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School Teacher Builds Tiny House with a Micro Sun Room for Passive Heat

Doug built his own 8’x20′ Tumbleweed Cypress 20 Overlook tiny house on a trailer. He started building it almost 3 years ago and has been living in it while finishing it.

All while also keeping a job. But now he’s finished and has invited us to come to get the tour thanks to Deek. Doug used glass storm doors to create one of the world’s tiniest sunrooms at the entrance instead of the usual porch. With this design idea he’s been able to generate solar heat using the sunroom and what he does is simply open his front door to let some of the heat into the cabin for passive solar gain.

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Teacher Builds a Tiny House w/ Passive Solar Heat

Doug doesn’t spend more than $104 per year to heat his tiny house and just $176 per year on energy total. That’s a total of just $14.66 per month on utilities!


After you get through the tiny solarium there’s a 30″ stained glass door to greet you at the entrance.


Once inside you’ll find a beautiful Dickinson marine fireplace that always keeps the place warm. This is an expensive heater but as you can see in the video below it’s one of the items that Doug enjoys most as he describes it as art. And I’d have to agree that it’s a very nice heater… Can you imagine getting to look at the flame all the time? It’s like having a mini campfire or micro chimney in your house.


A sleeping loft is used as a bedroom to save on space downstairs.

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There’s also a closet that’s pretty decent sized for a tiny home. There seems to be even more storage up top too (you’ll be able to see more in the video down below).


Head to the kitchen and you’ll find the instant water heater, sink, 3 burner stovetop, and a compact refrigerator.

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The bathroom is right by the kitchen and features an RV shower and a Nature’s Head composting toilet with venting system. He says he’s only had to empty it every six months or so with this system. And that there are absolutely no odors.

Floor Plan


Source: Tumbleweed Cypress 20 Overlook Plans

You can actually see the bathroom, shower and how everything works (including the composting toilet) in the video below:

Full Video Tour & Interview w/ Deek

Also, there’s an upcoming hands-on building workshop this May 1-3, 2020 in Joshua Tree, CA led by Derek “Deek” Diedricksen where you get to design and build cabins among like-minded people. Sign up here.


Thank you so much to Deek and Doug for sharing. 🙂

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Alex is a contributor and editor for TinyHouseTalk.com and the always free Tiny House Newsletter. He has a passion for exploring and sharing tiny homes (from yurts and RVs to tiny cabins and cottages) and inspiring simple living stories. We invite you to send in your story and tiny home photos too so we can re-share and inspire others towards a simple life too. Thank you!
{ 19 comments… add one }
  • LaMar
    January 30, 2014, 11:31 am

    My porch is converted into a solarium in winter and enclosed in plastic sheathing. makes a great place to take off winter clothing and acts as a air lock keeping cold air from rushing in my cabin and in sunny weather I can open the door or window to let that extra heat inside. Also a great place for the outside cats to stay warm and for me to have a cup of coffee and enjoy the warm sunny winter days.

  • Beth DeRoos
    January 30, 2014, 4:23 pm

    Love the place and design. Only thing I would change would be the three burner stove top he has in the corner. But thats because it wouldn’t work for me since I am short.

  • Barb B
    January 30, 2014, 7:53 pm

    I love the enclosed porch idea! It would REALLY get you out of the weather & keep cold air from coming in easily in the winter. I like the glass door on the outside and a secure door for the inside. LaMar, I also liked your uses for your enclosed area! Such a simple idea with huge benefits. Two snaps to Doug for a job well done!

  • alice h
    January 31, 2014, 11:54 am

    Love that solarium entry. I can picture hanging a couple of those tomato grow bags in there.

  • Marsha Cowan
    March 4, 2016, 5:23 pm

    Very nice! And pretty! Very practical kitchen, and I too like the way the loft is done. Great job!

  • AVD
    March 4, 2016, 7:56 pm

    Nicely presented and the links to “appliances” will be helpful for folks considering their own small house. The placement of the propane stove is functionally odd, so some design improvement could be made to make the kitchen works better. I wonder how many people have decided to use the small individual induction-type cooking units? They cook fast and are more efficient with power than a typical electric stove cooktop. And they may be healthier and safer to use than a gas or propane cooking unit in small tightly sealed “homes”.

    • Eric
      March 5, 2016, 2:05 pm

      Interesting… I’ve spoken to a few electricians about induction hobs. All said the same thing… they need heavy duty wiring because they use so much electricity. If you are going solar well you better have some serious number of panels on your system. More than the usual 1 or 2. Probably 4+. According to the experts.

      • AVD
        March 5, 2016, 6:35 pm

        The reply (Eric) comment about induction cook surfaces needing heavy duty wiring seems odd, but worth checking further. My comment was primarily focused on the small portable single-burner induction-type of cooking unit that might be very suitable for small / tiny houses. They are small enough to fit in a drawer or on a shelf when they are not in use so one is not using up counter space. They also operate on standard 120v power. If you use a traditional four burner stove with an oven, then heavy wiring is needed.

        If a person wants to go totally “off-grid”, then they will be better off using some form of bottled fuel. I read about people being “off-grid”, but what does “off” really mean? One can use solar and / or wind to be off-grid most of the time in certain locations, but without ample storage for site-generated power, being off-grid for most people is just a dream. Small hydro is ideal for someone who plans to have a fixed small or tiny house and has water rights, power storage, and the funds to afford a simple small-hydro unit. If one has to rely on purchasing some form of manufactured and purchased liquid or gaseous fuel, can they really claim to be off-grid? I guess it all depends on how pure ones definition of “off-grid” is.

  • Elizabeth Ekici
    March 5, 2016, 8:17 am

    This has insired me. Was thinking of buying a horsebox for conversion but maybe changed my mind after watching this. Job well done Doug x

  • Erin P.
    May 7, 2016, 11:59 am

    Wonderfully planned out, how awesome….thank you!

  • Tom Kiefer
    March 21, 2017, 10:34 am

    In poking around I believe Doug’s house is made of SIPS. I would love to know if his floor is a SIP too and if so, how thick? Attaching a wood subfloor to a trailer frame is a huge thermal bridge in my opinion. A SIP would break that but the downside is the loss of height. It’s a balancing act but in climate zone 5 my guess is that 2″ of foam is a minimum.

    • Douglas Blake Immel
      January 25, 2020, 4:45 pm

      I basically made the floor system a sort of site built SIP. There was thermal contact through the wooden members, but, for the most part it was quite good. Yearly bill was $126 in propane, and floor was pretty warm. Nice observations.

    April 6, 2017, 2:19 pm

    Seen this one long ago…! Great build….!

  • Nanny M
    April 8, 2017, 6:52 am

    Another great guy, is Doug. Love his tiny sunroom!

    • Natalie C. McKee
      April 10, 2017, 5:21 am

      It’s too cute!

  • Susan
    August 23, 2019, 7:48 pm

    I love this video! So much to learn. Is this guy single?!

    • Douglas Blake Immel
      January 25, 2020, 4:46 pm

      He was at the time. He is in a relationship. But honored you felt so.

  • Diane Young
    November 1, 2019, 10:15 am

    Terrible photos–too dark to see any details and too many photos of Doug. He needs someone who’s good with a camera to take more professional shots.

    • Douglas Blake Immel
      January 25, 2020, 4:49 pm

      Yes, indeed. We were shooting in a hurry at sundown after the gathering and loading up to truck it back to its site.
      AC power was off, and was not with DC backup yet. Hence the lanterns at the end. Off the cuff shooting, quite.

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