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Posts Tagged Tiny House

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?

What Is The Number One Indicator Of Someone Actually Going Tiny?

Having covered tiny houses for eight years now, I see many people who want to live in a tiny house, but only a fraction actually take the leap.  So I thought it would be interesting to ask what some of the experts thought about what separates the people who actually make the leap to tiny house living.

kristie-wolfe

I think they aren’t afraid in the unknown. People that are okay with not knowing everything but confident that they’ll figure it out.

alek-lisefski

The only commonality really is just the ability to trust their own common sense. But I also think it takes a bit of a rebel and change-maker. It really is a subtle act of civil disobedience. Most tiny housers are not afraid to buck the trend and take tangible steps to live in manner that is more affordable and sustainable in the face of a massive culture of consumerism.

ryan-mitchell

They don’t make excuses. People who want to live in a tiny house will stop at nothing to live in their house.  They don’t want to live in a tiny house because they think they’re cute, they realize the life changing potential they afford and pursue their goals with zeal.

dan-and-jess-sullivan

An irrefutable desire to get back to the most basic and fruitful things in life, connections with family and friends, connection with nature, and freedom to live life outside the chains of debt.

deek-diedricksen

They often hold the hammer upside-down. No, there are like 4507 of ’em, but I frequently see terrible window placement on many of the tiny houses of today- that being window placement without regard to airflow, privacy, aesthetics, and rigidity/safety (while in transit for wheeled homes).

ella-jenkins

Faith in things working out. If you wait until you have every possible component and have thought of every possible thing before you start you’ll be waiting a long time. Risk takers and ‘build it and they will come’ types seem to have a much greater likelihood of taking the leap.

ethan-waldman

Unyielding determination to live the way that you want to live. And creativity- so many tiny house dwellers are amazingly creative people.

gabirella-morrisson

Making a decision to bring the dream to fruition. We often see people amass a ton of information, line up their ducks. figure out their finances, but nothing can move forward unless a decision is actually made to take the first step.

jenna-spesard

Happiness. Living in a Tiny House is a challenge, yet the challenge is extremely fulfilling. If you make that leap, you will be proud of your achievement.

laura-lavoie

Someone who is a risk taker. I see it again and again. If you’re willing to take risks in other aspects of your life, you are far more likely to go follow through with going tiny. This isn’t a movement for someone who wants to play it safe.

macy-miller

Persistence. It has nothing to do with talent, or expertise, you have to be patient and persistent. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

kent-griswold

Commitment to make the changes to downsize and follow through with the steps it takes to make a dream become a reality.

steven-harrell

Dwellers IMHO seem to be decision makers. Some folks see something and decide its right for them, tossing excuses aside. Others decide something it right for them but never move the needle from “wanting” to “doing.”

 

A very special thanks to the folks who participated:

Your Turn!

  • What are the biggest barriers to you making the leap?
  • What have you learned that might make your journey more likely to succeed?

My Tiny House Saved Me From Financial Disaster

why-youre-broke-tiny-house

I’ve been back and forth on writing this post for a long time, 5 months in fact.  Baked into this story is a fair bit of embarrassment. But in the end, I know that many people out there have been put in similarly compromising positions and this might be helpful.

This is the story of the worst financial disaster of my life.  The story starts with me working with an accountant for the first time in my life.  I’ve always done my own taxes, but things have gotten very complicated now with owning multiple businesses, a small army of contractors, etc.  I earn very little from this website, it’s my other ventures that bring in most of my income.

Tragedy Strikes:

I had submitted everything to my accountant way ahead of time and he had informed me that my taxes for the year would be around $3,000.  Not great, but as a self employed person you usually get pretty slammed with taxes.  From there I made a lot of decisions about spending, planning and budgeting for the next year.  I was feeling really good.

Then I got the bad news in a phone call….   “Ryan I’m so sorry, we made a mistake with your taxes, you don’t owe $3,000, you actually owe, $30,000 in taxes.  We made a decimal mistake”

I was at a total loss for words.  I was sick to my stomach. I felt hopeless.

I eventually calmed down and started to think.  This was a problem, a problem that had a solution.  It was a budget that needed to tighten the belt in a way that I had never done before.  So I broke out my computer and started a spreadsheet that allowed me to fully understand what I owed and when.

Identifying two important facts:

1. I needed to come up with a lot of cash, which I now had a real world number for

2. I also understood that timing was going to be a huge factor.

The name of the game for me was to earn more income while I timed very precisely spending to meet all my commitments.  Certain bills weren’t due for several months and my taxes weren’t due for about two months because I had done them so early.  Each time I paid a bill I had to quickly ramp my account back up in a perfect way so that I could be on point for the next bill.  This meant that there were times I’d be close to zero, but it would be part of the plan.

The ripple effect… of Death

The real chaos came from the fact that I had some other big bills coming up, having to pay $30k in taxes all of sudden was creating a ripple effect that left unchecked, would spell disaster.  A lot of my planning deals with working with cash flow, I don’t get a steady paycheck since I’m self employed.  This means I earn money and have to make it last until the next time I get paid.  Timing is so critical and a shock to the system of this magnitude was devastating despite me having a solid emergency fund.

The main considerations to my budgeting:

  1. Understand my expenses down to the dollar.
  2. Understand my income, but operate under the worst case scenario
  3. Develop a strategy to increase income, assumed most would fail
  4. Remove costs that weren’t critical, go as lean as possible
  5. Stick to my budget no matter what

The big thing here was understand expenses and income, but operate in the worst case scenario when it came to my income projections.  For expenses, I used my real fixed costs and projected variable costs with 6 months past data

I then needed to come with a strategy to earn more income fast.  What this meant was I needed to get two big projects I had been casually working on out the door, I had to hustle a second income from somewhere and I had to make this happen quick.  This lead me to my first lesson:

Lesson Number One:

I’ve learned that sometimes it comes down to income, not expenditures.  This is a particularly tough pill to swallow at times because when we talk about budgeting, debt and savings its often a discussion of what we can cut out.  The truth is we can cut out all the fluff, go very lean and still not have enough; that is what happened here for me.  What this means is that we need to work on the other side of the equation: income.   I realized that was the case with me, cutting lattes would get me no where.  I need to earn more to make this equation work.

How I Boosted My Income:

As I mentioned I was able to get two projects out the door, but I didn’t stop there.  I operated under the assumption that most of my efforts would fail.  With that mindset I knew I needed to move on a lot of ways to earn income to find a success.  So from there I looked at my skills and sent some emails to connections offering my services.  I was able to land a business coaching gig and a marketing strategy coaching session.  I did a few other things, but you get the idea.

Lesson Number Two:

One thing I realized at this point was I’m pretty good at a lot of marketable skills .  This brings us to the second lesson: be valuable.  Whatever this means for you is the correct answer as long as you can do some thing and people are actually willing to pay you for it.  For me I realized I have experience in building businesses and marketing.  I can do these things and the outcome of that activity is I can earn other people money.  Hence I’m valuable in my own way.  Think about how you are valuable, because everyone is, the trick is identifying that talent and who you’ll sell it to.

How My Tiny House Saved Me:

Through out all of this it struck me how different this time in my life would have been if I been in a traditional housing option, namely renting.  Right now the average rent in my city is around $1000 a month with utilities.  What compounds this fact is that if I had been renting I would have not be able to pay off my student loans earlier so in addition to rent and utilities, I’d also have to content with a $250 student loan payment.  This all would add up to me needing to come up with additional $5,000 on top of the $30,000!

Beyond money considerations living in a tiny house meant one thing that was extremely comforting: I would always have a place to live.  That comfort of knowing that, let me take a deep breath and know I was going to be okay.  To top it off, my utilities are $15 a month with my tiny house and push comes to shove, I could work any job part time and make it if I had to.

Lesson Number Three:

Tiny Houses buy you security, peace of mind and a place to lay your head.  More importantly, it let me say “I’ll be fine” and move from trying to survive to finding a solution.

Once I realized that I would always have a place to stay, I could focus on executing my plan.  The plan gave me confidence, it let me put aside the knot in my stomach and get down to the work at hand.

Lesson Number Four:

With a budget in place, I found that I could move past fear and act with confidence.  Simple things like grocery shopping became empowering experiences because I could buy the food I needed AND it was a positive reinforcement because I knew the money was there for me, that it was part of the plan.

The Results

After all the worry and hard work, it came time to start paying the bills.  I think the daunting thing about the entire process was that I knew the entire plan was going to take 4 months to execute.  This essentially meant that I was holding my proverbial breath for that entire time.  Even though I had a place to live, a budget to rely on, I found it very difficult to keep pushing.

Part of this journey was trying to keep myself above water emotionally.  I knew I was on the edge of slipping into depression, teetering there in a very precarious way.  I felt a knot in my stomach, knowing that the stress wouldn’t end for months at which I’d either make it out barley or crash horrifically.  I carried this with me and it weighed heavily on me.

As I moved through the critical execution phase of my plan I had to trust the plan.  In the budget I trust.  The plan called for at one point I’d have a whopping $256 in my account for a period of 48 hours; After which a payment would hit and I’d ramp up for the next bill.  The whole thing hinged on me hitting things perfectly paying bills and crushing income strategy to face the next big bill.

In the end I was able to earn enough and then some.  Along the way I got hit with some unexpected bills and needed to up my game, to keep pushing and never stop.  At the end of this I have started to rebuild my rainy day fund, which I hope to expand to $30,000 with enough time.

I’m also cognizant that even though I paid those bills, it’s a double edge sword, I now have to pay taxes on the money that I earned to pay them.  A lot of this can be offset with business write offs, but not all.

Your Turn!

  • What tips have you learned from your own tough times?
  • How has budgeting save you?

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:

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?

 

How To Find A Place To Park Your Tiny House – Experts Share Their Tips

I sat down with the top tiny house experts to ask them a bunch of questions, today I am sharing their responses to the question: “What is the one tip for you would give to someone looking for a place to park or land for their tiny house?” I asked this question to 15 top tiny house experts to get their best advice on such a big topic: finding land for your tiny house.

alek-lisefski

Talk to friends and community members about it all the time. You never know where the parking spot will come from. While I have been lucky on Craigslist, I think bar far the best way to find parking is through a friend of a friend of family or friends. Network and ask all your local contacts before resorting to CL.

ryan-mitchell

Get out and talk to people. You need to expand your social circle in a big way. Have a solid game plan in place, develop your pitch for land owners, focusing on overcoming objections and putting fears to rest. Then, let people know what you’re looking for it a clear concise manner.

dan-and-jess-sullivan

Ping your own network of folks that really enjoy and support what you are doing. Provide a quick message about who you are and what you are looking for, that they can forward along. They are far more likely to connect you with people of a similar mindset, therefore more open and willing to help you out or further your cause.

deek-diedricksen

Honestly – be secretive. Get along with your neighbors and they’ll have no reasons to rat on you- zoning enforcement is often complaint-based. In some areas its legal, or “more legal”, and in others it just won’t happen, so do your research. Farmers too- look into talking to them, they could use the rental income, and have the land.

ella-jenkins

Check out wwoof.org, a fantastic organization that places volunteers with organic farms the world over. I see it as a great resource for someone looking to move somewhere unfamiliar. Find a willing farm, tow your house over and you have a place to park, food to eat and work to do.

ethan-waldman

Start with people you know and put the word out. Your network will produce your best leads when it comes to finding parking.

gabirella-morrisson

Flyers on local supermarket and library walls are actually a very sensible place to advertise this kind of information. We know a lot of people who have found their tiny house parking matches using those channels.

jenna-spesard

Reach out to local communities. Try facebook groups, meetup and craigslist. Don’t be afraid to talk about your Tiny House. The more people that you meet, the more likely you will have an opportunity to park it somewhere.

kristie-wolfe

I think the best way is to find land and then ask the owners if you could work out a deal. People are more receptive than you might think.

laura-lavoie

I wish I had a good answer. We bought land well before we decided to build a tiny house, so it wasn’t an issue for us. I do recommend that people get involved in local politics to make changes in their own communities that can help pave the way for tiny homes.

macy-miller

Get creative, build your network, be open and honest and try to be ‘on the radar’, it will make you feel more secure during the ‘living’ part of tiny house living that you will appreciate once you are living, it stinks to feel like any knock on the door may be asking you to go.

vina-lustado

Don’t be afraid of building your tiny house before finding a place to park it. The majority of my clients and other tiny housers found their spots during their construction. After finishing the shell with the exterior siding, you can place a photo with a description of what you’re looking for on Craigslist. Most property owners will rent their space only after they can see an image of your tiny house, and what utilities you will need. This has proven a success time and time again.

kent-griswold

Check with local codes in the area you wish to build or park a tiny house. If it is not allowed you need to find an alternative route or do it under the radar somehow.

 

A very special thanks to the folks who participated:

Your Turn!

  • What tricks have you learned about finding land?
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