No Power? No problem! This solar-powered shop breaks the mold when it comes to judicious use of power and workspace.
Lee Shuwarger and his wife in front of his shop

Lee Shuwarger's 60 sq. ft. shop in Colorado is, by necessity, the model of efficiency. The small space requires Lee to think through the workflow of a project from start to finish. More importantly, his shop requires him to carefully consider tool choices and usage because it doesn't use electricity from the power grid.

Map of Scuwarger's Shop

The shop occupies a concrete slab that originally supported a greenhouse, so the size of his shop was limited by the area of the slab. Lee framed the walls and roof himself, sheathing the exterior with T1-11 siding. In the temperate Colorado climate, Lee saved on construction costs by omitting insulation.

Detail Images of Power Boxes
Energy from the roof-mounted solar panels keeps the battery charged which, in turn, feeds the inverter that ultimately provides 120-volt AC current.

With no electrical power run to the shop, Lee designed and installed a system that generates electricity from the sun. Two 150-watt, 12-volt panels on the roof paired with a 100-amp, 12-volt deep-cycle battery make up the heart of the solar-energy system. A 120-volt inverter connected to the battery supplies a conventional power strip.

Almost all of Lee's tools rely on battery power. These include a 40-volt tablesaw and an 18-volt miter saw he stores in his garage to save space. When he's done for the day, he plugs the batteries into a charger that hangs beside the window, near the power inverter. The noticeable lack of a bandsaw and drill press has never been a hindrance to building projects. "The tools I do have are perfect for what I need," he says.

Lee's cosy workspace
The cozy workspace fulfills all Lee's woodworking needs, proving that it's not the size of the space that matters—it's how you use it.

The only three AC-powered devices include the battery charger for the cordless tools, a Bluetooth speaker, and a 5000-BTU air conditioner. Lee says he has never depleted the 12-volt storage battery.

The main source of light comes from 12-volt flood lamps and an LED rope light strung across the rafters. A single window and the open door contribute some natural light.

Lee's knack for efficiency carries over into storage space and work areas. For example, the wall framing creates nooks and crannies for his collection of battery-powered tools.

Drop-Front Desk
The drop-front desk cabinet provides a quiet spot for Lee to contemplate his next project. Pegboard panels provide flexibility for keeping tools and accessories at hand.

A small cabinet with a drop-front door, above, sits in one corner to serve as a desk where Lee can work on plans for his projects.

Fold-up Bench
A benchtop on folding brackets shares wall space with the collection of cordless tools neatly organized in the stud cavities.

He also installed a fold-up workbench, above, made from 2-by material. When it's not needed, the bench folds neatly against the wall, saving precious floor space.

The wall adjacent to the desk houses a lumber rack. Below the lumber rack, a pegboard panel keeps a variety of tools and accessories at hand. Larger pieces, like sheet goods, reside outside the shed, stored along the back wall.

Lee is perfectly satisfied with his tiny workshop. It allows him to combine his two hobbies of woodworking and solar energy.

Lee Shuwarger
After spending the day at his optometry practice, Lee likes to relax in his workshop planning and building projects.