|The most important room in the house has come a long way in the past couple months|
- Plumbing isn't so scary. I spent about 2 hours in the Home Depot plumbing aisle staring at various fittings, baggies of adjustable plastic drain pipes and hardware. After the initial panic and self-doubt and bargaining (should I just call the plumber, etc.) the stuff just starts to make sense.
- Mini refrigerators aren't practical. From both an energy and usage standpoint, mini fridges don't measure up. We learned this lesson long ago (college dorm days) and opted for a big'ish refrigerator in the tiny cabin. The 10 cu. ft. fridge with top freezer is a top rated Energy Star model. On average, it uses less than one kWh per day, which is well within the energy budget for our off-grid system. To host big groups of guests for a weekend at a time, the fridge proved to be an amazing decision.
- Vent to the outside world. In a tiny house the last thing you want is to have delicious cooking smells, steam and smoke permeate every corner of the house. Nice while cooking. Not so nice when everything smells like onions for the rest of the day. The Broan vent hood has a monster fan inside that exhausts all the smells and steam outside. While using the vent fan with the wood stove going, we have to open a window a bit or else the power of the fan will cause negative pressure (smoke coming into the house instead of up the chimney).
- DIY light fixtures featuring LED Edison bulbs. The fixtures are simply made from mason jars with LED Edison bulbs suspended inside. These LED Edisons are amazing - they look just like their energy hogging incandescent cousins but use a tiny, tiny 3 watts of energy apiece and last for thousands of hours. Almost too good to be true. The parts for each lamp were under $20 including the specialty LED bulbs.
- Big stove, small package. Summit makes this cool 4-burner stove with a decently large oven and broiler. So far it's meeting all our expectations. We had the propane line professionally installed.
- DIY wooden slab shelves. The natural bark-covered edge faces out for a rustic look. The slabs are from a local sawmill. Easy and inexpensive to work with. Brackets were an investment but made installation extremely fast and easy.
- Energy meter to keep tabs on our power balance. The energy meter sitting on top of the fridge communicates wirelessly with a sensor inside the main electrical panel. We can see instantaneous wattage. It also tracks and graphs our consumption over time. Living off-grid is about balancing solar power production and storage with consumption. While we have plenty of margin built into our system, it's nice to know what the house is consuming at any moment. By comparing our usage with our solar meters, we have a very detailed sense of our energy balance. We previously used this device in our grid-connected home and it helped us cut our energy costs by $40 per month. Now it serves an even more important purpose in the off-grid cabin.