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The Search For New Land – Part 4

This is the fourth part of a series, check out part 1, part 2, and part 3 if you’re new to the blog.

Alright I have some pretty bad news, but first let me go back to where I left off in part three.

So I hired my electrician and he put in a plan for the permit, the city had a few questions, but a quick phone call later they approved the permit.  So with a permit in hand the the city’s blessing I had my electrician install the power box.  The box was installed and we notified the city that it was ready for inspections.  The inspector came out and said we needed to push the stranded cable through the main lug another inch because there was some damage to one of the strands, so we did that, quick fix.  He came out again and said everything looked good, but the inspector’s boss wanted me to call him first.

photo-2So I called the number and the man told me that he was going to rescind the permit because they had made a mistake.  The stated reason was that if I just had power out there on this empty land, someone could mess with it.  More specifically he said, and these were his words, not mine: “Junkies will break in to steal the copper and kill themselves.”  I was beyond angry that they messed up and I now had to pay the electrician even though I couldn’t get power and floored he’d say an excuse like that in those words.  So after talking with them, my electrician and the power company, the three people involved called me back and said “we figured out a solution”… I was ecstatic!  ” and it’s only going to cost you about $10,000″…  I was devastated!

I am not going to spend $10,000 for a power pole to be installed, only for them to then turn around and charge me every month.  Its just not in the cards, particularly because I’m only leasing the land.  So plan C…

Plan C was to get a solar power system that would run my house.  Not a big deal right?

Now many people would just swing by Harbor freight and pick up a cheap solar panel kits, but those honestly are woefully underpowered.  You can basically run a cell phone and laptop off that, maybe a fan for a few hours too.  In my house I have the following items that use power:

  • Mini Fridge – 100 watts
  • Laptop – 50 watts
  • cell phone – 5 watts
  • LED lights – 100 watts total
  • Mini Split HVAC – 500 watts on low, 700 watts on high

So if you times those watts by the hours of use, add it all up, you get 11,530 watt/hours.  This translates to a pretty big system, I got a few quotes and they seem to range between $14,000 and $18,000.  The system is so expensive because of the battery bank, I was looking at about $8,000 just in batteries and cable interconnects.  Again, just not in the cards.  What is crazy is that most of the system at that size is just for the HVAC, which currently is the smallest mini split on the market, but also the most efficient on the market at 27.8 SEER rating; compared to a standard AC unit today, most are around 13 SEER.

Before people start emailing me and commenting.  I know I could live without AC, I could use a swamp cooler, I could use a cooler with ice and a fan.  Sure I could, but I don’t want to and that’s my choice. I live in NC and when its 95 and ridiculously humid, I want AC on those days.  I’m also thinking about next year “summer-ing” somewhere colder, as in, finding a place to rent up north during the summer months.

So now to plan D….  Without the HVAC I am looking at a system around $6,000-$8,000 which is a whole lot of money, but its more manageable… Relativity speaking.  I figured that I can start with this smaller system, use my generator on the really hot days to run my AC; I already own a Honda EB2000i (almost identical to the popular EU2000i, this just has a pure sine inverter and GFCI).  Running the generator with the load of my AC unit via a drop cord, I used a Kill-a-watt meter to determine it would run at a quarter load or less on the “eco-mode” and could run 24 hrs on a little over 1 gallon of gas.  So the arrangement is not ideal, but I could at least have power, use fans most of the time and those days that I just want to enjoy the pure bliss of a AC cooled house, it would only cost me about $4 a day.

The Honda EB2000i is also ridiculously quite.  At a quarter load at about 200′ line of sight you almost can’t hear it. If I was inside my house I doubt I could hear it 50 feet away, if the AC was running, it could be at my front door and I wouldn’t hear it.  In this approach I’ve also opted to be in a different place on the property, where I am 100% shaded during the entire day, I’ve found this makes the heat much better, so all you have to deal with is the humidity and a little cooling around the hottest part of the day.

So that is where I am now.  Even though the city had said yes, then changed their minds, I still owe the electrician $800 and have nothing to show for it.  The lesson I’ve learned is if you have land or going to buy land, first figure out power and water.  If you’re buying the land, I’d make an offer contingent on the ability to get both; in fact I’d tell the seller: “I’ll buy it, if you get the power and water running before the sale.  If you can’t I walk away”

 

North Carolina Tiny House Community

highlandlakecove

On Easter morning I had the pleasure of speaking with Kerry Lindsey, an innovator and developer in Flat Rock, North Carolina who has begun a project to bring tiny houses to his existing retreat centered community. I was excited to hear about his plans and what he has going on in this gem of a town in the Blue Ridge Mountains. It was so inspiring to speak with Lindsey about his experiences living the tiny life, what he’s accomplished and his continued plans involving tiny houses, community and the importance of mindfulness in our current world. Check it out!

How did you discover the tiny house movement and what drew your interest?

My interest in tiny houses began when we were kids. My folks built their first home from the rock and logs off the land of their mini farm, and as kids we copied them; building 2 fairly sophisticated tree houses (for kids) and a tiny log cabin. That interest continued and a couple of years out of high school I bought a junked school bus for $150 and converted it into a camper/house , traveling for several months (Kesey style) around the southeast in it with a handful of hippie friends . I continued building small outbuildings at my own first mini farm and after buying this property, restored all the old summer camp cabins here as we started the first conference center. By the time Jay Schafer came to town the first time, 4-5 years ago, I had the bug bad and was dredging and creating waterfront sites in the early stages of this project.

What is your ideal vision in building and sustaining tiny houses IMG-20140228-00049construction and what life experiences brought your developing such community?

This place is the intersection of three strong paths in my life: creating artistic buildings, a 5 business entrepreneurial streak and the understanding gleaned from my own spiritual community about the essence of community. So many of the outcomes we’ve looked for in the so called “American Dream” can’t be found in a media driven consumerist approach to life. It takes slowing down. Living a simpler lifestyle (like Tiny House living) as well as creating a more intentional approach to community can be a great support for the peace and happiness we all aspire towards. While I think many folks want to build these to garner more independence, I think its the fact that one can both have that, and create truly supportive communities (by “rounding up the wagons” so to speak) that is so interesting. We all need privacy but there is also a certain magic in coming together more collaboratively to create things together.

What influences stylistically are you basing your designs off of?

I lean towards the Appalachian cabin vernacular but with a whimsical twist. Tree houses….hobbit houses…. Creativity is energizing and the more that people are connected to the shelters they build or personalize, the more life it brings into the community. It creates a felt-sense of place. This is not to say we don’t have guidelines….we are in the middle of a retreat center business after all, and the place needs to feel congruent with our reason for being here.

IMG-20140228-00048What demographic are you attempting to reach?

Like we did in our first neighborhood across the street, we strive to appeal to an inter-generational market because diversity adds to the value of communities. I can see our larger models clustered together around a common house to create a pocket neighborhood akin to a senior co-housing community: because we also put an emphasis on creating business opportunities within the projects we’ve done, and have kid friendly areas, I’d also expect to see a younger crowd here, learning both how to build a home and start a business. The third market is “second home” folks like here in the Garden Hamlet People that are simply wanting a quiet place to get away to on weekends or to take a vacation. Like the Hamlet cottages that surround the goat meadow, these cabins can also be placed back in the retreat rental pool so that folks can earn a little off their investment when they’re not using them.

What is your timeline for development? Have you started construction and when do you project to complete this community?

We are 28 years into the overall community and the retreat section is the 4th of the 7 planned phases. We’ve got our primary infrastructure in as well as the new cafe/community building. Four tiny’s are under way (mostly students from Dan Louche’s workshop here last fall) as well as our first double-sized one, a 400 sq ft unit. This is a two module design that can be moved with a normal pick up truck. Because there are many great Tiny House providers on the market today, our focus is primarily on the next size up. While its not something one would haul around day to day like an RV, it would be moveable so that people could have more flexibility about where they live. Here we’ll have lots that can be leased which will make it a very affordable community for young folks starting out or retirees looking for an unencumbered, active, learning, community based life style.

In what ways do permaculture and tiny house ideals coincide for you? How do you feel they compliment each other?

Well the obvious first part is their small footprint and how well they can be integrated into a mini-farm like layout. Here at the Garden Hamlet, even though the cottages are larger, over 60% of the land is held in permanent open space for gardens, greenhouses, fruit trees, farm animals and gardens.

Can you elaborate on your community incubator series and how highlandlakecove1that has played a role in your development of community?

The fundamental learning tracks in it grew out of my experience working with key employees over the course of my 43 years in business….helping them take a more “intra”preneurial approach to running their departments. My approach is more along the lines of the Integral Incubator Series at Integral Institute in Boulder. Beyond the basics, I’m more interested in helping folks with a Four Bottom Line approach. . . People Planet Profit & Personal Transformation. Part of the purpose of the incubator is to help people create meaningful work in their own communities. I deem myself lucky because I always found myself in a business that arose out of personal passions and creativity and always kept me learning and evolving. So many folks work so they can retire. I prefer to help people create work that’s inspiring.

Are you going to have workshops this summer geared towards building tiny houses?

Yes our next on is May 24th-25th. It will be taught by Teal Brown of Wishbone Tiny Homes here in Asheville along with some of our students and staff for certain elements. It will also include an introduction to building with cob for folks thinking about creating more fixed structures.

To find out more about workshops, retreats and the community visit www.highlandlakecove.com!

Thanks again Kerry for talking to me and for growing tiny house love and community in the Carolinas!

 

Your Turn!

  • Are you inspired by tiny houses to build community? If so, how?

Via

Tiny House Conference 2014 – Photos

So a few weeks after the conference I’ve finally got around to posting photos, trying to finish my house by the end of this month has had me busy!  Here are a bunch of photos from the conference.  Our photographer for the event was Christopher Tack.

_DSC6157

Two houses just arriving

_DSC6158Dee and Frank

_DSC6160Hanging out in Frank’s tiny house

_DSC6173The Eco-Box

_DSC6185Speaker’s dinner and pre-conference meeting

_DSC6190

Click the more link to see the rest of the photos:

Read more

Topics For Tiny House Conference 2015?

Simple post today.  We are looking ahead and planning our next conference to be in Portland April, 2015.  Let us know in the comments!

portland-conference-logo

What topics would you like to see presented by our tiny house experts?

 

The Search For New Land – Part 3

First you should know this is a continuation of previous post: The Search For Land Part 1 and Part 2. As many of you know it can be tricky to find land and my experience was very similar.  After you’ve read those posts this post will make more sense.

So where I am at today.  The house is nearing the home stretch and I am frantically trying to finish it because the lease on apartment ends next week!  The trick to all of this has been getting a lease on the land.  Then land owner and I struck a deal where I pay $1.00 a month (yes a dollar) and I help him out with some website stuff every now and then.  The land owner also wanted to be sure his liability insurance would cover me being on the property and after them going back and forth for a long while, they had to tweak some things.  The land owner’s insurance went up about $300 and he asked that I pay that amount since it was an incurred cost on my behalf, which was totally fair.  He also asked that I have liability insurance, so I picked up a $2,000,000 policy for $425 a year.  So my insurance total was $725 a year, but my rent was only $12 a year.

Next up is was securing water, power and building a road.  This is where I am now.

Water

This has proven to be the most expensive part of the whole thing.  A lot of people want to collect rain water off their roofs for water, but I crunched the numbers on my tiny house.  A typical tiny house’s roof is 8 feet wide and 20 feet long.  That is 160 square feet; for every inch of rain on a square foot you’ll get .6 gallons of water.   So for my house that is 96 gallons of water per inch of rain, in my area after some googling I found that my area gets about 43 inches of rain per 1511479_762555291518_720276449591449371_oyear.  So the math works out to be that I would get 4,128 gallons of water a year off my roof.  I quickly realized that this wasn’t practical for me because even if I had a 1 gallon per minute shower head, assuming a 15 minute shower, that’s 5,475 a year, which doesn’t include cooking, cleaning, drinking, etc.  The math didn’t add up.

Since I was leasing the land, it didn’t make sense to put in a well (would cost me about $10,000) so I decided to tie in with the city water system.  The water main from the city also happened to be running right along the property line, so it couldn’t be more ideal.  So I went in and filled out the paperwork for the city and they gave me my total bill and I was shocked!  For them to install a meter, I had to pay the city, $2,231!!!  What’s worse was it was the city, so they set the price and you have to go to them.  So I had to pay over $2,200 just for them to install a meter, so they could use it to charge me for the water I used!  Once the meter is in, I still have to get it to my house, because for $2,200 they only bring it to the property line.

Then on top of that they told me it would take 2 months to install; this was a problem because I needed to move in a few weeks (at that time) and I couldn’t apply for the water until I had the lease, which I had only gotten the day before when I applied.  The end result is I’ll be living without water for a few weeks, I plan to get a gym membership and have a water jug service come during this time.

 

Power

Next up is electricity.  Where I am at, the property is densely wooded so solar isn’t an option as of now, but I am looking into it for the future.  I also talked with the power company and an electrician and to get the power setup on the lot was going to be about $800 plus 9 cents a KW which wasn’t too bad considering how little power I’ll be using.  Solar is something I do want to do, but I figured right now it isn’t possible and then I also wanted to track my power usage in the tiny house for a year or so in order to size my solar panel system in the future correctly.

The process has gone like this:  Contact power company, they came out and said where they could bring in a line.  I contacted an electrician to setup the box.  The box will be inspected.  The power company checks the inspection and connects the service.  A few other random details: Installation is a simple affair, takes an hour or so when they get scheduled.  Inspection in my area is between 24-72 hours barring any complications. The power company now only will do a 200 amp service (which isn’t an issue, actually a plus).  The power company said they’d do the first 200 feet for free if I had service for a year, after 200 feet it gets really really expensive.

Road Access

Roads are something that a lot of people don’t think about.  Also note that these price can vary in different areas and I don’t have anyone I know who has equipment or personal connections, so I’ll be paying for it all.  I have only got quotes at this point, but its looking like it will cost me about $500 for labor/bobcat and then about $300-$500 in materials (geo-textile fabric, gravel, etc.).  I thought about trying my hand with a rental bobcat, which honestly would be a lot of fun to drive, but when I got the price for the rental, deliver, fees, taxes etc. it was going to be about $800 to rent a bobcat in my area.  In my area you can hire a bobcat driver and his rig for about $60 an hour which includes him showing up with his machine, the gas, and him running it.  So it was actually cheaper for me to pay someone to do it, plus they’ll do a better job than I would since I’ve never used a bobcat before.

Sequencing of things

Another big thing I’ve run into was how things had to go down.  I couldn’t start anything until I had my lease, which took much longer than anticipated, but I got a formal lease and it worked out.  Once I had that I could put in for the power and water.  I wanted to have all those things done before I ever put in the road, because they are both underground lines, so I would have to dig up my road to install them.  I also wanted to have the water and power installed and inspected, then give myself at least a few weeks so that if an inspector was curious about what was going on and decided to swing by later on, he/she wouldn’t see anything because I built in a cooling off period.  At that point I’d install the road and then move the house out there.  The best laid plans of mice and men often go astray as they say.  I’m going to try to do this the best I can still, but its going to have to happen in a shorter time.

Total Costs

I think this should be a real wake up call for a lot of people who think that the cost of a tiny house stops at the tiny house.  Some lots will have these things already which is something you should try to get.  These are my real world numbers and while they will vary for you in your area and if you have connections that will save you money that will help, but at the end of the day you’ll have to deal with the city and the power company and they hold a monopoly, setting the prices that you can’t get around.

Insurance: $725 a year
Rent: $12 a year
Electricity connection: $800
Water connection: $2,231
Road: $1,000
____________________________
Total: $4,768

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