This is the story of my journey building a tiny house, my mini mobile cottage. 8ft x 24ft of living space, I can't wait to see the end product and I want to share it with you! It is my goal to be both smart and helpful in what I post to help you in your journey. Thanks for following along.
I finally made the switch from my original water tower, which was a 205 gallon tank made of polyethylene (not made for potable water). I felt that I was wasting so much of what I could be harvesting that I jumped up to a 550 tank that is suitable for potable water. Not that I plan to drink out of it but, I could if need be. So here is a picture of the original tower I built.
So here is the what the front of the cottage now looks like with the new tank in place.
I did a real simple drop down off of the combined drain, goes directly into the tank. I have yet to decide how I am going to cover the tank but I found a really cool display up in Gig Harbor on my vacation and I am trying to come up with something similar.
Here are some pictures of what I am talking about.
I am going to try to do a wrap around on the tank but I am having some major issues sourcing the felt material this is made of. We will see what comes of the project.
Well I broke down prior to the Olympics and installed a Cabinet at the front door. The purpose of the Cabinet was to house my flat screen TV. I did not want to mount it on the wall without having the option of being able to cover it up. So I built a cover which you can see above that cover where the TV is mounted. I have very little shelf space so this has been a good addition in that regard.
All in all it is serving a good purpose and was a good use of that space without taking away from the look and feel I like about the Cottage. Since I am up in the middle of a field I had to go the DirectTV route which has been great for my soccer addiction, not so great for my book reading habit. Doubt I will ever stumble over to watch things like "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo" though.
One of the key things that I don't remember ever seeing is a review of systems "after" the tiny house/cottage has been built. What works, what does not? So I thought it would be good to go through my major systems and give some fair and honest feed back on the decision I made and how they are holding up after a year of habitation.
So when it comes to major systems here is what I am talking about: water, hot water, heat, solar, composting toilet. Of the major investments when I built the Cottage was my BioLet Composting toilet, $1600, Dickinson 12,000 BTU boat stove at $1200, next behind that was the Precision Temp instant on water heater at $1100. I kind of exclude the cost solar system as that is an "extra" and not really a key system but I will discuss it in this post. For your info though the cost of the solar at this point is $3,160, my electrical bill is around $15 to $20 off the grid this past summer.
So on this soon to be hot summer day, I will start with the heater. I like the ambiance the heater gives, it does a reasonable job, is quiet but at 192 sq ft it is not going to "bake me out". Knowing I used a radiant heater during the cold spells last winter, I chose to purchase and install an Envi Heater. It was touted pretty strongly by someone I respect in the Tiny House community Lina on her blog This Is The Little Life. I have yet to put it to the test but I like the design and reviews. I still really dig my Dickinson but realize that I need some different options on the heat side of things.
Water and more importantly, hot water. Let's start with the catchment system and using rain water for showers and dish washing. That has been an awesome decision, even through the summer where we get no rain (at least this year). Since I have access to a well system, filling the tank has not been an issue. When I got the system set up last September, I never once had to use an outside source to add water till after I moved in early July (I drained 100 gallons that I left for my brothers garden). I have had no issues with clogged pumps, dirty water, or illness from the system. I don't drink it but I do wash my dishes with it and so far I am good to go.
So the 205 Gallon tank worked well, I did feel I was wasting a lot of water with my limited capacity, so I think I will upgrade to a 500 gallon tank at some point. I get 151 gallons from every inch of rain. I am using a flo jet 12volt water pump and am having no pressure issues out of the sink or shower. I did originally install a filter that I had to remove as the pump would just not pump through it. I also added a boat accumulator tank that stopped any pump hammering. Here is a shot of the old filter system.
On the hot water side of things I installed a Precision Temp water heater. During the winter I did have some issues with hot water as the tank temp was cold and a system like this really is only able to raise the temperature about 40 degrees. So if the incoming water temp is 40 then best case scenario is "hot" water at 80 degrees. I was able to slow down the water flow that made showering a bit more pleasant but no worries about getting burned. Once we got out of the really cold mode the Precision Temp heater has been excellent, reliable with no challenges so far. I have had to turn it down a couple of times as it became warmer outside. I am really really pleased with the service and functionality of this unit.
On to the Composting toilet. While I was not aware and did not enjoy the idea of having a fan running 24/7 I have moved past that issue. The fan is not loud and it does not consume a lot of energy (I run it off the solar system so it is not an electrical hog) but it is still "on" and I am aware of it. That being said, the functioning and operation of the toilet has been excellent with no problems or concerns. I have emptied it twice without trauma over the year. When I emptied the compost it was half full and really nothing more then dirt. I am sure the Rhododendrons enjoyed it. I am a single guy who has a job so it is really under light use as I am not home during the day. Bottom line to me is this is a great option and I would feel comfortable using this type of technology the rest of my days and we should all get ride of water flush toilets, what a total waste of good water.
Lastly on the solar system you can see my post about adding two new solar panels (August 2nd Post) to get the scope of what my system contains. In evaluation of the entire system I love it. It is doing exactly what I had hoped when I installed it. I use very little power off the grid and could easily go for weeks during sunny weather to run the cottage. I would have to change my lifestyle a bit to do that but so be it. I have 400 amp hours of batteries and the smart inverter, and reliance on core 12 volt systems (boat heater, water pump, instant water heater, some lights) which means I could do away with grid power all together and be a happy camper. Add in the inverter and you have a stereo and vacuum cleaner, TV and air conditioner (not running at the same time).
I was asked if I would change any of the systems I put in and the answer was no, not really. I have been pleased with the performance of all the systems and if I had to do this over again I would install all the same equipment. Maybe I would add a more powerful water pump but the flo-jet I have is their top of the line from a power perspective so it would mean going to something far more industrial (bigger size wise) that would impact where I could put it. So really there is no changes I would make a year down the road from moving in. Hope this helps anyone out there reviewing systems and trying to make a decision on what you are putting in your cottage! If I missed something or you would like me to dig into a topic, let me know.
With the awesome weather in the Pacific NW this summer, I decided to take advantage of it and added two new solar panels to my mix. I purchased them from one of my two sources of solar equipment, GoGreen Solar. While their web site was not clear on the minimum amount of panels you could buy (I wanted only 2, they now have a minimum of 5) They were good to work with and went out of their way to make this work for both of us (I got a very good deal on these panels). The panels are 235 Watt Conergy and since I now have two I am pumping 470 watts of goodness into my batteries. I also added BZ MPPT500 Charge Controller, seen below as the white box.
As you can see from the picture I am coming in off the two panels into a bus bar, go through a 40 amp fuse and into a cut off switch and then into the Charge Controller. Coming out of the Charge Controller I go to a 50amp fuse and then into the batteries. I am running 4 - 12volt, 100 amp hour batteries. I monitor all this with my TriMetric battery monitor (TM-2020). I got it from Backwoods Solar who is also excellent to work with and would recommend them highly.
The Cottage is coming along nicely and I love my new location. The panels seem to fit in well and they are making a big difference on my lack of reliance on the grid power.
While I am located in this field I have had to add a little ambiance to make this place a home. Nothing like a little color to brighten thing up.
For those of you who have been following along, we have had no rain for a while now. I am still with the 205 gallon tank I started with and I was able to go from September 2011 when I moved in, to July 2nd with never needed to pull water from any other source but rain. When I moved out I drained about 100 gallons out of the tank into tanks for my brothers garden. At my new property we have a well so it is not a big deal for me to fill my tank which I just refilled over the weekend. I went about 30 days on the first tank so I am averaging around 6.8 gallons a day usage (good to know).
I am thinking about getting a bigger tank but at this time, there really is no demand for it. The tank I am looking at is 550 gallons and at my consumption rate I could go 80 days on it without rain, pretty cool.
Well, I have been absent for a while living life. Part of that was finding a new location for the Cottage. This was the first real move since "completing" the cottage as much as it is. It was quite a event, stressful to say the least. While I love living in my 24ft cottage, it would be a bit easier to manage if it were 20ft long with no decks. Glad I don't plan on moving it every 90 days! While I have no time table on my new digs, I am hopeful that it can live here through the rains and if it needs to be moved it would again happen during sunshine. So here are my new neighbors, at least for a while. Too funny, they had to come down and check out the new guy on the block.
My goal was to reduce my commute and I have gone from 35 minutes to 8, that is sweet in a lot of ways. I also have access to well water and it takes about 40 minute to fill my tank that can easily last me a month when I have no rain to fill the tank. I used a U-haul to get the cottage in place and that worked well. We had to modify the gate opening a bit, as you can see below it was a bit tight.
But once we got her in place she looks like she always belonged there. I have an awesome view of the eastern sky for sunsets and full sun for the solar panels. I will be doing another post on the additions to the solar aspect of the cottage, good stuff thanks to the two companies I use to get my solar gear, both have come through very well for this project. So here is the new home to the Mini Mobile Cottage.
Home Sweet Home, guarding the chickens (they live in the tiny house behind me). I should get the new solar panels up this weekend be able to tell that interesting story. I will also go a bit more into detail on the move, positives and negatives for us all to learn from.
I am not sure whether it was my subconscious trying to delay the inevitable or just a case of burn out, more to my liking is just the simple fact I am not a finish carpenter and that I was not ready to tackle a project that I thought I just was completely unskilled to do. Not that I could not do it, it was just I wanted it done right and I knew that I would have a challenge getting the end product that I wanted.
I started on My Mini Mobile Cottage journey in earnest on the 15th of January 2011. Being the optimist I am, I figured I would be living in the cottage by the end of summer. That is the summer of 2011. What an awesome learning experience this has been but I had no idea that I would be doing a blog post on the 11th of March 2012 stating that I had just finished the last major project on the Cottage.
I had this picture I pulled off the Tiny House Blog. It was a gal who had modified her Teardrop Trailer and I just really liked the look. Framed in forest green and with pine doors. I have carried that vision for most of the build that I was hopeful to end up with something close. Here is her kitchen. I finally found her site and it is Tiny Home Teardrop
My first real modification on the vision was drawers. I have never build a drawer and very quickly realized that drawers were not in my skill set. So I wondered down the path of shelves and just simple cabinets. Now that I am done, I feel it would have broken up the four sections if I had put in drawers but I really don't need them, I would have filled them with junk anyway. So here is the unfinished kitchen look.
I have run out of the Beetle Kill Pine so I was only able to do one set of doors with what I had left, the rest is just regular pine. I tried a couple of different routing patterns with the doors, as usual I finally settled on what I like...by the last set of door. Oh well.
Well here is my kitchen in its full glory.
While I could easily come up with of 20 little things I would like to do. None of them are pressing and I am very hopeful as the weather starts to turn to be able to get into my Kayak and enjoy some of the Pacific NW that have not seen for a year and a half. Hope you have enjoyed the ride if you have been following along on my building journey. I will continue to document the small additions I plan on making during the next year, trim on the out side, bathroom shelves, another shelf in the loft. But for the most part, I am done. I have enjoyed the journey and am eager and able to answer questions if you find a particular post interesting and want to comment, those immediately come to my email and I generally address them promptly.
While I have built a "tiny house" I don't feel compelled to start a "tiny house" company or tour the country side telling people about all my opinions. I do have them though and really would enjoy talking about the tiny house community over a beer with anyone who wants to hunt me up and have that discussion.
If I have any encouragement for those who stumble across my ramblings. Believe it, you too can do this. It took a community to build this cottage. This is not my project but a project that I drove and as I got committed to it, people came forth and joined the effort as they wanted to share the vision. Thank You to anyone of you who helped along the way. There are far more people out there who have no idea what their blogs inspired me to do, or some hurdle their video on Youtube help me over come. I had no idea prior to this project how many people recorded video's of how to install a shower? Go figure.
I will soon post a video walk through of the Mobile Cottage. Enjoy.
I had a request for some outside shots of the Cottage so I will post two, one from each end. Okay I had to throw in one of the front door.
I have several little projects that I am trying to get wrapped up before I relocate. I won't have quick access to my tools so I want to make sure I have all the little things done, before more little things pop up. This is just an awesome living space and been very happy with all the equipment choices I made in building this cottage. I am working on a slow sand filter system for my discharge from the sink to use for watering a garden. Since I am really focused on 100% biodegradable soaps/cleaners, I feel I am good in that area. I am really working on a zero discharge system for aspects of the cottage. From living on a sailboat, I don't put hardly any organics down the sink (on a sailboat they just clog things up) so that is a habit I learned long ago. That really helps keep my discharge clean and easy to filter. I will get some shots of it posted once I get further along. It should look pretty cool, I am building it out of half cut wine barrels.
Alright on to the little projects. The first two are lights in the loft. Since I am rigged for 12volt up there and I like to keep my Droid phone charged by my bed I not only wanted a good LED light but a charger station. It works great with my car charger. I used the same strategy I did on the fireplace hose cover and I like the way it came out.
While those lights were a little spendy as they are "full marine grade" if you get my drift. They are LED so use a minuscule amount of power and will outlast the cottage, I think they are rated for 50 years or some crazy thing. After climbing up the ladder a couple of hundred times, I realized it would add some additional security so I put up a handle, again thanks to sailboat experience they have these readily available. May I never have a challenge going up or down the ladder. It would not be pretty to fall from the loft.
As you can tell I have not oiled the handle yet, It should look a little better once I do that. The other aspect of the ladder is it flipping off the loft for some crazy reason. I have added a ladder lock as I don't move the ladder around from side to side and if I take if off it gets stored in the loft. But when it is just me around the cottage, I leave the ladder down as there is plenty of room to get around it without touching it. So to lock it I just slide the dowl through the hole and to unlock, slide it the other way and then up to the loft it goes! But when it is down the stairs also make handy temporary shelves.
So back to the Kitchen cabinets. I have put in the shelves that I wanted and am comfortable with the layout. I have the faceboards in the garage painted and drying. They will get another coat and then this weekend I will mount them.
Then I will build the doors and by then all the major work on the cottage will be done. I have about 100 little items I would "like" to get done but none are pressing. I will start working on a video of the finished product. Should be fun.