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Solar Tiny House Doubles as Tri-toon Houseboat

This tiny house design by Claude von Roesgen not only has a roof made out of solar panels

But it also doubles as a pontoon (actually tri-toon) houseboat. The home has two configurations: (1) to be attached onto a utility trailer or (2) a pontoon boat which I’ll show you below. So can we legitimately call this an amphibious tiny house? Another interesting feature is the home’s built-in solar roof.

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An Amphibious Tiny House? From Wheels to Pontoons… And It Has A Solar Roof!

Tiny House with Solar Roof Panels

Photo Credit CB99Videos/YouTube

Tiny House with a Solar Roof

They actually used the solar panels as roofing for the house. This is the first time I’ve seen it done this way and I really like it. See what I mean in the photos below:

Tiny House with Solar Roof Panels

Photo Credit CB99Videos/YouTube

Below is look from the interior:

Solar Panels on Roof inside Tiny House Ceiling

Photo Credit CB99Videos/YouTube

I always wondered if you can use solar panels for roofing. And I guess you can! Apparently it’s water tight too.

On the inside of the house Claude used knotty pine to cover the walls.

I’m sure it’s alright to insulate and cover the panels with more tongue and groove knotty pine or whatever you might like for the ceiling.

Helicopter Tiny House?!

Then somewhere in the video someone playfully mentions, “well, what about if we installed helicopter blades on it?”

The house weighs approximately 5800 lbs including the trailer. The house alone weighs about 3800 lbs.

Bamboo flooring inside.


Photo Credit CB99Videos/YouTube

With knotty pine interior walls.

Lots of windows for plenty of light.

Can Tiny Houses Be Unattached from the Trailer?

Tiny House on a Trailer or on a Pontoon

Photo Credit CB99Videos/YouTube

Can you make it where you can attach and then later detach a tiny house from a trailer?

Great question because this is a perfect example of a house that does.

And yes- you can do this with just about any tiny house project using bolts.

This tiny house is made so you can unbolt it from the utility trailer and secure it onto the pontoon so it can become a tiny houseboat.

If you’re curious the tri-toon he bought can hold up to 10,000 lbs of weight.

Watch The Tiny House: A Documentary

Solar-powered Houseboat (Video 2)

Tour of the Tiny House

I hope Claude will continue to share his amazing tiny house project with us.

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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!
{ 30 comments… add one }
  • Diane
    February 17, 2013, 12:28 pm

    It’s like a tiny house designed by Q from the 007 movies.

  • TomLeeM
    February 18, 2013, 7:52 pm

    I think it is neat that it can go from tiny house to tiny house boat.

    It is green not only because it is small but because of the solar panels. I think it is neat that the solar panels could be the roof of the house instead of being on the roof of the house.

  • katie
    February 21, 2013, 7:46 pm

    The solar panel roof is by far the best roofing I’ve seen in all my tiny house research! I’d love to learn more about it!

  • LaMar
    February 23, 2013, 2:50 pm

    The drawback to using solar panels as roofing is if you need to remove one to repair or replace it is you have a big hole in your roof and there will be more tendency to leak around the edges of the panels.

    Yo could easily put on a roof of 1/2 inch plywood under the panels without adding much weight.

    I am not sure about the pontoon boat idea and will reserve judgement. Most pontoon boats are wide and shorter to disperse the weight evenly. This looks top heavy on a narrow base which sounds like an accident waiting to happen.

    • April 11, 2015, 9:43 am

      I agree. I would think the pontoon deck would need to be much wider especially. I am wondering about logistics. How is he going to get the pontoon into the water from a flatbed trailer and get the tiny house (10,000 lbs) on top of it? Some of this doesn’t make sense. Also the potty will be out on the deck! Hello world! Enjoy my bare butt!

  • Margo
    February 23, 2013, 3:27 pm

    I have long been wondering about having a dual purpose land/water tiny house and am delighted to see this. I am wondering if anyone else has experience? And also if there isn’t a less expensive alternative to hiring a crane to shift the house from one platform to another? (Some way to slide the house on rails? Or….)

    • Bruce
      April 10, 2015, 7:58 pm

      I’m building a dual purpose vehicle: trailerable houseboat / RV.
      VERY unique design. No pontoons, a barge like hull. Bow door like a landing craft. 15 HP outboard, 130 HP I/O. 25 feet long 106″ wide.
      Fully loaded, drafts 12″, 2 solar panels. 15 months in and about $ 35 000. Will submit to TH when complete. Stay tuned

  • jerryd
    February 23, 2013, 8:31 pm

    Trailer to boat is something I’ve been advocating for a while and greatly increases the places you can legally live free.

    A couple details though. The PV is terrible as it’ll never be fully used because of the 2 angles you’ll be lucky to get even one side doing good. For this kind of vehicle you need a far flatter roof.

    Next the panels must in many places have airflow below them to get rid of the 1kwhr/sqyd of heat hitting it at noon. So do a ventilated space under the panels and above the insulation.

    And as Lamar says rather top heavy for the hulls, total boat width he chose.

    Something on round pontoons is if overloaded like this likely will be, quickly lose stability after the water gets half way up the reserve floatation drops fast as the top get narrow. So on pontoons get ones that are wide all the way to the top unless very lightly loaded and you just can’t call a stick built TH a light load. Even a good side gust of 50-75mph could cause such a high, heavy craft to roll over. You should be at least as wide as high.

    • Magnus
      August 24, 2015, 8:47 pm

      Actually, that is not a concern if micro inverters are utilized. One side being marginally more shaded will not bring down the efficiency of the other (as with string inverters/all-in-one inverter unit). And actually, it’s more efficient this way given this is an, and even extraordinarily, mobile structure (shall not be always facing directly south/west). What’s truly holding it back is insufficient storage nee battery bank. I’d be most curious to see what that array produced for a Tesla 7 kWh unit in just one day…

  • Solar Burrito
    February 23, 2013, 11:23 pm

    He could add stability to the boat by adding a keel. Basically a weight that hangs down about 4 feet in the water to prevent it from rolling over.

  • February 24, 2013, 10:54 am

    I hadn’t thought about evening out the weight on either side of the house. I guess it would be more important for a boat but it seems it would also be a factor just for driving down the highway so that your tiny house doesn’t list to one side.

  • Comet
    October 6, 2014, 1:33 pm

    Spent a lot of my life on boats and this will be immensly top heavy and tend to either wallow–not good–or flip completely. Maybe if ONLY used as a house boat and moored on a lake or some CALM piece of water. Cabled FIRMLY to a dock. And even there–you STILL will have to pay slip rental! If you OWN the land–you WILL have to pay taxes on it!

    I “get” that people want to live “free” or for as little as possible but–unless some one ELSE owns the land and THEY pay the taxes or you manage to persuade your Town that you qualify for “Tax Free Religious Status”–someone is paying those taxes! Do I LIKE paying my taxes? Nope. Do I think I pay too MUCH? I live in NY–you do that math! Do I think I get my “fair share” BACK from those taxes? NOPE! Am I planning on MOVING to get away for these insane taxes? Well yes–yes I am. For a host of reasons but this is a big one. But–I am sure I will end up paying SOMETHING somewhere.

    Can’t say that using it on a trailer is much better but you wouldn’t drown either.

    I recenly saw something called a SOLAR SHED–comes pre-covered and wired with solar panels and can be positioned in your yard to get the MOST soalr gain–unlike your house which might be hard to move! With the lower cost solar panels even an older shed could be fitted with panels if it had the right exposure. No reason you could not run elec wires into the house for certain things to run on this solar power. This could help take soalr power option solely OUT of the hands of those who could well AFFORD to pay a “regular” power bill and help US afford to actually HAVE electricity. Which is becoming a “Luxury Item”.

    Why IS it that only the wealthy can AFFORD to SAVE money on power or fuel in cars etc????

    • Aunt Raven
      July 21, 2015, 1:07 pm

      “It takes money to make money.” ~ “It takes money to save money.”

    • Magnus
      August 25, 2015, 2:27 pm

      Land taxes are substantially less when you don’t have a fixed structure/house and it’s overall value ‘assessment’ added to your property taxes. Even here in SoCal (Riverside), my parent’s taxes between land and their house is only $2,000 a year – the other $2,000 total is “school district” crap (lucky them, they get slammed for TWO school districts – but remember, this is SoCal; school taxes are outrageously generous here. That is NOT a typical burden in most of the, particularly urban, U.S.). And that figure INCLUDES their 1,715 square foot ‘living area’ as well as 604 square feet of attached 3-car garage on ~7,000 square foot (0.17 acre) land parcel (R1 zone). Not bad for SoCal, let me tell you what. Anybody should be able to afford $1-3,000 property tax for bare, naked land. I don’t give a fig if you’re only working part-time at minimum wage, THAT IS AFFORDABLE IN ABSENCE OF A MONOLITHIC $1,000-1,600 rent/mortgage payment! You’ll only be fleeced to within destitution IF you simply ‘must have’ in gross excess of 1 acre and foolishly put up an enormous barn or deck (or really, any ground-fixed structure whatsoever). Oh, the other factor that significantly increases your tax burden on land, is what is its ZONE DESIGNATION, and… WHERE IS IT? Legally, you can plop your ‘RV’ wherever the heck you want on your own land, and there’s not a damn thing anybody will be able to say or do about it, anywhere in the U.S. AS LONG AS IT’S NOT ZONED “RESIDENTIAL” AND THERE IS NO DAMNED HOA. The tricky part is finding a piece of land that is near enough to a city/town that you can get utilities (power, water and telecommunications at the least) but without paying tens of thousands of dollars to do so (if such things are not already established). Typically, you’re looking at a 30 minute to a 1-hour drive from town/city, to gain that significantly more affordable ‘lifestyle’. It’s definitely worth the trade, IMHO.

  • Marsha Cowan
    October 6, 2014, 10:20 pm

    I have seen pictures of this house on its pontoons before. They are pretty wide spread so that the weight looks pretty balanced to me. Otherwise, it is a really nice looking tiny house, and floating down a lazy river with it sounds great to me! If you kept a replacement solar panel to “plug in” whenever one needs repairing, you shouldn’t have a problem, but solar panels don’t “break” ( quit working), so you must be thinking about damage to the glass. It is tougher than you think, and most is designed to withstand high gales and flying debris, so it is probably not going to be as much of a problem as one might think.

    • Marsha Cowan
      April 18, 2016, 1:00 pm

      I love this house, and since my last post have even exposed to a lot more solar use and info. I know, for instance, that solar panels must have at least an inch of air space between them and the surface upon which they are attached, so hopefully there is airflow behind these panels to keep them from overheating. If solar panels overheat, they do not transform the sun’ s rays into electricity as well, and my even stop altogether until they cool off. If these panels have air flow to the backs of them, then this person should be getting a lot of electricity and battery storage.

  • ben
    October 9, 2014, 10:37 am

    Going to have to agree with Lamar on this one. Solar panels as the roof panels just doesnt make sense for upkeep purposes. And as far as placing it on a pontoon i would be extremely cautious. To get that house to float right the calculations on weight and size would have to be extremely precise. Maybe a larger barge would work. Just buy a boat.

  • Joe
    November 1, 2014, 1:42 am

    I need to know more about that roof. It’s the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen. I suspect you can generate something like 2-3.5kW of power using that kindof set up, the cost being around $3500 nowadays. And you don’t need a roof! This might be enough power to climate control the inside.

    How about making the entire exterior out of solar panels? They aren’t that expensive anymore..

  • April 10, 2015, 9:08 pm

    Comment in the video about the battery being full so the excess panels are not producing anything. It can be set up so when the batteries are full the load can be heating water. The hot water can also be used to heat the house. A shed roof would allow all the solar panels to be oriented to the sun at one time but if moving on the water the peak arraignment is more flexible.
    I would not go with the expensive aluminum floats. I would build two 8 foot wide barges that would stack for transport then sit side by side under the trailer. With well holes for the wheels the whole trailer could be backed onto the barges until it set down on the deck. I would build an electric irrigation pump into each barge for propulsion. The barges could also hold extra batteries.

  • Susanne
    April 11, 2015, 10:06 am

    I remember reading previously that it’s better to have the solar panels sitting on the ground rather than on the roof since they can be somewhat fragile, so is it really practical to make the roof out of them? Makes sense to put wood under them….

  • Claude .
    April 11, 2015, 10:40 am

    We manufacture pontoon boats and teardrop caravans, so have some experience. This design would not even be legal in South Africa, so don’t know about the rest of the world.
    Pontoons too short, platform not long enough, and not enough buoyancy, just to mention a few faults. Needs probably a 3 ft platform all round and an extra pontoon or two, to give it stability and enough buoyancy.
    Nice idea though.

  • Omaam
    April 12, 2015, 9:06 am

    I simply enjoyed some of these documentaries attached to the original. Wow! Such refined issues come up that are not bad but certainly awesome in scope and reality.

  • Bigfoot
    April 19, 2016, 8:37 am

    I don’t get this one at all. Using the solar panels as structural roofing? They are not structural members nor are they designed to be used as a roof covering material. Having to transport the pontoons separately? None of this seems very practical or logical to me. Why not just make it 100% boat?
    I really do not understand why more people don’t go the houseboat route when considering living small, cheap, etc. You can park them on land in so many different places without calling much attention to yourself, level it up, tie it down, & you’re good to go. No reason why you couldn’t travel with it either. Plus, you have a boat! If you had the $ you could incorporate a great deal of off-grid capabilities into it. If/when you decide to sell it, you have a much larger customer base to draw from.

  • Dave
    July 2, 2016, 10:48 am

    Interesting in that I want to make a pontoon tiny home myself. This one may turn into a submarine in a storm though. Needs a periscope.

  • Patrick
    July 2, 2017, 1:41 pm

    Very cool idea to incorporate the solar into the roof! It also reminds me of the Tiny Solar House which is a mobile tiny house on wheels with 6 solar panels (www.TinySolarHouse.com).

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