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My New On Demand Hot Water Heater

So last week I talked about how I was ditching the RV-500 from Precision Temp and moving to a whole new system.  Today I thought I’d share a bit about what I decided to go with instead.

After looking around I had narrowed my options to a propane outdoor on demand hot water heater.  This did a few things for me:

  • It allowed me to regain my under skin storage space
  • Choosing an outdoor version keeps venting very simple, indoor versions require bulky venting
  • I almost tripled my BTU’s from 55k to 150k that meant I could have hot showers on very cold days

There were two major downsides to this option however.  The first was that I was going to have to redo most of my plumbing and gas lines, that meant that it would most likely require a plumber (I don’t like messing with gas lines), which is expensive.  Having to hire a plumber isn’t too bad, but the next downside was the real kicker.  Because the unit was going to be outdoors, if it drops below 32 degrees, most units have a heater.  Heaters are great, because they keep it from freezing, but it’s not great for off grid solar setups.

Winter is a challenging time for solar because the sun is a lower angle, plus its often overcast on many days.  Heating also takes up around 20% more power than cooling, so there are times I need to break out the generator.

What sealed the deal for me was when I talked with one plumber that Rinnai (a tankless manufacturer) had a power failure dump valve kit they could add on.  Basically what this is two solenoid valves that would close the feed line and open a drain valve to drain the water out of the unit.

This meant that if I knew it was going to freeze that night, I could flip a switch to drain the whole unit after I finished cooking for the evening.  If for some reason I forgot or was away, if the power went out, it would automatically drain since the heater couldn’t keep it warm enough.

In total, the unit, the solen0id kit, installation, other parts, and removal of the old water heater came to $2900, which is a lot of money, but after I saw how much work they put into it and how complex the additional solenoid kit install was, I think it was money well spent.  I believe it also meets requirements for a 30% federal tax credit, which is $860 off what I will owe to the IRS.

Initial Impressions:

The unit I got was the Rinnai V53e, which is their value line.  It’s frankly more than I need in terms of capacity, but it’s the smallest in the line.  So far I’m very happy with the unit.  I’ve been using it for 3 weeks now and the biggest change I’ve noticed is that I can take very hot showers, even when it’s very cold out.  Just today it was in the high 20’s and the water was hot enough I had to turn it down a fair bit.  With the RV-500, at temperatures like today, I’d be taking a cold shower even when it was working full steam.

The unit’s pump and vent make more noise that I expected, but it’s not too loud.  In a normal sized house I doubt you’d hear it.  For me it’s mounted on the other side of the wall from my shower so you hear it’s thrumming.

The biggest win is that I get my under sink storage back and the dump valve kit is amazing.  If I’m worried about the heater unit wearing down my batteries.  I just flip a switch and the water is instantly dumped on the ground, problem solved.

 

Your Turn!

  • How do you plan to heat water in your tiny house?

Ryan’s Tiny House Kitchen

It’s been a long time since I’ve done an update on my house, I had my kitchen done a long time ago, but never really took any photos.  So today I wanted to share some of those photos and the design that went into my kitchen.

tiny-house-kitchen-8

So first off I started by putting together a Pinterest board of ideas I liked (I’ve since deleted it).  This let me consider features I wanted to bake into my design, I also narrowed down to my color scheme for the tiny house interior.  I have such a hard time choosing colors so this was a big hurtle for me.

I then got into the design:

tiny-house-kitchen-layout

Some renderings before hand (note the colors aren’t correct here):

tiny-house-kitchen-rendering

With this rendering you can see the main cabinet which will house the sink, the hot water heater and it has this pull out storage bin which was designed for cans.

tiny-house-kitchen-cabinet

This is the main storage cabinet which allows me to keep pots, pans, food below.  In the top drawers I custom designed them for utensils and spices.

The whole thing came together like this:

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Your Turn!

  • What features do you want in your tiny house kitchen?

 

Ryan’s House Update – Podcast

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I just released a new episode of the podcast yesterday, check it out.

Listen by clicking here

5 Things I Got Totally Wrong About Tiny Houses

Having been involved with tiny houses for over 6 years now, having built my own tiny house, and now living in it, I’ve realized something: I got a few things really wrong. Some were assumptions I made about living in them, some of them were about the lifestyle, and some of them were about building them. So here are 5 things I got totally wrong.

i-was-wrong

1. I thought it was about the house, it’s not

When I first started with tiny houses, I was in love with the house, the design, the materials, and all the appointments. Now that I’m living in my house I realize that was so wrong; it has absolutely nothing to do with the house. It has everything to do with the lifestyle. The truth is, a tiny house is just another thing you buy, under the guise of breaking away from consumerism. But the break is not from the diminutive dwelling, it is in the mental separation from conspicuous consumption.

2. I thought I couldn’t buy things

Long before I found myself in the tiny house realm I was a big consumer. I loved gadgets and tech. Once I started going down the path of tiny houses I thought that portion of my life – and somewhat, my identity as a nerd – needed to come to a close, but I was all right with that because the benefits outweighed the “costs”. But then I realized it wasn’t that I couldn’t have the things I wanted, I just needed to be more intentional about them; in reality, I’m able have the things I want more readily because I have the cash to buy them.

3. I thought money worries would be a thing of the past

I crunched the numbers, made spreadsheets, and had a budget, all things pointed to me not really having to worry about money. The truth is that my tolerance for how close I was running to zero just changed. Before a tiny house if I had less than $2,000 in the bank I’d be nervous. Now that I live in a tiny house that anxiety hasn’t gone away, it’s just at a different level.

These days I freak out when my bank account drops below $20,000. I know what some of you are thinking, “$20,000! that’s a ton of money, you have nothing to worry about!” and 3 years ago I’d be in the same place, but it somehow is still just as real, just as scary; I can’t quite explain why, but the truth is that angst will never go away.

4. I thought my tiny house would be perpetually neat and tidy, just like all the tiny house photos

AHAHAHAHHAA! Boy was I wrong! There are many times my house is very tidy, but there are times it gets way out of control. I always keep a clean house, it just isn’t always neat. The truth is your tiny house will go from tidy to way out of control in about 5 seconds flat because it’s so small. It’s not that you’re a messy or dirty person, but if you put a single thing down, it starts to add up quickly due to the small space you’re living in. The other day I walked into my house, dropped my work bag, my gym bag and took of my shoes… it looked like a bomb had gone off and I had to move stuff out of the way just to open my closet to drop my keys and wallet.

5. I thought I’d be done building

When you build a tiny house, you’ll never be done. There will always be a few things that you want to improve, to try, to fix, etc. That is not to say that your house won’t be livable, you’ll most likely move in and keep doing things. There will always be a board to fix, some more trim to add, or a new shelf to build into a nook. Another part of this is you’ve suddenly acquired a new skill set – woodworking – and even though most of us are still newbies to it, you don’t go out and build a whole house if you aren’t one who likes building things. I’m really excited about the prospect of starting some smaller woodworking projects that I get to flex my fine woodworking skills with.

Wifi For Your Tiny House

One very common question I get about my tiny house is about internet.  For the most part its exactly the same as getting internet in any home, a tiny house is a house after all, it just happens to be small.

My original plan was to have normal cable internet brought to the tiny house.  This took me longer than I would have liked because it was dependent on power.  You obviously need to power the modem and to do that I needed to get my solar power squared away.

all-i-want-is-a-cabin-in-the-woods-with-wifi-af0b9With solar all setup, I called Time Warner which is the only internet provider that was available to me.  I checked all the big companies, local shops and even satellite, but they have things so monopolized you literally don’t have any other choice.  I loathe Time Warner, but I need internet, so I scheduled them to come out.

They came out and did a survey, they then let me know the cost to just install it: $2,500! Mainly because my tiny house sits so far back from the road.  It should also be noted that the same day I got that estimate, Google announced they were coming to Charlotte to bring Google Fiber, which is fiber optic gigabit internet.

So what I decided to do is wait for Google Fiber, because I expect the install cost will be very similar and I’d give almost anything to never deal with Time Warner again.  The other factor that weighed in on my decision was that come September, I will be opening a coworking space, where I will have an office and internet.

While I decided to wait, I still needed internet.  So I opted for a mobile hotspot which functions off cell phone signals to get 4G internet.  I considered two options:

  1. Verizon Jetpack 6620L
  2. Karma Go

These two options were pretty appealing to me for two very different reasons.  The Verizon Jetpack would work well, Verizon has very good 4G coverage, so I knew I could connect almost anywhere.  The Karma Go is a prepay setup with no fees, but it uses Sprint’s which has drastically less coverage, even in a city like mine.  The other thing is Karma Go is a startup and they haven’t actually released their newest version of hardware and have been pushing their delivery date back for months at this point.

In the end I bought both.

452150-verizon-mifi-jetpack-6620l-angle

I already have a contract with Verizon, so it was easy to add on.  I bought the unit out right for $200 so I could stop and start service as I saw fit.  When I have service it costs me $20 + data. As on this posting I get 15 gigs a month for $100.  My total internet bill right now is $120.  If you’re considering this, make sure you get the Jetpack 6620L, because the cheaper versions only do 4G, but not 3G, which you really need both.  The 6220L does both, plus international GSM, so you can hop on a plane, buy a sim card where ever you are and just drop it in.

Karma_device_2_white_smallFor the Karma Go, it cost me $100 + data with no contracts.  I should note that I pre-ordered it in December and still haven’t received it (delays in their manufacturing).  The Karma Go will let me load data credits on it and there aren’t fees, so I can drop a few gigs in it and just keep it in my bag just in case.  I can get 10 gigs for $100, no other fees.

So far I’ve only had a chance to put the Verizon Jetpack through its paces, but it has held up to it all.  I’ve had a few hiccups with it having ip address conflicts, but they are rare and easily fixed with a restart of my hotspot.

To give you an idea of data usage:

  • Sending an email (w/out attachment): 100,000 emails per gig
  • Surfing the web varies so widely I can’t put a number on it
  • Streaming music: 10 hours per gig
  • Youtube depends on the quality
    • 240p: 6 hours per gig
    • 360p: 4 hours per gig
    • 480p: 2 hours per gig
    • 720p: 1 hour per gig
    • 1080p: 30 minutes per gig
  • Nextflix/Hulu
    • low quality: 3 hours per gig
    • medium quality: 2 hours per gig
    • high quality: 30-45 minutes per gig

I’ve learned some tricks to save on data.  Your biggest user of data is videos.  If you can control that, you can cut your bill down pretty significantly.  First thing I did was turn off autoplaying videos on Facebook.  You need to do this in two places.

Your phone:

wpid5500-open-settings-in-ios-and-navigate-to-facebook

Your computer:

Facebook-Auto-play-Video-Settings

The next thing I did was set youtube to a lower quality.  This is somewhat of a pain because when on normal wifi I want full blown HD, but on mobile wifi I want low (240 or 360).  To do this you go into your youtube settings and select that you have a low connect:

 

How-to-Set-the-Default-Video-Playback-Quality-for-YouTube-VideosFor netflix:

ultimate-guide-smoother-netflix-streams-any-device-anywhere.w654

 

Those are you big wins with data usage.  If you stream tv shows or movies, I’d suggest actually download them in bulk when you are on normal wifi.  There are a variety of legal and illegal ways to do that, but I’m not going to go into that here.

 

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