In the 21st century, affordable housing is more crucial than ever. A growing global population eclipsing eight billion needs shelter and the current supply is not meeting the demand. One way to help housing crises is to find alternative solutions like shipping container homes. These houses come from cargo ships and provide affordable housing. But what do shipping container electricity systems look like?
How Much Do Shipping Container Homes Cost?
Supply chain disruptions and labor shortages have harmed construction companies, with 25% more empty positions than new employees onboarding. The short supply has led to rising costs and less affordability in the housing market, leaving some prospective homeowners to find alternative solutions. Shipping containers are an unconventional solution to a significant problem.
Shipping container homes start at an affordable range of $10,000 to $35,000 for a small house. The larger units can climb above $100,000 and reach around $175,000. The price of the home depends on how many units the owner chooses, considering they can stack and connect multiple containers to form a large structure.
For reference, a small shipping container typically starts at around 20 feet, while larger ones can extend to 40 feet. Depending on the owner’s needs, you may see extra-large containers up to 40 feet tall.
How Do Shipping Containers Get Electricity?
Most shipping container homes use conduit wiring behind the walls through iron or PVC pipes. This strategy is necessary because most shipping containers contain steel. Specifically, they include corrosion-resistant steel because many companies use them on cargo ships crossing the ocean.
Metallic conduits are preferable because they provide excellent security for wiring, but some shipping container owners find better luck with non-metallic (NM) cables. These systems are more corrosion-resistant, especially for homeowners living in salty air or by the beach. NM cables are less expensive, so they are the best solution for builders on a budget. Industrial environments also use them for how they resist moisture.
Shipping container homes are unique because of their small size. Homeowners must be creative and develop their electric plans differently than a traditional home. For example, the tight quarters present questions about where to put the fuse box. Curious children can infiltrate the fuse box unsupervised, so unit owners typically have to hide it inside a structure like the cabinets.
While they are not typical houses, shipping container homes can connect to municipal power grids. A certified electrician is necessary to complete the installation and the local energy provider will need to install a power meter. Some homeowners use shipping container houses as extensions to their current residences, so they use outdoor cables to connect the outside facility to the electric grid.
How Do Owners Protect Their Shipping Container Electricity?
Like any house, shipping container homes must adhere to local building codes and the National Electric Code, a part of the National Fire Protection Association. Electrocution is a concern in these houses, so extra scrutiny is necessary.
A typical stick-built home uses non-metallic wires for the electrical units, with insulation protecting it behind the walls. These houses typically have 110Vac or 220Vac, but the risk of electrocution is relatively low. Shipping container electricity is slightly more resistant to electrical fires, but the entire structure can become compromised by exposed wiring.
The biggest question surrounding shipping containers and electricity is the grounding. If you put the container directly on the ground, you will not need to install a grounding system. However, an elevated container home is more at risk for electrical problems.
It is essential for shipping container owners to ground their homes so the electrical current has a path away from the house if lightning strikes or there is an electrical breakdown. Shipping container owners can ground their homes for $100 or less with grounding rods and steel cables.
How Can Homeowners Ensure Energy Efficiency?
Shipping container homes are unique from the outside. However, they often have similar fixtures to the typical stick-built houses in your neighborhood. These examples demonstrate what technology shipping containers add for energy efficiency.
Many shipping container homes connect to municipal power. However, homeowners who live off the grid need other solutions. One solution to produce electricity is a solar panel. Shipping container homes tend to have flat roofs, so the homeowner needs to adjust the panels toward the sun for maximum daylight and power harnessed.
Solar power is rising in the United States, despite ongoing issues with the supply chain and labor shortages. In the third quarter of 2022, Americans installed 4.6GW of energy, raising the total solar power in the US to 135.7GW. Solar power continues to gain steam as homeowners learn more about its benefits.
Shipping container homes can be tiny, so keeping them comfortable is a high priority. Typical lightbulbs can emit heat and create a stuffy atmosphere, so container homeowners often choose LED lighting. These fixtures are more energy efficient and keep rooms cooler by producing less heat.
LED lighting is optimal for shipping container owners who participate in indoor agriculture. Recently, Purdue University researchers developed close-canopy and focused-lighting LED lighting that can help plants grow indoors. These systems can sit closer to the plants without scorching them, which is important news for those who use a shipping container as a greenhouse.
Using Electricity for Modern Homes
America’s housing crisis has spurred creative solutions to provide affordable homes. Home buyers today use strategies like modular building, old shipping containers and more. With some modifications, shipping container electricity units can fit modern needs seamlessly.
Emily Newton is a technology and industrial journalist. She is also the Editor in Chief of Revolutionized. She has over five years covering stories about warehousing, logistics and distribution.