Wednesday, November 6, 2013


      Like many people, I have a problem with the classic Tiny Houses; They are too tiny.  For crying out loud, I am claustrophobic!  Yes they are cute.  And I get the whole Walden minimalist thing some people are attracted to. There is a part of that ethos that I strive to someday achieve.  But I've lived in enough barns, huts, cabins, domes, and tents to know that I deserve more.  I am not a hermit.  I enjoy space and style and modernity.

     So I was excited when I discovered the Minim House built by Brian Levy.  The main difference is the width.  Rather than the standard 8.5 feet for tiny houses, it is a whopping 11 feet wide. Those 2.5 feet make a huge difference. It allows for a loft free space (The pullout bed hides underneath the storage area, i.e. where the guitar is hanging.) and more room to move around. There is no cramped kitchen in this home.  It's still on a trailer, though it is a wide-load park model width so a permit is required for moving it.  But seriously, how often do people move there Tiny Houses?  How often will I? My goal is to settle down in one place.  But until that happens I want to have the ability to take my home with me to the next location.

The other main difference between the Minim House and standard Tiny Homes is the construction method.  Most tiny homes are standard stick built using dimensional lumber.  The Minim House is made up of Structurally Insulated Panels, or SIPs. According to Wikipedia, "SIPs share the same structural properties as an I-beam or I-column. The rigid insulation core of the SIP acts as a web, while the sheathing fulfills the function of the flanges. SIPs combine several components of conventional building, such as studs and joists, insulation, vapor barrier and air barrier. They can be used for many different applications, such as exterior wall, roof, floor and foundation systems."  The panels are manufactured based on the dimensions of the design, and then assembled together on site more quickly than stick-built construction.  Two people can put up the walls in a couple of days. And their insulation properties are ridiculously amazing!

Now lets talk cost and comparison to the most famous and popular Tiny House, the Tumbleweed Fencl.

    As you can see, based on Brian Levy's design, the self-build cost is only $6000 more than the Fencl design. And that is with a whole bunch of premium components such as the $1700 Incinerator Toilet, which I am not sure about considering because of my affinity for Compost Toilets. Who knows?

    Now so far, the Minim House seems to be a one-of-a-kind in the world of Tiny Houses.  I have yet to see any other design that has the extra width of the Minim and use of SIP panels.  This led me to investigate wide trailer house designs, and I discovered that there are tons of these all over the U.S.  They're called Park Models.  It's every mobile home you've ever seen, except it's still on a trailer.  So there is a whole ocean of designs to explore!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Eggs and Sketchup

Sketchup Update

So I started playing around with Sketchup this weekend.  I first started to try and put a gambrel roof onto one of Michael Jansen's 20' Tiny House models. I wasn't sure where to put the roof supports, but then I realized that they go over the wall studs, right?  So I started undoing the layers of the model to find the studs, but the model I have apparently doesn't have a frame.  It is all exterior.

My next idea was to take Michael's Micro-Gambrel sketchup model, which is a full framed model but only 11' or so, and put it on a 20' trailer and stretch it to 20'.  Well I did stretch it to scale, but that also stretched all the pieces of the frame, not just the distances between the studs. I realize that I am looking for a shortcut, a way to avoid building the model from scratch.  But now I think that I would be missing out on the oppurtunity to learn basic building understanding.  So now I am going to start from scratch, and build the frame one piece at a time, making groups and components along the way.. It will be slower, but I think well worth it.


Here is a question: Can I use the Goal Zero Yeti 1250 Solar Generator  to power my Tiny House, and should I?

The basics:  The Yeti 1250 is a big battery, that you can plug lots of things into.  It can be charged by plugging it into a regular outlet. But it can also be charged via solar panels. There is no limit to how many more batteries you can link to the system. The system can be charged by up to 8 of the company's 30 watt solar panels linked together, making 240 watts of solar panels, though the system can also be connected to other manufacturers solar panels, though it is not clear how much solar panel wattage is possible with other panels (more than 240 watts?). Let's assume that however much electricity I use is covered by the Yeti +extra batteries+solar panels.


3 x AC standard US outlets 110V AC 60Hz pure-sine wave, 1200W max total continuous, 1500W max short-duration
Female 12V port 11-14V, 10A max (120@), unregulated
2 x 6mm 12V ports 11-14V, 6A max each (72W), unregulated
12V Power Pole port 12-14V, 30A max (360W), unregulated
3 x USB ports 5V, 1.5A mx (7.5W) each, regulated

I am a very ignorant of electrical stuff right now, so other than the standard AC outlets and the USB ports, I don't know what the other ones are for. The red and orange boxes you see below.  I see two car lighter sockets, than that big one, and the orange box.  What are they for?

Now according to the company, this device can be used continuosly, not just for backup or singular events like camping. So seemingly, I could use this to power my electrical needs in my Tiny House.  

Why would I want to use this?  Well what is the other option? A service panel, with circuit breakers powered by a landline cable (someone else's electricity).  I could add to that system solar panels and batteries and whatever else that implies. Of course, either way I am still going to be doing wiring for lighting, appliances etc.( Can I use this system for a wired house? Not just individual appliances, but lighting, light switches, power strips, etc?)


To me, this just seems easier . One device, that does both landline electric, and solar, and I can add more batteries and panels. Also, I have heard that Electrical systems can be expensive, and that it is reccomended that you should get an electrician to do all the work. The Yeti would leave only the wiring for me to do. Though I do see a possible issue of finding myself having put all my eggs in one basket. What if it breaks? There is only a 12 month warranty on the thing as far as I know.  I'm always looking for the easiest solution, but as we saw with my Sketchup story earlier, Easy isn't always Best. I would appreciate your input.

I leave you with this photo I found somewhere online. I thought something like this would be nice as an extension of the sleeping loft.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Tiny House Online Resources

Though I was born and grew up in New Jersey, I have lived the majority of my adult life in Israel. Let's call it ten years.  Things here are different from things in the states (What a statement!). There are no Tiny Houses here (Though there are other alternative buildings here and there, Cob, Strawbale, Yurts etc). If I was in the states I would probably go to a Tiny House workshop to get some hands on experience and expert advice from leaders in the field.  And I will go to a workshop one day, but not any time soon.  I'm busy here right now with other things, and besides, my economic situation right now makes flying to the states unlikely. So I'm left with the Internet, the glorious, glorious Internet.

I am very proud of the links I have put together, which you find all along the right side of this Blog.  First on the list are what I think of as the General Tiny House websites. These websites show examples of Tiny Houses all over the world, have articles about Tiny Living, ask and answer questions about Tiny Houses, and help create the Tiny House community.

Next on the list are Blogs created by people who are currently building or already completed building their Tiny Houses. These Blogs document their builds from design to construction.  Some are more detailed than  others.  These are a really great resource, helping people to see what it looks like to put these houses together from scratch, and to learn from the mistakes of others.

And next we have the Tiny House Companies.  These companies offer plans for their Tiny House designs, build custom houses, and offer educational information about Tiny Houses in the form of workshops, books, videos, and online courses.

I also recommend searching for "Tiny House" on facebook. There are a number of groups like Portland Tiny Houses that have hundreds of members offering a great knowledge resource.  It's one of the quickest ways to get answers to your Tiny House questions. There are even people there offering their properties as homes for Tiny Houses and Tiny House builds.

I probably will by house plans at some point, but I want to wait till I have all the money for the build first.  In the meantime, I have begun to play around with Sketchup to help me envision my future Tiny House in 3D.  And I owe it all to Michael Janzen at . He has designed a number of Tiny House models in Sketchup, and offers them for free on his website. He also has made a number of videos on youtube that show how to design Tiny Houses using Sketchup.

My current goal is to add a Gambrel roof to one of his Tiny House Designs instead of the regular triangle roof, as it offers more head space/comfort to the sleeping loft.


Lamar Alexander of Simple Solar Homesteading came up with a design closest to what I want to build. Here is a short video he created showing off his design. The house is built on a 20' trailer and has a Gambrel roof. My interior design won't be the same. But still, from the outside, it looks right on the money. Unfortunately, Lamar's computer went bust along with all his data, so he is starting from scratch with his design. He says he hopes to be finished within the year. I should mention that he sells his house plans for $2.00 each, which sounds great, though I haven't purchased any of them so I can't attest to their quality.

   Here is an example of the exterior and interior sleeping loft of the average Tiny House.

Most Tiny House owners say they are more than comfy, but I want to be as comfortable as possible.

This is April Anson's Tiny House with Gambrel Roof

Notice the Semi-Octagon shaped Gambrel Roof like a barn

It provides more space than the average Tiny House.

Well that's it for today! My next post will be about "My Dream Tiny House" and all the elements involved.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Allow Myself to Introduce Myself

It's a bit scary for me, starting to write this blog. I have had a few blogs in the past, when I was having different kinds of adventures. I was so proud of myself and I wanted to share my experiences with others. The first blog was an account of my first year living in Israel after obtaining citizenship. What I remember most is writing about the idiocy and inconvenience of the bureaucracy, the red tape, and how though israel is a modern western country, it is not america. That blog no longer exists, as AOL shut down their blog site.

The second blog is an account of my adventures in California and Oregon as a wwoofer, volunteering on a number of organic farms, homesteads etc. The blog ended up becoming a personal review/critique of each host farm, either recommending the place to other wwoofers, or discouraging them from visiting. Basically, the majority of my experiences weren't very good and I had a lot to complain about, though it was partly my fault for I only communicated ahead of my visits by email, never actually speaking to the hosts by phone. You can learn a lot about a person just from speaking to them for only a few minutes. That blog still exists, though I stopped writing when I stopped being proud of my life and my experiences. After volunteering for many years both in Israel and in the states, I decided I wanted to have my own garden, my own sustainable life, something I could call my own. Maybe even call a Home. But it didn't work out like that for me. And so I stopped sharing my thoughts and goings-on.

It's been almost three years since I left Oregon, and I still have no place to call Home. It's been ten years since I stayed in one place for more than six months, and the thought of Home is just as heavy on my mind as ever. When I was 18, I dreamed of artificial islands, a Permaculture paradise. After living and working on an organic farm in Israel, I realized how important community is, and how I can't do everything I want by myself. Unfortunately, though I like the idea of asking for help, actually asking for it does not come easy to me. So I am still dreaming of my Home. The dream has gotten a lot smaller than the artificial islands, the Earthships, and the Cob Cottages I thought so much about before. Nowadays, the idea that takes up most of my brain power is the Tiny House.

If you don't know what I mean by Tiny House; a house less than 300 or 400 square feet, sometimes built on utility trailers for mobility and beating zoning issues. Personally, I want to live in a community and stay in one place forever, but I want to give myself the ability to take my home with me if I ever have to move so I can have some sense of permanence in my life. I probably first got excited about this concept when I saw the now famous youtube clip of a 16 year old kid building his own Tiny House.

I have since been Binge Surfing, Googling and Googling, bookmarking everything site I find. A sophisticated way of saying that could be Data Gathering.  This blog may one day tell the story of my future home. For now though it will have to suffice as a way of sharing my thoughts and hopefully a way to get other peoples opinions and perspectives.