JD Howell and Company

Criehaven Off-Grid

In August 2008 we started work on an off-grid cottage for Bruce Porter on the tiny island of Criehaven or Ragged Island. Loacted 25 miles off the Maine coast, Criehaven has no ferry service and no power plant – every home is off grid. Designed by Alex Scott Porter Design, this cottage was featured in the December 2010 – January 2011 issue of Dwell magazine.

Over 90% of the materials for the project were sent out in one trip aboard this Korean-era amphibious landing craft.

The Seatruk on the beach and ready to unload. Note the orange boom of the lumber truck nearly hidden by all the materials.

Any materials that didn’t make it on the first trip had to be hauled out by boat and then carried or trailered almost a mile down a cart path. Here, the kitchen cabinets make the trip to the eastern end.

Concrete footings are in, and the first floor deck framed and insulated.

The entire cottage was wrapped in 1 ˝” rigid foam. Here the main part of the cottage has been framed and insulated and the shed containing a bath and storage room is starting to take shape.

All framing and sheathing was meticulously sanded prior to installation. No sheetrock or additional finish required – the framing is the finish!

The screen porch is oriented to solar south to maximize the effectiveness of the solar panels. The roof and walls are covered in low-maintenance aluminum panels.

A nearly invisible gutter carries rainwater to a cistern visible at far right. The kitchen sink and outdoor shower, shown here, are fed by a low voltage marine pump. A foot pump at the kitchen sink serves as a backup.

Aluminum storm panels slide over the water side glass doors to protect the cottage from winter winds, which have been clocked at over 100 mph.

The heart of the off-grid house, from left to right: the tankless water heater; the main panel, charge controller, and inverter; and the AC panel.

Four L-16 lead-acid batteries store more than enough power to run the DC fridge, water pump, lights, a radio, and a laptop. A nearly-silent Honda generator is on site for backup.

Like in a boat, built-in benches and storage make the most of space in this tiny cabin.

A built-in bed and shelves make the most of space in the 8x20 sleeping loft.

The kitchen features cabinets faced with recycled plastic laminate and a site-built concrete countertop. A simple ship’s ladder leads to the sleeping loft.

A tiny Morso woodstove sits on a hearth of local beachstone. The built-in breakfast table and storage bench make the most of the space.