“Ugh, I can smell the toilet again”

I don’t know what other people eat so their poop doesn’t smell, but in our house, we have to outwardly vent the toilet otherwise our home will begin to accumulate an aroma that is not entirely pleasant.

We do the best we can to keep the stink at bay, and most days it’s not an issue at all. But, lately our house has this lingering hint of outhouse that needed to be addressed.

Although the fan on our toilet had been doing an OK job of keeping the stinks at bay, it didn’t seem to be helping at all. It was time to get “handy” with a screwdriver.

Somehow, a very fine mist of sawdust had worked its way up the toilet vent and was causing some blockage.

Dirty Fan Filter

 

 

 

After running the filter under the tap for a few minutes, the dust washed out and we were back in business.

OR SO I THOUGHT.

One of the leads had broken off the AC adapter plug in the vent mount.

Broken Wiring

Luckily, I’m just skillful enough with a soldering-iron to get this AC flowing.

Humming fan, lack of “aroma”, and we were back in “doing our business”.

Happy Days.

 

Another 6 weeks, another propane tank.

Why won’t the Acme nut screw in?

Oh. That plastic thing broke.

Broken Acme Nut

Bought a pig-tail at one hardware store, the one pigtaill they had in stock and it wasn’t the right size nor did they have an adapter to make it fit.

Calling and visiting 5 more places, they either didn’t have any idea of what our needs were or they just didn’t have the proper part in stock.

Well, after calling around town and trying to get a new “pig tail”, we finally met someone at Hometown Hearth & Grill that understood our propane-dilemma. Although Acme nuts are easy to replace by hand, we would be regularly plagued by broken plastic ring thingies. Brass is stronger than plastic, duh.

Brass Fitting

Although a wrench will be required every time we needed to swap tanks, the brass fitting would hold up better in the long run, a run we hope will last many more years.

After a year and 4 months, we’re still alive! And still living tiny!

We have been busy bees at the Hunny House; Tomas training for Pacific Northwest Search and Rescue and I working full-time and taking two classes this term to finish my degree this spring (!) at Portland State University.

In tiny house news, we can finally celebrate having hot water again!

After three months with no hot water (and many weeks without running water at all), we have the luxury of showering at home and washing dishes without first boiling water on the stove. Portland (as was most of the U.S.) was hit with a cold winter this year, and it delayed delivery and installation of our new hot water heater (Her Watery Highness).

It was hard to get ahold of plumbers, but I think we finally found our repair people: mobile RV repair services! I guess I knew this kind of service existed, but I hadn’t thought about it for tiny homes. It makes sense though, and I’m hoping they’ll continue to be a helpful resource.

There are a couple of companies in town; we hired At Your Service Mobile RV Inc. because they have good reviews on Angie’s List and they were recommended by our local RV-supply store, Curtis Trailers. I winced when they asked for the make/model of our RV on the phone, but they were gracious and understanding when I explained our situation. They were professional, helpful, and gave a reasonable estimate. They’ve since installed the water heater and everything is working great so far! We’re very pleased.

We like the Rinnai V53e unit so far; it’s a lot quieter than the other (which sounded like a jet-engine when it kicked on) PLUS it’s rated for outdoor use. It is the same unit a couple living tiny in our neighborhood has, and they made it through this winter with zero water heater problems. We’re hoping we’ll be as fortunate next winter!

Audrey

We’re on week 3 with no running water.

Portland recently had a very cold spell that froze our water heater causing the internal coils to burst. We came home from a Tiny House Mixer one night when temperatures finally rose above freezing to find water gushing out of the water heater. So we shut off the water supply, went through a bit of homeowner shock and depression, and assessed how we were going to fix this. Our plumbing is currently set up so that all running water goes through the water heater; with it out of commission, so is the water flow to our sink and shower.

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It didn’t help that our builders installed an INDOOR water heater outside our house. They assured us they followed protocols for installing a water heater that was supposed to be outdoors (they told us this during the time we still trusted them). It was the reason why we have a dead spot in the corner of the “L” kitchen; we attempted to design the kitchen to contain the water heater indoors, but the builders said, it has to be outdoors.  This is the model that broke. It states clearly on the website “indoor tankless water heater”. And that “I” in the model name? Yep, you guessed it: INDOOR. Not that we need more evidence, but add this to the many reasons why we would not recommend Tiny Smart House Llc as builders.

It has been stressful to shop for a water heater when you really need one. We want to take our time, do research, not make an impulsive (expensive) purchase, and we want to purchase a product that will work in our climate. Plumbers have (shockingly) given estimates from $2,000-$3,000 to replace and install a water heater. Ecotemp, the company that makes our current, broken water heater, offered a discount on a new outdoor model, but they were honest and said their products work best in Florida and Hawaii and even their outdoor models don’t withstand freezing temperatures well.

We were close to upgrading to the RV-550 which we’ve heard rave reviews about and could probably retro-fit into the house by cutting out a hole and using the ‘dead’ corner space, but the $1200 purchase price scared me away. There’s even a cool youtube video on how to install.

In the end, we decided to go with a water heater our friends and tiny house neighbors have which got them through the cold snap with no problems. The Rinnai V53E ordered from here for $600 (inc shipping). We’ve learned that exterior water heaters have an internal heating system to keep the coils from freezing and breaking. This won’t prevent the hoses coming in/out of the heater from freezing, we’ll still have to winterize those, but it would keep the internal coils from breaking. The water heater won’t ship until late next week due to the holidays so until then we’re patiently (okay not so patiently) waiting for our new one to arrive.

In the mean time, we’re buying gallon jugs of drinking water and filling up empties with hose water to boil and use to wash dishes. I’m showering at the gym and Tomas is relying on friends to lend a shower. It has been inconvenient and costly, but my money’s on 2014 to be a fresh start with fewer home repairs!

We’ll update with the installation process!

Update: In a moment of genius inspiration, YouTube searching, and one Home Depot trip we now have running (cold) water! Tomas saved the day when he came up with the idea to install a “copper push-fit end stop” to keep the water from flowing into the ‘hot’ section of the water heater. Who’s ready for a cold shower!!

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Cheers and happy holidays to all!

Audrey

Although we are now in the house for 13 months, we finally had our first real snow accumulation!

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The city has been going through a cold spell along with the rest of the country, but we didn’t seem to get it as bad as other cities.

This snow-day just so happen to be my day off and the day I wanted to try a different heater to combat the frost.

Home Depot employees were brave enough to get to the store before the shoppers and have coffee and heaters ready for us unprepared squirrels.

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Most of the snow was gone by mid-day, but not before giving Mr B a chance to experience the white stuff. He was not a happy kitty.

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Nearing the end of 2013 and just breaching our first year in the tiny house, we’ve come to realize that although the house is wrapped in R-13 rated pink insulation and seems to be blocking drafts quite well, it does get cold a bit easy.

For the most part, we’ve been able to keep warm by using a low power convection heater by Envi for most of the day and a Vornado  when we wanted a bit more heat in the lower part of the house. Unfortunately, we are still running the entire house off of a standard household outlet that is limited to 15 amps at any one time. Since the temperatures dipped below 28F, running either heater on Medium setting just isn’t keeping us quite warm enough. The house doesn’t seem to want to get over 55F. That’s just too chilly for our comfort.

We started to notice a few deficiencies in our insulation. We had to add a couple of missing strips of foam near the cat door, filled a few gaps in the corner of the french door that was never opened.

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We also purchased some cedar lattice along with some contractor grade plastic sheeting to close off the crawl space and limit the heat loss by wind. We also wrapped the entire length of hose in foam pipe insulation. The instant water heater got dressed in bubble-wrap, and all the windows covered in additional plastic.  The floor was also getting quite chilly and proved too much for bushy socks, so we purchased rugs to help fend off the chill.

The house is still a bit chilly at 58F, and although the outside temperatures are going up a bit, but we have already started thinking ahead to purchasing a propane-fired marine-grade furnace to battle the next cold snap.

Living in the Pacific Northwest is awesome! It’s also very damp…

We’ve been cautious about moisture issues in our small space and wanted to increase airflow under the bed in the loft since it’s been rumored other tiny housers have encountered mold under their mattresses. Moisture from body heat gets trapped underneath causing the growth. Originally, we had our super thick pillow-top mattress on simple Ikea bed slats, but Tomas had a nifty idea to raise the bed by making a few modifications.

We went to Home Depot and had a few cedar boards cut to match the length of the slats, and he screwed the pieces together to make a nice “bed frame.” We also replaced the uber-thick mattress with a thinner one that we like better.

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Benjamin approves!

Going through some old journals to scan and toss, I found an old paragraph from 2008:

“I pondered what my life would be like if I lived devoid of all these electronics and entertainment so readily available. I have seen plans on the internet for very small houses of 150-square feet or so, if I had a wife, could I make it work in such a small space? Where would I build? How would I fund it? Could I still be the role I desire? Without a big mortgage, I could afford a small studio space in the city to pursue my creativity. If I lived in a two-bedroom apartment I might still be distracted by the everyday minutia of household chores and access to books.”

This entry was dated Saturday, August 9, 2008. I had just recently walked from a ludicrously paying tech-support job that left me feeling so bored and empty. I was trying to build a new phase in my life and do something different. The last 5 years or so have been so different.  A special someone in my life, a tiny house, and working on something different for a living.

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Much of what I wanted to become in life has come to be, including living with the most awesome woman in the world.

-Tomas

Greetings from the Hunny House!

This month we celebrated our one year tiny house anniversary! How tiny time does fly.

We celebrated by having our tiny house neighbors over for dinner! Well, they aren’t exactly our immediate neighbors, but they are a couple who moved nearby in their tiny house they built themselves. Their house is stunning and they are fabulous people! We are thrilled to have met like-minded allies nearby.

What else have we been up to recently? Myself, I’ve been busy with class (because everyone needs a little class). Tomas has kept himself busy working and volunteering with the BPSA scouts and he was recently accepted to be a part of the Pacific Northwest Search and Rescue (PNWSAR) class of 2014! He’s looking forward to being a part of their team.

What did we spend our time doing this year? Well let’s see…

After one year of living tiny

I can’t believe:

  • We haven’t killed each other
  • The composting toilet doesn’t make the house smell like poo
  • How complex this lifestyle can actually be
  • How amazing the Portland tiny house network is
  • How messy we are
  • How handy Tomas is
  • How well Benjamin adapted (he’s such a trooper!)

I can believe:

  • It’s possible to thrive living tiny
  • In the kindness and generosity of others
  • We are doing the right thing for us
  • How messy we are
  • We’ve grown as individuals (grow? Get it? In a tiny house?…sigh)
  • We are still practicing and there is a lot more to learn
  • Most importantly, if we can make it a year, we can continue for many more to come

We will continue to play, laugh, live, and love.

xoxo,

Audrey & Tomas

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We had fun with squash:

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