Tiny Homes Revisited

So, I’ve still been keeping track of the Tiny Homes movement, but as I’m sure you are all well aware, I haven’t made the leap yet. (my apartment is just too cheap)

As I’ve been browsing the web, I’ve been thinking about things more, adding more details, saving images, documents, and whatever else I can find on the subject. The last two times I wrote about tiny homes, I got comments from people that it is too small and they’d go insane and while I don’t think this post will change that opinion, I’m still keenly interested in the idea, and hope to move from idea to action at one point, so I’d love feedback, even if the lifestyle isn’t up your alley.

First of all, I realized that maybe going tiny is a little too restrictive for me. Tiny homes are usually considered anything under 200 square feet, and even in my previous posts about tiny homes, I’ve leaned more towards the 400 square foot size. I think now, I’d like to bump that up to around 640 square feet (20′ by 32′) as it would give me enough room to have all the modern conveniences without being too ridiculous. Also, there are a variety of building codes that most likely wouldn’t let me build a permanent residence much smaller than that.

I’ve decided that I’d like two separate loft areas, one will be primarily for storage, but with a guest bed that sleeps two comfortably. Then there will be the main loft area where I would sleep. Lofts would be accessible through ladders like shown in the following image.

And the sleeping area would have a low ceiling and plenty of built in storage, like the following image.

With it primarily open to the below living room, all heating or cooling would be able to efficiently fill the space.

Attached to the living area and kitchen would be a small dining / office nook, though I think I’ll set up my printer table desk and nice office chair in the living room space, it is a simple way to seat two people to eat together and because of the close proximity, anyone eating in the living room or office space would still be able to be part of the conversation and interact with those dining at the nook.

And with every convenience, including a dishwasher (something I absolutely need, even if I’m living alone as I hate washing dishes), is the kitchen and while I wouldn’t pick the counter top used in the following picture, I do like how the rest of it is set-up.

Lastly, there is the all important bathroom, as my friend and showerhead expert Larry would say, “your house is only as good as the shower can clean you” and while I’m very impressed with how nice the following picture looks, I doubt I’d want a full bathtub and shower combo, as just having a shower would allow me to reduce the size of the bathroom. I’d also be using a dual flush toilet, but I’ll get to that later.

By now, you might be wondering, “can all of this really fit into 640 square feet? Well, the images in this section of this post is all from a house that is around 420 square feet. With the other 220 square feet, I would be extending the kitchen area and the living room so that I could have a loft at the front of the house and at the rear of the house. It also gives me a bit more space so that I can stack a small stacked washer and dryer near the bathroom.

Electricity and Its Usage

I would hope to have the house on a reasonable sized property, say three to five acres with a heavy tree line along one edge. I would also want a clear area not too far from the house so I can set up solar panels. I would really like to have a one kilowatt solar system and around the same from a wind turbine system. I’d also like to have a small solar water heater system.

I would like the house to be tied to the grid, but hopefully through proper conservation, I can reduce my dependence to its absolute minimum. The big factor on how far I could go with any kind of alternative energy system will of course be the cost.

For lighting though, I would use LED lighting, sixty 5 watt LED lighting units is really equivalent to five 60 watt regular bulbs, but the light they would cast is far greater. The cost of course would also be higher, but I believe that it would be worth it in the long run, especially as we are getting close to light bulbs that will last decades instead of a year or two.

Some of the highest energy guzzling things in a house are the heating system, cooling system, water heating, technology, washer and dryer, oven and the refrigerator.

While I can’t easily address all of these hurdles, I can do my best to reduce the energy usage by selecting smaller appliances, especially if they use less power.

For heating, I haven’t decided the best route, but I would like it to be as efficient as possible. I’ve researched radiant heating systems, propane systems, as well as wood stoves, but I haven’t come to a conclusion. In the end, it will most likely be a hybrid system with the ability to use at least two different fuel sources to generate heat.

As for water heating, I hope that a solar water heating system, as well as a small tank-less water heating system will provide me with what I would need on a daily basis.

Lastly, technology would be a relatively easy hurdle to deal with as I could move all of my entertainment needs and work needs to a laptop with an external monitor. No television, no desktop computer, no DVD player, game console. Just a laptop and an external monitor. A desktop can use as much as 200-400 watts while a laptop can use as little as 30-60 watts.

Water and Sewage

Most likely, I’ll be drinking well water at my place. I doubt I’ll be able to afford a lot of the kind of size I want within city limits. I definitely don’t want to be having water delivered or using any alternative water solutions. Having water when I turn on the tap is one of those conveniences that I don’t think I could do without.

As for sewage, if I’m outside the city limits, I’ll also be looking at a septic system. I’d love to find better solutions for dealing with sewage, but I’m not sure I’ve found an answer that doesn’t require major compromise.

One thing I’d like to have is a gray water system for the bathroom and kitchen sinks though, as that water doesn’t need to enter the septic system and is of more use if it doesn’t. This would limit me to natural soaps and cleaners, but I should really be using them anyways.

Storage

At the end of the day, I really want to keep a minimal lifestyle as much as possible, and by having less space, you are forced to determine what is important to have and what isn’t. I’d expect to have a small shed to store my bike, lawnmower and other supplies, while keeping my in-house storage to a reasonable level. Also, proper storage of unneeded things (out of season clothes and such) not only leaves more room in the house, but it reduces clutter, and still allows me to easily access things I need. Sealed containers of extra linens and such could easily be stored in a properly designed shed and it doesn’t require any power or heating.

Conclusion

At the end of the day, it is all about compromise, but for me, I don’t see having a multiple thousand square foot home a wise investment. I’d rather have land that I can enjoy, a place that is comfortable and easy to maintain. I definitely don’t want to give up all my creature comforts and live in a shack in the woods, but I do want to live in a way that suits me, rather than what society forces upon us.

My dream of course would really be to have a small community of homes, somewhere in the neighborhood of four or five on a ten to twenty acre lot. My family and friends, all close by, working together in a shared greenhouse, helping each other out, enjoying time together, and then being able to easily retreat back to their own homes.

I could see my personal plan, if done carefully, costing less than most people are currently mortgaging, and even better, the monthly bills, and continued upkeep would be far less than a traditional home. As such, my disposable income each month would be higher letting me pay down what I owe faster, or enjoying some of life’s other niceties.

Life isn’t about how much space you have in your house or how much stuff you own; it is what you spend your time on and who you spend it with.

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