Birds – The Cost of Power – An Update

Birds built their nest on top of the solar heater.  I was unable to get a good photo because I did not get close; too, they left the day I arrived.   I never saw their parents so I am not sure what kind of babies they are.  Anyone recognize them?

Rub a dub dub

Rub a dub dub

On the topic of solar, you know, In 2012 I splurged for on the items that I wanted to have a working 12 volt solar system in Tiny House Ontario.  It cost me roughly $1200 dollars (for the battery, inverter, wire, lights, switches, outlet, boxes, charge controller, panels and stand and any other little things that popped up).

You can see more about that install here.

I am very happy with the system even though it is not a 100% ideal match for my needs.

The fact is, I can’t knock it!  I am in the fourth calendar year of use and so far, every time I turn on the lights they work.  I have never once lost electricity even when I accidentally left the lights on for a few days and left town.  In these last years, I have had two troubles with the system.  The first being my own error.  I have zero skills and knowledge about electricity, and only after I had everything installed did I find out that that the inverter is no good for charging the batteries for my power tools.  It is too small and because of this, when you try to make it work the fuse in the inverter blows.  The second trouble I had was with a broken solar panel last winter.  I still have NO idea how this happened, because I had many 20-30 pound rocks holding it to the ground and they simply vanished.  Because of this, the system fell and one panel got cracked – but still, it seems to be working.

Despite these troubles, I have never put any money into it.  And the fact is that adding a new year to the mix means that the cost for electricity just dropped to $300 a year (That is $25 a month including power and fixtures).

Though I can’t knock it, I have been considering a couple of small additions.  I would like to add an additional light and outlet, so I will need to purchase the wire and the light to make this happen (I already have the second outlet that I just never got around to installing.  The outlet would go in upstairs so that I can plug in my vacuum and cell phone there.  The light, I would like to have at the bottom of the stairs and work from switches at the bottom and top of the stairs, so that I could turn it on to go up and down.  I would also like to get something together so that I could charge my cordless tools – but I really can’t figure out how to do this with my current system.  I wondered if this little set would work?

Because, Makita.  $200 set with 12 volt charger

Because, Makita. $200 set with 12 volt charger

Well the charger anyway.   Most importantly, is it compatible with mine?  I learned a while back that these sets are not all equal and they are not all compatible either.  I wish I could find the card of the Makita rep for Ontario.  I would call him and ask about it.

Anyway, the light, switches and wire together will be less than $50, I am guessing.  So if I decide to install this, it will bump up my overall electric costs, but I think it will make the house a tiny bit safer.

Until then, The lights are still working!

Not too much light pollution - until I turn on the yard light to bring the dogs out.  I need this out there to keep them safe from wildlife.

Not too much light pollution – until I turn on the yard light to bring the dogs out. I need this out there to keep them safe from wildlife.

Categories: Tiny House Ontario | 6 Comments

THO Interior: Finally Getting Some Love!

Over the last two winters I have had a HUGE mouse problem at THO.  They got into the whole house in the winter of 2013-14 and in 2014-15 they got into the in-house.  So, I gutted the bathroom.  I layer down two layers of aluminium flashing then 1 inch thick plywood and covered this with plastic laminate.  I removed the running (rain) water, too, for now and put in a plastic waste bucket like this.   I have to say that this is a terrible system.  The plastic is of the cheapest quality and it absorbs smell… so I will have to do something better soon.

This is the shits - literally

This is the shits – literally

I forgot to take a photo of the bathroom in construction and also as it is now, but (in my defence) it is basically an empty room with one of these ugly and terrible toilets in it, so it is not much to look at. I also finally decided on a subfloor system, so I removed everything from the house.  I levelled up the concrete with some floor levelling cement let this dry for a week and then I put in a layer of thick builders plastic and installed an Amdry Insulated Subfloor on top of the poured concrete and plastic.  Here is a video about the subfloor system that I chose. https://youtu.be/WvpmsTVYR2I Due to the fact that I have not yet decided on a flooring, I simply put the 6×8 bamboo carpet back down. Since the furniture all went out, I decided that this was the ideal time to purge the furniture that I had pulled off the curb about 10 years ago and build the sectional system that I have been planning on.  This system is one that I put an awful lot of thought into.  I wanted a very comfortable sofa, a place to eat, storage, fabric that would wear well and also not take stains or allow dog hair to stick to it and I also wanted to have a very comfortable place to sleep on the main level because of the dogs. What you are about to see took several years of planning.  I hope you like the design.

This sofa has a full sized seat which goes on behind the removable back to make extra room to sleep on.

This sofa has a full sized seat which goes on behind the removable back to make extra room to sleep on.

The sectional with one of the pieces across the room.

The sectional with one of the pieces across the room.

Footstools become a comfy sofa bench for three

Footstools become a comfy sofa bench for three

A booth style table

A booth style table – the cost for building this sofa was roughly $500.  

Now I can have overnight guests

Now I can have overnight guests

The full sectional

Here is the storage space inside the footstool.

Here is the storage space inside the footstool.

As you can see it is a nice cozy place to curl up! SPECIAL THANKS going out to the five beautiful models who showed the comfort of the sofa to those who read!  <3

Minnie always does this gopher thing.  Cute isn't she?

Minnie always does this gopher thing. Cute isn’t she?

Categories: Tiny House Ontario | 13 Comments

Spring – Not Quite

Hj and I took a drive down to Tiny House Ontario last weekend.  We wanted to try and do a couple of things and to check the place over.  When we arrived Guillaume was there with his friend J.  Great to see them after so very long – and he had a wonderful gift waiting for me too.  He chose to go with the cube stove out of Montreal and when he ordered the stove he thought of me and bought and extra set of tools.  This is not just a very thoughtful gift, but useful too!  It really is time to get that stove in – I can’t wait to try these babies!!!

Thank you Guillaume!

Thank you Guillaume!  These are just gorgeous and useful too… I love useful gifts!

We hoped to get the rain water catchment system all hooked up but unfortunately it was a heck of a lot snowier and colder there then we hoped.  Kingston is only 1° north of Hamilton (about 110 km); even so, they are four growing zones colder than we are here in the banana belt.  In Hamilton the crocus flowers are up and the forsythia is burgeoning; in Kingston area there is a foot of snow still.

Our most recent rescue, Dieter out for a little above the snow jaunt.

Our most recent rescue, Dieter out for a little above the snow jaunt.

IMG_2039

The garden barrel being connected by HJ.  Just tie the rock to the chain and we are done!

I guess this will have to wait!

I guess this will have to wait!  With that ice hanging I am sure the barrels will freeze.

The icicles hanging from the eves trough made me realize that I had made the trip to connect the water, a little bit too soon.  Still we placed the gardening barrel and hope for the best. One of the other reasons that we had come was to put the solar panels back up.  Guillaume dug the snow out around them so that they would thaw, and we wanted to assess the damage and get them reconnected if possible. It was a lucky day when I met Guillaume, who is both an awesome, and reliable friend.  Thanks Guillaume! Fortunately the battery is still working and giving power to the house.  The wires did not snap.  The system went right back up with no trouble at all.  The unfortunate thing is that one of the panels got badly smashed at the back. The totally weird thing about the panels tipping is that there were rocks on the base and these are missing.  I am not sure why anyone would steal a bunch of rocks but we put a couple good sized ones that were uncovered back on the base and hopefully this will hold it in place until I can dig a bunch more up after thaw.

Ouch!

Ouch!

Thanks for digging this out Guillaume!

Thanks for digging this out Guillaume!

I am not sure if the broken panel is working at all, time will tell if I need to replace my panels this year or not. The other good news is that the house looks good!  Another winter with no damage and I think we don’t have any mice in the house this year… just in the in-house so I still need to fix this in 2015.  Always a job waiting, right?

THO in the clear blue sky

THO in the clear blue sky

The sofa is still comfy if I could get there!

Come sit on the sofa with us… we will make space for you to cuddle with us!  From top to bottom, Imp, Minnie, Rudigrrr Wolf, Honey and Dieter.

Come sit on the sofa with us… we will make space for you to cuddle with us! From top to bottom, Imp, Minnie, Rudigrrr Wolf, Honey and Dieter.

And HJ is so glad that I am almost totally recovered.

My H

My H

Now we will head out off for a walk.  I am doing roughly five miles of walking a day now.  It won’t be long until I can lift stone – I am sure! Happy Easter to those who celebrate it.  Today I am celebrating good health! xo L

Categories: Tiny House Ontario | 18 Comments

Water and Waste

Dwight wrote to me today and asked me about how I deal with my water – black, grey and potable and I thought this was a fair question so here is my answer.

There are four kinds of water that I deal with at Tiny House Ontario: black, grey, rain and fresh.

Lets deal with the dirty stuff first.  Black water.  What I did at THO was to use a bucket for waste in the “in-house”. The toilet waste is being put into a four year cycle in a spot I have dedicated to this. In my case all the black water is dry because I use coconut coir to soak up the fluids.  I empty this waste or black water into a different space each year and after four years it is safe to use on the garden.  Admittedly however, grosses me out so I will use this waste for my flower gardens.  “Don’t s*** where you eat” is something I take rather literally.

Grey water at THO consists of my dishwater, shower water housecleaning water and personal washing water.  I don’t have a washing machine so my water use is pretty small.  Grey water is of course not just water but also the materials I use for cleaning.  In my case, I am very cautious about what I use.  Vinegar, baking soda mild biodegradable dish soap and bar soap is all that is used here, and this is simply poured out in the areas around my house.  i gift this to my flowers and trees and they appreciate this, particularly during the dryer seasons. The soil is thin here and drainage is great. The soil is mixed with limestone rocks and is very shallow – about three or four feet.  Then below this for the next 80 feet down there is a limestone escarpment before we hit the water table. I don’t worry at all about grey water drainage nor about polluting the ground water because my topography allows this.  If I had different land I would have to use different methods.

Rain water.  This I collect to use for washing and watering my garden.  What I use is dumped, just as I described above.

Potable water is carried in.  This is stored in a non BPA 5 gallon jug. I use this for rinsing the dishes, cooking and drinking. I use about a gallon a day per person. This is stored in my cloth porch in my case. When it is below zero I bring smaller containers of water one gallon each and keep one on my counter an the others under the bed and bring them down as they are needed.

One thing I do have to be very careful about is not to leave any containers of water out.  My first year it was a hard lesson because I found a dead salamander floating in my dishwater.  Now I am very diligent about dumping everything and also about flipping over any containers to the opposite side, after I am done with them.

Tiny House Ontario has three rain barrels.  These meet most of my water needs.

Tiny House Ontario has three rain barrels. These meet most of my water needs.

Categories: Tiny House Ontario | 2 Comments

Do you want a totally off grid sustainably built tiny house?

photo courtesy of Chris Magwood

photo courtesy of Chris Magwood

Photo courtesy of Chris Magwood

Photo courtesy of Chris Magwood

Okay, I have to say I am pretty excited to be asked to announce this!  Here is your chance to own a tiny house built using 100% sustainable products and to have the labour thrown in.  This means that you will get one of those awesome eco houses that we all dream of (at least I do), for about the same cost of a non-sustainably built home.

Photo: Courtesy of Chris Magwood

Photo: Courtesy of Chris Magwood from a student build

HERE IS AN OPPORTUNITY FOR SOMEONE WHO IS READY TO GET IT DONE!

Seeking a Tiny Home Client
The Endeavour Centre is a not-for-profit sustainable building school based in Peterborough, Ontario. Each year, Endeavour completes a building with its full time students, and this year they will be focusing on constructing an off-grid tiny home built with healthy, sustainable materials.
Endeavour is seeking a client for the finished tiny home. The client would be involved in the design of the home, the selection of materials, systems and finishes. Financially, the client would be paying for the hard costs (plans, materials, etc), while Endeavour would provide the labour side of the equation at no cost.
Endeavour is seeking to build a tow-able tiny home in the 200-250 square foot range, but would also be open to discussing a tiny home destined for a permanent foundation.
The home would incorporate renewable energy systems, non-toxic and locally sourced materials, composting toilets, rainwater harvesting and a non-fossil fuel heating option.
Endeavour expects the material and system budget for the home to be in the $30-40,000 range for the completed home.
If you are interested in collaborating with Endeavour on this project, please contact Chris Magwood at chris@endeavourcentre.org.

Categories: Tiny House Ontario | 18 Comments

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