Face Your Fear: Tiny House Electrical Wiring

There is very little more terrifying for most DIYers than doing electrical work. The fear of blowing circuits, starting fires or even electrocution is usually what steers most people away from attempting to rewire anything in the house, let alone install electricity from scratch. Here we will discuss how even the most novice of tiny house builders can learn to feel comfortable around tiny house electrical wiring.

Respect the Tiny House Electrical Wiring

Before we go any farther, let me say how good it is if you are scared of electrical wiring. If you have a healthy fear of something, you will respect it. At the same time, with the proper precautions being taken, you can easily prevent anyone or anything from getting hurt.
So let’s remember, you are only going to have one way for power to get to the house and as long as you keep that unplugged, you aren’t going to electrocute yourself. Even once you have your house wired and go to power it up and have done something wrong, 99.9 percent of the time you are going to pop a breaker.

Tiny House Electrical Wiring: SnipsMaster the Equipment

This is the best part of tiny house electrical wiring: it takes only three tools to do the job. Wire strippers are your go to tiny house tool for stripping and cutting wires, cutting screws and even as a quick little set of pliers. Lineman’s Pliers are basically bulkier wire cutters but offer more torque for cutting multiple/thicker wires as well as a larger gripping surface at the head to help twist multiple wires together. You will also need a screwdriver or two for attaching wires, switch-plates, etc. For a full, in-depth look at every tiny house tool that you will need to build your tiny home, check out Dan’s Tool and Gear page with descriptions, reviews and even links to buy all the necessities.

Know the Materials

The concepts of electrical are not as bad as you think. There are really less than ten components that you will typically come up against in the process of building your tiny house. Wire, switches, outlets, and fixtures are some of the most common. Even some of the more complex three way switches and breaker box wiring is just a matter of following the current. It may be more than the commonly thrown around saying, “black to black, white to white,” but not by much.

READ MORE: The Ultimate Tiny House Materials Guide

Tiny House Electrical Wiring: BreakerTake the Time

Installing tiny house electrical wiring in nowhere near as time consuming as you would think. To rough-in an entire tiny home (drill through studs, pull wire, install boxes, etc.) it should only take one person about three hours. This is a good time to mention that you should definitely put an electrical diagram together ahead of time so you can create the most efficient flow of wiring throughout the home. The finish work (installing the outlets, switches, etc.) should take you another four hours or so. Dan offers up advice in his book to preview the electrical system by finish-connecting everything before you close the walls. If you should choose to do this, it will only add another half a day of labor at the most.

Feel better about tiny house electrical wiring now? What other worries do you have? Let me know in the comments below.

16 thoughts on “Face Your Fear: Tiny House Electrical Wiring

  1. Bob Walker said:

    Thanks for the article. I’m planning my electrical system right now and I seem to be going overboard with circuits. On a 24′ THOW with 50a input. I don’t plan on having any 220 though. How many circuits are normal? If I go by code I have about 10-12 circuits.

    • Tom Bastek said:

      When we build, we normally have three. One for the left side of the house, one for the right and one for the ac/heating unit. We would also recommend one for the fridge if it is full size.

      • Mary McGuirk said:

        i supervised a home rewiring, and i thought there were supposed to be separate circuits for things like microwaves and w/d and disposals too. Was that overkill?

        • Tom Bastek said:

          Depends on so many factors. How big is the home, what are the local codes, what are the manufacturer’s codes.

  2. Ingrid Stanway said:

    Thanks for these great articles….. They have helped put my mind at ease that I’m doing the right thing and have been helping me tackle my tiny house build….one question on the electrical system though….do we need an electrician to “sign it off” or “certify”? To make it legal?

    • Tom Bastek said:

      Unless your local legislature has specific inspections, generally there are none for tiny houses.

  3. Gloria Womack said:

    Is there a specific guage of wire I need to use to wire my tiny house. My house is 160 ft and has a 7 cubic foot fridge. Eventually it will also have a washer/dryer all in one unit.

    • Tom Bastek said:

      We typically use 12 Gauge wire, but the truth is there is no way of us knowing exactly what you need without seeing it for ourselves. You should seek out a qualified electrician to help you choose what is right for your situation.

    • Chris said:

      14/2 is minimum for a 15 amp circuit/breaker, and 12/2 is code minimum for a 20 amp circuit/breaker. 15 amp is typical for lights and other fixtures, where a fridge and micro will have their own independent 20 amp circuits. This is code requirement for residential electrical.

  4. Karen said:

    I have a healthy respect for electrical work! Even though I know I can do it, I occasionally step back and have to make sure I’m checking my plans and my work. Installing outlets and switches are simple. The actual source line is burdensome for me.
    It’s heavy, doesn’t give much and requires lots of hand strength which is something I needed to develop in a short period. (My hands ache, not to mention how many cuts and scraps they’ve received.)
    My tiny house is just under 400 sq ft and we’re installing a 50amp breaker box to cover the mini split and larger appliances. We determined how many amps would be needed by adding up everything that would require electricity. It is slight over kill but allows change in the future if needed.
    We installed a 8/16 breaker box. I plan on adding solar later.
    One thing I would highly recommend is to have someone skilled in electricity by your side or at least a phone call away for those unexpected moments when things aren’t working as they should.
    I installed a direct wired voltage regulator to protect my home from “dirty” electricity which can blow your appliances and devices. This was done with my uncertain future THOW placement.
    Much to my surprise it’s already paid for itself! We connected the power supply to the tiny house and the voltage regulator would not allow power to enter the breaker box. We went through rechecking the assembly, checked the voltage coming to the tiny house and were quit surprised to learn that the power source was receiving far too much voltage than was expected or required! Rather than 110/22 volts coming through the source breaker box, it was receiving 265 volts! That’s too much and can cause damage to my new appliances.
    Now waiting on electrical company to come and check on this issue.
    Without a voltage regulator and a skilled electrician, I could’ve really screwed things up.
    My advice is to hire someone for the big stuff and do the rest yourself if you feel confident and know what you’re doing. Never stop Learning!!

  5. Lisa said:

    Just a reality check for those smart people tackling electrical with no prior experience. There is a lot to it but with books, you tube, and a little neighbor advice, I did all my rough in work. It took a lot of time and some redos and was more complicated than anticipated. I have new respect for electricians. There are many aspects that no one here seems to acknowledge…working out number of circuits, gfci operations in a run, dual light switches, outdoor switches, even the best way to run the wires. Newbies should understand though that roughing in does not put you in contact with current so other than testing, you can feel free to do and undo until comfortable. I felt a huge sense of accomplishment when finished.

  6. Thanks for this awesome and helpful articles! I love your ideas about doing it yourself and I find your ideas safe and not that time-consuming. Also I love how you make it so simple and easy to understand. Thanks for this information.

  7. Mike said:

    What are your thoughts on stranded wire vs. solid? I have heard just enough fragments of information to make me nervous regarding warnings about not using stranded wire for THOW electrical like RV and automotive builders use (they warn of cracking of solid wire from road movement).
    Is solid wire acceptable (i.e. road worthy) so long as the house has been built to National Building Codes for residential home construction?

    • Dan Louche said:

      We use Romex which is solid. I am very confident that it will not fail.

  8. Tom Osterdock said:

    I would not put the receptacles and lighting on the same circuit. separate them so if the receptacles trip their circuit, the light do not go out also.

  9. Catherine A Derecki said:

    Regardless, for building code compliance, don’t you need your work to be signed off by a licensed eletrician?

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