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Can You Have an Air-Conditioning System Off Grid?

Having pioneered many of the green technology features found in today's new homes with my luxury home building company, Bryan Smith Homes, founded in 1977, I tried a lot of new products and energy saving approaches long before building green became a real focal point. Because of all the large homes we built, and the subdivisions my company developed were tied to the grid, I never built an off-grid home before, or one with a solar system included. When I launched Texas Tiny Homes in December of 2012, I began to realize many of our plan customers around the world were planning to build off grid, so decided to educate solar and wind generated power.

One of the first questions I had was; can an off-grid solar system handle an air-conditioning system? That is also one of the first things people in Texas and most southern states want to know as they consider an off grid lifestyle in a tiny house, or small home. This video, by DIY Homesteading provides some helpful information and his personal testimony on their own tiny RV home they just constructed in Arizona. Heating a tiny, or a small off-grid home doesn't require solar, so that's not the problem. You can go with a wood burning iron stove or some of the popular tiny home propane heaters work well. You can also go with a heat pump system as discussed below. 

The good news is; it IS possible to have air-condition system with a reasonable size and priced solar system, but you have to plan wisely when designing and building the home; including minimizing your exposure to the west sun. How you situate your home on the property is an important part of the equation. If your home is going to be one on a trailer, or it's one of our tiny or small homes that are too wide for trailers, they are usually rectangular in shape.  And because of that you will want to place the trailer, or build the home with the narrow ends facing east and west, therefore minimizing your exposure to the sun. It would be best if there were no windows on the end that catches the west sunset, but if you do have windows, you would want to go with super efficient units with triple pane glass that are argon filled. Making that exterior wall, 2" X 6" or 2" X 8" thick would also be an excellent idea. You will want to foam insulate that wall too, as well as all the exterior walls in the home as well as any ceilings that are also the roof rafters.

We plan to add 4' X 8' X 1" foam board sheathing on the exterior wall first before adding radiant barrier sheathing and then siding. Adding radiant barrier decking on the exterior walls before the siding goes on will reflect 97% of the radiant heat entering the home. The additional "R" value those items add to the exterior walls will help make the home even much easier to heat and cool, as well as maintain the temperature inside the home. Once the home is acclimatized to your desired temperature, it's much easier, and more economical to maintain that temperature with a super insulation design and installation as outlined above.

Image result for radiant barrier roof deckingAnother important step you will need to take in an effort to reduce the heat from the sunlight during the hot months is to use a radiant barrier roof decking before the the roof material is applied. That type of decking can reduce attic temperatures dramatically by reducing the radiant waves by 97%, and a cooler attic or roof keeps the inside of your home cooler. Using reflective, light colored roofing material is also an important part of the off-grid home when cooling it down. You would want to avoid a dark colored roof.

Image result for galvanized roofUsing this type of roof will reflect the sunlight rather than draw it into the home as popular, darker colored composition roofs will do, unless they have been manufactured with energy saving elements in the materials used. The good thing about a metal roof, manufactures apply paint to the metal that reflect infrared wavelengths, and you can actually receive a tax credit when installing energy saving roof materials.

Another requirement with having an air-conditioner in your off-grid home is installing a low-voltage, high-seer mini split-system, which is much more economical to operate and uses a lot less valuable wattage from the battery bank. Because of how the tiny or small home is designed and built that include all these energy saving features mentioned, it will be much easier on the solar system to keep the home cool and also warm if you use the heat pump in the mini-split system. Having large shade trees on the end of the home that faces west is also another great idea, as long as it doesn't interfere with the solar panels sun exposure.




Rainwater Harvesting Tour

Joe, of Homesteadonomics, who is located out in Arizona has done a really nice job of designing, installing and living off a rainwater harvesting system for he and his family.  This video gives a detailed tour of his system. The following video is a Q and A on his system.

Granbury, Texas, where Texas Tiny Homes is planning to build some small luxury homes, averages around 35" inches of rainfall each year. Adding a rain-harvest system to supply all the water needs for our homes is possible, but would require some planning and the upfront expense to design and install a system.  Examples: A 14' X 25' carport (one of the options for our new homes) could capture around 7656 gallons of water per year based on the rainfall in Granbury. The roof on one of our 600+ square models could capture another 5000 to 7000 gallons of water each year, so both roof capture scenario's could provide all the water needs for the year for one person living in one of our small homes. The rain water would be treated and filtered, meet health department requirements, but could save you $700 to $1000 dollars per year in water expensive. The upfront expense for a rainwater harvest system for this size would run approximately $4500.00; including materials and installation, but would pay for itself in 5 to 6 years. A rainwater harvest system is something to consider if you wish to live off grid, organically. All of our lots in Granbury have metered water available from a community water system for those not interested in this approach, or unable to afford the upfront expense 




Water Saving Shower Head | Save 1000’s of Gallons Per Year

This shower water conservation video is by Steven Harrell, who launched Tiny House Listings about 6 years ago. His website was instrumental and inspiration in Texas Tiny Homes formation in 2012. This video features a low flow shower head that can save thousands of gallons of water each year depending on the setting you chose. We have selected six water saving shower heads in our online store.  

Water conservation is so critical these days, but it’s also a requirement when living small, or off grid when water is hard to come by, and safely disposing it if your tiny and small home is not tied to a city sewage system, or if you are using a grey water filtering system. Texas Tiny Homes is looking at all the black and grey water disposal options for the new homes we are going to be build on our lots in Granbury, Texas and the less amount of water coming out the home the better. Water conserving shower heads will be an important and necessary feature in some of new home we build.

 




The Areas of Compromise for $85K Site-Built Homes

New Homes Granbury,  Luxury Homes Granbury, Small Homes Granbury, Tiny Homes Granbury, Lowest Price New Homes In America Texas Tiny Homes has a goal of offering you some of the most affordable, but also luxurious small homes in America, which is no easy task in today’s booming economy.  Because of the high cost of construction, and cost of the land the average price of a new home in America is now, $368,000. New home construction has been booming for the past 6 years, especially in Texas, and because of that there is a shortage of skilled trades, construction workers and construction materials, and affordable lots.

In an effort to accomplish our “$85K Starting Price” goal in Granbury, Texas some compromise is going to be necessary, but the last place the compromise will show up is in the quality of construction, the attention to details, and the luxury features found in all of our home plans. One of the areas of compromise require smaller, less expensive lots, which we are now purchasing in older, but deed-restricted, HOA communities, located outside of the city limits. These communities do not have city property taxes,which is good, but they do not have city water and sewer.

New Homes Granbury,  Luxury Homes Granbury, Small Homes Granbury, Tiny Homes Granbury, Lowest Price New Homes In America These communities have brand-new, site-built homes, as well as older, site-built homes, along with brand-new, as well as older manufactured homes. Some of the older, manufactured homes are being replaced with brand new homes, so these communities are similar in trend to some very popular tear-down neighborhoods in East Dallas, Preston Hollow, Park Cities, or Oak Cliff, Texas. In some of the booming, tear-down neighborhoods in Dallas, there are million dollar homes being built right door next door to 60-year-old, $150K thousand dollar homes. Having said that, the lots we are purchasing are hand-picked and are the best of the available lots in each community. Our goal will provide new life to these older communities, as well as growth.

New Homes Granbury,  Luxury Homes Granbury, Small Homes Granbury, Tiny Homes Granbury, Lowest Price New Homes In America

Another part of the compromise to obtain our “$85K starting price” goal is based on the size and cost of the lot, as well as how to handle the black and grey water waste (sewage). The larger the lot the more expensive they are to purchase, which is the case with most land acquisitions. Smaller lots are less expensive, but one of common draw backs to the smaller lots, especially in Texas, which came about after these communities were developed is; a typical new home requires having to purchase several smaller lots to accommodate a large, and expensive, aerobic septic system. We believe our approach will work well, as do the experts we have consulted with; including the health department of Hood, County.

CS Opep

Texas Tiny Homes, starting price, site-built, luxury homes in Granbury are only slightly over 600 air-conditioned square feet, and only have one bathroom, or one and half bathrooms, a kitchen and washer and drier, and were designed for one or two persons to live in comfortably, and economically. These small luxury homes do not require a typical, costly, septic system, nor do they need two lots, which make the homes much more affordable. We are not willing to publicly provide our plans for working around the typical two lots, and one large septic system requirement scenario, but will say that a composting toilet, and a grey water irrigation approach will be two of the options in achieving the $85K starting price. Composting toilets are very much a part of off-grid living around the world, and there are many models and brands to chose from that seem to be very popular with the tiny and small house movement.

The Sun Frost CS composter system incorporates a sleek interior toilet and two 55 gallon batch composters outside to finish the composting process. Food scraps increase biodiversity and actually makes the composting process more effective.

The Sun Frost CS composting system does not require a drain field or have large electrical requirements to evaporate liquids. The only electrical requirement is about 2 watts for a ventilation fan. The fan can be provided in DC for solar applications or AC for grid tied installations. Odor in the bathroom is controlled by two methods, covering the toilets contents with saw dust or peat moss and a fan powered ventilation system. Even without a ventilation system, covering the content of the toilet with sawdust has proven itself effective. For many years, a similar home built toilet system outlined in the “Humanure Handbook” effectively utilized this strategy. With the incorporated ventilation system the Sun Frost CS is even more odor free than a conventional toilet, since the odors produced while using it are expelled directly outside.

CS ClosedFor a single user exclusively using the CS it will take about 1 week to fill the 5 gallon interior storage container. If only solid waste is added the toilet will take more than 2 months to fill the interior container.

With this batch composting system one exterior drum is filled while the composting process is completed in the second drum. The 55 gallon composter only requires the addition of a dry material, such as wood savings. Wood shavings are readily available in feed and pet stores. Effective composting requires aeration (mixing), proper moisture content and warmth. Mixing in the 55 gallon drum is easy with the stainless steel “cork screw” type mixer provided with the kit. The exterior drums are also insulated to keep the compost warm, which speeds the composting. During winter months under very cold conditions the contents of the drums may freeze. Human manure and food scraps can still be added to the drum, composting will continue during warmer weather. A scoop, provided with the kit, makes emptying the drums a simple matter. When emptied the contents of the drum smell and look like healthy top soil.

If composting toilets are not something you would be interested in we have other options including standard type toilets that we can discuss, which will be a little more costly for you over the long run, but will not effect the starting price of our new homes. Click this contact link and send us an email stating your interest, and we will get back with you right away.




CD’s For Plan 448 – In Production

The first order of CD’s for Texas Tiny Homes, Plan 448, our most popular selling plan is now in production with Atomic Disc up in Oregon. The new CD’s will soon be available on our website that we believe will make great birthday and Christmas gifts for your friends and family. You will be able to order one and we will mail it to you right away. The price will include shipping.

We are also planning on having 3 or 4 of our plans on CD so if you have a retail store or booth in an arts and crafts type facility you may want to consider having some of them available. We are working on a whole vendors program. Send us an email from our contact form if you are interested in becoming a wholesale vendor.