Modular Tiny Homes for the Chemically Sensitive

Here are some simple, small modular homes or shelters for the chemically sensitive.

Metal Yurts


http://cleanairyurts.com/our-yurts/yurt-homes/
The metal yurt from Clean Air Yurts is 18 inches in dimeter. The shell is made of glavanized steel coated in zine. The door is metal as well.

You would need to build a foundation and choose materials for the exterior and interior, provide insulation and wiring and plumbing (if desired). Though you could just leave it as a steel stucture. The yurt can be assembled in one day and can be taken down and moved if needed.

The cost of the metal yurt is 10K




Grain Bin Home 

http://www.sukup.com/Buildings/144/Safe-T-
These Grain Bin Homes are also 18 inches in diameter and made of galvanized steel. There is room for a loft and it has louvers that can collect rain water if desired. Other options include solar panels. It does not come with options for interior/exterior or foundation so those would be up to you.

The home around 10K but there is a big discount for non-profits who are purchasing them.



SIPs Prefabricated Dome 

ecobuiltsystems.com
Eco Built Systems makes these really promising little MgO based modular homes. The walls are SIPs made of MgO, basalt, glass fibers and mineral foam. They claim they give off no VOCs. Because these are prefabricated homes they reduce constuction time compared with a tiny home. They claim cutting down on
constuction time by 40%.

Did not hear back from them via email regarding the cost so not sure if these are available right now.



Wooden Treehouse

http://treehouses.com
From Out N' About, a company that rents out treehouses, sells plans and parts, this 16' Treezebo Hexagon could be a great non-toxic home.

The plans for the treehouse are $450 and includes 3 hour consultation. The metal parts are $2000-2500 and the wood would come to around 5-10k. Not including materials for wiring and plumbing.






Arched Cabins


http://www.archedcabins.com
The basic kit for arched cabins includes floor plates, ribs, ridge beam, standard insulation R13, Super Span Roof Paneling (metal), trim and fasteners needed to assemble the cabin. This does not include the foundation, installation, interior, end caps, and delivery.

The 12x12 which has room for kitchen and bathroom is $2708 which includes the basic kit plus a fireplace thimble, Super Span Roof Panels color upgrade, and R25 insulation.

This is a simple, mostly metal kit that you could then customise to be chemical-free on the inside. 


Intershelter Domes

http://www.intershelter.com
These cool domes are easy to transport and assemble and have a lifespan of 30 years.

They are made of fiberglass composite material which the company says does not emit an odour. Some sensitive people say fibreglass needs some time to offgas and others find it ok fairly soon after production. 

The domes start at  $7,500 for the 14' model.





Building a Non-Toxic Sofa

Here is my chemical-free new sofa!

We used maple because it is a hard wood that is non-aromatic (it does not have a strong terpene smell). 

The stain we used was Naturhaus Harmonic, which will soon be available online. The ingredients are: beeswax, carnauba wax, shellac, and a cosmetic emulsifier. It had a very sweet smell for the first two days. 

Other options for stains are AFM Safecoat WaterShield or Ecos.

The glue used was Titebond


Sketch of my sofa
The Foam is a piece of  3" Natural Latex. This has a natural rubber smell (which doesn't fade completely with time) but does not give off chemicals the way conventional foam does, nor does it contain flame retardants. 

Metal brackets reinfoce the frame so that the side piece can be leaned on. The inspiration picture had low sides that would not be as comfy; I didn't think I'd be able to curl up on that sofa. 

The dimensions are 28 in depth (standard sofa depth), height from seat 16 in (fairly standard), length 5 feet (length was made to fit in my tiny house).


The inspiration
The costs were:

Maple               468
Metal Brackets 200
Labour               40 hours
Foam                804 (from a local shop. Much cheaper on Amazon)

Fabric               150
Sewing             237

Total was around $3500.

This is expensive, even for a chemical-free sofa.


Some other options might be to buy a sofa from a company that makes non-toxic sofas. Here are a few options:

GreenSofas : Start at $1600

Elka Home: Start at $2000

Viesso: Start at $2000


Using Ozone to Clean up Toxins

Effectiveness of Ozone Generators 

Ozone kills mould on surfaces, eliminates many VOCS and odours such as perfume. It can also remediate smoke smell in certain materials. It is most effective at high levels which people refer to as "shock treatments".

I'm using the PT101-2K Ozone Generator (covers 3500 sq. ft. for odours, 400 sq ft for mould) which I recommend. 

My Camplite trailer became contaminated when the countertop went mouldy. I washed down the walls and aired it out, but porous materials including the bedding and flooring were still a big concern of mine. 


The floor and plastics also still gave off a chemical smell. 

Other sensitive people were reacting to the chemical smell. 


My Results


- Chemical smell in trailer reduced after a few treatments

- Can go into trailer without any reaction now but there was also lots of airing out for months
- Smell removed from funky smelling fabric (towel that had a smell that washing would not remove). Did not work on wool - created a new strange smell.
- Removed fragrance from cotton and silk clothing, but not dry cleaning chemical smell

Results From my Network on Healclick and Facebook:

One Healclick user found it really useful in the car. She says: "I was reacting very badly to the car and it smelled like perfumed cleaning chemicals. I just couldn't be in the car unless I really had to. Now the smell is gone." I have heard the same experience on Facebook as well - ozone helping a lot with fragrance in a car. Two other Healclick users found it useful to shock a room or tent, and to "flash" belongings before any toxins could take hold. These two Healclick users I know well and they are extremely reactive to mould. 

I think this is very useful if fragrance and smoke smell are your big concerns. It is very good to clean up some VOCs as well. I wish I had this when I first bought the Camplite to get rid of the new chemical smell and could have made it usable a lot sooner. I will also continue to use this on funky smelling clothing, to flash the trailer after people use it, and on friends cars and trailers as needed. I will update the post as I continue to use it.


You have to be sure you are using it safely and understand the limitations -

Safety


- Ozone is a toxic gas. People and pets should not be in the building when an ozone machine is on
- Ozone cannot remove carbon monoxide or formaldehyde (EPA)

- Ozone needs to be 5-10 x above safe levels for humans to impact bacteria and mould (Shoemaker)
- The place should be aired out after using ozone to make sure that the gas is not inhaled. Ozone is unstable and will quickly dissipate. If other VOCs form (see below) then it is necessary to air out the place for a while.
- One reason government health sites do not recommend the machines is that the shock treatment used to get rid of toxins is a very harmful level if inhaled. Even the low levels recommended by some manufacturers is probably harmful to anyone sensitive to toxins. So there is a risk if someone does not know how to use it safely. It is possible they are also wary because of the negative reaction outlined below. In many conventional houses it might not be possible to avoid all those reactions.

Limitations

- It cannot get into pourous materials to remove mould or chemicals (EPA)
- It will not help with chlorinated hydrocarbons (vinyl, plastics etc.) (EHC)
- Some say 
it kills mould spores but does not denature the toxins (EHC). These two studies show it can denature the toxins. It can still be a good idea to HEPA vacuum after ozoning.
- May not work on clothes and shoes (Shoemaker)

Negative Reactions

Ozone reacts negatively with some compounds creating more VOCS. Some of the substances it reacts to are:
- New carpets (EPA)
- Active tobacco smoke (EPA)
- Terpenes (to form formaldehyde) (CDH)
- Styrene (EHC)
- Floor finish that contains pinine (Shoemaker)

Side Effects 

High doses of ozone used to really clear out toxins will also degrade or harm certain materials such as:
- Plants
- Rubber
- Coating of electrical wires
- Fabric
- Some Artwork
(EPA)

Sources:

EPA: http://www.epa.gov/iaq/pubs/ozonegen.html
CDA: http://www.ct.gov/dph/lib/dph/environmental_health/eoha/pdf/ozone_generator_fact_sheet.pdf
EHC: http://www.environmentalhealth.ca/summer96ozone.html
Shoemaker: http://www.survivingmold.com/legal-resources/environmental/ozone-generators-and-interior-mold-remediation-a-recipe-for-disaster

Tour of my Non-Toxic Tiny House


Non-Toxic Windows and Window Coverings

Window Frames

Metal - Steel or aluminum windows with a baked on enamel finish are the greenest, safest option. It is what I used in my tiny house (pictured left). On the interior they are framed out in wood so they appear to be wood framed windows.

What is used in the windows as a thermal break is blocked by the glass and metal so there is no need to worry about any offgassing.

Wood - Wood windows are usually treated with fungicides. You could use a sealer that seals in VOCs like AFM Safecoat Safe Seal,  AFM Safecoat Transitional Primer, or B-I-N Shellac Base Primer & Sealer. You could go with custom wood windows to avoid fungicides, but they are more expensive and you still have to consider what kind of sealer you can tolerate on the inside and outside. Finding a suitable sealer for outdoor wood is tricky. AFM Safecoat Duro Stain or AFM Naturals Clear Penetrating Oil are two options. The outside would need to be re-stained on a regular basis.

Consider also the glue that is used in conventional wood windows could be irritating for the sensitive person. If you are having custom windows made see my post on safer wood glues.

Fibreglass - Fibreglass offgasses VOCs and most sensitive people do report reacting to it.

Vinyl - Vinyl offgasses VOCs and is not a healthy choice.

Gas filled - Windows filled with argon or krypton gas have a higher insulative value and both gases are considered non-toxic.

Sealing Windows

Silicone - My top choice for silicone is Eco-Bond but I review a few different options in this post.

Sealing around windows and doors - Wool products can be used instead of polyurethane foam. Some options are available at Loghome Wool.




Window Flashing

I used NovaFlash which is a zero-VOC product.

Window Coverings 

Source: Blinds Chalet
Screens - Conventional screens are very smelly at first. They can be left outside to offgas or aluminum screens can be used instead. Marvin is one brand that makes the aluminum options.

Fabrics - Fabric curtain are usually treated with wrinkle-free chemicals and flame retardants. Natural fabrics do break down in UV light but are a better option.

Blinds and Shutters - Green versions include naturally finished wood shutters, metallic venetian blinds, and bamboo roll down blinds.

Between the Glass - Between the glass is a really cool option. Here is an example.

Non-Toxic Blackout Shades - This is a hard to come by product. Blinds Chalet blackout liner is PVC- free and they claim that it is environmentally friendly. Blinds Galore has a natural blind with a cotton/polyester blackout liner. (They have a .com as well as .ca)

Avoid vinyl roller shades and vinyl miniblinds, and conventional blackout curtains.

Natural Wall Systems

The following are concrete and earth based wall systems that do not offgas toxins and are suitable for the chemically sensitive. Something a little different from the standard timber frame, spray insulation and gypsum boards:

lowcostgreenhome.com
Pumicecrete Walls

A mix of pumice and concrete are poured into forms to create these non-toxic walls. They can be made load bearing with a concrete beam. Test pumice for radioactivity and for odours that it may have picked up prior to installation.








Wikipedia.org
Hemp Crete

An interesting material making a comeback, Hemp Crete is blocks made of hemp and a lime based binder. The blocks are used to form the walls and act as insulation. They are not load bearing so are used with a timber frame.











faswall.com
Wood Insulated Concrete Forms

Forms are made of a mix of remineralised wood and concrete. Inside, rebar is used as reinforcement and then they are filled with concrete. Insulative fibers can be added or they can be filled with part concrete and part clay or a non toxic insulation. Brands include Durisol and Faswall.








aerconaac.com
Aerated Autoclaved Concrete

Concrete based blocks made from quartz, lime or cement, and aluminum powder. Test thinset mortor for sensitivity.









Is Concrete Non-Toxic?

Portland Cement should be used and it should be confirmed that it is free of admixtures such as air
entrainment and water reducing agents, accelerants and retardants, and super plasticizers. Ceramic Cement (Magnesium Cement) is also a good option according to George Swanson.


 Which Concrete Aggregates are Chemical-Free?

Natural non-toxic mineral aggregates should be used. Toxic aggregates include crushed brick, crushed 
sandstone, concrete slag, fly ash, cinder, and volcanic materials other than pumice. (Prescriptions for a Healthy House).



Wall Boards

Magnesium Oxide Board is the cleanest option. I talk more about it in my post on Bathrooms.

A FAQ is whether there are non-toxic drywalls. Of the wall boards out there DensArmor Plus is recommended by some - it is low-toxin, but not non-toxic. I do not know of any zero VOC conventional drywalls.


Natural Building: Earth Based Walls

Cob, Adobe, Light Clay-Straw, and Straw Bale and Rammed Earth

Adobe house from trails.com
These are all different types of walls made of clay, straw, and sand. But instead of giving a comprehensive overview I will comment briefly on the suitability of these building materials for the chemically sensitive. Houses made of all natural materials feel great to be in and there is no need to worry about any offgassing. However there are precautions that should be taken to avoid mould. These types of builings might be best suited to dry climates so that there is no chance of mould forming. Some people seem to be doing very well in adobe houses in the south-western US.

If straw is used in the walls it should be carefully sourced to be free of mould and pesticides. When building with cob, adobe or light clay straw there needs to be a dependable dry season of three months for the walls to dry out properly. They are particularily suited to be heated with wood stoves as that dries out the walls well in the rainy and damp seasons (source: Econest). An above grade stem wall and proper drainage around the house is also very important to keep the walls from getting damp.


Rammed Earth from sirewall.com
Another natural wall system worth mentioning in a little more detail, Rammed Earth, uses sand, gravel and clay has had an interesting development recently. Foam has been added for insulation and steel for support, and 5-10% cement is added to the clay mixture. It's called Stabilized Insulated Rammed Earth.

Water does not penetrate the walls.






Paula Baker-Laport has more tips for mould free construction of earth based walls in her book Prescriptions for a Healthy House: A Practical Guide for Architects, Builders & Homeowners

Avoiding Flame Retardants in the Home

Flame Retardants in Mattresses and Furniture

Most couches and mattresses in North America will likely have flame retardants (FRs) unless stated otherwise. Espeically those containing polyurathane foam. (Same goes for polyurathane pillows including nursing pillows).
Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDE)

Dr Mercola says, "be especially careful with polyurethane foam products manufactured prior to 2005, such as upholstered furniture, mattresses and pillows, as these are most likely to contain PBDEs. If you have any of these in your home, inspect them carefully and replace ripped covers and/or any foam that appears to be breaking down. Also avoid reupholstering furniture by yourself as the reupholstering process increases your risk of exposure." (source).

A Common Question: Does IKEA use Flame Retardants?

IKEA (US) states "unfortunately we do not currently offer upholstery without flame retardants as the foam in the cushions is what is treated." They claim to use unspecified organic phosphorous/nitrogen-containing compounds, however, one blogger who sent in a sample to Duke University found that the sofa still contained the supposedly phased out chloronated tris.


chlorinated tris (TCPP)
For their mattresses they state on their Facebook Page that the  SULTAN line is "all natural", and in an email confirm that the "SULTAN HEGGEDAL is able to meet the necessary standards without the use of flame retardants." (sources: onetwo and three

As for IKEA Canada: "with foam furniture... reps say unspecified organic phosphorous/nitrogen-containing compounds or melamine or chloro-phosphorous compounds are used. " (source)
With their mattresses things are a little better, in an email from IKEA in 2014 they stated  "mattresses currently sold in IKEA stores in Canada have not been treated with flame retardants." (personal correspondence with IKEA).

Sultan Heggedal via www.ikea.com
In both Canada and the US it seems that the SULTAN HEGGEDAL (made of 85% natural latex with no polyurethane or FRs) is a fairly safe mattress. (The only chemical component is 15% synthetic latex). As for their upostered furniture, I would stay far far away.

See my post on furniture and mattresses to source natural versions that do not offgass any harmful chemicals. There are 100% natural options for mattresses that can come fairly close to the IKEA price point on the sultan line ($850).
Carpets

There are many companies making organic or natural fibre carpets, such as wool, and for rugs, cotton, rattan or jute. Carpets should explicitly state that they use all natural materials. Conventional types from big box stores contain a long list of chemicals including flame retardants.

Be careful when removing old carpets as the FRs can become scattered as dust. Do not do this yourself if you are sensitive, and have all the dust cleared before reentereing the room.

Curtains

It's hard to know which curtains contains FRs as they will not be labeled. I would assume that curtains from hardware stores and conventional stores do contain toxins unless you check with the manufacturer. I would go with an organic brand like these hemp fabric curtains



Flame Retardants in Insulation

Ridged Foam insulation 


HBCD is typically used in polystyrenes, in concentrations of up to 1% in EPS, and up to 5% in XPS. TCPP is typically used in polyisocyanurate foams (up to 10%).  (source )

There is no EPS or XPS insulation without flame retardants on the market currently. (source)

The only ridged foam insulation I know of without flame retardants is JM polyiso foam backed with foil.





Spray Foam Insulation

Almost all spray foams made in the US contain FRs according to Treehugger, usually TCPP (source)

Natural insulation options in my post on Insulation.


Retardants in Electronics

Apple phased out brominated flame retardants (BFRs) in 2008 but uses "safer" unspecified flame retading chemicals. Motorola is BFR-free and Sony has phased it out of some products (source). How much these can leach out of electronics is not clear. With furniture it is when the particles become dust bound that they become the biggest problem.


Cleaning up Flame Retardants in the Home


IQAir filter
Flame retardants become mobile in dust as opposed to gas. So keeping a dust free home is of utmost importance. David Suzuki says, "household dust is now recognized as one of the most significant sources of childhood exposure to toxic substances."

HEPA Vacuum is the best way to deal with the dust if you have conventional furniture, carpets and curtains. 

Dust also contains phthalates, metals like lead, mercury and arsenic, and pesticides (Suzuki). The best way to remove particulates and (and VOCs, and mould) from the air is a HEPA air filter. The best one of the market is the IQAir. A decent one that is a more affordable is this Honeywell.

Emergency Housing for MCS

Here are list of some housing ideas for those with environmental sensitivities needing immediate or temporary safe housing:


KOA Cabins


koa.com
KOA cabins are located across the US and Canada. The cabins are made from mostly safe materials (mostly wood) and have been reported to be good places to stay for those who are environmentally sensitive. Ask if the wood has been stained recently. The bathrooms are separate and may or may not be mould-free depending on the location.

For a list of good locations to try see this post.







Renting a Natural Home 

The Sanctuary at OUR Ecovillage is a good place to stay
Staying in a cob house (or straw bale, adobe, light straw-clay house) can be a really good option

Ecovillages may rent out rooms in natural homes and there is a possibility of getting in on the communal meal plan as well. Search for some in your area and ask about monthly stays.

The location you choose is also important as the outdoor air can be as important as the indoor air.

For a list of more locations and rental possibilities
see this post. I have seen some natural homes listed on AirBnB as well as on lists of intentional communities/ecovillages. 

Always ask about propane, natural gas, cleaning products, and water damage. 


Reflectix Dome Tent


from: www.miketyka.com/projects/desert-dome/
Regular tents are difficult because of the chemicalss used on the fabrics, the lack of insulation and the tendency for them to go musty very easily and be a lot of work with the airing out and drying out. 

Reflectix has a very high R-value and reflects light so that should work in a lot of different climates though the seams will reduce the insulative value - there are simpler designs for the structure that will reduce seams.

You can't buy these - you would have to look online for the metal structure, then buy the Reflectix, foam, aluminum tape and duct tape and then have someone make it for you. See this post for the instructions

I would also make at least one triangle out of polyethylene or an EVA Shower Liner so that you have some light. But have a flap of reflectix over it that you open and close over this "window".

For the base you could put styrofoam down and cover that with reflectix, mylar blankets or polyethylene  For something a little more permanent you could get MgO board and put it on concrete blocks. You could put styrofoam in the spaces underneath - or do MgO/styrofoam/MgO. 


Bubble Tent


source http://dornob.com
Made of thick polyethylene, these cute domes might inspire you to go glamping. They are available in the UK (Ebay) for 999 Pounds.  Hopefully they will come to North America soon.

They include a fan that circulates fresh air.
Though they would still be impractical for hot or cold weather. 





Tenting

There is no perfectly chemical-free tent as far as I know, but i have heard good things about cheap tents from Walmart, Big Agnes tents, others report LL Bean and Colmen as having been tolerable. 

For more information please see these excellent articles by EI Wellspring on Safer Camping and Safer Camping Equipment


Metal Shed in Backyard

homedepot.ca
Steel sheds can be bought from hardware stores for 700-1000 dollars. You will also need to build a foundation, pay for labour to set it up, caulk the whole structure and likely put in some insulation. For everything you need to know about setting up a shed to live in see this post by EI Wellspring.

Sheds are as not easy to take down as you would expect.








Back of a Pick-Up Truck

Try and find an aluminum canopy. The bedliner should be offgassed or can be covered with reflectix or mylar. If ordering a brand new truck you can request no liner.

Cargo Trailer

Details on making a cargo trailer safe in this post. 


Creating a Safe-Room in Your House with Tuf-Tuf 

To create a non-toxic room in your home you can use Tu-Tuf (or denny foil, or aluminum foil) on the walls/ceiling/floor. These materials block all VOCs (chemicals/toxins including mould). In terms of eyesore, Tu-Tuf is absolutely preferrable.

You want to use green Painting Tape for this as it will not damage the walls and is easy to remove - a healthy person could rip off/take down the whole room is probably 20-30 min (small room). The blue tape is toxic so I wouldn't use that. You could use aluminum tape but it is very sticky and will leave a residue/be hard to take off. 

Leave an air gap between the barrier and the wall/ceiling/floor, so it will look puffy, that will help prevent condensation. This method still may produce condensation on the other side of the barrier but with the green tape it is easy to remove a part of it and check. I would only do this in a rental or somewhere that you know you will move from in a year or less. Or just do this for a couple weeks to test how toxic your environment is. 

I have used this successfully on areas that were off gassing (a new door) with no condensation issues. 

Cover outlets, window frame but not the window. As for light fixtures I would go around them.

The only thing in the room should be clean bedding i.e. a new non toxic mattress or camping cot (etc). New non-toxic bedding and pillow. Be careful with bringing in EMFs producing devices if you use foil (that is also why Tu-Tuf is preferable). Practice decontamination and isolation - i.e. by new clothing for the bedroom and shower before entering. This will be a safe clean non-toxic place to sleep. It should help insomnia immediately. But be careful that when you open the window or the door that the air coming in might not be good, so this won't be a long-term solution. 


Other Emergency Housing

We should have emergency and long-term safe housing for people with MCS. Unfortunately this is not available in Canada. But check out the Environmental Health Association of Qu├ębec if you are a Quebecer. 

In Canada there is a national Housing Connection service connecting people renters with housing. More info here

If you are in the US, join Re|shelter's underground network

When I come across places on AirBnB that look safe I list them here

How-To: Staining Wood with Natural Pigments

Alex used natural milk paint pigments from Homestead House to stain the poplar floors and stairs in my tiny house. These pigments were extremely difficult to work with and I did not end up liking the result. But I have a few tips on how to get a better result.

The first tip is you can not go too many shades darker with these pigments. You can go one or two shades darker at most. Here you can see what happened when we stained the very light popular floor dark brown. It turned out very patchy and uneven. (Partly this was due to a soft wood and the way poplar absorbs things, but I think it would come out uneven on any type of wood).

We had to go back over the floors and sand part of it off. Then go in by hand and sand the darker bits. It still isn't where I want it to be.


The stairs went a little better as we did not attempt to go too dark there:























Applying the stain is also a difficult procedure. If you just paint it on with a paintbrush or with a cloth it will go on even more blotchy than this, and you will see all the brush lines. or lines from the cloth, because it dries in a few seconds.

Here's how to apply it:

1.  Tape off the wood along the seams in 3 or 4 inch sections length-wise. Do not tape it off width-wise or you will have a dark looking seam there.

2. Continually mix the stain/water solution so that you get a consistent amount on the brush. (2 or 3 people are needed)

3. One person paints on the stain with a brush and keeps moving down the length without stopping because it dries in a few seconds and you will have marks of where you stop if you stop. Overlapping the stain will also leave a noticeable splotch.

4. The second person follows, rubs in the stain/removes the excess with a cloth to even it out.

This has to all be done very fast.


A Note on Sealing 

On top of the stain we put hemp oil which now I know is not ideal for floors as it picks up grime from feet that can only be cleaned by sanding. The picture on the right is grime from the landing floor. This is just hemp oil with no stain.

You cannot see the grime on the dark floors, but it is there and so it feels less than perfectly clean.

A better sealer for floor and stairs is ECOs clear varnish. It's zero VOC and smells very benign to me.


Tiny House Systems for the EI

Tiny House Systems: Power, Water and Wastewater with a Focus on Reducing EMFs 

Type of Power

My tiny house is 100% electric. I could have gone with a propane on demand hot water heater and possibly with a propane powered fridge. Since these vent fully to the outside they should be safe. I decided not to because I would then have to deal with buying, transporting and hooking up propane. House insurance is also a little bit higher with propane hooked up. If you want to reduce the number of amps you are using then you will need some propane powered systems. I would not use a propane stove though as the fumes are very toxic. If you can afford solar it might be a good idea but it won't power much and then you have the added EMFs of the inverter.

Power Supply for a Tiny House

A regular house has 200 amps so what I did was take 100 amps off the house on this property with my own 100 amp panel. My tiny house is probably running on just over 60 amps so we went with 100 to be safe (we did not actually do the math on this one). Often rural properties in BC have 2 x 200 amps if they have a barn or small cottage on the land. Therefore it is not too hard to find someone that has the amps to spare. A lot of people here use wood heat and gas stoves so they can spare the electricity even on the main house.

The picture (right) is my submeter. I'm about 300 feet from the house that I hooked up to (I'm also losing some amps there from the distance but we did not measure how much) My submeter just measures how much power I am using. None of this was done through the power company nor were they informed of this. I am not on a separate bill - I just use the meter reading to know how much of the main house's electric bill I need to pay.

Between the submeter and my house the electric and internet cables are buried underground.

A mobile home park supplies either 60 or 100 amps and trailer parks provide 15 - 60 amps, depending. They would also supply fresh water and a hook up to sewage/septic.

Costs of using all Electic

In the winter when I crank the heat I was paying about $130 a month. Now it's about $50 per month (Spring).  It's better to take your electricity off a old cottage or barn that is not being used much because if you have a two-tier payment system for electricity you are paying double the rate - as you will push the usage over to the second tier every month. This is a pretty major consideration as it can cost you up to 60$ a month extra.

Tiny House Panels

Here are my panels in my utility closet. I have two panels -  one for essentials that is always on and one that can be turned off at night.  As you can see in the pic what goes off at night is the oven, lights, sockets and bathroom. What stays on is the heat/AC, hot water, fridge and mechanical room. The panel that can be turned off is controlled by a fob (a garage door opener that can be used from the comfort of my bed).

The same effect can be had from going out to the panel and turning off the unessential switches at night. But this involves going outside twice a day.

Two tips, if you have a composting toilet you are going to need that on all night (otherwise it smells) so make sure you put that on the right panel. One more tip is to have the default position as "on" for the subpanel. When my power goes off I need the fob to bring that panel back on.

There are also two sockets outside one that is connected to the permanent panel and one that can be switched off.  It's been very handy to have these two outlets in the shed for internet, heat tape (below) and for plugging in my travel trailer).

Reducing EMFs

The utility closet is separate from the house and on the opposite side from the bedroom in order to reduce EMFs. You can put foil or another EMF barrier in that wall and that will slightly shield you as well.

Having a sub panel you can switch off make more sense in a big house where you can get some distance from the kitchen, heating system etc. I don't currently turn off the non-essential subpanel at night, as it does not make a difference for me.

One thing you can try is switch off the individual breakers to your bedroom and other non essentials at night (and definitely switch off the wi-fi and put cell phone on airplane mode) and see if that helps you sleep better.

I also keep my modem out there in the utitlity room and it works perfectly fine in the humidity and in -10 C weather. This way it as far from the bedroom as possible. I keep the wi-fi off at all times. My house is wired with ethernet cables and there are three different outlets so that I can use the internet anywhere in my house. Wi-fi definitely affects my heart rate and sleep.  (Note this is not the usual way to wire internet  - you want the thick black cable to hook up to a modem outside and only have the ethernet cables running inside.)

The cable company was nice about running the cable 300 feet from the house out to my trailer where I am essentially squatting. The part where it had to be buried was up to me to do.

Water - Incoming


Here on the right is my 40 litre electric hot water tank. It's pretty small but works great for two people. It did not freeze in -10 C weather even though it is outside. If it does freeze it will crack and have to be replaced.

My water source is a hose that runs 100 ft above ground from an outdoor faucet. My hose has a heat tape on it which is that white cord coming off the pipes. Over the heat tape is insulation. This kept is from freezing in -10. The heat tape is plugged into one of the outlets in the utility shed only when it's below freezing out.



Wastewater

Here on the left is a not so great picture of where my greywater goes. (I have no blackwater because I have a composting toilet.) All the water from the shower and two sinks goes into a pit that is just outside my house. It is so overgrown with plants that it is very well disguised and impossible to take a picture of. In the winter though you can see it and if you are trying to avoid inspectors seeing it you will need to come up with another way to hide it in winter.

The red rectage shows how big it is. It is not very big at all, about 1 ft x 4 ft. I keep thinking it needs to be bigger but it has not caused me any problems as it is. I have had to go out and remove the sludge that builds up a couple times in the last 8 months. I don't have any filter on it that prevents oils/grease/food particles/hair conditioner from going straight into the pit.


Heating and Cooling

Lastly, my heating system is tucked in in the top part of my utility closet and is hard to take a picture of. It is a mini-split heat pump which provides heating and cooling. It has a dehumidifying mode but it does not pull moisture from the air - it is simply an adjusted AC setting. I also have two extractor fans, one above the stove and one above the shower to remove excess moisture from the air and that works well to keep my humidity levels in the safe zone.

The heat pump is 12,000 BTUs which is more than the company recommended but I am glad I went with it anyway. In the winter I often had it on full blast with 2 space heaters going as well and on the hottest days (up to about 30 degrees C) the AC is needed on full force especially with cooking and showering all in this small space.