Most tiny homes get their utilities how RV’s and standard homes do through utility and power companies. But often, people want to place their homes wherever these services aren’t provided. In these cases, their house must be off-grid, which means the individual is must provide their own utilities.
Standard Hook-ups VS Off-Grid
Standard hook-ups or utilities are generally available at RV parks or existing homes. If you intend to park your tiny house in someone’s back yard, you should be able to connect to their utility hook-ups. Standard hook-ups are usually the simplest route to go, as everything is already set up for you. Flushing toilets and endless reliable power and water whenever you want has become a way of life for many. However, the environmental impact has driven some to search for alternatives, which is pretty much what tiny living is all about.
Off-grid hook-ups are what you’d use if your house were settled wherever utilities aren’t provided. Keep in mind that even though these choices will save you money in the long run, most have a high
Standard Water Hook-Ups
For water, you need nothing more a spigot and a hose. If you’re concerned with the quality of water, it’s treated just the same as any city water. The problem is the hose being made of rubber and polyurethane, unfit for drinking. If you use an RV white hose you’ll notice that your water tastes just fine. It’s also still a good idea to keep a filter around.
A lot of people opt to use rainwater for their water needs. But unless you live in a place with heavy rainfall, tiny homes aren’t usually big enough to gather enough rainwater for daily use. which suggests that you may need to add an additional rain catchment structure to extend the gathering area or supplement your supply by bringing more in or building a well.
Probably the best option in any situation would be to purchase a Zero Mass Water unit. It’s a relatively new system that uses solar power to extract up to 10-30 liters of water from the air each day.
Standard Power Hook-Ups
Most tiny homes get their power the way RV’s do, through an extension cord. Depending on the power requirements for your tiny house, the extension cord will be sized differently. If your house is smaller and only needs twenty amp service, you’ll be able to plug your house directly into an existing outlet. If it needs thirty amps or higher, you’ll need to have a suitable outlet installed. Most RV parks already have suitable hook-ups for whatever you’ll need.
Solar and wind power are the most common ways to power tiny houses off-the-grid. It may seem a little complicated, but there aren’t many parts and installation is pretty simple. The hardest part will probably be estimating how much energy you’ll use and making sure you have enough power to supply it all. If you overestimate, you end up paying more for a larger system than what you needed. If you underestimate, you’ll run out of power. So the first step is to determine what your consumption will be and how much energy you can collect in your area. If you have your tiny house on a trailer and travel around, attaching a wind turbine will be pretty useful as you’ll collect energy while you drive. With solar, you’ll need a bigger system in areas that get less sunlight. These calculations can be tougher to make since there are many factors involved, however, there are online calculators that can make the job easier.
Standard Sewage Hook-Ups
If the property that you are keeping your house on is connected to city sewage or a septic tank, you’ll be able to splice into the existing line. Make sure the connection can be removed as it is often required by many legislatures to verify that the house is truly “mobile.”
With off-grid wastewater or sewage, you need to think about its source. Shower and sink water is considered as greywater and is often handled differently than toilet waste, considered as black water.
Greywater is relatively clean, and if biodegradable soaps are used, it can be disposed of into the ground. This can be done through the use of a French drain, which is basically a hole in the ground filled with rocks and pebbles. This temporarily stores the water while also exposing it to a larger surface area for it to leach into.
Blackwater can be harder to deal with. Buy by using a composting or incinerator toilet, the waste from your toilet is converted to either soil or ash. This resulting material is both safer and more pleasant to deal with. Popular options for composting and incinerating toilets include Natures Head, Seperatt, and Incinolet.
If you don’t plan to move your house, another option is to install a septic system for all wastewater. A septic system is similar to a French drain, in that it allows your wastewater to be absorbed into the ground. The difference is that a septic system is much bigger and has larger chambers to hold solid waste to give it time to decompose.
Standard Internet and Cable Hook-Ups
Standard cable provided by a service provider doesn’t get much simpler. If you’re at an RV park, most have cable hook-ups.
Internet and Cable Off-Grid
There are a couple different ways to get internet in your house. Buying a mobile hotspot is probably one of the simplest solutions. But in remote locations, satellite internet might be your best option. These options may be a little more costly but are generally worth it.
Propane On and Off-Grid
Heating elements usually come with a high electrical demand so going with propane for both on-demand hot water and for a range/stove is probably your best option. Its a pretty inexpensive way to heat things. With propane safety is always first! Tanks should always be stored outside the house and always install a propane detector or an electric auto-shut-off switch at the source. Keep pipe connections under the house or stub up into the house so joints are accessible for maintenance if a leak occurs. Do a pressure test and check for leaks with a detector or soap test.