Walt Barrett sent me an article sharing his thoughts about tiny houses and I thought you would enjoy reading it so let me turn it over to Walt.
Lately, in the light of two very recent earthquake disasters, I have been giving a great deal of thought to the advantages of living in a small self contained, or autonomous home. The benefits are quite obvious, and huge. First of all, you will probably be located in a rural area far from the looting and other crimes commonly found in cities after a disastrous earthquake, or other natural disaster.
Photo Credit: Jay Shafer
There is also the advantage of not running out of power because you will be making your own. If you are using a composing toilet you do not have the problems associated with sewerage disposal. You most likely will have your own water supply which would be pumped from the ground by a solar powered water pump.
Tiny homes are far less expensive to heat, or cool for that matter. Small wood or propane heaters are very economical in tiny homes. Passive solar heating is an excellent choice backed up by wood. Solar hot water heaters can provide both hot water and heat if necessary by using a 12 volt powered fan coil, or even a convection heater if designed properly. If possible a small vertical wind turbine should be utilized. These units if between 500 watts and 1 KW are very inexpensive, and when connected to a battery bank can supply 120 volts A/C house current using an inverter to convert the 12 volt DC power to the 120 volts need to operate many small household appliances.
Personally, I already live in a rural area in an energy efficient home. Regardless of that fact, and due to the extremely harsh winters here in New England, I have already built a micro home in the rear of my property. This is because we have had power failures lasting up to six days and I’m not going to try and heat my full size home with wood or solar. We have very little sunlight on our property and I’m not going to kill all of my beautiful shade trees because we “might” lose the power. That is too extreme for me. My current micro home is 128 square feet if you count the full second floor sleeping loft with a full four foot ceiling in the loft. This spring we will add an 8′ x 8′ x 8′ module with a composting toilet, shower, and additional storage space in it. The south facing wall will be passively solar heated with a large solar drape to be closed when necessary, like on dark days, or cold nights.
The thought of living off the power grid is a very appealing one. I think that tiny off the grid homes are a major part of the solution to the poverty, and housing problems we are experiencing today. If a family can purchase, or build a home for the price of a new compact car, that is a most appealing thought. Land can be a problem, but again, through investigation I have found that there is still inexpensive land available in the rural areas of many states. There are not as many restrictions either. The main restriction that everyone has though, is the building of a proper septic system, but if you go the composting toilet route you won’t need it. However, you will need to build a simple gray water disposal system. You can use the gray water to aid in the irrigation of your garden which you most certainly have as a part of your survival plan.
There is no shame in being poor, or low income. I myself started life in a 400 square foot tar paper covered home with hand dug well, a sleeping loft and no heating, or indoor plumbing in 1933. By starting out that way we were able to save money and gradually improve our home and lifestyle and eventually were able to install the proper plumbing, heating and electrical systems. I personally believe that most homes and apartments in America today are far too large and wasteful. Although I am concerned about that, I am certain that the rising cost of energy as the supples diminish will take care of the problem, and many large homes will be spit up into micro apartments in the future. Because of the warmer climate, there will also be a very large shift to the south in the not too far distant future. If you are looking for rural land in the south to build your new energy efficient home I suggest you get cracking.
Those are my thoughts on the subject.