Wouldn't it be nice to travel anywhere with your Tiny House RV without worrying about "plugging-in?" Ariel McGlothin just purchased a Tumbleweed 24 Cypress, and she customized her Tiny House RV to be completely off-grid, even in the cold winter climate of mountainous Wyoming.
"The propane heater built into my RV does an excellent job of providing steady, even and comfortable heat," Ariel explains. "The only thing I would prefer comfort wise is a heated floor as my feet have always tended to be cold, but I chose not to go with that due the the power use and knowing that (my Tiny House RV) would be off-grid."
Ariel's lofted bedroom
Ariel chose the 24 foot Cypress model, and her layout was customized to have a large kitchen for cooking meals from scratch. Some other customizations include: converting her closet into a pantry, adding a double sink and creating a smaller custom shower stall in order to make her kitchen larger.
"I use my oven and all four burners," Ariel explains. "So it (the full range appliance) is absolutely worth the space for me."
The benefits of being off-grid include self-sustainability, a lower carbon footprint and reduced utility bills, but it's not for the faint of heart. "(Being off-grid) is a commitment." Ariel admits, "I don't mind that, but it does require more thought than being plugged into the grid somewhere. I just have to be mindful of things."
When it's sunny out, Ariel is able to provide the electricity for her Tiny Home RV with solar panels. On a cloudy day, she switches on the generator to recharge her batteries. "I take an extra minute in the morning to run up the bank behind my RV to dust the snow off the solar panels," Ariel explains. "I recharge camera batteries and my laptop, while the generator is running."
2). Propane Appliances
Ariel's heater, water heater, stove and oven are all powered by propane rather than electricity. "I need to monitor my propane tanks and fill them as each one gets empty so I'm not suddenly without heat," Ariel comments.
Ariel's Tiny House RV has a 26 gallon water tank hidden under the kitchen sink. She fills this weekly by hauling jugs of fresh water to her RV and pouring them into the exterior water inlet. The tank could also be filled using a garden hose, if she had one nearby, and if it wasn't frozen.
Consumption wise, Ariel uses about 140 gallons of water a month not including her showers that are usually taken at the gym. "It's been fun to measure my use of things." Ariel tells us. Because of this, she has become very conscious of her usage.
Ariel has a Nature's Head composting toilet, the fan favorite for manufactured composting toilets in the Tiny House RV world. She dumps her urine container about once a week. The "solids" compartment is rated for 90 uses before dumping.
"None of this is hard, it's just a commitment to extra regular chores that people typically do not have any experience with these days." - Ariel McGlothin
For more details on Ariel's tiny house or off-grid living tips, check out her informative website here.
All photos provided by Ariel (who is an excellent photographer)! More of her work on her website.
Background: Ella never built anything before undertaking a tiny home. She attended the Los Angeles workshop a few years ago and began building her Tumbleweed Fencl (now called Cypress) the next month. She built her entire tiny home wearing a skirt! Her enthusiasm was and is contagious. Ella now presents our workshops all over the country. Read more about Ella and her tiny home called "Little Yellow" on her blog.
Background: Brittany built her Fencl (now Cypress 18-Overlook) after attending a Tumbleweed workshop. Without any building experience, she created a beautiful cottage that she now uses as a vacation rental. She also modified the interior and really took great effort to accent her home with charm. Take a look at her website to learn more about visiting this home.
Question: What is your favorite part of your tiny house?
Brittany: My favorite part of my house is the loft bed with the skylight overhead. It's so cozy up there, and it is wonderful to watch the stars from bed on a clear night.
Q: What was the most difficult part of your build?
Brittany: The most difficult part of the building process was overcoming all the questions in my own mind (i.e. "how the heck do you cut a birdsmouth notch at the right place in a rafter?", and answering the multitude of logistical questions that others asked me. "Where are you going to park?", "How is the toilet going to work?", the list goes on. I didn't have all the answers, but I tackled each issue methodically as I built, and everything came together splendidly!
Q: Any space saving advice?
Brittany: Find creative and unique ways to hang things on the wall or use vertical space such as a cabinet or closet. Use beautiful personal belongings as artful wall hangings. I decorated the wall of my bathroom with my earrings, jewelry and hung my (ahem, beautiful) skis from the ceiling. Find furniture that folds, tucks away or is stowable and that fits your body when using it!
Background: While Meg was getting her degree in Architecture she stumbled upon Tumbleweed and fell in love with the designs. She became fascinated with building her own and called us to order tickets to a Tumbleweed Workshop. The conversation lasted 30 minutes and ended with a scheduled job interview to come design tiny homes for Tumbleweed. Meg designed our newest model, the Linden, and is currently building one for herself and her husband to live in full time.
Question:What is your favorite part of your tiny house?
Meg: I really love my trim. It took a long time to get all the curves cut, but I think the end result was totally worth it. I also really like the glass block "windows" that I made and installed high on the long sides of my house.
Q:How was it building with SIPS? Would you do anything different?
Meg: Building with SIPS (Structurally Insulated Panels) was fun, I had a big work party and we got the walls and roof up on my house in two and a half days. However, I'm nervous about doing the wiring and plumbing because the interior of the walls are not accessible. If I were to do it again today I would probably have gone with the Amish Barn Raiser instead of SIPs.
Meg: I love the discussion and seeing people make connections with each other during the course of the weekend. Many group builds and friendships have come out of the workshop, and it's an invaluable experience to add to the knowledge that the workshop provides.
If you are looking to heat your tiny home with an off-grid heater, the two big power players are 1). PROPANE and 2). WOOD BURNING, but there are advantages and disadvantages to both. Let's compare the most popular off-grid heaters for tiny house RVs: the Dickinson Marine P9000 and the Kimberly Wood Stove.
Fuel Expense: This stove burns 1 pound of propane every 5-7 hours. A 20 pound propane tank will cost about $15-20 to refill. Depending on your climate, this can be a huge expense.
Running Constantly Not Possible: This stove needs to be used under supervision. Which means turning it off while you sleep or when you leave the house may cause your home to return to a frigid temperature, depending on your choice of insulation.
Fan Requires 12v: Wiring needed for the fan to spin and heat to circulate.
Lower BTUs: Depending on where you are located, this heater may not be enough. On HIGH the heat output is 4,500 BTUs.
Doesn't Dehumidify: Propane stove tops produce excessive moisture, which can be difficult to maintain in a tiny space. If you already have a propane stove planned for your tiny home RV, you might want to purchase a dehumidifier or use a heat source that acts as a dehumidifier. Wood stoves will dehumidify as well as heat, where as the Dickinson will not act as a dehumidifier. *As a note, the Dickinson will not produce extra moisture because it is a vented appliance.
Space Requirement: Although the Kimberly takes up far less space than most wood stoves and allows the use of a 3-inch pellet stove pipe, it will still require more space and clearance than the Dickinson and cannot be installed into the wall.
Cost: At $4,495 for the stove, pipe and floor pad, the Kimberly is an investment.
Too Much Heat: Depending on your location and climate, this stove might be too much for your tiny space, even when on low.
Weight: The Kimberly weighs 56 pounds, which isn't very heavy for a wood stove but heavier than the Dickinson.
For our tiny home, we went back and forth between the Dickinson and the Kimberly. Eventually we decided on the Kimberly. We plan on taking our tiny home to ski resorts, so an efficient high BTU heat source was necessary. We also have a three burner propane cooktop, so moisture control was a factor in our wood stove decision. The extra money and space requirement was worth it to us.
A dormer is a structural element in architecture that protrudes from a sloped roof and allows for additional space. If you're a tiny house enthusiast, the words "additional space" in a tiny house article might seem oxymoronic. Yes, owning a tiny home means that you are "okay" with small spaces, but there is no reason that you should have to sacrifice comfort in your tiny house RV.
So let's learn a little more about dormers and what they could do for your loft.
A Tumbleweed Elm or Cypress loft WITHOUT dormers (keeping the gable roof line throughout) and a skylight.
Some tiny housers love the coziness and lightweight option of the un-dormered loft (keeping the triangular gable roof line throughout), but most prefer to have a little more headroom. Dormers provide extra space for comfort and additional windows, while keeping the lovely visual aesthetic.
Tumbleweed Elm WITH Dormers. Space is gained. The visual aesthetic is not sacrificed.
How much space do you really gain by having dormers? In order to visualize how much space is actually gained by adding dormers, you will need to have a basic understanding of roof pitch.
Roof pitch is described as the vertical rise divided by the horizontal span of a roof. The gable roof in our Elm and Cypress models have a 12:12 pitch, while our lofts with dormers have a 3:12 pitch. It is important to maintain some roof pitch for weather runoff.
An older Tumbleweed model, where the 3:12 pitch returns to 12:12 for the last few inches of the loft.
If you peer into the back of this older Tumbleweed's loft, you can see where the 3:12 pitch returns to the triangular gable roof line (12:12 pitch). This is a great way to visualize the difference between these two roof pitches.
If the above loft DID NOT have dormers:
The roof pitch would be that triangular slope throughout
The four windows that line the sides of the bed would be lost
The space on either side of this queen bed would be lost
A king bed would not be possible (only possible with dormers)
The use of a staircase would be rather difficult (a ladder would most likely be used instead)
Due to costumer feedback, in all of our current models and plans, the dormers extend all the way to the back of the loft. By doing this, the above Tumbleweed loft has gained even more space. Starting this year, we will also include dormer plans with our Elm and Cypress plans, free of charge.
Steve Weissmann (President of Tumbleweed) is 6'2" and can comfortably sit up in bed in this Cypress loft with dormers.
By adding dormers to your loft, you will also gain valuable wall space, not only on the sides of your loft, but also in the front and back. Consider the cheek walls: the walls that are formed between your dormers and gable roof. Below is a photo of my loft and, as you can see, we've chosen to add an outlet to our cheek wall. My future plan is to mount a television there one day. I could also add a cabinet, shelving, additional lighting or hang decorations / plants / photographs in this additional space.
In 2012, Art completed his Tumbleweed home using SIPS and reclaimed wood and even posted some videos on YouTube explaining how he did it And that's how we connected - we asked him if he wanted to partake in our Tumbleweed Construction Video and Art obliged. One thing led to another and today Art is traveling the country teaching others the benefits of owning a tiny home. Read more on Art's blog.
Eddie and his girlfriend Lacey have their almost complete DIY Tumbleweed Cypress parked in a campground in Austin, Texas. Eddie's background is in real estate and he also recently joined the Tumbleweed team as a workshop host. More about their house and build here.
Guillaume and his girlfriend Jenna finished their DIY modified Cypress since September 2014. So far they've traveled over 7,000 miles with their tiny abode, from California to Nova Scotia to Atlanta, while hosting countless open houses and Tumbleweed workshops. Learn more about their tiny house journey here.