June 06, 2019 8 Comments
We never thought we would park our home in an RV park, so the overall arrangement of where our utilities were accessed from was not optimized in the first place where we parked our home.
We were able to pull our home into our new place in a more conventional orientation so that we would not need such long hoses and power cords. One thing that I would make a special point on is to not go cheap on your sewer hoses. The difference in quality between the cheapest ones and the most expensive ones is critically obvious. Needless to say, you don’t want to be cleaning up that kind of a mess because you saved $30 on a cheap hose. Also, think about stairs, permanent jacks, and skirting (especially if you live in a colder climate).
When building our tiny house, we set up our utilities to be able to hook up to just about anything.
Our electrical was just ran to a plug (3-pole) underneath the tiny house, so we could make an extension cord that fit any power source we were provided.
For our drains, we simply left the pipe of each appliance open, and used ABS pipe to tie them all together and connect them to the drain source we were given. This made it easy to accommodate drains no matter where their placement was relative to the house.
For our water line, we left a ¾ pex pipe open, and then connected it to another piece of pex when we got to our site, with whatever adapter we needed based off of what we were given. Keeping the utilities open let us be flexible with where we can hook up and what we can hook up to. Sure, it will take more time to get them set up, but it’s well worth it for the flexibility it allows us.
One thing I wish we knew about jacks is how important the footing is. You want a large footing for your jacks to rest on, so it spreads the weight out over a larger area. You also want jacks with a wide base, and for the jacks to be extended as little as possible (use higher footing ie. stacking cement blocks). If you have nice wide footing and your jacks aren’t extended too far, your house will be much, much more stable than it otherwise would be!
We have lived in two different places at this point, and at both of these sites, we have connected into the power supply of the main house/barns on the properties. At the first place, we connected into the barn, where Tim upgraded the power supply from the main house to the barn himself (he was an electrical engineer for many years). At the second place, the entire electrical panel and power supply needed to be upgraded, so we hired an electrician to do the work and include a 100-amp service (overkill, but why not) on the panel dedicated to the tiny house.
For grey water (we have an incinerating toilet so there’s no black water), we dug a dry well at both locations. Neither of them has worked well to be honest, so if anyone has a better solution, send it my way...
Our water supply comes from a spigot on the main house (we hired a plumber to add one) through a heated potable RV hose (we lived in upstate NY so this is a must!). We also learned the hard way during the first winter that we needed to heat tape the spigot on the main house and the intake valve on the tiny house. Skirting also helps in the winter! We use hay bales at the tongue.
Another thing we wish we knew was the importance of checking the leveling of your tiny house frequently, especially in the winter. During our first winter, our house settled in such a way that water pooled and froze in the back corner of the house, in the wall, where the kitchen drains and then connects with the W/D and shower. We had no way of defrosting it, and had to simply wait for a thaw so that we could use the kitchen sink again (and hope that the pipe didn’t burst). We were doing dishes in the bathroom for weeks! This all could’ve been prevented had we checked the leveling.
Down here in Florida we get away with not having seasonal changes, so we luckily don't have to think about winterizing our home!
When we park our home long term, we put our home on cement blocks. We take a 2-ton jack to help lift our home up on two in each corner and then place pieces of wood to make sure it's leveled. This helps make sure the that everything is leveled in the tiny home and doesn’t make it feel like we are walking up hill from one side of the home to the other. The blocks also help with stabilizing the home so the house doesn't feel like it's shaking when we are active in the house. Think of this as if the home is now more connected to the ground since the home technically sits on the blocks.
From there we plug in our 50-amp power cord to the campground power source and hook up a standard hose for our water. All of our pipes are connected so we use a “stinky slinky” which is basically a large hose for all our black and gray water. Spoiler alert, we are going back to a compost toilet here shortly.
Lastly, we couldn't forget the hammocks :)
For our electric, we’re connected via extension cord to a barn on the property—and to be honest, we don’t use much. While our refrigerator runs continuously, we heat via woodstove, and very rarely use lights because our home has so much natural light, and overall the home is very energy efficient.
For water, we’re connected to a pre-existing well on the land, which may make our situation somewhat unique. We had to dig and run the pipe, which ideally needs to be four feet deep due to the freeze we can have in Upstate New York during winter. The dig and pipe-running was a huge job. I love the DIY life, but a warning: this is a big, messy job. We also used insulation around the pipes that are above ground, and next season we’ll wrap those with heat tape to protect our pipes from freezing.
Currently, my only hookups are city water, electricity, and a small propane tank. Ideally, once I can afford it, I will be off-grid, relying on solar power and rainwater collection. But those systems are pretty expensive, so I'll be staying on-grid for now.
I did, however, install a composting toilet in my house, so that I don't have to deal with hooking up to a septic system. My grey water runs straight off into the ground, though I have a hose directing it away from the house so it doesn't soften the soil under the jacks/supports too much. Soon the grey water will be directed to a dry well, which will help filter and distribute the water into the ground.
It gets pretty cold in Virginia, so moving in in the middle of December meant that I had a lot of lessons to learn pretty quickly. An unexpected hurdle for me was dealing with my water intake hose freezing up. Wrapping the hose in insulated foam only helped a little bit, I couldn't afford a long enough heated hose, and I got a lot of good advice to not just stick a heat tape system on just any hose, because it might melt or cause an electrical fire! But I think the primary issue is that water was freezing up at the spigots.
I dealt with my fair share of 'dry camping' days over this past winter, by showering at the gym and by bringing in jugs of water for drinking, cooking, and dishes. But before the cold season hits this coming year, I will have built small insulated storage sheds around the water spigots, and the insulated hose will be buried in the ground. I may still have a day or two without water when it gets especially cold, but I feel much more prepared to deal with it!
September 13, 2019 47 Comments
September 13, 2019 10 Comments
My name is Alan—founder at Dream Big Live Tiny Co! A few years ago, I quit my consulting job to pursue a life full of adventure. After traveling around the world for a year, I sold most of my stuff and moved into an 160-sqft tiny house. Now I spend most of my time showcasing incredible people living with less in pursuit of more freedom, as well as incredible tiny houses around the world!
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