When the tiny house building is over, it’s time to relax. At some point you will want to watch TV. Most people will run down to Best Buy and pick out a nice monitor and connect it to a cable box or something. Before you shell out your hard earned cash read the rest of this post because there are some things you should consider.
Your entertainment system will be used for many hours each day. The power this system consumes is critical especially if you live off grid. Much of your TV watching will likely be after dark and you will be using your storage batteries. Unfortunately large TV monitors draw lots of power and those Breaking Bad TV binges could drain your batteries pretty quickly.
Recent innovations in projectors make them well suited for off grid use. A projector is that box in the conference room at work used to beam presentations onto the wall. Modern projectors use LED’s instead of halogen bulbs (the one at work likely uses a halogen bulb). The LED bulbs have a long life and consume very little power. A 19 inch OLED monitor that I tested for this project used over 36 watts by itself. Larger monitors use even more power. The LED projector in my system (made by Brookstone) uses less than 15 watts and gives me a 60 inch picture.
UPDATE: One reddit poster points out that this projector produces far less light than what some might consider acceptable. Only you can decide if its bright enough so please do your homework before selecting a projector. In any case an LED projector will use much less power than a flat panel monitor even if you decide to go with a brighter model.
You will also discover that brightness goes up as picture size goes down. You can make the screen appear brighter by reducing its size. In a tiny space you may find that a lower output projector works just fine.
You need a device that connects to your projector and plays videos, DVD’s, etc. You might use a tablet or smartphone and both worked well in my testing. In the first version of my tiny house entertainment system, I decided to try an Apple TV. Unfortunately, it requires AC power to operate so I had to tear it open and do a fairly technical conversion to make it run on 12VDC. When converted to operate on 12v it used a measly .2 amps or 2 watts. This is far less power than just about anything you would connect. I used this setup for many weeks and it worked very well but was lacking a couple features.
The Apple TV gave me access to Netflix and a few other channels. From my iPad I could use airplay to stream Aereo TV and Amazon Videos. Honestly I hate using airplay to stream Aereo because it ties up my iPad and I can’t surf the web and watch TV at the same time. I decided to junk my Apple TV and bought a Roku 3 box instead.
The Roku box is very easy to run on 12 volts since it uses a 12 volt wall transformer instead of an internal power supply like the Apple TV. It supports Aereo, Netflix, Amazon, PBS, and many other online video networks. It’s a bit smaller than the Apple TV and uses about the same amount of power.
Here’s how I have my system connected:
12V power connectors
Thats a 60 inch screen!
The Component List
Projector: Brookstone HDMI Pocket Projector, MSRP $300
Speaker: JBL Flip Bluetooth Speaker, MSRP $100
Internet TV Box: Roku 3, MSRP $100
DSL Modem: Free from Verizon.
How Much Power Does it Use?
With the Roku streaming the Xantrex Linklite reads a whopping -1.5 amps at 12.5 volts. If you multiply 1.5 and 12.5 you arrive at 18.75 watts. Thats a DSL modem, Projector, Speaker, and Roku 3 running on less than 19 watts. I challenge anyone to find a 60 inch internet TV that draws less than that!
Everything in a tiny house should have a dual use capability and your entertainment should be no exception. The Bluetooth speaker I use connects to both my tablet and smart phone for playing music. The projector can be used with my laptop to act as a second monitor for playing games or working. I also used the projector to present at the relax shacks workshop and it worked perfectly (on its internal battery BTW).
If you are interested in converting your Roku to operate on 12V, I took a video and will post on my youtube channel.
Updated With Video: