Tiny House Technology
In the next series of posts, we will explore some nuts and bolts of tiny house technology and share resources that have pointed us in the right direction. We will also share information on electrical loads and a nuanced discussion of the embodied energy inherent in many ‘green’ technologies. The research we’ve done has included an understanding of the embodied energy required to manufacture the product, as well as the latest research about their sustainability. Embodied energy is “…the energy consumed by all of the processes associated with the production of a building, from the mining and processing of natural resources to manufacturing, transport and product delivery.” (www.yourhome.gov.au).
We would also like to acknowledge the ever-changing nature in the building field, as new research constantly comes to light. It’s not possible to be “100% green,” a phrase too often left unsubstantiated in the building industry, and which has been co-opted to mean the same as “sustainable” without taking into account long-term social, environmental and economic impact.
We’re trying to do our best to be aware of our choices, avoid “soap-boxes,” vote with our dollars, and know that “purity” in building can’t really exist. No one is perfect, most builds are not without those sheets of plywood trucked in from afar, and the rabbit hole of “100% green” is very deep.
The first step we took was to gather information on electrical loads of common appliances and calculate a tiny space’s electrical needs. From this we discovered just how much power we’ll need to generate, collect or plug into. Here’s a resource on solar load calculation/determination with an empty chart to work from.
Here’s an interactive resource to calculate how many kilowatt-hours (kWh) one might need to generate for construction, which for us is significantly more than for day-to-day usage: Here’s one for day-to-day post-construction usage.
We are trying to use Energy Star-rated appliances when possible (www.energystar.gov) and LED light-bulbs that require a significantly lower wattage than incandescent or compact fluorescent bulbs, with the same amount of lumens. Here are some recommended LED light-bulbs.
Sarah and I have decided to go solar for the whole house. Now that we’re living in a cabin with Solar we really get to experiment with our electricity usage and are finding that we don’t use much. LED’s cut down on our usage in a major way and aren’t as harsh/blue as we thought they would be. The biggest appliance we have is a juicer, which tends to be used only in summer with plenty of sun in the sky (winter feels cold to be juicing and veggies are in shorter supply).
In terms of good solar options for tiny houses, the “Classic” unit from Sol-Man costs $4995 and can power one tiny house without an electric heater. The Sol-Man has all the components one needs with 2.4 kWh, inverter, charge controller and batteries. It is an easy plug-and-play system that can roll around to adjust to the sun’s location. Sol-Mans units seem almost too big for our usage unless we decide to heat our home or hot water with electricity.
Though the initial investment is large a solar electricity system requires less maintenance and pays for itself in saved electric bills over the years AND in some states you can sell the excess electricity back to the grid. Solar technology is also improving rapidly and as the market widens costs come down significantly.
Here’s a good online solar calculator.
An all-around great resource for anything solar: www.solarliving.org
More good resources:
Next up: Some specifics about our electric usage and other fun ways to meet your electricity needs.