Three years ago, I dreamed of building a house—something small, something simple, something sustainable. And with the help of a great many friends and mentors and supporters and the long, endlessly rewarding patience of time, that dream became a house and that house became a home. And this week, that home became an ecosystem. This week, the Matchbox unplugged.

The Matchbox was never so much a dream as it was a question: Can one find happiness in a simple life of simple limits? Can one live a life truly in harmony with her planet? Can one survive—and not just survive, but willfully thrive—with nothing but the sun and the rain and the earth below? It may be a long, trying journey to get there, but I think the answer is yes.

For years now, the Matchbox has been “nearly” off-grid, self-sufficient in water and waste but still dependent on a constant source of city-supplied electricity. Until now. Over the past few weeks I’ve been working under the absolutely wonderful tutelage of Brad, friend of Boneyard Studios, to wire and install a state-of-the-art solar kit, and this past Sunday it went live. The custom kit features a 1,200-watt, four-panel array, four hefty batteries totaling 290 amp-hours, and an absolute beauty of a control center with an AC/DC inverter, charger, and communications hub. After running the house for three days under the thick tree canopy of the Matchbox’s (temporary) backyard, the batteries are still about two-thirds full, suggesting the array won’t have any trouble keeping up when moved into more direct sunlight.

Coupled with the existing rain catchment system, greywater management, composting toilet, and fledgling garden, the Matchbox is—finally and proudly—a carbon-zero home, DC’s first and only fully off-grid small house. With rainbows come drinking water and with sunshine comes electricity and with greywater and compost comes fresh vegetables from the garden; and with all the above comes happiness and a whole lot of harmony with the world around us.

Four 70-amp 6V batteries and a lovely FlexWare system. (Left to right:) Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy. (Top:) Ms. March.

Four 70-amp 6V batteries and a lovely FlexWare system. (Left to right:) Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy. (Top:) Ms. March.

Category:
Jay, The Houses

Join the conversation! 14 Comments

  1. You didn’t have the map on the wall when I was in the house. I. Love. It.

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  2. I love that you named your batteries after Little Women.

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  3. Conratulations, Jay!
    Can you tell us more about your grey water system?

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  4. Jay, this is very very awesome. Are you willing to dispense advice to a newcomer to the th scene? I have just started building and have ohso many questions! I know you guys have done meetups recently that I haven’t been able to attend, but I am local and sure would love some feedback…Thanks, either way, your posts are helpful! Deborah

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    • Of course, Deborah. I’ll be putting up a much more detailed solar post soon, but anything in particular you’d like me to address?

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      • Hi Jay – thank you! If I could fulfill my wishlist, I’d most like feedback on the house I’m currently building from the perspective of someone who’s done it before. But because I’m just beginning, right now I would also really like to know lessons learned in both the living and building processes. Thanks again, db

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  5. Congratulations, Jay! That’s wonderful! Would love to come visit again and see your house now. I love your map! It was so nice meeting both you and your mom when I was visiting Lee a year and a half ago.

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  6. I’m so sorry to here about the demise of the old Boneyard but, it sounds like you are doing great. My name is Cybele, I live in New Jersey, I’m a cancer survivor and have been in remission since Feb. 2015. Beating cancer has completely changed me and I’m in the process of selling my home, have quit my job and I’m very interested in a mobile tiny lifestyle. If you are opened to it I would love to road trip down to DC and chat with you about your building and designing experience and any advise you could offer.

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  7. […] Matchbox has had a busy year—a move in late January, a move in early April, a Great Unplugging in mid-May. Thanks to our friends over at Offload Labs, here’s a little footage of that first move from […]

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  8. […] a working solar system is a daunting task, especially when space is at a premium. A few weeks back, the Matchbox got solar, and so—in the hopes it’ll help someone looking to unplug a small house of their […]

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