Who Loves the Sun?

I once met a vegan who ate plants because they were closer to the sun. His reasoning: if plants get power from the sun, animals eat plants, and we eat animals or their byproducts, we get shortchanged in the sun department. By simply eating plants, therefore, he  figured would close the gap and be fortified with much more solar energy.

Luckily, the universe has finally come to its senses and allowed cheese-lovers like myself an opportunity to harness the power of the sun in a less calcium-deprived way: solar panels.

solar
Soaking up the sun 

It's hard to think of a better way to power a tiny house. After all, you can get sunshine pretty much anywhere you bring your home. Install a panel or two on the top of your house and boom! Good to go! Or, you can try my personal favorite and use a plug and play system. This way, you can place your panels wherever you'd like.

(See also: A Tumbleweed in the Sun)

Given the small scale of a Tumbleweed, a little energy goes a long way. On a sunny day you've got yourself a pretty bright little space already, and you'll probably want to spend your hours basking outside on whatever gorgeous piece of land you're currently calling home. Then, when the sun moves on to power another hemisphere, you tap into your stored supply of solar juice, turn on a couple light bulbs, plug in your two or three necessary electronics, and live it up.

That said: yes, the sun is great, and with some smart investments, we should be able to do all we want electricity wise. But the first way to save money and help our earth is to scale down our usage in general. Just because the sun shines fairly reliably doesn't mean we should go crazy with it- after all, our usage of electricity goes beyond what's powering our devices. We have to think about who is making them and how, what they're contributing to on a larger scale, and if we actually need all of them on a regular basis.

Start by figuring out what uses the most power, then figure out if there's another way you can swing it. For instance, an electric water heater will use a good amount of electricity. Instead, why not try a simple passive solar water heating system? 

You can read about how Laura decided which appliances made the most sense here

In a tiny house, you'll probably find it easy to realize exactly how little you need- the rest will seem like clutter in no time. So live simply with solar power, and live simply with your solar-powered devices. But more importantly, get out and run around in that sun!

Have a good story about your solar powered tiny house? Submit it! 

Written by Nara Williams — December 18, 2012

Filed under: appliances   off-grid   Power Station   solar  

But won't someone STEAL my tiny house on wheels?

THE THREE QUESTIONS I MOST OFTEN GET WHILE HOSTING TINY HOUSE-BUILDING WORKSHOPS....
-But where are tiny houses allowed?
-Where do you go to the bathroom? (toilet/facility set-ups)
-Won't someone steal your tiny house on wheels?


The first two have been covered many times over on several blogs, ranging from tinyhouseblog.com to tinyhousetalk.comtinyhousedesign.com and  thetinylife.com, but I rarely see any attention given to the theft question.
Below is part of a response comment I left on Kent Griswold's blog, with much other info I have now added....

A lot of people always bring up the "won't people steal it" question, but its not as likely to happen as people might think, in fact, I've personally not heard of a case yet. 
Hopefully this will give some a bit of comfort...as we've talked a bit about it at each of the Tumbleweed Workshops I've hosted, and my own workshops....(again, there's one coming up Nov 2-4 in Boston, where we'll all build a tiny dwelling together). kidcedar at gmail dot com for info. 

PREVENTATIVE MEASURES, and the "WHY NOT".... 


-First, with a heavy duty chain you can simply lock it (your tiny house) down to a tree or two, making it very time consuming and difficult to steal. One could also self-boot it (perhaps even remove the tire(s) from one side (simple to do) so that it can't be easily transported). Most thieves want the quick steal, and not something that requires an hour or so of tree felling, and multiple people, to acquire.

-Secondly, a thief, unless he/she had ample time to hide something so enormous and strip it, would be driving around sticking out like a sore thumb with any form of tiny house- structures which are still very much so huge novelties in the general scheme of things to those not familiar with the scene. I know of many people who have never even heard of the concept, never mind seen a tiny house on wheels. Anyway, if you stole a tiny house, where are you going to hawk it without being noticed, and remembered, by every person you pass? It'd be like stealing a ferris wheel- the down-low factor is terrible, making it almost impossible to resell. 

-Third Tactic....if you plan on leaving it permanently at a site (or for a prolonged period), and have the means, why not just shove a few large boulders in front of, or around it, with a bulldozer? Any tiny-house burglar would now have to have access and the foresight to bring a bulldozer to the scene of the crime, to remove those rocks so as to give the tiny house a free passageway. Thats A LOT of work, and noisy work, to steal ANYTHING. Yeah, a tiny house is very valuable, but this ain't "The Thomas Crown Affair".

-Number Four- When I was in my teens I toured with a pop-punk/rock band by the name of "Rail" from Rochester, NY (Ringing Ear Records). When staying at a motel, especially in a shady area, we'd back the loading doors of a van or U-haul against a wall. Why? The theory is, if they don't have enough room to swing open the doors to steal all the larger gear that can only be unloaded through those very doors, then the gear just can't be removed. Now apply that to a tiny house, but in a slightly different way: If you can't hitch up a tiny house, you can't tow if off the scene. To employ this method, you'd have to unhitch the tiny house, then winch it, tongue-first, into a tight spot (the trailer neck/hitch end). Now, ultimately, its going to take some hard "unwinching" work to get the house into a free and clear spot, where it could then be hitched up tp a vehicle and stolen. Most thieves just aren't going to bother.

Five- Fake cameras- I talk about this in my tiny house design/concept book "Humble Homes, Simple Shacks". Basically, hang a fake camera somewhat near the tiny house, high up on a pole or tree for instance, but somewhere in clear view. This sounds goofy, but beneath it, tack a small, official looking sign that simply reads "#5". In reality you only have one camera hung, and its a cheap fake one (they sell kits- see below), but by having it numbered "#5", any prospective "hooligan" is going to think twice before doing anything stupid or illegal near your site. He or she will be thinking, "If this is camera #5, then there must be at least four others, and how many of these have I been captured on already!?". Again, its simple and goofy, but its not going to hurt. A sign on the door of your cabin reading, "I hope you smiled for our seven cameras" might work too.

And there are a few sample ideas, and some reasoning as to why its just less likely that someone is going to steal your tiny house anyway. 

Vandalism is a whole other beast, but any homeowner, or seasonable cabin dweller, has to face this same problem.

Derek "Deek" Diedricksen is the mastermind behind Relaxshacks.com and is the author of 'Humble Homes, Simple Shacks'. Deek also hosts Tumbleweed Tiny House Workshops around the country.

Written by Derek Diedricksen — August 28, 2012

Filed under: general   Houses   off-grid   workshops  

Yahoo! Deek is everywhere!


That Deek sure is getting around, isn't he? This is a great video. Thankfully, we know plenty of women who are not afraid of a little old saw, right ladies? You can catch more Deek at his homebase. Get your own tiny house plans here.

Written by Brett Torrey Haynes — July 18, 2012

Filed under: cabin   Downsizing   In the News   off-grid   video  

Water in Our Tiny House

Last week I talked about our off the grid electrical system. This week I wanted to share a little with you about how we live without plumbing in our tiny house.

We decided to skip any of the plumbing in our small space for a few reasons. We currently use water from two sources. We have spring on the land and we collect that water in four 5 gallon containers usually about once a week. We use this water for washing.  We have a Berkey water filtration system in our house which sits over a basin that we use as our indoor “sink” for brushing teeth, washing hands and other small cleaning jobs like our mugs in the morning.  Our second source is to purchase our drinking water by the gallon. 

It isn’t uncommon for an American household to use 100 gallons of water or more a day. This sort of statistic has always bothered me, especially since much of that water is essentially wasted. We leave our sinks on when we brush our teeth or wash our dishes. We stand in the shower for a half an hour at a time. We use flush toilets. In our tiny house we use probably around 3 gallons a day, and that is a high estimate. (This does not include drinking water).  We have elevated much of our water consumption by building a dry composting toilet as recommended. We did the research and read the Humanure Handbook and realized this was a great solution for us. Our gray water can be taken care of by constructing an artificial wetland. 

We are most proud of our shower system. We came up with the design after Matt went out to New Mexico to learn how to do Earth Bag building so we could begin a project in South Africa. The man he met with had lived on a boat and explained that he used a garden sprayer for his shower. We realized that this was a great idea and thought we could make a few improvements. Using parts from the plumbing department we turned a simple garden sprayer into a 4 gallon pressurized shower system.  We were even able to take this design and build something similar for the children we are working with in South Africa.
Eventually we plan to build a rain catchment system and we hope to eventually eliminate the need to purchase our drinking water. People have asked us if the tradeoff is worth it, and I don’t find the way we live any more difficult than before. We simply traded some inconveniences for others. Living in this tiny house has given us a lot of freedom to do things we weren’t able to do living in a city.  I’m inspired by seeing all the creative and wonderful people who have embraced the tiny life and I am proud to be a part of this small but growing movement. 
Laura LaVoie and her husband live full-time in their Tumbleweed and blog about their experience at Life in 120 Square Feet. If you want to learn more about building a tiny house, join us at a workshop near you

Written by Laura LaVoie — June 12, 2012

Filed under: house-to-go   off-grid   tarleton   water  

Thrifty Thursdays - Solar Cooking/Hot Water Heating


Here's a great tip from the endless well of information that is Deek Diedricksen. 

Written by Brett Torrey Haynes — June 07, 2012

Filed under: Build it yourself   general   house plan   Media   off-grid   solar home   video  
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