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tiny house

Discussion in 'Off Topic' started by Jake Bunce, Aug 11, 2010.

  1. Jake Bunce

    Jake Bunce XenForo Moderator Staff Member

    Could you live in 100 square feet?

    This is an idea I have been working on for a couple years. I am very close to implementing it. The idea is to reduce overhead, help the environment, and enjoy a simple life. Here are a couple of companies that build these tiny houses:


    The hardest part is reducing your consumption to be able to live within the constraints of a tiny house in terms of space, electricity, water, etc. I plan to be totally off grid so I will have solar electricity and I will tote in my water. And without sewage I will have to use a composting toilet.

    Here are a few hints about tiny house living based on my research:

    1) There are several concerns in terms of electricity usage:

    Get a SunDanzer. They are by far the most energy efficient refrigerators / freezers out there. The 1.8 cubic foot refrigerator uses < 120 watt hours per day - http://www.sundanzer.com/Chests.htm

    Of course you can use a laptop. But for people wanting a low power desktop experience you should get the Dell G2410h monitor. It is one of the only desktop monitors in existence that uses a white LED backlight for low power consumption. I use this monitor comfortably at 0 brightness where it consumes only 11 watts - http://www.anandtech.com/show/3703/dell-g2410h-review-a-green-24-lcd

    As for low power desktop computers... there are several options for custom builds. There are even some prebuilt low power mini-itx systems like http://www.aleutia.com/ - but the best performance per watt I was able to find is the new unibody mac mini. My mini with an Intel SSD and 8GB of RAM is a low power beast. And it actually games quite well.

    As for CPUs... don't even think about an atom. My research shows that atoms actually use more power per task than the Core 2 or Core i. It's a question of efficiency, not TDP. The atoms have low TDP but also low efficiency. Go with a mobile Core processor. Read:

    http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/dua ... 141-9.html
    http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/dua ... 41-10.html

    http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/int ... 16-13.html

    Air Conditioning:
    There is no such thing as low power air conditioning. You will have to go without, or use fans. Some swamp coolers are low power, but you don't want to increase humidity levels in a tiny house because small enclosed areas are more susceptible to mildew. On that note, you should plan to maintain good airflow through your tiny house, or invest in some passive dehumidifiers like these - http://www.eva-dry.com/products.html

    Use LED lights only. Easy.

    2) I have had to learn a lot about off grid solar systems. Some pointers:

    Use Lithium Iron Phosphate batteries. They are more expensive but the benefits more than make up for the difference in price - http://www.batteryspace.com/lifepo4batterypacks.aspx

    Inverter loss and idle draw:
    When doing usage calculations be sure to account for DC -> AC conversion loss in the inverter. Also be aware that inverters have idle draw. You can use DC appliances to avoid this loss, but AC is much more convenient to use.

    Expected power generation for a solar panel:
    Conservative calculations often assume 4x the rated wattage of the panel per day. So a 200 watt panel would generate about 800 watt hours of electricity per day.

    Solar panels also produce electricity on cloudy days, but it is about 10-20% of the production of a sunny day.

    Prebuilt solar systems:
    Here is a company that makes prebuilt systems on wheels - http://www.sol-solutions.com/ - it's very convenient. And they just started selling one with Lithium Iron Phosphate batteries.

    Also be aware that the rated wattage of prebuilt solar systems often cites the maximum output of the inverter which can be deceptive. For example, a prebuilt 2000 watt system might have a 2000 watt inverter but only 400 watts worth of panels. Consider that in your usage calculations.

    3) General living advice.

    Using a composting toilet gives you a lot of freedom since you don't have to be connected to a sewage line. Many tiny house people go low tech with it and just use a bucket. After they go to the bathroom they sprinkle saw dust or baking soda on top which effectively absorbs the moisture and odor.

    If you aren't using grid water then you need to learn to take very fast showers. One trick many tiny house people use is to go to the gym every day and use their shower.

    You can also speed up your showers by not using soap, only water. I have been doing this for a couple months and it's not bad at all once your body adjusts. Guys tend to have positive experiences with this, whereas girls and people with long hair absolutely hate it.

    Reduce your possessions:

    Finding a parking spot:
    This is the main problem that many people have. These tiny houses are not big enough to qualify as a legal residence in most areas. That means you can't buy land and park it. Basically you need to find some one who will let you park on their property. Camping out in the backyard is perfectly legal in most areas. I have also known people who have taken out a mortgage on a house, rented the house to pay the mortgage, and then lived in the backyard in their tiny house.

    Most people use a laundromat.
    BGL, Dinh Thanh, 0xym0r0n and 7 others like this.
  2. Brandon_R

    Brandon_R Guest

    People that want a simple life just gets left behind in the world IMHO.
  3. Jerry

    Jerry Well-Known Member

    Left behind from *what* ? ........ I think you are missing the point.
    Jamie likes this.
  4. Tigratrus

    Tigratrus Well-Known Member

    Totally doable. I used to live on sailboats (1st a Choey Lee Lion 35 Teak hulled sloop, and then a Bristol 40 Yawl) and that's quite similar. It's like living in a hallway :). You just have to pair down a lot and get really good at optimizing storage usage. :)
    0xym0r0n likes this.
  5. Jerry

    Jerry Well-Known Member

    I plan some something similar in approach, though smaller place and off grid opposed to tiny house style.
  6. Onimua

    Onimua Well-Known Member

    I never understood why people need to live in a house with 40 rooms.
    kyrgyz likes this.
  7. Lawrence

    Lawrence Well-Known Member

    But live the longest.

    No need to be off the grid. Generate more power than you use, and by Canadian law, power companies have to pay you for the rest, :)
    CBI Web likes this.
  8. Tigratrus

    Tigratrus Well-Known Member

    ::emphatic nod::

    It's patently absurd. I'm a big fan of "As big as you actually need", everything else is just waste IMO. I'd much rather spend time and ingenuity making better use of the space we have instead of trying to throw square footage at it.

    One of my favorite quotes has bearing on the silly Bigger is Better concept:

    The biggest lie you can tell yourself is: "When I get what I want, i'll be happy".
    Jake Bunce likes this.
  9. Jerry

    Jerry Well-Known Member

    Indeed, though I'm likely going to move back to Europe, though the principle and idea is the same :)
  10. iGamer

    iGamer Active Member

    I think i can build 10 of these in my back yard and rent them out at about 600 bucks a month. Man this is cool!

    I think the prices they are charging for some of these is way too high. You should be able to build one for about $5,000 to $7,000usd. Depending on what you put in it and how big you make it.
  11. Jake Bunce

    Jake Bunce XenForo Moderator Staff Member

    Very true. Many people have built them for $10k or less.

    For prebuilt homes tortoise shell is the cheapest at $25k. The tortoise homes are very basic. No integrated furniture or cabinetry. But Bill can do lots of customizations for you. He can also install solar / wind systems.

    If you are building it yourself then it is cheapest to buy plans from tumbleweed which range from $100 to $1000. Or make your own plans. Or you can buy a naked frame from tortoise for $7k. The tortoise frames are welded steel which is lighter and stronger. Weight is a big consideration in building one of these.
  12. gordy

    gordy Well-Known Member

    I could easily live in the Shire

    Jerry, leave Vancouver? Why ?!
    Jeremy, Jake Bunce and Tigratrus like this.
  13. Tigratrus

    Tigratrus Well-Known Member

    That... Is awesome :)
  14. Onimua

    Onimua Well-Known Member

    I could live there. :D
  15. Anthony Parsons

    Anthony Parsons Well-Known Member

    Certainly interesting.... not for me though. I do agree on the excessive nonsense, ie. people who have 5 bedroom homes for just the two of them. Our next place which begins being built next month, is a 120sqm 3 bed apartment next to the city, so we have downsized from several hundred sqm's progressively over a couple of moves to only what we need, master bed for us, one bed as office, spare bed for visitors (teenagers and other family), and progressively obtained near city living, without being in a sky scraper or such.

    Smaller seems smarter with the cost of living. Our place now is extremely environmental friendly, water, solar, etc... the next place is 6 stars... it exceeds the 5 star requirement for all new Australian constructions, which is nice to know we are helping out a bit more.
  16. Jerry

    Jerry Well-Known Member

    Tragic lack of community and culture, not really much to do here apart from the out doors stuff, and I like to travel and Vancouver is a very long way from anything significantly different.

    That and "I've been here and done it", time to check out something else and learn more languages.

    Also for the kind of lifestyle I want, community, news, culture, rural life, I have to leave this continent really.
  17. Lawrence

    Lawrence Well-Known Member

    Ok, Jake, I built an addition to my deck last year: 10 by 12 feet (120 square feet). I looked at it after I read your thread. It isn't much room, not much at all, lol. Sink, beer fridge, chesterfield (couch for everyone else), and that is about all the room.

    It will be quite a challenge. :cool:
  18. Jethro

    Jethro Well-Known Member

    Are the tiny houses designed for upwardly mobile Rednecks?

    Would agree with the posters mentioning overly large houses. We have whole suburbs of them filled with people complaining about the cost of running their air conditioners. They do however separate their trash, the irony is dripping like fat off ... oops wrong forum.
  19. Chris M

    Chris M Active Member

    With 2 kids and another on the way, thats not a practical idea for me just yet :p
  20. Jake Bunce

    Jake Bunce XenForo Moderator Staff Member


    Jay Shafer is the master of maximizing space. See his video here:


    That shows what is possible with very little space. The house in this video is actually 89 square feet. Having a loft for sleeping is a real space saver.

    Jay from Tumbleweed advertises his houses to be fully mobile. He does cross-country tours sometimes where he tows a tumbleweed house behind a Uhaul:


    On the other hand, Bill from tortoise shell homes is more conservative when it comes to recommending his houses for a nomadic lifestyle. He recommends you hire a professional towing service if you want to move.

    The US is full of people like that. When Americans think "green" they think of everything except reducing consumption. The result is that Americans judge green living to be too expensive, because for them it means supporting consumptive living with green technologies which is a horrible contradiction. Americans love their consumption.

    I always tell people... if going green costs too much then you are doing it wrong. It should actually save you money.

    Sorry for the soapbox. ;)
    Jo. likes this.

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