Towards a better tinyhouse

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Archive for March 2011

Low cost all plywood tinyhouse?

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I was just thinking, a house made from all plywood might be relatively cheap and have good utility. All surfaces could be just sanded and lacquered/varnished/painted for appearance durability and waterproofing. Seems like it would be relatively easy and fast to build.

If you later want siding or hardwood flooring or fancy roofing you can just slap that on top afterward when it suits you.

Basically have 2 boxes, an inner box and outer box, made from 1/2 inch plywood, and reinforced with 2 by 4s (possibly diagonally, the thickness of the 2x 4s has to be accounted for so the boxes can fit one inside the other without the walls being too thick, although the bigger the wall gap is the better with regards to soundproofing). All fasteners could be self tapping screws (I wonder if you can get screw guns, like a nail gun but for screws).

Not all the 2x4s have to be on the same side of the box, some inside and some outside if that is helpful, although putting them outside the outer box would maybe not make sense because of the 8.5 foot maximum width it can legally have, putting a 2×4 on the outer side wall would be a poor use of width.

The boxes do not touch each other, they stand by themselves. The outer box withstands the wind loads and the snow loads, provides insulation and one layer of soundproofing. The inner box needs to stand the load of the weigh of stuff in the loft and they both need to be able to handle the G forces (and vibration) involved with highway transport.

The roof of the outer box is just plywood, and when I say box it can be whatever shape of box, not necessarily a flat top roof. The seams between the plywood could be covered with strips of 1/4 inch ply or something and caulked. Then add some roofing membrane underneath for redundancy. Under the roof there should be some space for air to circulate in case any water ever does get in, and then also the ventilation system made to circulate a very small amount of air in there, because it would be pretty much sealed otherwise, as it must be for soundproofing reasons.

Separating it from the trailer and then rent a trailer to attach it to when you needed to move it could be used to reduce costs.

The inner box rests on top of vibration isolation mounts for soundproofing, as mentioned in the post “lighter soundproofing”. There would be outer windows of double glazed units in the outer box and inner windows of single pane glass in the inner box. Seems like the right configuration to deal with the potential for condensation.

Build the floor of the outer box, which has most of the joists, then put the insulation and vapor barrier over it, and add the vibration isolation mounts as mentioned in “lighter soundproofing”. Build the inner box on top of it, including the interior loft, which has no floor joists but is just sheet 3/4 inch plywood.

I have some 3/4 inch ply right here and it seems like it is more than sturdy enough, I really don’t think you need joists if it is only 7′ 11″ or so wide. That adds some free ceiling height because the floor of the loft is thinner, too.

You might want to caulk the seams. Then add the electrical and plumbing stuff. Then add the rest of the insulation and vapor barrier.

Then build the outer box around it. Add windows. Stir. Wait no, no. Concentrate now.

Add interior and doors. The door(s) can be a single sheet of plywood, and you have one inner door in the inner box, then one outer door. Lacquered and with weatherstripping that would be a good way for the soundproofing. A single door is an issue because it causes “bridging”, providing a path for vibration to be conducted from the outer box into the inner box.

Then add counters, cabinets, shelves etc. Cabinet doors, counter tops and stuff could all be plywood.

Then stain and lacquer everything with the right lacquer/finishing stuff, different for the counters, outer walls, floors etc. Then the final fixtures like sink, toilet, lights etc.

It wouldn’t be super pretty, but you’d get the wood grain of the plywood and stuff maybe stain it different colors or something /general distain for cosmetics…

Except that I don’t think the cosmetics are optional if you are in the city because that is largely what people actually make their decisions to like it or not based on, and as a result heavily influences the amount/lack of griping and moaning they will do and therefore the practicality of the tinyhouse in the face of legal or political issues.

Yes they have their priorities backwards, but if it’s true it needs to be worked with, and that is probably a fatal flaw with this at this stage, but the basic idea might be useful as part of a complete design. Unfortunately adding cosmetic crap would really up the cost…

I figure the parts cost sans cosmetics would be roughly something less than $6000 excluding the trailer( of course this is very rough):

Assume it is 20 feet long, 12 high by 8.5 wide

3 long by 3 high = 9 , the other side the same, the front and back 2 by 3 for the front and back, 2 by 3 for the floor and roof, 84 total. each
cabinets and interior walls and stairs/ladder and counters another 6, 1/2 inch @ $ 17 $1530
loft takes 6, 3/4 inch @ $21 each $126

some 2x 4s 50 2x 4s , $120
isolation mounts, $300
windows $140 each 7 of them $980 (hoi)
plus fittings for electricity and water $1000 ?
insulation $300
vapor barrier $100
Ventilation silencer and fan $250
Roofing stuff $50
roofing membrane $150
Polyurethane or better low voc stuff $200 (1 quart covers 125 sq foot and is $11 for polyurethane varnish)
The door(s) are plywood
fasteners, self tapping screws $200

total: $5306.

Written by gregor

March 31, 2011 at 05:23

Posted in Uncategorized

VirtualTinyHouseConference #21 is happening now

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Edit: WordPress fucked the scheduling up again, and this time I was here to catch it. But it is crystal clear that it malfunctioned this time. There’s something wrong with the scheduling.

Remember: bring speakers and a microphone. If you have them you should use them. I’m hereby declaring it poor etiquette to, if you have it, not use it. Because you would make it difficult for people to hear and talk to you, slowing down the conversation. Still better to come without than not come at all. If you have windows vista or 7 you might be able to get away without them, because these OSes have some built in echo cancellation.

If you haven’t done so yet, download and run Vsee. There’s no install to go through. When you run the program, it will prompt you to fill out a short form to sign up but you can enter anything you want, and there is no confirmation email or waiting.

I plan to be here, but this post is scheduled to appear automatically so if for some reason I can’t make it, someone else can host it by putting their vsee username in the comments section below. (after someone calls you, click on some of the icons in your video window, and under one of the menus that pop up there will be an option “host meeting” then when someone calls you, somewhere in their video window, you can click “add to meeting” so they can see everyone else).

My Vsee ID is GregorF.

There is also one tinychat room in case Vsee is not working out for some reason, though that has not been a problem so far:
VirtualTinyHouseConference Tinychat room

The VirtualTinyHouseConference is currently being held every Wednesday at 8 pm, Eastern Time. Just come to towardsabettertinyhouse.wordpress.com and there will be a blog post there with easy to follow instructions. Everyone is welcome and anyone in the world with an internet connection could be there.

You can join by video, text, audio, or any combination thereof. If you are not much of a typist it is recommended that you have a microphone. If you have vista or win 7 you might be good with whatever speakers and mic you have because they have some limited built in echo cancellation but if you have Win xp, ear buds (like for an ipod), earphones or a headset are recommended, otherwise you cannot use both the mic and speakers at the same time without causing echo for others (which occurs when they say something, it comes out your speakers and is picked up by your mic and sent back to them).

Some backgrounder : https://towardsabettertinyhouse.wordpress.com/2010/11/14/virtualtinyhousecon-3-is-scheduled-for-nov-20-8-to-9-pm-eastern-time/

https://towardsabettertinyhouse.wordpress.com/2010/11/21/read-this-if-y…tinyhousecon-4/ ‎

Written by gregor

March 30, 2011 at 19:05

Posted in Uncategorized

Hot water heat exchangers

with 2 comments

Using a heat exchanger to save on hot water heat could save a lot of energy, and also open up the possibility of a tankless or nearly tankless, electric hot water system for a tinyhouse, which you can’t otherwise have, because they require too much power. That reduces standby losses associated with a tank, and it also save quite a bit of energy overall.

2 Heat exchangers made to do something like this are:

http://www.ecodrain.ca/en/how-does-it-work

http://shower-save.com/home.html

Those were found by googling “heat exchanger shower.” There might be more. Anyway, they are, I assume, counterflow heat exchangers. The thing is, the diagram on the above mentioned ecodrain page is not the optimal way to use such a heat exchanger. Not at all. See figure 1 for the optimal config. sorry it’s a bit messed up. Click to see the original.

Figure 1, a more efficient hot water system configuration.

Anyway, what you want to do is put the heat exchanger on the drain line, but before, not after, the hot water tank. Heat exchangers like the “powerpipe” use this configuration, they are connected to the sewage outlet. The problem is, they have to be designed to allow sewage to pass, which makes the heat exchanger very inefficient. But, if you are building a tinyhouse from scratch, it’s not hard to separate the sewage drain line, so now the heat exchanger only needs to handle greywater, and you could use one of the ecodrain devices.

There is no cold water line per se. Only a colder line. All incoming water must flow through the heat exchanger to achieve maximum efficiency. Another way to do it would be to control the power output of the water heater directly using an electronic control knob as your temp control knob, instead of using water mixing. More about this later.

Now, how would this change things? Well, let’s just suppose the heat exchanger ends up being 85% efficient. It might easily be more than that. If you have a 1.5 GPM (~6 liters per minute) shower head (the faucet can make use of the system, but the shower has the worst case scenario in terms of water and heat demand so let’s focus on that) and the incoming water is a typical 6 deg c and you want the water to be a comfortable 45 deg c. you would need about 15.6 kw of heating power if you didn’t use the heat exchanger. So you now have 15.6 kw of heat going down the drain. The heat exchanger gets back 4*0.85, so you only need to supply 4*0.15, or a mere 2.3 Kw.

That’s doable with a 120v heater on a 30 amp circuit, but it might be better to improve the heat exchanger efficiency. I’m betting they are probably quite a bit better than that anyway. It also makes using a solar hot water heater a lot easier because your collector is a lot smaller.

Now, but how would the temperature change with time when you turned on the tap, and when you tried to adjust the temperature? You can see it would not act quite the same as a traditional system. What you are doing is controlling the amount of energy being added to the system, rather than the temp. of the output at the shower head. As the temperature goes up, the amount of heat lost through the heat exchanger goes up, and eventually the amount being added and the amount being lost approach an equilibrium. With a totally tankless system, there is also the problem of heating the system up on startup. The water standing in the supply and drain lines needs to be heated up.

Suppose you had a 2.3 kw heater. Just to estimate how long it would take, As the water is running, 15% of the heat goes down the drain, so it’s effectively heating the water in the supply and drain lines with 1.95 kw. Suppose there is maybe 4 meters of supply line with an inner diameter of 1.5 cm, that’s about 700 ml of water in the supply line. Let’s suppose it’s the same for the drain line. The water lines are indoors, so let’s suppose it’s at 21 deg c. 1.4 liters total, needs to be heated to 45 deg c., that would take 67 seconds with 1.95 kw. Hm. However the plumbing lines could be a lot shorter than that in a tinyhouse. You could use more narrow lines, too. Too long, really, though, unless you clustered stuff and put the heat exchanger right nearby on purpose. To reduce water wastage and shorten the time a bit, you could put the heater directly after the output of the heat exchanger on the supply side, and turn the water on just the right amount, so that water coming from the heater was the right temp. Because the water is heated before it passes through the heat exchanger even once, you get the full 2.3 kw.

The use of a very small tank to provide that initial input energy might be a good idea. You could even use a thermos as the tank. That would be kind of cool. Just use a regular hot water heating element and thermostat as the heater. That might be pretty cheap, too. You have to figure out a way to couple the thermostat to the temp inside the thermos, usually the thermostat measures the temp through the wall of the water heater’s inner wall. You could drill a hole in the thermos top and put a stainless steel rod in to conduct heat to the thermostat, then put a piece of foam or fiberglass insulation over everything. The thing is, the water in the tank counts as standing water in the system, and you have to figure out how to extract energy from the tank without letting excessively hot water escape from the faucet. Switching the tank per se out of the water flow path might be a good way to do it, see below. But then you can’t use the same heating element to heat the water during the main phase of operation.

Also, you might be wondering how to reduce the temperature, what if you have the water on hot and want to switch it to cold all of a sudden? Well, you need to remove energy from the water flowing through the system. You could turn off the heater and let it escape through the heat exchanger. Especially if the heat exchanger is high efficiency, that could actually take a long time. The other way is to have a third water line leading to the faucet, which skips the heat exchanger entirely on the way in. If that water us used as a supply line, then drains out through the heat exchanger, it flushes out the hot water that was in the system, losing all that energy. The heat exchanger has no effect, because there is no water coming in through the exchanger for the outgoing water to heat up. You then have to put that much energy back in again when you want hot water again, too. But the whole system would still consume a lot less energy than a normal system.

The law of diminishing returns applies here, so this might not be worth the complexity and cost, but another way is to try to store the energy. You can use a regenerator that is switched in and out as desired. Or you could just use a small water tank. This could be done without the use of the third water line I mentioned. Imagine it located between the shower drain and the heat exchanger. Water can flow through it in a sort of laminar way, with first in first out i.e. no mixing of the hot and cold water. The “tank” could be a tube coiled up, for instance. It only has to store about the 1.4 liters mentioned above. Water does not normally flow through it. It is normally filled with water at room temperature, or it could be located outside so the water is kept at the outside temp, or it could be inside a water heater tank, allowing it to be used for system startup, too. You switch it into the system briefly, just long enough to replace the cold water with the hot water that was in the system, and it simply stores the hot water until you want it back again. At that point the hot water is displaced with cold water and you have most of your heat back. If the whole system was computer controlled to take care of everything, so you just tell it the temp you want… The computer could be used to control other tinyhouse systems too, so it wouldn’t be too expensive.

Just one more thing: I haven’t checked the prices of these ecodrain type things, but you could make your own heat exchanger too, just by putting a stainless steel tube inside of a plastic tube. Stuff might accumulate on the surface of the heat exchanger, though, since you don’t have the anti stick coating (unless maybe you could get some anti stick coated tubing.) The other problem is the resistance it poses to water flow in the drain line. These ecodrains are designed to have a much lower resistance to flow on the drain line than a tube in tube heat exchanger would have. However, if you used a drain pump that would be overcome, and you might need a drain pump anyway because there is very little gravity drop in a tinyhouse. Google products shows water pumps for <$100, so maybe the price wouldn’t be prohibitive.

This post is a post I selected from the archives to repost. Since few if any of the current readers have read it, I thought it would be just as good as a newly written post.

Written by gregor

March 30, 2011 at 14:55

Posted in Uncategorized

Dehydrate-pasteurize Toilet

with one comment

The TinyhouseBlog has a post up about a composting toilet by Walt Barrett.

So I’m spurred to take a draft post out and finish it. In that “toilet options” post I put up a while back I mentioned that a dehydrate-pasteurize toilet could be a safe and pretty practical option. The idea is that, instead of leaving the humanure to sit for a year or more, during which it must be stored somewhere, taking up considerable space, it can be given a short (e.g. 5 minute) heat treatment at 70 deg c. or so. The information in the humanure handbook indicates this should be more than sufficient to kill all pathogens.

A big used slow cooker would make an inexpensive and effective heat treatment device. Get a big one and you could simply place it under the toilet seat, have a negative pressure ventilation thing to prevent any smell from entering the house, and you’re almost there for a safe toilet solution.

There are 2 problems with that, though, one is that while you could periodically heat-treat the humanure to kill all bacteria, if the urine just sits there there is some potential for anaerobic bacteria to grow, some of which are themselves pathogenic (but the diseases they cause are not contagious), and which release a variety of foul smelling substances during the decomposition process.

Secondly, it takes up a lot of space if you just tried to store it. About 1.5 liters a day for urine, and the feces are actually quite small, about 150ml a day, plus TP is very small. Still, that’s too much. Your slow cooker pasteurizing chamber is probably 15 liters or so. You don’t want to have to empty it every couple days, and a quantity of liquid humanure would be hard to handle (though remember hygiene with regards to bacteria is no longer a problem at this stage, after heat treatment).

But if the water can be removed, urine is 95% water, so 7.5 grams of solids from there, plus I forget how much faeces is water but I remember it was surprisingly high, suppose 60%, so you would have 60 grams of solids from feces. So that would only be 67.5 grams of solids every day. Unfortunately there would be a lot of air mixed in, but you can see a 15 liter container should take a long time to fill up even so.

It could be lined with a plastic bag, such as those slow cooker liners available at grocery stores (or better yet if you could get something biodegradable) making emptying a snap.

Drying the material takes a significant amount of energy, but this is what existing commercial composting toilets do with the liquid so you are using no more energy than existing solutions, anyway. Those heaters in e.g. the biolet? They consume a lot of power and when you suck air out of the dwelling, into the toilet then vent it outside in the winter you must be sucking cold air in somewhere else, and that is a substantial contribution to the power consumption. No matter what you do, you have to at least provide the latent heat energy to evaporate the water (636 W-hr/kg). In an off grid situation this could be provided as heat energy much more cheaply than using solar panels to provide the electrical energy the biolet design apparently requires. In summer of course this is not an issue, all you need is airflow.

Similar deal with the smell going out the vent stack, it will not be as bad as a regular commercial composting toilet (in fact if you add salt to the urine chamber as mentioned below, I would think much less).

The dried stuff can then be easily transported somewhere else to put on a compost pile, as all the nutrients are still there, and it is now completely safe to handle. No need to worry about pathogens escaping the compost pile. It could also be tilled directly into the soil, this would be much like the “night soil” approach mentioned in the humanure handbook except that this would be dry material so it wouldn’t smell much (and the smell fades soon after application anyway). Actually maybe the dried stuff would not smell much if at all to begin with. And you don’t need to worry about spreading pathogens, at least to the extent you remembered to do the quick pasteurization.

One issue I can see here is that it might be better to separate the urine and toilet paper. The urine and feces could probably be mixed okay, thought I guess that might increase the amount of smell going out the vent stack. With TP, though I assume a wet mass of TP takes a looooong time to dry, and anaerobic decomp would probably kick in before it was done.

So a urine-separating receptacle sounds like the way to go, then put a vertical divider in the slow cooker, and the bag can go over top, giving you 2 chambers. Walt’s toilet is simple but I like the idea of a receptacle made of teflon (the metal coated with non stick stuff used on cookware etc. would of course be great but I don’t think you can buy that as sheets anywhere, maybe it’s worth checking). In the absence of flush mechanism and trapdoors, to maintain a hygenic appearance you could just putting a suitably wide, twisted tube after the respective holes in the two bowls to block the view to the chamber below and any splashing.

Next, the airflow going into the toilet used to prevent smell entering the dwelling can be reused to evaporate the water.

So now we have the good quality urine separating receptacle, the 2 separate chambers in which the urine and faeces+TP rest and through which air flows, evaporating the water.

You might want to add salt to the urine chamber to prevent any bacterial growth, the amount required is small enough that does not affect the utility of it as fertilizer, I think. Actually, as the concentration of urine solids went up over time I assume the salt naturally present would eventually be enough to prevent growth. Only if you wanted to suppress bacteria when it is first starting to be used would you add a bit of salt.

The size of the urine chamber should be at least 1.5 liters multiplied by the number of people that are to be using the toilet full time, and the airflow high enough that it can evaporate that much water from the urine each day, so it never overflows.

Every couple of months you just turn on the slow cooker to a low level to finish evaporating all water, use a twist ties to close the bag (containing both urine and feces), turn the pasteurizer up to 70, put the lid on, and leave it for 5 minutes, then remove, put a new bag in, and take the old bag to the nearest compost pile. Or you may be able to legally put it in the municipal garbage, you’re still being way more environmentally friendly than a normal flush toilet.

So that’s it. Cheap, safe, easy, low maintenance, very environmentally friendly, and works.

This post is a post from the archives I selected to update and repost. Since few if any of the current readers have read it, I thought it would be just as good as a newly written post.

Written by gregor

March 29, 2011 at 17:09

Posted in Uncategorized

Weird construction from the perspective of a building inspector.

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Interesting to hear from someone on the other side of the clipboard.

After thinking about this issue, I think the problems here come down mostly to the huge gap between “Meets code, rubber stamped” and “safe enough”.

I mean for example say a Fencl, on a foundation, would never get a permit even though it is plenty safe. The only potential serious issues that there seems like there could be there are things like fire egress and bad electrical wiring. And the wiring was done by an electrician, and you can get out through the window upstairs.

I mean it is extremely far fetched to suggest it is likely to fall down or collapse in some way, or burn any worse than a normal house. Some basic back of the envelope figuring shows it is plenty strong. If basically you can go through the codes and find out what the purpose of each section is and say that yeah, the tinyhouse is fine in that respect, or at least well within reason, that is certainly enough for me.

( Actually it would be nice if they had a separate sort of version of the code that said stuff like “try to prevent children from being likely to fall out open windows, here are some statistics on how bad a problem this is, here are some recommendations and how well we think they will work” instead of “all windows lower than 24 inches must have a grill”. Like a master copy of what you are *trying* to do rather than just prescriptive stuff plus a “trust us you really super duper need this no matter what, we know what’s best for you”, would be very useful, so we can all make our own choices easily. Maybe there is such a document or book from an independent party that provides this?)

Then if you built one yourself I can see that since inspecting some things like the electrical wiring (behind the wall) is not practical I might indeed be more reluctant to invest a lot of money in it, but I certainly wouldn’t fear for my safety living there.

At the same time we all know how grossly incompetent some people can be….

The reason we do it yourself though is because these things are really not that hard to do right if you read up on it first, and pros can be too expensive.

In order to fill in this vast gap inspection by professionals seems like it could really help. Put the wiring in and an electrician can take half an hour and inspect it and rubber stamp it before you put the rest of the wall up. The blueprints could be reviewed before construction begins. Etc.

But the government appears to be totally uninterested in this.

At the same time I completely appreciate the need for codes to keep professional home builders in check or they would do all kinds of crazy things, as they have in the past. But building codes, zoning etc., well frankly any part of the government, always gets hijacked to some degree by special interests, or in some cases irrational mob rule thinking. I think that is the most important thing to remember: these rules are not “for safety” (or re zoning “to prevent a factory being built next door”). They are a tool.

They are concurrently used by many people for a variety of purposes – some parts are for safety or to protect up from predatory behavior of the building industry. Some are basically put there by the building industry or even specific companies to push out competition. Sometimes the wealthy will in practice abuse a section that IS for safety in an inventive way to prevent competition or do exclusionary zoning or whatever. It’s only a tool.

Actually, the bureaucratic mess things have become seems to be evident in that building codes are not only a minimum, but also in many cases a de facto maximum because e.g. the home building industry knows consumers are pretty ditzy and don’t check the details before buying a house, so they rarely exceed the minimum legal requirements anywhere it costs money to, for e.g. ventilation, insulation and so on. So they have to specify things in relatively high detail to protect buyers to any reasonably degree.

Ontario for example allows buildings to be build with no ventilation system for fresh air. At all. It is the only province that allows this in it’s code. I have read that >30% of all new homes here do this.

I have lived in one such new house and the owner didn’t even know the house he bought 8 months ago didn’t have a ventilation system. And the fumes were killer because the VOCs from the paint etc. were still coming out. There are studies which show a very large fraction (>70%) of people with such houses suffer from mold and other serious things caused by inadequate fresh air, and are unaware of how their house’s ventilation system works. Adding a fresh air vent would have cost like $300, but since buyers don’t emptor (probably bad latin…), to the builder that is money wasted.

Likewise if slumlords were allowed to build extremely tiny living spaces or cram large numbers of people in a single apartment, they would in many cases, to the net detriment of the people that live there. But this is obviously soluble with just taking a slightly more intelligent approach and recognizing the existence of variety in the world.


“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy”

Written by gregor

March 27, 2011 at 01:28

Posted in Uncategorized

Re: The legality of tinyhouses.

with 4 comments

Re: The legality of tinyhouses.

I’m afraid I have to agree with Jay’s primary message: living in a tinyhouse is illegal. Save for a few exceptions. It is the rule rather than the exception. (Especially for economical tinyhouses which aren’t as pretty.)

I don’t like it, but after much investigating, as a result of planning and trying to make use of a tinyhouse myself, this has emerged clearly as the truth.

At first I was only interested in Ottawa, but after finding out it was not allowed here I was understandably pretty pissed. So I did a lot of reading and retained a residual interest in the subject in general, and have written a few blog posts you can find through the search function on this for more details.

Yes there are a apparently a few areas you can do it legally, yes there are trailer parks although some will not allow tinyhouses apparently, yes in some cities like Portland you can “camp out” in your backyard.

However camping out is not living there full time. I do not know but would not be surprised if you were not allowed to connect plumbing or electricity for instance. Often there is a time limit like 30 days. As far as I have seen, this is about how these loopholes go.

The government is not totally incompetent after all. If *you* wanted to make tinyhouses illegal don’t you think you could find a way to avoid leaving loopholes?

Yes putting the house on a trailer can help because you may be able to go to a trailer park, it can help you claim you are camping, it can help you dodge building codes. It can also help you dodge or reduce the impact of the cities enforcement efforts if you do break the law.

But you are still subject to zoning for instance, covenants, and probably other rules too.

A longer term view might be that you could argue that it is not the same as an RV or normal mobile home or stationary tinyhome and so deserves to be considered separately and hopefully made legal. So there is some light there maybe… but in terms of the existing letter of the law you aren’t going to be able to use the differences to successfully argue that is legal where an RV and / or mobile home is not. Check the definitions section of e.g. the zoning bylaw in your city.

When I was writing the examples of people living full time in tinyhouses post, I was actually going into it under the impression that at least a few cities are more reasonable about it. But after writing the post it was more clear to me than ever that that is not apparently true from looking at the examples available.

You can live in a tinyhouse. But can you legally live in a tinyhouse, especially of your choice, where you need to live? I can’t, I have checked. I’d eyeball it at 95% no for most people too, based on the evidence I have seen.

In other words: Succeed at what, exactly? I regard housing as only one part of my life. I can’t rearrange everything else just so I can live in a smaller home. That would defeat the purpose.

I view tinyhouses as a way to get higher quality housing at a lower price, have a lower environmental impact, get away from businesses that clearly don’t value my business, and maybe explore the benefits of portability (and maybe a couple other things that slip my mind).

Sure maybe you can, move, change jobs, leave your family and friends behind.

If you want to make your life orbit around your house. Wait, your life controlled by your house. Haven’t we heard that before somewhere? Aren’t we wanting to get away from that??

At the same time, from a physical reality standpoint, tinyhouses have a lot of potential to help people, and help make the world a better place. Which is why the illegality is so exceedingly annoying and counterproductive, and deserves to be changed.

I have it on my list of things to do to check out what happens to people who try to live in RVs in the city outside a trailer park, usually moving between backyards regularly apparently, so there might be a post on that in the future.

BTW I tried to post a comment on the blog post but it wasn’t appearing, and I don’t want to get repressed by a malfunctioning spam filter, no less, so I posted here too.

Written by gregor

March 25, 2011 at 02:14

Posted in Uncategorized

Process controllers

with 2 comments

Programmable logic controllers are strange and wonderful beasts.

They have tiny memories, though, and I have not yet had the chance to see if they can do basic math (surely?). They can control motors and stuff directly with their outputs usually up to about 2 amps.  They are resistant to static electricity and stuff too.  One more thing about them is the peculiar way they are programmed.

In a way they are sort of like those lego mindstorm computers for grownups.  You can get a very basic one them for $120 or so new.  Some have the capability to connect to x10 devices to control stuff over the powerlines.  You can get sensors for them and actuators of varying sorts. They can control RC style servos directly, too.  They are also expandable.

I bet you could connect one to a computer to receive commands or send data back, if you wanted to control stuff over the internet.

But how does this apply to tinyhouses?

Well, just remember the hot water heat exchanger stuff.  Having a computer to control the hot water systems would be nice, but it seems like overkill, right? But consider the other things you could also do with the same computer:

-Load balancing.  Turn the freezer or fridge off during the night for instance, could reduce the demand on an off grid power solar system during the night, which could reduce the need for batteries.

– Thermal closet air conditioning.  This uses a water tank to “store cold” during the night and use it to provide cooling during the day.  Or uses an actuator to opena valve to routs air around, rather than through, the houses’s heat exchanging ventilation system (allowing heat to be removed from the house, otherwise the ventilation system’s heat exchanger keeps heat in).

– Provide a control, mechanism for a sun tracking system for a hot water heating panel or solar photovoltaic panel.

-Be used as a security system for the house.

-Turn the ventilation system on or off intelligently to save power.

-Control the function of a water recycling system.

I don’t know, how could you improve the quality of life in a tinyhouse with a dedicated computer?

The thing is, any one of these things is simple enough to do without a computer.  But, taken together, they form a more complicated system that might be easier an cheaper to control with a computer.

This post is a post I selected from the archives to repost. Since few if any of the current readers have read it, I thought it would be just as good as a newly written post.

Written by gregor

March 24, 2011 at 10:48

Posted in Uncategorized