Friday, December 26, 2014

What would I do different?


It's after Christmas now and tomorrow I'll have lived in my house for a month. And I love it here, this post is not at all about not liking a tiny house or my tiny house in particular. This is just a list of things that I would change if I had them to do over again. Because maybe thinking about some of them will help the next one of you that is building or designing your house make choices you are happy with. Many of these things relate to learning more about living off grid efficiently. 

1. I would have picked a heater that would operate even with no electrical power at all. I like my Suburban propane heater, it does a great job, doesn't burn too much propane, and provides a comfortable heat. (Though if I was planning to be on the grid, I would absolutely have chosen radiant floor heat because my feet have always tended to be cold. I knew from the start I wouldn't have a power system that could handle that though.) But I was unaware that my heater required electricity to start every time it kicks on, and will not operate if the fan is not running. This also requires power. I live in a cold area. It would be nice to know I could heat my house even if my electrical system fails for some reason. This may actually be something I change eventually, but that would require a good bit of work and remodeling. 

2. I would have placed the water tank somewhere higher in the house. The water pump is one of the three biggest power hogs in my house, following the fridge which I planned on requiring the most power, and the heater which I did not realize used any electricity. But, my water tank only has water if I pour it in there from my water jugs. I have no external connection to any water source. And pouring it into a slightly higher tank would not be much more work. So if the tank was located  higher in the house, like anywhere above the kitchen sink, gravity feed should work and I wouldn't need a water pump at all. Saving on having to buy and maintain a pump as well as the power it consumes. Now this could be more of a problem if I used my shower as a shower rather than a closet, but I don't. I haven't looked into how hard it would be to change the water tank location at this point, but I'm thinking not very easy.

3. I would have added a tiny bathtub. While I don't use my shower (and didn't use one much even living in a big house) and have for years since traveling just washed my hair in my sink, I do love soaking in a hot bath. And if I had one, would be willing to put in the extra work to haul water to fill it up and use it every now and then. This I may choose to add at some point as well.

4. I would have less windows. Not because I don't like windows, I love them, but I would prefer a smaller number and then make them all larger. Right now, my house has 16 windows. That's a lot! I think the views might be better out of a larger window and there would be less of them to work around as I place other things in the house. Also, a larger window would have cut down on the time and money required to create curtains or blinds for them. This is one that won't change unless I am building a whole new house, which seems unlikely.

5. On a simliar note, I would have skipped the little dividers that make the windows looks so homey and cute. A simple sheet of glass would be easier to clean for one thing. And again, I think I'd like the view better. But more importantly, I get a lot of condensation, especially when I am cooking, which is kind of all the time. And the extra strips of wood just serve to catch and condense more water giving me another spot that can get moldy and start to rot. Not that they are doing so yet, but I'm guessing it will happen sooner or later since they are always at least damp. Again, this isn't going to change unless I am replacing my windows, so not for a very long time if ever.

6. I would have bought a larger battery charger to use with my generator from the start. Being ignorant about all this stuff, I bought one sized for any single one of the batteries I have. Not realizing or thinking about the fact that when I wire two or four of my batteries together, I really have just one big battery that the charger is trying to fill. So it works, but requires me to run the generator longer as it can't dump enough power into the battery bank fast enough. A new, larger one has already been purchased.

7. I'd have skipped the corner porch. Again, not that I don't like porches, but I live in an area where it is winter for much of the year. So there is very little time when I would do anything like hang out on my porch. If the weather's nice, I have thousands of square miles of wilderness right outside my door to hang out in. I wish I'd made that little corner into a mud room or some kind of inside spot to hang coats, take off boots, and leave the snow and water a little more out of the main living area of the house. Maybe sometime in the future I will wall the porch in and create something like that.

That's my conclusions from the first month of living here guys! Actually, I arrived at most of those conclusions in the first week, but didn't get around to writing about them till now. I hope they help some of you as you design your own houses. And just in case anyone still wasn't clear..... I do love my little house despite this list.


19 comments:

  1. regarding number 7, I saw a tiny house where they used 2 storm doors on a corner porch to enclose it. They had tiled the porch floor with slate I think but anyway, the small enclosed room was tight and the tile heated up in the sun. They still had the main door in place so it provided an enclosed mud room while still allowing visibility through all the seating bay windows.

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    1. That sounds similar to what I was thinking about doing if I do make some changes in that area. Though I don't get much sun due to all the trees all around my house.

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  2. Found you thru Facebook and like your site. Looks like you got the Cyprus 2? How do you manage the home on your own? What have you found difficult that you didn't expect? I am a bit nervous doing this on my own... especially driving it down the road! Any thoughts?

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    1. Yes mine is a Cypress 24 overlook with some modifications. Figuring out the off grid stuff is the only thing I have found complicated. If I was parked anywhere within range of an extension cord, that would have been no problem. And with that set up, I have had a lot of help from a good friend. Otherwise, I am very comfortable here by myself. But I don't travel in or move mine (Unless something big changes in my life and I need to relocate for some reason) so I am not spending any time driving around with it. I have towed a few trailers in my life, but nothing this big or heavy and I am sure it would take some getting used to if I was going to do so. I don't know if that helps you at all. Do you need to move regularly?

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    2. That is helpful thank you! Right now I am just exploring the idea and haven't even looked into some land yet!

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  3. Thanks for sharing this; great info for those thinking about tiny house living!

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  4. Looks like mother nature is about to test your heating ability. Forecast -18 and -28 the next couple of nights. Hope you stay warm!
    You should get some straw bales to set up as skirting and keep some of the cold air out from under the trailer. Although maybe there is enough snow doing it now.

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    1. The snow is actually sealing it off for now. Skirting will have to wait till spring.

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  5. I discovered your blog today through FB's Tiny House page and got immersed in your posts. I read every single one back to back and have to say that I LOVE your tiny house and your perspective on the build and tiny house living. Your posts are insightful, well-written and very helpful to those of us considering this lifestyle. Thank you for sharing your experiences and paving the way for me (and others). Happy new year!!!

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    1. Thank you. It is very nice to hear that someone finds it helpful!

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  6. Re: #3 - tub - I was thinking an Ofuro tub with some sort of detachable shower type attachment, like those things in the 80's that replaced the shower head that you could hold in your hand. If I need to be conservative with water a shower isn't the way to go. A tub would be easier. I agree about the mud room, for a different reason... Indoor cat... I like the extra door to prevent escape attempts. Did you build your tiny house or was this ready made? I'm not much of a DIY type. :( Love your blog! :)

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    1. I am thinking of a set up similar to that eventually. Probably something that could fit inside the existing shower stall. But I will have to haul a lot more water to my house if I am going to use a tub.

      I did not build my house by myself. I did end up with a lot of custom designs, but Tumbleweed built it for me. More on why I made that choice can be found at http://fynyth.blogspot.com/2014/11/is-my-tiny-house-too-expensive.html

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  7. In your list of electricity using appliances I didn't see an exhaust fan. With the amount of condensation you are getting I think you really need to be planning to install at least one vented to the outdoors unit next summer. It will draw some warm air out but I think you will find a little heat loss preferable to the moisture with all its potential for mold, mildew and rot in your lovely little home.

    I live in a small cabin (650 sf) in central Alaska and the exhaust fan in my bathroom is worth it's energy use and the small heat loss both when the weather is cold and in the summer when it's sometimes too hot inside.

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    1. I actually have two exhaust fans, one in my bathroom and one in the hood over my stove. I just don't prefer to run them a lot due to the power use. But I think you are right, and at least when it's that cold, I need to use them more. Now the temps are back up to just below freezing and I have been leaving one loft window open a crack so moisture can vent there. At these temps, that seems to be working as my windows are all dry right now. But next time it drops well below zero, I may have to just use the fans more.

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    2. Propane heaters, while terrific for putting out heat, also exhaust water into the air, leading to condensation problems. One of the many reasons I am putting in a wood stove. It actually dries the air as it burns. Having access to 20 acres of forest is another, as it means free heat and cooking ability, plus no electricity needed.
      Just a thought for you! :)
      Parker

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    3. Yeah, I am aware that burning propane is part of what's creating humidity for sure. And I know wood stoves are much drier. And I actually have access to lots of free (not counting my own work of course) firewood too. But there are a few reasons I personally didn't go with a wood stove. First, because of the amount of physical space they require. Both for the stove it's self and then the clearance around it as well. Secondly, especially with a smaller stove, you have to be present to keep adding wood or your house freezes and this is hard for me because I am often gone for long days or a few days at a time. Not saying they are not a good choice for anyone, that just the reasons I didn't go with one. You certainly have some valid points on the pros on one however.

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  8. Another alternative is a product called "Damp-Rid" available at hardware stores. It is a container you open to air and it has a desiccant crystals that absorb moisture. They use this in basements in more humid environments.

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    1. I have heard of these kinds of products. I haven't taken the time look into them but was somewhat concerned about possible chemicals/toxicity.

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