How To Build a (Semi) Solid Wall Yurt

The handbook, "How To Build A Yurt (solid wall design) is now available at or at www.robertflee.books.php. To purchase this handbook from Amazon or Smashwords, visit or and search for the title under the author's name, Robert F. Lee. The semi-rigid walled yurt described in this booklet can be constructed in less than 40 hours and assembled or disassembled on site in under three hours, by one person!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Yurt Power, Heat & Water

So you’ve decided to move to a yurt, found the ideal building site and ordered your kit from a reputable manufacturer.  But you are far from ready.  What about power, heat, water, and waste?
Most often, power is not an issue.  Good quality wind turbines that will generate 1-3 kilowatts cost less than $1,000.  Solar panels can be purchased with price tags that are lower than $4 per watt output.  Battery storage options are varied, with an array of deep cycle marine batteries the most common option.  Good, used electric forklift batteries offer tons of storage at low cost.  Power inverters (use two) cost $150-300, with modified sine wave being the cheapest and pure sine wave, necessary for sophisticated and delicate electronic equipment such as televisions and computers, being the more expensive choice.
Heat, too, is relatively simple.  We use a combination of heat sources, including radiant propane, kerosene (biodiesel) heaters and outdoor wood furnace.  The outdoor wood furnace is a simple design, using a steel 45-gallon barrel filled with water over an enclosed wood-fired heat source. The enclosure is cinder block filled with sand.  Steel piping leads from the barrel, underground to the yurt, where it is fed through three small truck radiators spaced around the room.  Heat is circulated using 12 volt fans on the radiators.  While it was not required, we use a small RV water pump to circulate the water.  The design is such that the force of expanding hot  water in the pipes moves the water sufficiently up the slope to the yurt, while the cooled water returns to the system via gravity.  A one-way valve ensures that it flows properly.
Using just the propane radiant heaters, with spring & fall average temperatures at night averaging -5 C, and daytime highs at 10C,  twenty pounds of propane lasts 10-12 days.
Heat for cooking comes from a recycled RV propane stove.  We cook two to three months on less than 20 pounds of propane.
Water and waste are more complex issues.
Rather than spend upwards of $8,000 to $10,000 for a well that would have limited use (we consume less than 30 litres (7.5 gallons) of water daily) and would require lots of energy for the pressure pump, we haul our water weekly from a nearby artesian well and store it in a 100-gallon PVC tank.  It is pumped by a 12 volt RV water pump, through pex line, to a propane-powered tankless water heater.  Our total cost for hot water over a four month period was twenty pounds of propane!
Water consumption should be minimal.  Typically, two people can get by on 20-30 liters per shower, five litres for drinking, three litres for cooking and seven litres per day for dish washing.  Total consumption: 35 litres per day.
Waste is broken into two components: grey water and black water (sewage).  We ran our shower, bath sink and kitchen sink into one waste pipe that feeds into a 45-gallon storage tank.  The water collected there is pumped each week onto our gardens and fruit trees (trickle pipes, to minimize e-coli contamination). The toilet feeds into another 45-gallon tank.  That tank is pumped regularly, using a mascerator, into other tanks, where the waste is composted using solar heat blankets and a 12 volt fan to vent it.  After a year, the compost is used to feed the naturally occurring bush and trees on the property.
 Ingenuity is required, if you intend to live off the grid, live in an eco-friendly manner, and live cost-effectively.  But the efforts are well worth the results achieved.