Friday, September 6, 2013

Window screens....finally.

.....So last night I finally built screens for the two transom windows on the high side of the house ending a summer of moths, mosquito hawks, mosquitoes, and other assorted flying nightmares. It really only came to a head last weekend as a summer of constant rain gave way to sunny days and billions of tiny bloodsuckers filled the night air trying to eat me. Screen creation was pretty straightforward and cost only about 50$ using kits that I bought at Ace hardware. The screens look great and last night I enjoyed my first night of dinner and a movie without thousands of flying critters zooming around my head.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

recording music in a tiny solar house.....

So a large part of my life has always been making music. For years it was how I mad my living and only recently have I not been doing anything musically. I have quite a bit of recording gear which has lived at various times in a garage, a storage unit, some dudes small studio, and most recently and aborted attempt at a community arts center. Yesterday, I retrieved all of my equipment and moved it a tiny house. It might fit. I have missed recording music so much that I have been hysterically thinking about setting it all up in the house.
  My recorder is a stand alone Korg unit with moving faders and all the bells and whistles including a guitar modeler so I would not need any outboard equipment except an 8 channel mic pre (if I want to record drums). I would not have any monitors per se but I think a 300-500 watt inverter would supply enough juice for the recorder. I could build a box that had a pop up table for under the couch (which I plan to raise anyway) and all of my mics and cables could fit beneath the recorder. Mic stands could be stored at the foot of my bed in the loft and it would take some doing but I think I could make a little music in the house.
  I also own a bunch of guitars which would have to hang on the wall which is not such a bad thing. I need to do some research on the power consumption of the recorder and any other gear and prolly add a couple of more batteries to extend recording time but I think this is doable.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013


.......So I stumbled across a 12v ceiling fan on Ebay the other day and with a couple of bucks left in my Paypal account I pulled the trigger. The fan arrived in a box about the size of a mason jar (not a good sign) and after I put it together I was the proud new owner of a tiny ceiling fan for my tiny house....

  I mounted the fan the other day on the high side of the ceiling and hooked it up to the batteries. It moves air pretty well for being as small as it is and if you sit directly under it you can feel a slight breeze. keep in mind that it is at the high side of the ceiling, about 10'. I don't know how it will affect the batteries if left on but it is rated at 6W.....or .5 amps. I sat under it while watching a movie last night (it was a hot day) and it was pretty nice. I think in the winter it will really help keep the house more evenly heated. The downstairs is always cold and up in the loft it is a suana so a small fan circulating the hot air (pulling it down) should help a lot.

The fan cost 30.00 shipped and while small and kind of toy like there are not many options out there for 12v ceiling fans so in my book this was a score.....

here is a link to the Ebay auction..

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Solar panels!

......The Renogy solar panels have been on the roof for a couple of weeks now, charging a bank of 2 6v golf cart batteries. So far things are going great. The batteries seem to be charging to within the acceptable range during the day and the fridge has stayed cold throughout. My electrical needs are simple. The fridge, an Edgestar top loader is the biggest load. There are also interior lights (two), a water pump, a small fan, a TV/VCR and a small DVD player....all 12v. The only hiccup is that the TV/VCR seems to need a higher voltage (13v) than the batteries can provide over time. The TV works fine while the sun is up and I can watch a couple of movies at night but there is no way I could do a Star wars marathon. I may be able to stretch the movie watching out by adding a couple of more 6v deep cycles which I am planning to do anyway.
  I have not had multiple days of  'no sun' so I don't really know how deep my battery backup is. The charge controller seems to go into float mode every day so when I come home the batteries are topped off. I am interested to see what a few really cloudy days does to my power....or maybe not. I will likely purchase a couple more batteries in the next few days. As it stands I am using 2 6 volt golf cart batteries wired in series to give me a 12 volt bank. The batteries are listed as having 216 Amp Hours and knowing that I never want to discharge below 75-80% that does not leave much of a reserve. 2 more  batteries (6 volt wired in series) should up my AH capacity to 432 AH giving me about 115 AH if I don't discharge over 25%.

Sizing My System

It is strange how there is so much conjecture on the internet about bank sizing. I scoured every website I could find and got a general idea of what I needed but it was (is) still part guess work. 

  My needs are simple, basically those listed above and really everything based around keeping the fridge cool. Here is a complete list that I based my system around...
  • Edgestar fridge / 6 amps when running
  • small fan / 2 amps when running
  • living room light / 1 amp when on
  • hood light over stove / 1 amp when on
  • hood fan over stove / 2 amps when on
  • demand water pump / 7 amps when on
  • portable DVD player / 1-2 amps when on ??
  • TV/VCR combo / 3 amps when on ??
  • cell phone charger / 1 amp when on ??
A grand total of ......Who Knows!

These are approximations and only for when the item is being used. Standby power on the fridge , for instance, is unknown. The fridge is always on but the amp usage is higher only when the compressor cycles.
My best guess is that I use a total of  111 AH a day. Again, this is a guess. I estimated high for all of my fixtures. As you can see, 111 AH per day brings my battery bank dangerously close to the 50% discharge mark so another couple of 6v batteries is in order.

I also plan to add some things....
  • 12 volt ceiling fan
  • 24" 12v LCD TV/DVD
  • more 12v lighting (LED reading lights 1 watt each)

Sizing the system is important but I did not want to overspend. The panels should be good for 20 or so years but the lifespan of a well cared for battery can be as little as 5 years. I bought 6 volt deep cycle (true deep cycle) batteries and not Marine dual purpose batteries so that should help the lifespan but keeping the DOD (depth of discharge) as low as possible is important too. You don't want too few batteries because they will get discharged too deep but buying too many is just a waste of money. There are good calculators on the net and spending some time evaluating your needs will save hundreds in the long run.. maybe thousands.

   Another note...I have been thinking about this system for a long time and have been accumulating 12v appliances. The only thing that runs off an inverter is my laptop (to charge) and that is only a 100 watt inverter. 12 volt appliances, lighting, and fans are easy to find and you won't lose energy converting your battery power to 110V AC. Just food for thought.

Some Helpful Websites..

Here is a great solar calculator for figuring out your daily usage. I came up with about 87 AH on the high side....

Here is the package that I bought.....

And here is a link to the batteries that I am using....

And some of the gizmo's that I use in the house...

I hope this information helps....

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Photo's......some progress

Garden Beds....Big...Little...Littler
Garden Beds
Reclaimed Pallet Garden Bed....for Squash and Zuchinni

Garden bed and Storage!

Ike and the ladies...

Oven base and Brick BBQ

I have Peas!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Spring is in the air......

.....So cousin Jess and I have been putting in the garden. We built another large bed for tomatoes and a neat raised "table bed" for squash and zucchini. The raised bed was constructed from an old pallet that we raised about 2' on sturdy legs. We wrapped 2 sides with heavy plastic to keep some of the weather out and put a layer of landscape fabric and reclaimed tin roofing as the floor of the pallet. Underneath is great storage for the chicken feed, generator and chain-saw. The chickens are doing great. I am getting 2-3 eggs a day and I have started letting them out in the evenings to forage a bit. They are beasts when it comes to scratching up hillside! I put wheels on the chicken coop but they need to be tweaked a bit to make em' more functional. Now the long coop looks like a Beverly Hillbillies Dragster with large bicycle tires on the back. Sho' has been very attentive towards the birds and while I don't fully trust her, she seems to be getting that they are friends and not chew toys. Luckily, the chickens are not skittish at all and pretty much ignore her unless she gets right up on em for some sniffing. There was a Subaru catastrophe last week as the "Goat" gave up the ghost with a broken timing belt. Next week was supposed to "awesome solar system" week but it looks like I will have to use that money for car repairs. Ces't La Vie. The Sube had already paid for itself in fuel savings driving to and from work (82 miles a day!) so it is worth putting a little more money into. I am back to driving the vandaminium for now. I put it up on craigslist for a grand and have had some interest so when the car is fixed I may be able to sell it and buy solar panels.

 projects still to come.....

  • Solar System
  • Finish the kitchen
  • Metal roof and gutter system for rain harvesting
  • Outdoor Pizza Oven
  • Small storage shed for the raft
I will do a picture dump soon with some new photo's. Thanks for reading.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Chickens and garden!

...Yesterday I finished the chicken tractor and brought home three hens and a rooster. So far they seem to be great layers, already giving me 4 eggs (2 I had for breakfast!) the hens are barred rock hybrids and the rooster (Ike) is a buff orpington. They are all friendly and Sho seems to be alright with them. The tractor is done minus the wheels which I will put on this week. I also finished the garden beds and am going to plant my first crop tomorrow (peas and spinach). The beds are a nice mix of soil, cow manure and peat moss over a base of straw. Jess is going to build another large bed just for tomato production so we can can some. This summer I hope to have peas, beans, cucumbers, tomatoes, squash, zucchini, spinach and peppers. Well, as to come!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Staying busy....

The house is coming along nicely and I am getting ready for spring. I built a nice chicken tractor (pics to come) and this weekend I plan to get some birds. I am also getting the soil for the garden beds tomorrow and I might build a small greenhouse to start things a little early. I am very excited for fresh veggies and eggs....

The interior is slowly coming together. I built a counter top with the 3 burner stove and a small bar sink. Tomorrow, I am going to get the bits to plumb the sink with a faucet and a drain out to the garden. The counter is simple plywood and that came to me stained (recycled) and I still need to put a thick coat of varnish on it.

The shower has been working great except I need another propane tank for convenience. As it stands, I have to switch a propane tank between the stove an the shower when I need to bathe. Also there is a pretty serious voltage (amperage) drop when the pump runs but this will be fixed when I sort out the solar and real battery bank.

Here are some photo's of the kitchen.....

Sunday, January 20, 2013

showering... today I installed the shower pan and plumbed it to a soaker hose in one of my garden beds. Installation was pretty easy using a rubber feed tub from Tractor Supply, some PVC bits, a sink drain and some garden hose. The shower base is a 16 gallon feed tub that I drilled a hole in the bottom of a installed a sink drain. It is 2' in diameter and about 12" tall. It is made of a fiber impregnated rubber (thick!) and is very flexible. I chose this thinking that it would create a nice tight seal on the drain, and I was right. Connected to the bottom of the drain is a drain slip joint, a coupling collar, a screw in reducer and a screw on barbed fitting that will accommodate  garden hose. I ran the hose and then glued all the PVC bits together and connected them to the drain which was mounted in the "tub". 5 gallons of water later there were no leaks and I went to work drilling holes in the end of the hose under my garden bed. I was planning on using my Zodi Heater but my Dad got an Ecotemp shower and it is a better solution. It is  mated to a demand pump (recycled shureflo RV pump) and when the water is turned on the ecotemp ignites and voila' HOT WATER!!

Anyway....those are the big bits. Coming soon are photo's!!