,,no way…we for one reason or another had the idea that a lit more Freedom wouldn’t be such a bad idea at all…. yes!! Wow..after writing this all I’m feeling like tomorrow is a fine day to attempt to put up the sheetrock…ha,ha..well..May God bless you with his love….I only have one more thing to say and that is ( never give up,,, it’s so worth it my man )… God’s speed to you….feel free to text or call anytime and talk story…Lee,,928-821-2080… I’d love to see some more pictures of your badass place..

  • Lee August 9, 2017, 3:18 am

    Lee mcallister…..face book…I’m the guy sitting on a couch Indian style with some Hindu posters on the wall behind..take care mate

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