Tiny House, Tiny Living, The Tiny Life.

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.

 

10 Comments
  1. If you already have a contract with Verizon, and you have a Verizon cellular phone, why not just use tethering and pay for data (if you even need any, since you presumably have a good bit of data through your normal cell phone plan)? No need to buy extra hardware, and you can make use of the data you’re already paying for on your cell phone plan.

    • The main reason I got the hotspot is that on Verizon they charge you about the same amount to enable tethering, plus if you do tethering you can’t be online and on the phone at the same time. This is a common need for me when I’m doing my work. The data is actually all the same pool of data for my cell phone and my the hotspot. Add to that the hot spot has a better antenna and battery life.

  2. I agree with Grant. I use my BlackBerry Curve for 99% of my internet activity, including tethering my laptop using the Mobile Wifi Hotspot setting. I have an “unlimited” calls and texts plan with Virgin Mobile which includes 2GB of data (for $69.49 including taxes). I frequently use 3 or 4 GB of data at the cost of $10 ($11.50 with taxes) per extra GB. When I moved to my new place 18 months ago, I planned on getting internet from either the phone or cable company, but I haven’t bothered yet. I’m also only a 20 minute walk from the library where I can get unlimited free wifi 6 days a week.

    • Verizon charges for tethering and you can’t be on the phone and surf at the same time. Virgin doesn’t have very good coverage in my area.

  3. Unless you need super speed, depending on your location and what is available, put up a good quality outside antenna and take advantage of free wifi. Biz such as McDnalds, and public libraries, etc.

    • For my work I need high speeds, my internet connection is the limiting factor on how much I can actually get done. I don’t have any other wifi around that I could pick up even with an antenna, unless I want to drive somewhere every time I need to work.

  4. Man I really love your articles. They are so damn practical. I’ve been getting into Tiny Houses for months, so much so that I started my own blog, but I keep coming back to yours cuz its so full of the most basic and useful questions and info. Like what size truck do you need to pull a tiny house! super important! I googled this and it brought me here. So I’m just sayin, good work:)

  5. When Google comes ,have them install it at the road not to your house. Then run an AP router and a good antenna at gigabit rate wireless to the Tiny House. Save the $2500 at still have super high transmission and reception rates.

  6. Hello! I am just getting started in to the tiny home/RV scene and I am trying to way my options. I also work from home (sr windows engineer) and need a reliable internet connection. After using the JetPack for a bit, how would you say the performance is?

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