Tiny House, Tiny Living, The Tiny Life.

Air Conditioning On Solar Power

Today I wanted to share some info about air conditioning on a solar panel system.  Charlotte’s heat really came full force this week.  I know for many their climate doesn’t get as humid as it does here, for us here, AC is pretty key.  Without AC I can’t really sleep, even with a fan and my house being passive cooled.  While the humidity is still pretty comfortable, it’s HOT and the humidity is coming.  It has been in the high 80’s and low 90’s outside, which made my house in the mid 90’s inside.

I thought I’d do a post today because I’ve been able to run some real world experiments with my tiny house, the AC and solar.  I haven’t seen any real world into practice reports on this stuff, so I figured it would be helpful for you all.

I have yet to hook up my mini split system because it has taken me a long time to find a HVAC installer that would install my mini split, the reason being they all want to sell you the equipment if they are going to install it.  This was an unknown factor to me when I ordered my unit, but these are the bumps in the road you experience when you live The Tiny Life.

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For heating and cooling I opted for the Fujitsu 9RLS2 which is a 9,000 btu unit with a seer rating of 27.  To give you an idea, older systems have a SEER of around 8 to 10, modern systems that are labeled highly efficient have a rating of 15 or so, but most today are around 12-13.  This is very important because me being on solar, my system simply couldn’t handle the less efficient systems.  Read about my tiny house solar panel system by clicking here.  The SEER rating is simply a function of BTUs (British Thermal Units) to Watts.  The higher the number, the better.

The other big reason I choose this unit versus a window unit was that my air handler is wall mounted, out of the way and above eye level.  This does a few things:  keeps my limited square footage clear of stuff, it keeps my windows looking nice because I don’t have a window unit blighting a good design, and keeping it above eye level also makes you forget about it because as humans we don’t often look up.

el_pac_08e9_unit_picWhile I’m trying to get an installer lined up I’m using a Portable Air Conditioner which has worked pretty well.  The downside to it is it takes up a lot of space and it’s not as efficient; it has a SEER rating of 12, which makes my mini split system 225% more efficient than this.

I decided to “stress test” my system by turning the Portable AC unit on high and setting the thermostat to 60 degrees and see how long it was going to take for my batteries of my solar panel system to bottom out (50% discharge).  The charge controller on my system automatically turns off the power to my house if the power in that batteries discharges down to 50%, this allows me to not damage the batteries by discharging too deep.

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As you can see by the chart above, keeping discharge at 50% or above gives me a little shy of 2,000 cycles or 5.4 years.  I plan to add another set of four batteries to the system pretty soon, which will give me a good capacity and keep my discharge rate much higher than 50% (though I don’t often get that low)  In about 5 years we should start seeing some really interesting battery technologies hit market, so I plan to hop on that as soon as my batteries begin to fade.

My stress test turned out pretty good.  With the much less efficient portable air conditioner I ran it solid for 3 days starting with a very warm house.  At the end of the three days I was very close to hitting 50%, but it didn’t ever dip below.  I decided that the test went on long enough to be pretty happy, so I decided to stop.  I typically turn off the AC when I’m gone.

The past few days have been a bit trickier because since my system was so low from the stress test, I needed it to build back up, but we have had a series of cloudy days.   I’ve had plenty of power to run the AC over night, but it’s lower than I’d like.  To give you an idea, on a normal sunny day I make about 1600 watts, on a cloudy day I get between 600 and 800 watts when the clouds are very thick with no gaps.

The really great thing is when it’s hottest, during the day, I can make lots of power.  This allows me to run the AC full blast and I can make enough power to run the AC and still be dumping 1000 watts into the batteries.  Compare this to heating, you most often need the heat at night the most, which is when the sun isn’t out, so its a major drain on your batteries.  To compound the issue of heating, heaters are often more energy intensive than cooling.

The other night I tried an experiment.  I got my house very cold and turned off the AC at midnight (when I usually go to bed).  Outside it was pretty cool, about 65 degrees and about 45% humidity, so not bad.  I left all the windows closed to see how much my body heat would heat up the house and because in the summer, opening the windows doesn’t help even if it is cooler outside because the humidity increase the “feels like” temperature.

As it turns out in just three hours my body heat warmed the loft of my tiny house up to the point that I woke up from being so uncomfortable from the heat.   Around 3:30 am I woke up and it was very hot in my loft.  I checked the time and was surprised how little time it took.  I should note that I’m one that when I fall asleep, I stay asleep all night, even if I get warm, so the fact that I was woken up goes to show how uncomfortable I must have been, because it takes a lot.

I had prepared for this and all I did was crank open my sky light (the highest point in my house) and the loft end window and switched on a fan to draw in cool air.  Within 5 minutes the whole place dropped about 5 degrees and I was back asleep.

So that has been some of my real world experiences with the tiny house, AC and solar.  I know I had always been frustrated by not enough stories on this stuff, so hopefully I can help others.

Some key resources for those wanting more technical stuff

 

Why Only You Can Make It Happen

kljlkI found this video recently that I really liked.  It struck a cord on many levels for me; as a tiny house person, as an entrepreneur, as a location independent / digital nomad.  The video introduces the concept of “learned helplessness” which standing on this side of tiny house (living The Tiny Life) is all too clear to me now.  I now wonder if there are other areas of my life that I just am assuming are the way they are, things that I’m blind to?

What I Know & What I Hope

I’m writing from Portland today, still here after an amazing time at the Tiny House Conference that happened about a week ago.  On Saturday I went to brunch with Laura LaVoie and Matt, where we were chatting about the amazing opportunities we experienced because of our choice to live tiny.

It struck me how lucky we were, to be sitting around a table on an extended vacation sharing a meal with friends.  I all a sudden said “what a gift” and began to share this gratitude with Matt and Laura, we all took a beat to reflect on this gift we have been afforded.

So today I wanted to share what I know about you and what I hope for you.

I Know…

The Tiny Life is a life that anyone can achieve with enough perseverance.

I know YOU can persevere through the doubt, the fear, the questions, and the hard days.

I know the life you can achieve will inspire you, drive you, and open doors.

I know you will value relationships over money, but you’ll have both in abundance.

I know you’ll be empowered when you realize (or realized) the truth: this is MY life.

I Hope…

I hope all you reading this have that moment when you say “I’m going for it”.

I hope that you appreciate what you have right now and fight hard for what you want in the future.

I hope you build a life that inspires you and others; One that others only dream of.

I hope you get to sit around a table with friends and say “what a gift”.

 

 

Behind The Scenes Of The Tiny House Conference

The Tiny House Conference has come to a close and it was an amazing weekend that was a ton of fun.  As always, all the tiny house folks were amazing people who were excited to be there.  We had over 350 folks descend on Portland for a great weekend of sessions, house tours and connecting.

Today I wanted to do a post that shows some of the behind the scenes of the conference.

We had a lot of badge; 407 in all for the attendees, volunteers, staff, speakers, and media.  It took me literally 5 hours to punch out the name cards and insert them into the badges.

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We got ready for the big day by laying all the badges out:

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We also found ourselves in some shenanigans.  Kristie trying to sneak onto the roof:

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Zack and Vincent learning a new way to tie their shoes:

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We had a really long day on Friday getting ready, some of us were fading fast.  Amy being exhausted:

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Caroline taking a nap:

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We took a lot of photos, Christopher Tack was our photographer:

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We also shot a lot of videos.  Jenna and Guillaume:

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Vincent and Zack, our amazing video guys:

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Macy Miller:

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My parents came out to support me, they manned The Tiny Life’s table and got to talk to a lot of people:

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We had some awesome volunteer that helped us out:

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The aftermath of openspace:

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My Minimal Wardrobe

As of late there has been many articles about how Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, Barack Obama all keep a very minimal wardrobe; I was also glad to see a few articles about how women could achieve this too.  A minimal wardrobe is, in my opinion, easier socially for men to achieve than women, but certainly possible and many do.

There are many reasons to have a minimal wardrobe, for me its about saving time and reducing decisions.  Studies have been done that show the more decisions we make, the worse we become at making good judgements and the more it wears on us.  So things like “what shirt should I wear today” can actually impact our abilities later to make the right call on critical decisions later in the day.

So here is my wardrobe:

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This is almost everything for when I’m traveling, when I’m at home its identical, but instead of 7 days of clothes, I have a total of 1o days.  The only thing not shown here is one jacket, a pair of dress socks, a button down shirt, and a pair of dress slacks.  I dress up once a year, so I keep those items in a garment bag in a hard to reach storage space.

  1. 7 charcoal grey short sleeve shirts
  2. 7 white undershirts
  3. 7 pairs of socks
  4. 7 pairs of underwear
  5. 2 pairs of jeans, 2 pairs of shorts, 1 winter hat
  6. 1 blue long sleeve shirt
  7. 1 workout shirt, 1 pair basket ball shorts
  8. 1 shirt to sleep in, 1 pair of flannel sleep pants

This has been a really great setup for me because I can just reach into the specific drawer and without looking, grab what I need in a flash.  The shirts I get are very comfortable, they are plain so they don’t have graphics or logos, and they aren’t too expensive.  At worst they cost me $10 new, sometimes I can get them on sale for a little at $1.50 from Khols.

Other things to note are I have all the same socks.  This means I don’t have to pair them during laundry, I know I can grab two socks and they’ll match.  For shoes I have one pair of sneakers, one pair of hiking boots, and one pair of dress shoes.

I’ve also have washed these clothes individually with hot water and a “color catcher” sheet, this let me remove any dye that might bleed into the whites.  So now when I do laundry, I can do it all in one batch.  Once or twice a year I’ll run an all white batch and bleach it heavily to keep the whites, white.

When I am traveling, I use packing cubes which keeps things neater and makes it easier to find things.  They’re really just square/rectangle mesh bags that you sort into them.

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I travel a good bit of the year so having this translate to a easy pack is important.  The plain shirts and jeans help me blend in a little bit better as a local versus an American tourist.  The packing cubes I use are made by ebags.  I’ve heard good things about Eagle Creek too.  My suitcase is an Osprey Porter 65, which is suitcase that has pull out shoulder straps to become a backpack.  I like it because instead of being top loading like a backpack, it opens up on the front panel so when you put it on the ground, it fully opens and things are very accessible.  The backpack straps also tuck in so they are out of the way so that when in the airport, the straps don’t get caught in rollers etc.

 

 

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