Wednesday, October 23, 2013

What It Takes to Tow a Tiny House

 Knowing what size truck to use to tow a tiny house is critical for a safe tow. We recommend a 3/4 ton truck with a diesel engine. They provide steadier power than gas engines and are more efficient, so while they cost more upfront they can save you money in the long term. There are certain smaller trucks that list tow capacities we feel may be optimistic. You don't want to pull a 7000 pound load with a truck that can tow a maximum of 7000 pounds, because you won't have the extra power you need for challenging hills, winds, or sudden braking situations.

To check the towing capacity of a vehicle you have, check for an identification label - usually a sturdy sticker on the door jamb. You'll find model information, GVWR (gross vehicle weight rating: the maximum operating weight/mass of a vehicle as specified by the manufacturer including the vehicle's chassis, body, engine, engine fluids, fuel, accessories, driver, passengers and cargo but excluding that of any trailers) figures listed, along with the VIN number and more. 

Find a site that allows you to search for your vehicle information by VIN number, like (see screenshots below) or look for maker specific search sites. If you can't find your VIN label, do an internet search using your exact year make and model with the words towing capacity, and you should pretty quickly find a manufacturer's chart showing the towing capacity, among other details. This also applies to a truck you're considering buying or renting to tow.

Many find they don't move their houses often enough to justify owning a truck, so they rent as needed. We rented from a friend and from equipment rental yards for a few years before we bought this used 1999 4WD Chevy. Check out our YouTube video on this topic here:

Feel free to contact us with any questions.

the Decode This home page

search VIN, and here, then click Equipment

scroll down for critical towing & loading information

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Tech for your tiny house; wall plugs with built in USB charging ports

For those of us who love tiny living and are also into our tech toys, here’s a great way to add integrated charging ports for iPhone, iPad, Kindle, cameras, and all our other USB devices.

I stumbled across a reference to a USB charging wall outlet online, so later when we were building our second tiny house, we decided to install some in it. I shopped around for quite a while for the right one, and finally chose the Power2U AC/USB Wall Outlet by Newer Technology. It has two AC outlets and two USB outlets arranged so they can all be used at one time. you can get it for just over $13 on Amazon, or direct from Newer Technology in 2 packs or bulk boxes. It installs easily in the same space as a normal wall outlet.

Besides the functional layout, what sets this option apart from others I looked at is the built in energy efficiency. The two USB ports have shutters connected to switches that turn off the power to the ports they’re not is use, preventing it from drawing a “vampire” energy. Many devices draw current anytime they’re plugged in, even when they’re off (or asleep). Electricians often call this a parasitic load, and obviously it’s a waste of energy and money we want to avoid.

In our YouTube video coming out Friday June 14, Dylan discusses the Power2U outlet and demonstrates the installation process. Enjoy a new level of convenience in your tiny house with handy USB ports in the charging location of your choice!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Running a Tiny House Without Propane

We've had a lot of people ask this whether they can go without propane in their tiny house. Yes, you can avoid propane and do everything with electricity if you like. Keep in mind that every appliance that heats or cools (coffee pot, toaster, heater, A/C) draws a lot of current. If you're planning to power your house on a PV solar system or by plugging in to an existing house you can dramatically increase the feasibility and affordability of the project by minimizing your electrical needs.

Besides the obvious steps of kicking the coffee pot and using low voltage lighting, here are three suggestions to lighten the load on your electrical system: heat your water with passive solar or compost, collect heat from a passive solar heater, and consider cooking with an alcohol stove.

There are solar hot water options ranging from low tech DIY setups all the way up to sophisticated active and passive solar hot water heaters like these from Rheem or Durda Diesel. Here's a roundup of some videos on DIY solar hot water systems. If you're making large compost heaps you can heat water by running a lot of flexible piping through your pile. Here's a list of quick videos on YouTube about DIY hot water from composting piles of yard debris. If you're really into the DIY angle, you can make your own; check out these wild videos on how to make your own passive solar heat collector with all kinds of components, including soda cans.  

You could also consider alcohol as a fuel option for your cooking. Certain stoves run off denatured alcohol which is less flammable (also TOXIC) and isn't stored under pressure - so much safer that it's preferred on boats. Of course alcohol is also a renewable resource which you could conceivably make yourself if you had to. You can get cooktops, or a stove with a built in oven. Alcohol ovens can be quite expensive but I've heard great things about the high end ones from people who are using them. One woman I know of searched for months and found a $2000 alcohol stove with oven that someone was selling barely used - she got it for less than half the price. Here's the brochure for the Origo 6000 Built in Oven with Stove. If you're on a super tight budget and you're able to cook outdoors most of the time you could get by for a while with an alcohol camping stove - they range from DIY versions for a few dollars up to a typical price of $30 - $50. Don't use them indoors!

In short, there is a way to run your tiny house using whatever energy source you prefer, whatever your concerns or budget.