12 X 12 Project

The 12x12 project under contruction at the Queens Botanical Garden in NYC - Image from the12x12project.tumblr.com/

The 12×12 project under contruction at the Queens Botanical Garden in NYC – Image from the12x12project.tumblr.com

Head’s up North East readers! A group of artists and organizations is joining with the World Policy Institute and author William Powers to bring the 12 x 12 project to life at the Queens Botanical Garden in New York City. If you are nearby, RSVP for an admission ticket and to get more info on this wonderful tiny house built in the middle of New York City! :)

Cover of William Power's book - image from New World Library Publishing.

Cover of William Power’s book – image from New World Library Publishing.

About the project from the World Policy Institute website above: “The installation is a simple, modular space that houses panels containing text and questions from the Twelve by Twelve book. These panels will vary, allowing the project to grow and evolve. Participants including the public, invited groups, and artists will engage with the question: “What’s your 12×12?” to spark new thinking around what smart consumption means for each person.”

The history of the project is further described on the World Policy Institute side as stemming from “…author and WPI Senior Fellow, William Powers, who was inspired by the powerful story of a North Carolina pediatrician who gave up a luxurious home to live off the grid in a 12′ x 12′ house and permaculture farm. Powers, who spent a season living in the tiny house, chronicled his stay in the 2010 award-winning, national “green living” bestseller, now in its fifth printing: Twelve by Twelve: A One Room Cabin, Off the Grid & Beyond the American Dream.”

Tiny houses are a beautiful symbol of home. Whether home to you means a simple place of peace or the planet Earth as a whole, I think this project offers a wonderful philosophical perspective to consider.

Cheers, Logan.

How we keep cool in a tiny house during big heat

Elaina the cool cat blocks my workstation relief

Elaina the cool cat blocks my workstation relief

During the summer months in Portland, Oregon, air-conditioning was unnecessary. The temperature was typically around 80 degrees Fahrenheit (F) and rarely felt hot. The wool insulation in the tiny house combined with a fan to suck in the cool evening air was all that was required to stay within a tolerable temperature. However, now that the tiny house has moved south to the Central California Valley, the summer heat has been intense. We moved to Red Bluff, CA during the first week of May and quickly experienced high temps above 95 degrees F. In early June, one day exceeded 113 degrees F.

I quickly realized after a few days in our new climate that we needed to adapt. Our tiny house has a wonderful feeling of space with 10 windows, however, a sunny day can rapidly turn this benefit into a green-house effect. Further exacerbating the problem was the tiny house parking spot. In Red Bluff, CA the tiny house is parked directly in the sun and on a black asphalt driveway. To cool the house, I started drawing the window shades after mid morning to reflect sunlight. Also, to reduce solar gain in the loft, I mounted a nylon sun fabric to the outside of our skylight. Although, blocking sunlight and using a fan to circulate the air reduced the interior temp about 10 degrees F, this wasn’t quite enough to get the house down to a comfortable temp.

Exterior view of AC

Exterior view of AC

To meet our immediate need and to save the cats from another day of misery, I purchased a small window air-conditioner with good reviews. The model I purchased was a 5,000 BTU, 500 Watt, Frigidaire unit. Thankfully, this air-conditioner was inexpensive ($118) and easy to install with the provided insulating foam and a few added “L” brackets. The opening for my tiny house window is only about 18” wide but the air-conditioner with insulating foam fit easily. The unit is very stable with the “L” brackets and conserves space by protruding only about 5 inches beyond the exterior siding and less than 1 inch beyond the interior wall.

Initially, I was concerned that the energy consumption with this new appliance would skyrocket. After using the unit nearly constantly for about two months I’m happy to report that our electricity cost merely doubled from about $6/month to $11/month. In comparison, the central air conditioning and attic fan in my mother-in-law’s 2,500 sq ft home costs about $300/month to run. This cost is so prohibitive that my mother-in-law keeps her central air off. We have invited her to come over to the tiny house to cool down periodically. For example, during that 113 degree F day I mentioned earlier, we all hung out in the tiny house and relished the comfortable 70 degree F interior temp.

In summary, after six seasons in the tiny house spanning three distinct climates, I’ve learned how to adapt. Below are a few tips I’ve learned that can help keep a tiny house cool in the summer heat:

  • Trees are wonderful for blocking the sun and reducing the wind, so incorporate them into your parking space planning.
  • If possible, park on grass surfaces during the summer. Black asphalt surfaces can dramatically increase the heat.
  • Sun screen fabric is a great addition to the house and has the added benefit of greater privacy.
  • Tiny houses are easy to efficiently heat and cool so don’t worry about the added $5-10/month additional cost in maintaining a comfortable temperature.
Dang, our power billed doubled to $11! ;)

Dang, our power billed doubled to $11! ;)