Tiny Houses

Well I’ve been out surfing weird shit on the internet again and came across a rather fascinating concept: Tiny Houses.

Tiny Houses are kind of like crossing an RV with a tool shed. Too small to be legally occupied if they were on a permanent foundation, they’re typically built on an 8’x12′ flatbed trailer. You know, the kind normally used by your local landscapers. They’re built from wood framing, just like a traditional house, but typically have around 65-130 square feet of living space.

Now, I know what you’re thinking… How the hell does one fit all the features of a normal house into that small of a footprint? Well, this house is not exactly meant for people who likes to collect a bunch of stuff. If you don’t have much stuff, you’re ahead of the game already.

The bathroom consists of a toilet and a stand-up shower. In the case of the smallest Tiny Houses, the bathroom actually IS the shower. (If I ever decide to build one myself, I’d opt for a Loveable Loo composting toilet, just to save the hassles of plumbing to a sewer.)

The kitchen uses a minimum of counter space and employs appliances normally used in RVs or boats.

These two rooms combined take up roughly half of the house. This leaves the remaining space for the “great room” where a wise builder would place a nice desk, laptop and a few chairs for company. This is also an ideal location for a propane marine heater and possibly a ductless air conditioner. Most of the home’s storage space is along the walls dividing the living area from the kitchen and bathroom. Generally a small clothes closet and shelving for what little you actually keep around.

But where do you sleep? Over the kitchen and bathroom! That’s right, the space normally reserved for the attic in a normal home is actually the bedroom. Just enough space in this area for a queen sized memory foam mattress.

The living area remains an open vaulted ceiling to give the feeling of spaciousness. Some builders like installing skylights to allow more of the outside light into the house, and a nice view of the night sky from the loft.

So, why would anyone want to cram themselves into such a small home?

Well first and foremost, cost. The Tiny Houses themselves run between $10,000 and $60,000, depending on whether you buy them pre-manufactured or build your own (and how much you spend on materials). The cheapest option is to build your own using as much reclaimed materials as possible. People tear down sheds and houses all the time and some of that lumber is in great shape. Doors and windows too. And don’t forget Habitat for Humanity ReStores. Tons of inexpensive building materials can be found there, and you’re helping someone in need at the same time.

More savings can be found in the efficiency of the designs. Most of these houses are insulated using polystyrene sheets and spray foam. High efficiency windows and doors can be used to create a cozy weather-tight home. A marine (boat) heater running on propane makes a delightful mini fireplace, drawing its air from the outside. The smallest (9,000 BTU or less) ductless air conditioners would be plenty to cool the whole house, and that’s assuming you even need one in your climate (like here in Texas).

An on-demand water heater, marine stove and marine heater all running on propane encompass the bulk of your energy usage. The rest depends on what other appliances you choose to have. Things like that mini refrigerator, washer/dryer (the combination kind or stackable), big flat-screen TV are nice to have. However, if you can settle for a big loaded laptop computer (with TV card, nice sound, etc.), going to the laundromat, eating out and only storing non-refrigerated foods at home, you could easily power your lights and such using solar panels and a bank of LiFEPO4 batteries. Hell, I even calculated with six 230W solar panels and a good bank of lithium cells, you’d have enough power for that laptop, lights and even the air conditioner!

  • a 9,000 BTU model uses 800W of power…
  • running 1 hour to cool the house, then for 15 minutes every hour for another 7 hours is 2,200WH…
  • six 230W PV is 1,380W over six good hours of sunlight is 8,280WH and assuming an 80% efficiency of the whole damned thing leaves 6,624WH…

Way more than you’d need for that air conditioner! Add a small wind turbine and propane generator just in case… You’re off the grid. Well, if you have a well. Cuz you still need water. A Humanure compost system and you don’t need sewage. All you have is graywater from the shower and sink to dispose of. A simple grease trap and leech field takes care of that.

And probably the best part of these houses… They’re portable. If you need to move, just hitch up the house and go!