Engineering problems in a Tiny House

I’ve been thinking about building a 200 sq. ft. tiny house for several months now, carefully planning the house’s layout to maximize the feeling of space, while ensuring there’s enough “stuff” to live a happy life inside such a small dwelling. Before that, I was planning a small cottage on a foundation, about 400-500 sq. ft. The impetus for all this downsizing came from the observation that my current house is about two rooms too large, and even some of the rooms I regularly use have more space than I put to good use.

I was convinced that a tiny house was the way to “live small”, since it avoids the traditional engineering problems of plumbing and electrical by using gray water systems, a composting loo, and RV electrical. Then I read Tammy Strobel’s blog post about moving into a 700 sq. ft. cottage, in which she details some of the plumbing problems they encountered living in their tiny house in the mountains of California. The climate in my part of the world is similar to, if not colder than, the northern California mountains. Her descriptions of frozen water lines made me sit-up and take notice. It also made me rethink the infallibility of my tiny house plans: figuring out a way to heat my water supply and gray water lines will likely require more energy and effort than it is worth. Is renovating an old house a more sustainable option, both financially and ecologically?

I’m glad Tammy’s been so clear about her experiences regarding her tiny house. There is so much enthusiasm for these buildings that it can be hard to find honest descriptions of building and living in them. Her book You Can Buy Happiness… is a great primer on simple living, and it has some useful information about tiny houses too.

Have you built a tiny house? Do you live in one? Have you solved the problems of plumbing and electricity for these buildings in a cold, rural environment? If you’ve got ideas or solutions, leave a comment!

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