Sunday, October 21, 2012

Appliances and Storage.

In a micro home,  you don't have a lot of storage.  So having a lot of appliances will not be possible.  you need EVERYTHING to do double or even triple duty.  so think carefully about what you "need".   Kitchen really depends on what you have available for power.   If you think you will live "off the grid" then electric hot plate and toaster oven are not possible, you need a Gas oven/range from an RV.  If you will have electrical service,  then going all electric is a LOT easier.   I know people that cook everything in a George Foreman Grill, and you would be surprised what you can bake in a toaster oven.  But realize, you will not be cooking grand multi course dinners for 4.  Your kitchen is there for basic needs, cooking very small and easy meals for you.  I honestly would forgo the toaster oven, as it takes a lot of space.   I would personally get a panini grill that can be used as a griddle, and a hot plate.  This will let me make coffee, hot water for tea, etc as well as gook smaller things. as well as have the ability to make sandwiches and burgers.  No I won't be baking cakes or roasting a turkey, but I won't have the space for the pans to do that anyways.  The micro home kitchen should have a maximum of 1 saucepan, 1 skillet, 1 spatula, 1 mixing spoon, and a single lid that fit's both pans. (universal lid) I would splurge and waste space for a small tea kettle and a funnel type coffee maker.   That would be it for the kitchen outside of dinnerware.  You can make anything with only that.   Yes you will have to wash things frequently, but that is expected in a micro home.  Cleanup on the griddle/panini is made easier by using aluminum foil when you can. (pancakes on aluminum foil ends in misery, you need the non stick griddle surface for pancackes.)

Your Fridge is going to be small and probably will not have a freezer or only a tiny one. This means you will shop for food regularly.  the fridge you really want to splurge on and get the highest efficiency one possible.  If electric,  make sure it's energy Star.    If you do it right, you can run for days with no power if you keep it closed.    Cleaning will be required, and if you have carpet, you must have a vacuum.   This is why I recommend AGAINST carpet, get a rug you can take out and shake or beat outside for cleaning as you don't really have the space for even the smallest stick vac.

Alarm clock,  if you get a nice one, it can be your home stereo as well.  The Bose wave radios are very nice and will fill a micro home full of your favorite music.  Get a nice clock radio that you can use as your stereo.  I really like my Sirius Internet radio. It sounds great, works as an alarm clock and has my luxury of Satellite radio (over internet only)

Lastly your TV if you want one, can double as a computer monitor if you cant handle always using the small laptop monitor.  Having a TV is a great thing for when the weather is bad or you are stuck at home sick.   Just remember, in a micro home a 32" tv is Gigantic.  you could get away with a tiny 22" set because you will be sitting less than 4 to 6 feet away from it.  A lot of people argue that a TV is not needed, and they are right if they are fine with watching movies on a tiny laptop screen or iPad or other tablet.  For the single person most of the time this is great.  It's when you have more than 1 person that the larger screen becomes very useful.  Plus the ability to pull in free over the air TV signal is a major bonus.

When you go to a micro home, you really reduce what you use in life.  This is a thought process that people really need to get used to and understand way before they even think of a micro home.   Even someone that lives in a 650 sq foot apartment has far too much stuff for a micro home.  Think as if you need to put everything you own into a car.  THAT is how much of a reduction you need to think of when thinking micro home.  Having 10 books is OK.  100 books is wasted space,  get a kindle,ipad,nook Decorations are wasted space, no pretty vase for just looking at.   Get some pretty drinking glasses you can use a s a vase when you need to have fresh flowers.  Everything must have a use, and when you buy something new you must think of what you will get rid of.

Remember it's not just smaller,  it's a change in lifestyle and thinking.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Quick Links : Shipping container homes.

Here are a few links to some very cool shipping container homes.   Shipping containers reduce a lot of work you need to do to build your home, but it's certainly not a "micro home" that can be moved.   the 20' long units are closer to micro, but most are 40' and more than one stacked or assembled.    It is an interesting idea on how to recycle these boxes.

Reality though is that getting one of these shipping container to your lot is very expensive.  they will cost you upwards of $10,000-$15,000 per box to buy it and get it shipped to your building location and set on it's foundation.  A lot of people are claiming far lower prices,   but they are not including the price of delivery and the crane to lift it off the truck and set it in place.  I have seen people build a standard home the same size for the same price as just buying the shipping container and having it delivered.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Solar Calculator Is a link to my spreadsheet for calculating how much solar you need for the electrical items you have.   You will notice it adds up quick.

Also leaving things plugged in suck up a lot of power, that 5 watt draw from an iphone charger that is plugged in but not used adds up fast.  unplugging things when not in use saves a lot of electricity.

Note: a couple of examples.   Like a network router.  Plugged in all the time is over 500 Watt hours of power used.  but slap a light timer on it to kill it when you are not home or you are sleeping,  you can cut it in half or more.

Also note the choice of laptop makes a difference.  Look on the spreadsheet.  I added the measured  power draw of my Wife's 13" apple Powerbook.  it uses a LOT less power than my Dell 17" quad core i7 laptop, even idle sitting in sleep mode it uses a lot less power.

The biggest thing this will reveal to you is how much power you are wasting with appliances.  finding more efficient devices makes a difference.   for example. Our new coffee maker uses 1500 watts but only runs for 3 minutes to make a pot of coffee and then shuts off.  It uses a insulated carafe so it does not run the heating element while the coffee sits there.  This saves a significant amount of power.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Solar power links

Today is some quickie links for calculating solar power needs.  system sizing,  this ASSUMES a big house,  adjust accordingly. for sunshine maps to calculate the hours of sunlight per month and average season.  Finally the weather undreground has a very nice solar database that can give you details in a graph for your location.  This one has nice graphs showing solar and wind outputs.  A nice solar system calculator to get you estimates.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Handymans solar installation; some tips and recommendations.

I am NOT a fan of the harbor freight Solar panel package.   IT uses a type of very low grade solar panels that will not last for more than 5 years and they are delicate sheets of glass.    But, they are readily available and Harbor Freight has made them easy to use for the typical handyman kind of person.

IF you wanted a low capacity Solar electric system for a cottage or micro home,  Here is how to get started.

First I recommend buying 3 of their solar kits to get started,  if you are really low on cash,  then two will  work for now, but you will not have enough solar panels.  You also need their Solar expansion hub, a couple of batteries and a Power inverter. is the solar kit. is the solar hub. the higher capacity charging controller.

You need to get  1 or more batteries for power storage.   They must be Deep cycle type of batteries,  you want to size the battery to be 10X to 12X that of the solar output.   a single Harbor freight kit will put out 3 amps at PEAK power generating.  so you want a 30AH battery to pair with it.   we will be putting together 3 kits to get a max of 9A of power so we want around 100AH of battery storage.  One battery will work if you don't want to use two. Don't even think of using car batteries, they will not last more than a couple of months as they are not designed to be drained down to empty and recharged.  Deep cycle marine or backup power type is what you need.

Now your run time for the inverter is going to be low.   1000Watts at 12 volts is 83.3amps This means you will use 83.3Amp Hours of battery capacity in one hour.  While your charge rate is 9amps into a 100AH battery will  recharge the same amount of power in 10 hours.  This is assuming that you can have 10 hours of 100% output.  In reality, it will recharge the battery in 20 hours on a sunny summer day,  or about 2 weeks in the winter on a partly cloudy day.

This means we cant run that inverter very much, this is the problem with really cheap solar.  But let's work around this.   Let's eliminate any 110Vac capability.  Sorry, no hair dryer or microwave oven.  A typical small 800 watt Microwave will use about 5Amp Hours of Battery storage for every minute it is running and the inverter is running.  That means for every minute you run it, you will have to have about an hour of strong sunlight to replace the power that it used.  That bag of microwave popcorn you want that cooks for 3.5 minutes will use up all the electricity your solar system made for 1/3 the day.

The charger and controller that comes with the solar kits support 12V lighter ports, so everything you own will need to be for use in a car or run on 12 volts.  you can easily wire to the battery larger gauge power cables to wall plate 12 volt power ports to support your cellphone charger, a laptop charger, or a fan.   In fact look at RV shops or Truck stops for a ton of appliances that run off of 12 volts.   just don't get the silly things like the frying pan, coffee maker, or other high amperage devices.

You can use regular home light switches to put in 12 Volt lights, and wire them just like a home light.  but you only need 2 wires.  Ground and 12V,  have the switch wired to the 12V and ground runs through.

Run all the solar panels to the 30 amp solar charge controller.  with multiple panels you are going to not use the controllers that come with the solar panel kits.   Yes, I wish they just sold the panels.  then hook up the battery to the charge controller.   You can use one of the 45 watt kit charger controllers as a power supply and voltage meter, just hook up only the battery side.

You are all done now,  you have a basic solar power setup that has a couple of CFL 12 volt lamps, and two charging ports with a controller and a volt meter.  Plus enough capacity to go all night with lights or your basic low power needs.

If you want it ran to more convenient locations, you need to run low voltage wiring and add in fixtures and outlets.  That means getting a bit more advanced.

You need to also get a fuse panel if you are going to go any further,   Either a boat or car fuse panel and run all power runs to the panel.  a Ground buss bar is also a good idea. is a good website that is car specific and audio specific but has a lot of good tips on how to run and wire 12 volt systems. is a nice article about 12 volt wiring as well for cabins.

RV and marine shops have 12V lighter outlets for power outlets you can use.   fuse each one at 10 amps and run good quality 12awg wiring to each one and home run it back to the fuse panel.

Want to generate more power?   think about adding a small wind generator.,mod=3&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8

Sunforce has a nice little wind generator that is only 400 watts at 12 volts, but it's a LOT stronger than the solar panels we just talked about.   400 watts = 33Amps.   Now this is at peak,  you almost never get peak except during a hurricane.  Assume 1/5rd the power output on average.  so 3-4 amps when the wind is blowing.

This coupled with the solar install will give you a very nice off grid power system.   Granted it's not the best, but it's all readily available to most people by driving to their Harbor Freight and Northern tool stores.  About $1500 in parts total to give you off grid power.

This is not how I would go.   Except for the sunforce wind generator.   I'd get two of those.   Next time I'll detail what I am buying and using.

Here is a hint,  it's more like this.....,mod=3&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8

Except not sold by sunforce.

What I would actually use is very close to what is sold here ..... is a complete kit of what I would install.  it is a starter kit at 310 watts and by adding a 3rd panel bring it to 470 watts  and stays manageable for the mobile micro home.   all three panels and their stand can be disassembled and put inside for transportation.  Plus generating 470 watts an hour will charge up the system quickly on winter days when you only have on average 2-4 hours of direct sunlight (non overcast)  during the summer sunny months or southern locations it will be more than enough to supply the power needed.   470 watts will deliver enough to charge and run two laptops at full tilt, run a stereo, charge your cellphones as well as have some power left over to charge the batteries with what is left over.  In a micro home I can not see needing more than this for electricity.   Now if you want to do something extreme like spend the winter in Nome Alaska with your micro home,  you will have some power issues.

I do recommend having a battery storage bank of at least 600 amp hours.  That will deliver around 3600 watt hours (at 50% discharge)  of power for extended stormy days.   I recommend you build a box for your batteries. Put the batteries in it with nothing else but the connection cables on the terminals and a fuse. No electrical devices in the box at all. Install a flue in the top to allow the fumes to escape out the top and outside of the building. Never ever put and inverter or charger or controller in the same space or box with a lead acid. The fumes will ignite.

Do the math on how much battery power is required to run your load for 24 hours in watts. Divide the watts by DC voltage (12 volt battery, 24 volt battery..) and you have the amps you need. Double that for 50% rate of discharge and you have the battery size in amp hours. Size the inverter to cover the heaviest load you will put on it at any one time. Extra solar batteries and solar panels are always of use.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Getting Closer to smaller living: Stage 1.7 - Ventilation

Ventilation.  This is HIGHLY important in any home, and triple important in a micro home.   You need to change the air,  draw out spells and moisture from cooking, as well as the bathroom moisture and smells.    Problem is your choices in a micro home are limited,  Full sized home vent fans are far too large for a micro home, and they require 110Vac to run.  If you are planning on being off grid, this is a problem.  They also will draw more air than you really want for the smaller spaces.   yes a bathroom fan that will suck all the air volume that the house has every 5 seconds would be great on bean chili night.  but it will be really noisy and difficult to install in a smaller space.   RV vent fans are another option,  they are designed for smaller spaces, but are horribly expensive for what they are.    My vent fan of choice is the boat bilge blower.

These fans are very small and easily ducted to where they are quieter and they run on 12 volts using a small amount of power.  you can use one in the bath to vent the bathroom,   one in the kitchen, and another at the peak of the house to draw hot air outside during the summer. The nice part is that you can mount all of them in one location where they are screwed to blocks of rubber to isolate the noise and vibration and are accessible for easy servicing.  If you put a filter or filter material over the intake inside the home, you can make sure the fans don't get caked with dust and lint, as well as keeping he ductwork clean.  the duct can be PVC pipe or flexible pipe.  Most of these fans will move 240CFM or cubic feet of air a minute.   240 CFM is a 6 foot by 6 foot by 6 foot cube of space.   Meaning one of these fans will change over ALL the air in a 12X24 micro home every 4 to 5 minutes.   That's plenty!

Now If you think about this,   you don't need a LOT of fans.   one in the bathroom and placing the kitchen outside the bathroom will take care of moisture and smells.   The problem with kitchen cooking is having a real vent hood that will take smoke out and handle the high heat of cooking.   This is where a RV store will come in handy.   I strongly suggest getting a steel or stainless RV stove vent hood and fan and putting it in your kitchen.  over the stove is best, but if you are only going to have a hot plate, then where you will cook with the hot plate is a good idea.    Yes it takes precious space,  but if you have a kitchen mishap, it's nice to be able to draw all the smoke out fast and not worry about the vent hood.

Consider a hot summer day,  if you fired up the loft vent fan and opened the windows in the house on the opposite side of the loft ladder, you will have a constant breeze coming in of cooler air. from the windows.

but let's get clever.  if we had controlled vents UNDER the house that drew air from near the ground outside,  we would draw in even cooler air into the home.   This is why a lot of old homes  had basement windows.  you open the upstairs attic windows, open the doors to the attic and basement and then open the basement windows.   Hot air leaves the roof while drawing in the coolest air from near the ground.  You can cool a house significantly this way.  It will feel cooler than what it feels like outside.   Even cooler if you are in a shaded area and are pulling air from a shaded grassy area.

Problem is you will need air filters to keep dust from coming in the house, just cut some filter material and stick it over the vent holes or roll up some and stuff it in the pipe.  check it and clean it often, every couple of months, just like your home furnace filter.

Quickie: visualizing size

Trying to visualize sizes of space and furniture will give a novice in Smaller living a better idea as to why most  people choose custom furniture or better yet built in's for their micro home. is a nice little room planner,  if you specify a custom room of 10' by 12'  you can see how conventional furniture is all over sized and waste a LOT of space.

Just a way to help you visualize the space and how to start thinking how to save that space.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Getting Closer to smaller living: Stage 1.6.5 - Infrastructure; Wiring

electrical and other wiring is another issue in a micro home.   You dont need the over the top complex system that you find in a regular home,   In fact you can get away with 2-3 Circuits total.  and all of this can easily be done by a regular person,   no electrician required.  A very small RV style or regular breaker panel is all that is needed, and it can be placed almost anywhere.   BUT where you place it is where all your electrical wiring will be ran to, so pick wisely.   Outside in a service shed that is attached is certainly legal and safe, but do you really want to go out in the snow to reset a breaker when you ran the microwave, toaster, and George Foreman grill all at once?  Putting it inside is the best choice.   Separate the Kitchen on it's own breaker, the rest of the house on it's own breaker,   Lights on it's own and finally any outside outlets on it's own.  4 breakers total for a large micro home with fancy extras like outside outlets.

But that is if you want 110/120Volt lights.   I will be wiring my home differently, all my lighting will be 12 volt.  This requires a different approach.   I will use different wiring as well,  Low voltage is Red and black instead of white, black and green.    Red is 12Volts and Black is ground, while in AC wiring   Black is 120Volts, White is return and Green is ground,  Yeah,  electricians like to make it difficult.

This means I will have two separate electrical systems in my home.   12Volt DC for lighting and a few outlets,  you can get wall 12V power outlets from an RV store so I can use a car charger for my cellphone, or even 12 volt appliances.  This gives me an advantage I will cover shortly.   and a high voltage 120V AC system that most everyone is used to.   This will run a shaver, toaster, Laptop Charger, hair dryers, etc...

A Split system like this has advantages and disadvantages.   First it requires I double up on everything.  I need a breaker panel for AC and a breaker panel or Fuse box for DC.  I need double wiring, and a way to convert one to the other when I am on different power sources.   that means a 12VoltDC power supply/charger that makes my DC voltage when I have only 120VAC power available, and an Inverter to make 120VAC when I only have 12V battery /solar power.   This also makes life more complex as you need to switch between systems.   If I am using the inverter and I plug into a 120VAC source,  I will blow up the inverter.  Flames, sparks, really bad things will happen.  So I need to make sure I have a disconnect so that only one can be connected.  OR I spend a few extra thousand and buy a syncing inverter.

My DC system will have inverters and chargers as well as a battery bank for power storage,  this makes the system a LOT more complex.  If you can make sure you will always have a place to plug into,  you can skip all the Low voltage DC systems and just wire up the home for 20 amp AC service and use a heavy duty (10awg) extension cord to plug into your power.  This simplifies things a LOT.   You then just wire up outlets and lights as if it was a normal home, talk to the guy in the electrical department at home depot, he can tell you everything you need to know.

There are two more things you might want in your micro home that deal with wiring,  Network and antenna for TV,   network wiring is CAT-5e or Cat-6 and requires special connectors, plates, and  TV antenna wiring requires RG6 with special connectors.  The advantage is you can put the TV antenna near the peak of the house inside the construction to get far better reception of free TV channel signals, or you can run it to a connector to the outside so you can put an antenna higher on a pole off the edge of the roof.    You can also embed an XM or Sirius radio antenna up there if you want to have sattelite radio in your home.

The network wiring is really not needed as a wireless setup will cover the entire home easily, but some specialized devices might use a wired ethernet, like a Xbox360.  Having a network in the home allows you to share the internet with devices, friends and family.

Just remember, you can easily go overboard on electrical and you will not gain much.   Keep it simple.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Getting Closer to smaller living: Stage 1.6 - Infrastructure; Water,and sewage.

One of the things that is clear as mud is the plumbing and wiring of a micro-home. None of the micro home websites cover how to figure out what you need, and how to do it. They just assume you will hire someone.

Plumbing.   The Micro home, if it is to be mobile, needs to carry everything inside the structure.  This means tanks for fresh drinking water,  Sewage from the toilet, and "grey water" from the shower and sink.    you really need them in places where they are protected, and  you need to keep them from freezing by insulating them and even adding heating to the tanks.  You also need to know how much each tank contains so you are not surprised one night with a toilet that will not flush as the sewage is completely full.   Luckily the RV industry has been doing this for decades, so it's not a hard thing to deal with,  but it takes some planning.  Your sewage, or Black water tank MUST be under the toilet, in fact the toilet mounts to it. so this means that structure design under the bathroom must be set up for accommodating the black water tank.

How big of a tank will you need?   that depends.   If two people are living there full time,  you will need a large one to avoid having to empty it often.   pulling up roots on your micro-home to find a sewage dump station is not something you will want to do weekly.   If you are clever and make sure you do all your personal evacuation when you are not at home,  you can get away with a smaller unit to cover those days you just cant wait or the middle of the night bathroom run.  In this case you may be able to get away with a portable toilet or a composting toilet, skipping the sewage tank completely.    This has the huge advantage of being able to take your waste away in a car or other vehicle instead of moving the whole home.

Fresh water can be as simple as a water jar and faucet above a large bowl  like they did in the 1800's or a fresh water tank with pump and built in sink.   If you want a nice shower,  you will want the water tank, water heater, and pump setup.   Most of the time the water tank is under a built in bench seat or cabinet.  the pump sits next to it and flexible PEX piping is used.   Again, INSULATE everything and even run electric heater lines for the tank and pipes.

Grey water you have more options.   RV's use a tank to capture all of it,  but if you use only sink water and shower water, you can use it for irrigation of plants.  If you are near a water source,  dont just let it run on the ground as it can contaminate a stream or other water source,    re-use for garden irrigation is perfectly fine.  I personally will let it just seep into the ground if I live in a spot away from a stream or other source.  a Soaker hose will spread it out to water a larger area.  If you are building a mobile micro home,  put in the tank as you will never know what rules you need to follow.

Hot water is another thing to think about.   RV water heaters come in Propane and propane/electric versions.   they are small but must be mounted where they vent outside.  They have very little insulation so cold climate damage from freezing is a possibility.   if you build your home right with a "utility box" on one end that you can control venting and creates an air space, you could insulate the area when the hot water heater is not in use to prevent freezing.  but don't block it's venting.   that can become highly dangerous.

Plumbing is incredibly simple, you will have 1 sink and 1 shower/ toilet.  if you manage layout right the shower faucet will be on the same wall as the sink or close to it.  this will make runs very short and very cheap.

Lastly, figure out your average water use for a day.  and consider how often are you willing to go get more water if you are not where you have hook ups.   If you use a very low flow shower head and and do things right, your shower will only take 5 gallons of water.    that means you have 10 days of showers with that 50 gallon water tank before you need more water.  RV supply stores have wheeled 10 gallon water tanks that you can buy so that you can cart home your own water from another source easily in the back of a car.  Or better yet, join a gym.  and every morning on your way to work, go to the gym, work out for 10 minutes, and then shower and get ready for your day.   now you don't need to replace your water as much.  Side effect is that you become more healthy as you are now working out daily.

Remember this lifestyle change is a big one.   You need to make changes inside and outside  the home.  Taking advantage of other resources like a Gym membership, work facilities, etc to reduce consumption at home makes a big difference in not only your efforts in day to day living, but your costs as well.   a $35.00 a month Gym membership is cheap if you don't have to pay a water bill and the propane used to heat that water.

Again, this matters if you built mobile and will be nomadic.  if you built on a permanent lot, these issues are not something you will have to live with.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Getting Closer to smaller living: Stage 1.5 - Designing and layout planning.

After all the other steps,  I started to get measurements of all appliances that have to go in.   Stove, Sink, Shower, Toilet, etc...   I then grabbed some graph paper and started to draw them out.   Kitchen will only need 21" wide by 18" deep for the Stove, vent hood, and microwave above it.  I hate being crammed in a corner when I cook so adding a 6" wide counter space on one end before the wall is needed,  this is not wasted space, its' thin storage.   On top of that you need a sink.  a 25" wide by 17" deep kitchen sink is enough.  Plus I can have cutting boards cut to fit on top of the sink to add more work space. I am figuring 24" deep counters and 16" deep shelves above the counter.

A minimal kitchen that will be tight to work in is about 5 foot 6 inches long by 5 feet wide,  Ok, not too bad. A little tight for cooking anything, no place to use a blender or stand mixer, but this is minimalist living.   I can use a bowl and hand mixer.  I also could add a flip up work space at the end of the kitchen for more work space when needed.

On to the bathroom,  Shower stall is 36" by 24".  Tight but doable,  Another 24"by 24" for toilet space and 10"X10" for a tiny corner sink.  This means I can cram the bathroom into a 5 foot by 3 foot space.   This means my minimum width for the house is 9 feet or so with wall thickness and siding averaged in.   So if I go for 10' wide I have more room to add.  So far my 10 foot wide house idea is solid.  If I went for even wider then I have more options in room rotation and space.   But I at least know what my minimums are.    Now if the house is to be mobile...  I need to make it smaller.  8.5" is the MAX width I can have the house,  that includes eaves. so the house will actually be 8' wide outside with 8 inches removed for the wall thickness plus interior wallboard.   So I am stuck at 7.3 feet wide inside if I want to be able to tow the house around the country as a nomad....   Keep this in mind, it's a hard rule that you can not get around.

Now add in living space.  I am thinking 10 feet in length would be nice,  that is 8 foot of space for a couch that turns into a bed and room to get into the bathroom/kitchen. add a couple of feet for length and I have 17.5 feet long for the length of the house.  157 square feet of living space not including the sleeping loft.  This allows the loft to be about 11 feet long with a 2 foot wide over the door loft for storage.   You can go longer easily, the legal limit to a trailer length is 40 feet in most states. so expanding to 21 feet long gives us some options.....

Doorways are a different issue.  a LOT of plans out there use a 26 inch wide doorway.  This is typical for a RV.  IF you are more portly, you may find that doorway to be a little too tight.  Be sure to look at different options,  you can mock up a doorway with cardboard on a regular doorway where you live now to see if you are comfortable with a 26" width.

I also suggest drawing up your idea on graph paper,  I use a small grid paper and 2 inches per square. and then cut out squares relating to different furniture sizes and people standing, sitting and laying down to get an idea on space use.  Try to allow 18" or more for traffic lanes.  A person is about 17 inches wide and is comfortable when they have 20 inches of space to sit in.  Larger people need more room,  I'm built like a football player, so shoulder to shoulder I'm 24" wide, I will be uncomfortable in 20" of space (and I am on a typical airline) So I assume a luxurious 28 to 30 inches of width for sitting space.  This means a 5 foot long "love seat" is perfect for two.  I have 22" from the back of my knee to my back. is a link to some furniture cutouts you can scale to whatever scale you draw up your micro home floor plan in to make some decisions.

Once you get done with this step, if you live in a large home you can mock it up with your current furniture.  OR  get some stakes and line and go out to the yard to mark out the house floor plan in real scale  Seeing it full scale will tell you a lot about how it will feel to you..

Monday, June 18, 2012

Getting Closer to smaller living: Stage 1.4 - Separating Needs Versus Wants.

A Micro Home is all about balance and change.  Most Americans live in insane sized homes, Myself included.   I have 1900 sq feet of home plus a full basement and full garage.  For just my Wife and I it's insanely over-sized.  We could live like kings in a 650 sq foot apartment with two bedrooms, and even then it's still a major waste of space and resources.   What do we do with all that space?  we fill it up with stuff we  just do not need.   A nice oak dining room table that will sit 6 people,  Nice pretty furniture in the living room that we never sit on.  And the basement full of junk we never use.

So I started the list of things I like doing and need space.  

Wine Making.   I currently take up about 25 square feet for my wine making supplies and space to do it in.  I ferment 3 carboys of wine at a time to make about 36 bottles of wine every 3 months.  Do I really need to?  no.  I can scale back to a single 3 gallon batch and reduce the space needed by 1/2 and still enjoy the hobby.  I just cant give away as much wine as I do now.

Cooking.   I love to cook, but I dont need a 38" wide double convection oven with 5 burners to do it.  A single crock pot, and a small camper range can do the job nicely.  I would need to go through my pots and figure out how to reduce what I have and what I need.  A bread pan can do as a Meatloaf pan and even a cake pan.  yes all my cakes will be small and oblong, but taste the same.

Home Office.   This one is easy in some ways.   Laptops.  The hard part is the printer.  I have yet to find a nice tiny color laser printer that will fill the need.   I want laser because inkjets become unusable within a month of no use.  Laser printers can sit for years and fire up and print perfectly.   Outside of the printer, everything else in the home office can be thrown away.  I dont need a desk, a fold up tray or the dining table will work just fine. I really like my triple monitor setup,  but buying a nice large laptop with the fastest processor in it will make a big difference.  Spending $2500 on a laptop instead of  $800 for a laptop, $800 for a desktop PC, $350 for monitors, $450 for a desk, $200 for a chair, etc... Is a LOT cheaper and I end up with a faster and better computer than if I do the traditional desktop+laptop setup that most people have.

Gaming.    I love video games, it's my escape and time waster.   No I dont like gaming on a computer,  I love my Xbox though.   Luckily an xbox can do double duty for gaming and entertainment.  Plus if you get the right flat screen TV it can also work for the laptop as a second screen or much larger screen.  a Single 32" 1080p monitor will turn any laptop into a desktop.

Motorcycling.   This one is hard to deal with in smaller spaces.   You dont have a garage so storage of the bike will be outside in the elements all the time.  IF you get a tiny bike, you can store it on the porch (if your micro home has one) but it will block the entryway.   I have yet to find a solution to this.

Those are my wants.  And yes I consider some of them as needs, but they are in reality only wants, luxuries that I can live without.   How do I include all my luxuries into my life?   Reduce them to their essence.   If you love making arts and crafts,  do you really need a whole Sewing and Craft room?  cant you reduce it to a bag and then buy what you need when you need it?  Yes that means you cant go out and buy a metric ton of beads or fabric when it's on sale.  How small of a space can you reduce your hobby into?  Some like "furniture making"  cant be reduced.

Needs:  I need a shower.  Luckily my wife does not care about a bath tub.  So that makes the bathroom smaller and saves space.   We have owned an RV and I have done the RV shower thing.   IT's not fun,  enough room to turn around is really important to me,  IT also needs to have windows for light and a fan for moisture/smell control. I am realistic,   no long showers = smaller water heater,  Although hot water on demand systems are a possibility but only if you are Grid connected.  I cant find any that work for 12Volt solar systems.

Kitchen that has enough room to work in.  That means a larger galley than most micro homes have.  I want a microwave above the stove. and an oven.    IT also needs an additional fan for smell and moisture control.

Guest space.   we would like to be able to accommodate guests on a occasion.  This means having TWO sleeping areas or the possibility by having the couch convert into a spare bed for two.   This seems to be more of a "want" but with my daughter and other very close friends, it's really a need.

Entertainment/work space.  Space for my wife to be able to work at the same time as I do.  And allow her to watch TV or do whatever she wants while I work/ etc...   Being able to feel at home without forcing the other person to do what you want is important for a happy family life,   make sure the space is there.

Pets.  Cats need a place to eat and to go to the bathroom.  How can you have a kitty box that is not in the way and will not stink up the house horribly.  I am thinking of a second vent fan for the kitty bathroom.  Micro Dog owners have an advantage here.

Again,  Some of the needs feel like Wants.  But if I want to stay married, it becomes a need.

One more NEED I have yet to come up with,   multiple exit doors or improved fire safety.  I cant see how to add a second emergency exit into a micro home.  In case of a fire you have literally seconds to get out.  In a micro home you have even less.  I really am uncomfortable with the single Exit door that all micro homes have.   Plus with Loft sleeping, there is no way you can get out without going down to the main floor.  This means really going overboard with smoke, fire and Co2 alarms   plus adding multiple fire control measures.  Having several extinguishers in the micro home takes up more space, but I would rather be able to put that fire out or reduce it long enough for my wife and I to get out.  I am looking at small scale built in systems that use piping and spray heads in key locations.  I know, Most RV's and cabins don't have that now and they are safe.   This is my little bit of paranoia that I have to satisfy.

All of the above will significantly effect the side and design of my micro home, and these MUST be decided before anything else.  Failure to consider your wants and needs before you even start to think about the home size or design will lead to you being unhappy with the home after it is completed. You need to start your lists now and start thinking about what you NEED and what you WANT in your home.  What are the compromises you are willing to take and how can you simplify your life to fit inside a micro home.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

$20.00 Clothes washer.  Ok it's a bit rustic but it certainly will work in the Micro Home. and storage of the washing machine is easy as well as using it for other things.

Just a quickie idea/link for this weekend.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Getting Closer to smaller living: Stage 1.3 - Appliances

Modern conveniences are a nice thing. Ask anyone that grew up in the 40's or 50's and they will tell you that they don't miss hand washing clothing. My mother used to tell me how she would run her hands through the clothes wringer and how it hurt badly.   A lot of what we have today even in a huge 750 sq foot home is something that our grand parents would have wanted when they were our age.

Living in a tiny home though means giving that up,   a Laundry in your home is a big luxury you can not have.  Well a traditional one at least.  Unless you build your home larger to make room for it.  A stacking washer and dryer, apartment small size is 30"X30" by 72" tall and it needs 6" at the back and 3 inches on each side.  Plus you need either 220Vac power or a large propane tank/natural gas hook up.  This means you are not in a trailer but on a permanent lot.  Even the low power ones draw so much power that the solar system needed would be expensive as all get out.

So what can you do?   look for alternatives.   Laundrymat is always an option, and give you and excuse to be gone for a few hours once a week.   If it's summer, you can buy a wonderwash hand crank washer and then air dry on clotheslines,  I hope it's windy and dry or it will take a couple of days to dry.    Or you can do like your grandma did, get a washboard, buckets, wringer, and do it all by hand.   I have not tried the wonderwash, but many reviews online say it works great but you still need a wringer of some type.  In the winter you can hang clothes to dry in the home,  people did it for centuries.

Dishwasher, honestly you can get a tiny counter top dishwasher, but in a micro home you don't have enough dishes to need a dish washer.  If two of you live there, you have 3 coffee cups.  His, hers, and a guest cup. you just don't have the space to keep service for 12.  hand wash your plate when you are done eating makes a big difference.  Also smaller dinnerware is a bonus.   Eating off of 9" diameter plates makes your  dinner look huge compared to what is normal today.

Refrigeration is another one.  if you can generate the 100VAC for a dorm fridge, you have it solved for cheap.  Otherwise your choice is a RV two or three way power fridge that runs on 12V, 110AC, or propane.  Problem is these need to be on an outside wall with ducting for exhaust.  and they are very expensive compared to a large dorm fridge.

Entertainment is easy.   iPads can cover most of what you need, but if you are a gamer geek,  then new LED Tv's are incredibly thin and a Xbox is a multi use device.  a 32" TV in a micro home where you are sitting 4 feet away looks huge. and you can use it for your laptop screen as well.  The Xbox acts as a game system, DVD player, and if you have internet, netflix, hulu, etc...   Hey when it's raining outside or you have 30 feet of snow on the ground,  You will want to do something like playing a game or watching a movie.  A better choice though is a laptop and many people will use that for everything including gaming and movies.  They dont want the 32" TV and xbox.  and that saves you money and space.  a nice 17" laptop 18 inches away from your face feels like a 98" TV screen.  and if you want surround sound, they sell 7.1 surround headphones so you can get the theater experience..   you can even get 3D display laptops to watch 3d movies on.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Getting Closer to smaller living: Stage 1.2 - Insulation and Heat

Insulation...  A lot of Tiny Home people gloss over this, but to make a really efficient tiny home you have to think about it.  If you use typical construction using 2X4 and 2X6 boards.  that gives you the ability to have 3.5" of insulation for outer walls and 5.5" for the roof and floor.    Rigid foam board insulation is the easiest to deal with and the lightest.  And interestingly it also delivers the highest R value per inch.  The higher the R value the better.  The cheap white beaded foam board is about R2.5 to R3 per inch.  so you can stack  two boards in the wall cavity, 1 2" thick and 1 1.5 inch thick to get the wall full,  this will give you and R of 8.75.  Typical homes have a wall R value of 10.  You want higher than that.  So we look at the Blue or Pink board.  This is extruded Polystyrene and it has an R value of 4.5  to 5 giving a 2X4 wall with 3.5 inches of it an R value of 15.75.  Now that is a wonderful insulation value for the wall.   If we want to go further, we can buy the high end foil faced Extruded.  That has an R value of 7 to 8 which delivers a Whopping  R24.5 for that 2X4 wall.     The drawback is that the last two use CFC's in their production which means they will outgass.  so you need to be sure to have a sealed vapor barrier inside the home to stop the CFC outgassing from going into your home.   Now round down to figure losses for you cutting into the insulation to run wires and  using the pink/blue board you can have R15 outer walls, and a R24 ceiling and floor.  This is better insulation than most Mc-Mansions.  What I recommend is using the cheaper Blue or Pink board for the walls and the foil faced for the ceiling and floor.  Yes you can use it everywhere and you will save more on Heating and cooling. but the foil faced stuff is harder to find and is 2 times the price of the pink or blue board.

Figuring on lower numbers,  assuming I cant get 1.5" thick board so I have to only use 3" in the walls and 5" in the ceiling and floor.  R13 wall and R22 ceiling, 1 door and 4 windows.  a typical Micro home will lose about 5000 Btu per hour.   A person at rest puts off 222 Btu per hour, yes you are a heat source, so we can remove that from the 5000 Btu/h number for heating.  So I need to make up 4800Btu/h to maintain the temperature in the home, this is assuming 70 degree inside and 10 degree outside temperature.   So how do we heat the house?  Well a typical 800 watt electric heater will deliver about 2,750Btu/h and a 1500 watt electric will produce about 5,100Btu/h.   You can easily heat a 180 sq foot micro home with a 1500 watt oil filled portable heater.  If you had electrical service then assuming $0.10 per Kwh cost.  running your heater 12 hours a day drawing 1.5Kw means it will cost you $1.80 a day to heat your home when it is 10 degrees out and you are not getting any heat from the sun coming in windows or hitting the house. and remember, the sleeping loft will be warmer than the floor, so night temps can be set lower to save energy.

So my idea of a 12,000Btu/h RV furnace is really overkill, but probably not a bad idea.   Excess capacity means it will run less, and when solar power is considered, I would rather heat from a Propane source than an electric source.

Air conditioning is the opposite,  5000Btu/h heat gain rate from outside and add in the 222btu/h per person in the home and you need to get rid of 5222btu/h.  luckily  tiny AC units are huge.  The smallest one I can find is a 5000btu/h AC unit.   but if you have friends over you can quickly overwhelm it by the additional heat, plus heat from cooking also adds to the load.

So how much propane?   well,  Propane has about 21,500 Btu per pound.  so a 5 pound grilling cylinder has about 100,000 btu in it. (rounding down for losses)  that means that I can run that 12,000 BTU furnace for  8 hours 20 minutes before the 5 pound tank (if it has 5 pounds in it) is empty.  That is total run time.   If I   need to make up 4800btu per hour, that means I have heat for 20 hours 30 minutes.   A 20 pound grilling cylinder gives me 89 hours of heat (again assuming a full 20 pounds)  that means in the dead of winter you need to get a 20 pound grill tank refilled every 3 and a half days.  This also means that the tiny coleman 5 pound cylinders can be used as an emergency gas source  for 8 hours of heat if you needed to.   This is assuming only Furnace use.  this does not account for hot water heater or cooking.   RV water heaters use as much as the furnaces, they just dont run as often or as long.

This is where insulation really kicks in.   If you were to increase insulation and reduce heat loss by only 500btu/h That 20 pound tank will last an additional day plus 4 hours.   All of this is assuming worst case.  dead of winter in the arctic circle with no sunlight at all.  in reality it heavily depends on the weather and your location.   sunny days reduce heat loss significantly, even when it's 10degrees F out the sun can give you 1300btu/h through a typical 32" by 32" window.  also heat gain through the wall as the house heats up from solar radiation, etc..   plus if it's only 40 degrees out, your heat loss is a lot lower than  the calculated, etc...

By my estimates, a 20 pound grill tank can easily heat your home to a normal 65-68 degrees for at least 7 days in the winter. Spring and fall are looking at a monthly cylinder fill.  Worst possible case,  $80.00 a month heating bill in the arctic circle using only R13 walls and R24 ceiling.  if you were to add storm windows, triple pane instead of double pane and higher insulation, you can do a lot better.

Again, this is assuming that the home is off the grid.  no electric except for solar, and you have to cart in your own propane in your car/jeep on your own.  If you will be in a location that has full hook ups or you can have electrical service ran, these issues are not a bother to you.   But it's good to know what the effects are,  remember your monthly expenses in living are tied to the decisions you make before you build.  spending more when you build means you spend less while you live there.

In my off the grid case,  the loft will be a lot warmer on it's own and if I was to run 12V outlets up there to use a  12 volt heated blanket even more gas can be saved.  However, they use about 80 watts of power.  So now that is a higher load on the solar storage system.   80 watts over 8 to 10 hours is about  800 watt hours used out of the storage system.   Everything in off grid living is a trade off.  And if you want to be portable, you can not use alternative systems like wood heat.  I have seen tiny wood stoves, but honestly I cant see them being used safely in a micro home.  the only small ones are the old cast iron pot belly type and they utterly scare me.   If someone made a tiny modern type I may change my mind.

Monday, May 14, 2012

How to figure out solar or wind power needs.

One of the hardest things to figure out if you want to go Off grid, or be self sustaining and make your own power is how much power do you think you will actually draw or use?    You would be suprised at how much the things you own or use drink electricity, and when you have to make it yourself, suddenly everything matters.

Below is a table of items I have measured with my Kill-a-Watt meter and calculated out for a daily power use.

 1000 Watt Microwave oven.  Uses 1110Watts per hour. used 30 minutes a day.  555WattHours a day BUT it also consumes 2 watts every hour all day long. so add in another 48WattHours for it just sitting there plugged in.
Your cellphone charger,  Consumes 12Watts per hour.  a typical charge time is 4 hours.  48 Watt Hours a day BUT it also consumes 2 watts an hour just sitting there plugged in.  That's another 48 Watt Hours!

Everything that is plugged in today consumes power while sitting there.  At least if it's electronic  it does.   your toaster might not, and a old style turn knob timer Microwave also may not consume electricity when not in use. But you need to check to see.   That is why everyone even thinking of living off the grid needs to buy an energy consumption meter.  so you can check to see if it uses power when off.

You can combat the wasting of power by these devices two ways.  One is to simply unplug it when not in use.   The other is the new "timer outlets"  that you can set to only stay on for 4 hours and then it shuts off.   OR a old fashioned Light timer set to only turn on your chargers for 4 hours at night.  But remember that timer will also use power 24 hours a day.  From 24 to 36 Watt hours a day just for that timer.

All of the above not only is important to help determine how many solar panels you need, but how big of a battery bank.  Until you know how much power you will be using a day and then multiply it by 125% or 150% you cant begin to calculate what you need for solar.

So let's go with a hypothetical small home.
1 800Watt microwave with old style timer.
1 cellphone charger
1 ipad or other tablet charger.
4 5 watt LED lights
A laptop that uses 95watts
and a clock radio, 10 watts typically.  I am assuming you will probably use the clock radio as a radio at times.

440Wh for the microwave (30 minutes a day with 10% added for power loss)
48wh for the cellphone
72wh for the ipad charger
380wh for the laptop that takes 4 hours to charge a day.
264wh for the clock radio that is plugged in all day long.

This is not figuring in Lights, water pump use and any fans for heat or cooling.  Those really are important as well.

1204WattHours used per day.  so you need to make MORE than that during the 6 hours of daylight you can count on having.

Typical 100 Watt solar panels make 600WattHours per day.   2 of those panels will make 1200WattHours.  3 will make 1800Wh per day..   But wait, it's not that simple.  If I was living in Arizona, Yes that will work.  But I'm silly and want to live in Minnesota.  If I double the number of panels, they will make the same wattage in 1/2 the light.  (really general of an assumption)  The sun is not as bright up there compared to the desert, and there is more opportunity for cloudy days.   So I am closer to right by simply doubling the number of panels, on bright sunny days, I will make a lot more power than cloudy days, but you need to make power every day.

But that is 1/3rd of the system. I also need battery storage for when the solar panels are not making enough power.   At a minimum you really want to have 3 days of battery capacity.  so that is 3612Watt Hours of storage.  Watts divided by volts = amps.   301Amp Hours of battery storage is needed for the 3 days.  But you cant discharge a battery 100%, you really want to stay above 50% discharge for the longest battery life.  so let's go for 650Amp Hours of Batteries.

That is a large battery bank.  It's not going to be in the home and not easily carried.  Solar power starts looking bleak when you waste power like a typical consumer.

So look at reducing power use at home.  Laptop,  charge it at work or elsewhere.  Clock radio, fond one that uses a lot less power, a LCD model that has almost no features will use 4Watts That saves 168Watt hours right there.

You can also offset it with wind, a  small 400 watt sunforce wind generator is only $600.00 and those work when you have wind.  All night long in a windy location you are generating electricity which is typical on cloudy days.

But the thing is, you cant rely on having sun and wind 24/7/365  you have to plan for the days when you have none for long stretches of time.   This is when you either have a larger battery bank, or you supplement with a gas generator.

I probably raised more questions than I answered, and Off grid living is a complex topic.   Check out for some detailed info on off grid living as well as Home power magazine.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Quickie: Gardening in the tiny home.  has a really good article on Tiny home gardening.    This is a great idea, and if you did the right kind of containers, you would be able to pull up stakes and put all the planters in the home and drive off.

No you wont be growing watermelons and Pumpkins, but you can fill some of your daily needs from a garden you grow all on your own.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Getting Closer to smaller living: Stage 1.1 - Planning

I have been thinking about power consumption a bit more.  A microwave oven takes 1000 watts,  but a coffee maker does as well.  electric hot plate, etc... a LOT of appliances that would be used for cooking all take a LOT of power to run.   Granted, it's not for a long time, but even a Crock Pot draws 600 watts and people leave those on for 8 hours.

Cooking in a tiny home will have challenges,  going 100% solar increases the challenge quite a bit.  I need to see if a smaller crock pot uses less power. If I can find a 350watt crick pot that makes enough food for 3 people, that would be satisfactory, but solar needs to be scaled up by at least 35-40%   I am thinking 5 panels now to generate 500 watts per hour.  This can still be easily stored in the home when it is being transported.  The other advantage is that now the house will generate 200-300 watts of power on cloudy days.  electric cooktop is right out.  I will have to use a Propane 2 burner cooktop.  that means having to install a RV stove hood with vent fan.

I was looking at the all in one kitchens Like the Summit C301 or the Avanti CK301 but  I feel that a custom built kitchen with slide in dorm sized fridge is a better idea for serviceability.  and I still do not have any answers for bathroom yet.  it does seem that my 3' by 3' size is plenty large if I make it a wet stall where you straddle the toilet to shower.

I also still need to research heating.  The RV furnace is expensive and may still be overkill.  RV's are poorly insulated,   the typical tiny home will be better insulated and had fewer air leaks.  I need to find some HVAC calculations to see what kind of heat loss and heat gain the house will have.  I am certain that the smallest window AC unit will be overkill for the house.

I also have decided that the whole house audio will simply be a car stereo that has a remote.   Car stereos can drive 6 speakers easily, so that means 4 in the home to cover any and all areas, and two out on the porch with a switch to turn them on or off gives the tiny home a rich mans whole house stereo with patio speakers!  Car stereos run off of 12 volts so it will use very little power, and it will take up almost no space in the house.     Lighting will be via modified fixtures.   I cant find any house fixtures that look normal but have 12V light sockets.  So I will buy regular ones and change the sockets and wiring.  That way the porch can have a nice coach light that is LED and not use much power.   Inside Indirect strip lighting and  task lighting will be used to reduce wasted energy and power use.  RV Lighting fixtures  have very nice looking Wall sconces and other nice looking fixtures that will work very well in the home.

Finally, if you are looking for some basic tiny home plans for free, check out  They have a few sets of free plans to get you started.  They are not comprehensive, but they have enough detail that someone that is competent in carpentry can build the homes.  One that I find really cool is the 8X8 tiny home.  If you had permanent land, you could build that as a guest house, library or office separate from the main house.   Built as-is would be perfect for a single person.

Also watch out for the website  He simply harvests email addresses and mails you a link of other peoples information from their websites.  Do Not waste your time filling out his email link for any house plans, because all he will send you is the plans from  Honest sites will give you the info freely without making you sign up.  Stay away from ANY website that makes you give them your email to download something free.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Getting Closer to smaller living: Stage 1 - Planning

I am planning on a mobile version of a micro home.  I want it to be 14 foot by 8 foot with a 13 foot height.  but I may do an initial test building smaller.  I can use a pair of harbor freight 4X8 trailers to make a light tandem that is 12 feet long.  This can hold a 6 foot wide micro home on it.    This would be more of a "camper" than anything, so  it will be easy to sell when I am ready to go full scale.

Planning out the design is a bit tough.  I want to be self sufficient in that I do not need to be hooked to any utilities if I do not need to.   That means solar for power, and propane tanks for gas.  Along with having to have water and sewer storage on board.  This means building like a RV is built.  I also need to think of weight of the whole thing. Typical micro homes like the tumbleweed homes are incredibly heavy.  5800-7500 pounds means you have to own a 5mpg gigantor truck to move it.  SO compromises can be made and changes in design to decrease weight are needed.    Interior walls can be 2X2 lumber to save 1/2 the weight, and instead of expensive hardwood, buy cabinet grade 1/4 inch thick plywood to sheath it.  you get a luxury wood wall at 1/2 the weight. You can go even lighter if you use composite paneling.  And save a ton of money.  Outer walls can be 2X2 walls just like how a RV or Camper is built, but you space the studs closer together.  again thinner plywood for sheathing and to add more insulation, you attach foam board on the OUTSIDE of the studs and then attach the sheathing.  this way you can have 3 inches of hard foam board insulation in the outer walls and cut a lot of weight.  Ceder shake siding is light, but pine is even lighter if you plan on staining and sealing it.  look at your siding choices and weigh them.

Wood windows are nice but vinyl is lighter.  steel roofing is also a lot lighter. and unless you plan on walking on the roof, you do not need 3/4" sheathing up there as well.  you can save 40 pounds per 4X8 sheet if you go with 1/4 inch thick everywhere.

Solar power.  If I figure that a mini fridge, a small microwave, a laptop, and other smaller electronic and electric items are used, I can get away with about 300 watts of solar,  that is 3 100 watt panels that can easily be packed up into the home when travelling and produce 1800 watt hours of electricity in a 6 hour day.  6 batteries will give me 3 days worth of power and a single 2500watt inverter/charge controller will give me AC power for the Microwave and other items when needed.  All lighting will be 12V low voltage LED as well as the wireless router with 4G for internet everywhere.  Typical power consumption at it's worst will be less than what I generate per day so the batteries will stay topped up unless I get a week of darkness.

I am trying to figure out if a 12,000btu RV furnace is enough for a micro home.   This would give me the ability to have "central heat" in case I want to spend a month in Minnesota during January.  I have also discovered that bathroom and kitchen  vent fans can be created by using Marine Bilge vent fans.  they are 12 volts and are standard 3" and 4" duct sizes.

One added idea I have is a ventilation fan.  adding in cold air intakes under the home that will be duct-ed inside.   IF I open the loft windows and the vents hot air will draw in cold air from near the ground and make the home cooler in hot weather without spending any money. I just have not figured out how to insulate them for colder weather.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Getting closer to small living - The start of a project

I have decided that this year is when I start building my "tiny home"  we are going to use it mostly as a deluxe camper, but it will be my experiment and my first build.   I am basing it on the design of the Tumbleweed homes  first design but with changes taken from the camper world to make it lighter and add more infrastructure.  Like adding Low voltage wiring for 12V lighting and  a solar panel setup, plus a 110V wiring with a inverter for making the Ac power when needed.   I am thinking of the possibility of installing an RV toilet and grey water tank so that a shower and real toilet is possible.

I need to aim to save 800 to 1000 pounds on the tumbleweed design of 4800 pounds.   I want to be able to tow it with a v6 jeep or other smaller and far more affordable vehicle instead of a monstrous v8 9mpg super duty truck.  It will be built for year round, so it will have a propane furnace and a very tiny AC unit.  But design for lots of cross ventilation so that AC is not needed unless it is 110 degrees out.

I also aim to add in "fancy things"  like a whole house audio system,  built in AV gear like a "home theater" in the main location and a bedroom TV.  house network with server and internet live webcams to share our fun with friends.

Design phase is in progress.  And unlike everyone else out there doing this. All of my documentation and plans will be available 100% free under a creative commons license.  But a heavy disclaimer that you will kill people and lose billions of dollars if you do what I am doing.  Everything is for Entertainment purposes only.

Right here is where it will be documented...  It will take from 2-3 years as I don't have a lot of money to dump into the project unlike the people that have a few grand sitting around.