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Three Years In My Tiny House!

I can’t believe that it has been three whole years since I first moved into my tiny house full time!  Life has flown by and so much has changed.  Let’s start with where I was three years ago and where I am now…

Where I Was

About four years ago I was still working full time at a job I didn’t love.  I didn’t hate it, but it was just okay.  Knowing that I was about to make the move into my tiny house, I took a chance, I left that job and went on to do my own thing, making the leap to self employment.

first dinner in my tiny house

It was kinda scary, but I had a lot of things to get done so I just buried myself into the work to the point that I didn’t have time to worry about it.  I moved out of my apartment and into my tiny house and my new life began.  It was odd in a way, I remember sitting in my chair and feeling very much at home.

One thing that I learned is that it is better to have your house 100% finished before you move in, I had several things I needed to get done and honestly it was years before I finished it all.

 

Where I Am Now

Today I’m still working on my own, having built two companies and sold one of them very recently.  During my tiny house journey I’ve landed two book deals, writing the number one selling tiny house book to date!

I’ve traveled to many countries: Croatia, Hungry, Bosnia, Belgium, France, and a few others.  I also have been able to take some extended trips here in the US: Pacific North West for 2 weeks, New England for 2 weeks, twice went to Portland for 6 weeks, St. Louis, New York, Grand Canyon and spent several weeks at the beach.

I’ve also had a chance to spend more time with my family and friends.  It’s been really nice to take time when friends or family have the odd day off.  My sister is a teacher, so its great to spend time when she has random vacation days.  I can take extra time to go see my brother or go spend time with my parents on a random Friday.

friends and free time

The funny thing about working on your own and living the tiny life is you have a lot of free time, but most people have normal schedules and spend a lot of time at their job.  The irony of it all is I end up keeping a semi normal social schedule because that’s when everyone else is free to hang out.

Some other ways that my life has improved is that I get to have a solid night’s sleep almost every day, between 8 and 9 hours.  Despite not having to be anywhere at any time, I still set my alarm to wake up at 9:30 am, I get up, shower, shave, get dressed and make breakfast.

There is something very important about that ritual, it helps me not laze around the house.  I will go somewhere to work: one of my favorite coffee shops, a coworking space, or other place to get my work done.  I do my work until I am done for the day; sometimes its a full day’s work, sometimes it’s 45 minutes of work.  After that I try to get out and do something.  Often I go for a walk, get groceries for that night’s dinner, or work on a fun project or hobby.

Lessons Learn

I’ve learned a lot about myself, what I like and what I need.  Below is a random stream of consciousness of things learned over my three years.

If it’s something you are going to use daily, don’t skimp, splurge.  Great examples are my sink, my stove, my pans, my couch, and my mattress.  For example, when I choose my stove, I was shocked to find the one I liked was close to $500 for a two burner, but now I’m so thankful that I spent that money.  My sink was $250 plus $200 for the faucet, they are super well built and work perfectly in the space.

Don’t park your tiny house near trees, I’ve had many trees almost hit my tiny house, if I could do it all over again I’d clear the trees before my house was brought in so if any fell, they couldn’t reach my house.

Spend the money on a cement pad to set the house up on.  Make it 2 feet bigger than you need it in both directions. Make sure it’s perfectly level and getting your house on blocks will be much easier and much safer.

When you’re leveling your house, spend the money to buy treated 2×12 boards, cut them into 12″ x 12″ squares, have at least 30 on hand to level your house.  Again, much safer.

tiny house solar panelsOn your solar panel system, figure out what you think you need and then oversize the system by at least 30%.  Make sure your system can scale several times its current size.  Also make sure you can put in a propane/natural gas generator that has auto start and an inverter that supports it.

Always keep 1 year’s worth of propane on hand.  Have both 20lb tanks and a dozen 1 lb tanks.

Have a back up for everything: a shower, cook top, generator, batter powered lantern and head lamps, Mr. Buddy Heater and a battery powered fan.  I talk about off grid living misconceptions here.

Make plans in your house to have a serious pantry.  I thought I had enough space, but I really didn’t until I added something in my bathroom.  I’d suggest a space that’s at least 3 feet wide, 1 foot deep and 6 feet tall for all your food items, toiletries, and other house hold stuff.

Having your toilet outside is great, there is rarely a time I’ve wished it was inside.  The lug-able loo toilet seat is great and for $12, well worth the money.

When it comes to flooring, hire someone that does it professionally.  It’s back breaking work and they will do a much better job, much quicker and its money worth spending.

Tile totally works in a tiny house, I love my bathroom floor.

Standing seam metal roofs are amazing.  They look great, they are bomb proof and I wouldn’t do it any other way.  This is another place to hire someone.

 

That’s all I have for now!

Your Turn!

  • What life changes do you want to make when you go tiny?

 

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

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 my color scheme for the tiny house interior.  I have such a hard time choosing colors so this was a big hurdle 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.  I custom designed the top drawers for utensils and spices.

The whole thing came together like this:

tiny-house-kitchen-1

tiny-house-kitchen-7

tiny-house-kitchen-4

tiny-house-kitchen-3

tiny-house-kitchen-2

tiny-house-kitchen-10

tiny-house-kitchen-11

tiny-house-kitchen-12

tiny-hous-kitchen-13

tiny-house-kitchen-14

Your Turn!

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

 

Ryan’s House Update – Podcast

ryans-update-tiny-house

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 alright 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 adds up quickly because the space is small that you’re living in. The other day I walked into my house, dropped my work bag, my gym bag and took off my shoes… it looked like a bomb had gone off. 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.

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