This is an idea I have been working on for a couple years. I am very close to implementing it. The idea is to reduce overhead, help the environment, and enjoy a simple life. Here are a couple of companies that build these tiny houses:
The hardest part is reducing your consumption to be able to live within the constraints of a tiny house in terms of space, electricity, water, etc. I plan to be totally off grid so I will have solar electricity and I will tote in my water. And without sewage I will have to use a composting toilet.
Here are a few hints about tiny house living based on my research:
1) There are several concerns in terms of electricity usage:
Get a SunDanzer. They are by far the most energy efficient refrigerators / freezers out there. The 1.8 cubic foot refrigerator uses < 120 watt hours per day - http://www.sundanzer.com/Chests.htm
Of course you can use a laptop. But for people wanting a low power desktop experience you should get the Dell G2410h monitor. It is one of the only desktop monitors in existence that uses a white LED backlight for low power consumption. I use this monitor comfortably at 0 brightness where it consumes only 11 watts - http://www.anandtech.com/show/3703/dell-g2410h-review-a-green-24-lcd
As for low power desktop computers... there are several options for custom builds. There are even some prebuilt low power mini-itx systems like http://www.aleutia.com/ - but the best performance per watt I was able to find is the new unibody mac mini. My mini with an Intel SSD and 8GB of RAM is a low power beast. And it actually games quite well.
As for CPUs... don't even think about an atom. My research shows that atoms actually use more power per task than the Core 2 or Core i. It's a question of efficiency, not TDP. The atoms have low TDP but also low efficiency. Go with a mobile Core processor. Read:
http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/dua ... 141-9.html
http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/dua ... 41-10.html
http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/int ... 16-13.html
There is no such thing as low power air conditioning. You will have to go without, or use fans. Some swamp coolers are low power, but you don't want to increase humidity levels in a tiny house because small enclosed areas are more susceptible to mildew. On that note, you should plan to maintain good airflow through your tiny house, or invest in some passive dehumidifiers like these - http://www.eva-dry.com/products.html
Use LED lights only. Easy.
2) I have had to learn a lot about off grid solar systems. Some pointers:
Use Lithium Iron Phosphate batteries. They are more expensive but the benefits more than make up for the difference in price - http://www.batteryspace.com/lifepo4batterypacks.aspx
Inverter loss and idle draw:
When doing usage calculations be sure to account for DC -> AC conversion loss in the inverter. Also be aware that inverters have idle draw. You can use DC appliances to avoid this loss, but AC is much more convenient to use.
Expected power generation for a solar panel:
Conservative calculations often assume 4x the rated wattage of the panel per day. So a 200 watt panel would generate about 800 watt hours of electricity per day.
Solar panels also produce electricity on cloudy days, but it is about 10-20% of the production of a sunny day.
Prebuilt solar systems:
Here is a company that makes prebuilt systems on wheels - http://www.sol-solutions.com/ - it's very convenient. And they just started selling one with Lithium Iron Phosphate batteries.
Also be aware that the rated wattage of prebuilt solar systems often cites the maximum output of the inverter which can be deceptive. For example, a prebuilt 2000 watt system might have a 2000 watt inverter but only 400 watts worth of panels. Consider that in your usage calculations.
3) General living advice.
Using a composting toilet gives you a lot of freedom since you don't have to be connected to a sewage line. Many tiny house people go low tech with it and just use a bucket. After they go to the bathroom they sprinkle saw dust or baking soda on top which effectively absorbs the moisture and odor.
If you aren't using grid water then you need to learn to take very fast showers. One trick many tiny house people use is to go to the gym every day and use their shower.
You can also speed up your showers by not using soap, only water. I have been doing this for a couple months and it's not bad at all once your body adjusts. Guys tend to have positive experiences with this, whereas girls and people with long hair absolutely hate it.
Reduce your possessions:
Finding a parking spot:
This is the main problem that many people have. These tiny houses are not big enough to qualify as a legal residence in most areas. That means you can't buy land and park it. Basically you need to find some one who will let you park on their property. Camping out in the backyard is perfectly legal in most areas. I have also known people who have taken out a mortgage on a house, rented the house to pay the mortgage, and then lived in the backyard in their tiny house.
Most people use a laundromat.