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! ;)

Big Moving with a Tiny House

tiny house move

One of the biggest perks to living in a tiny house on wheels is that it can be moved. This perk allows my partner, Tammy, and I to be flexible in our plans and adapt to changes in circumstance and choice. It’s heartbreaking when we hear stories from friends that lament feeling “trapped”, having to turn down opportunities because their traditional home mortgage limits their choices. Recently, due to an illness in the family and the loss of my job, we decided to move closer to our relatives in Northern, California. We moved from Portland, Oregon to Yreka, California and then 8 months later moved again to Red Bluff, California. In two months we plan to move yet again to Chico, California. Tammy’s article entitled “The Big Move” on RowdyKittens describes the “why” behind our moving. In this article I will briefly describe the preparation, journey and arrival aspects of our tiny house moving adventures.

The Prep
You may have guessed that tiny house moving is as simple as closing the door and hitching up the house, but unfortunately, even moving tiny is still “moving” in many of the traditional connotations of the word. Moving stuff is typically anxiety provoking and expensive (in both time and money). To minimize costs and angst we did our best to prepare for our tiny house journey southward. As with any move, we still had to pack and box our belongings because we didn’t want things falling and breaking while the house was flying down the road at 55 miles per hour. Additionally, prior to the move, we typically have to move the tiny house from its scenic parking location to a truck accessible location, such as from a backyard to a driveway.

To accomplish this task we have a “power mover” electric dolly. This dolly tool is approximately the size of a lawnmower, attaches to the tongue of the tiny house trailer, and because of its small size, can move the tiny house around just about any obstacle. This dolly is wonderful for placing the house in a shady scenic location and getting it back out again for moving.

Moving the house from the backyard is relatively easy compared to moving the tiny house down the roadway. One of the often overlooked aspects of preparing for a tiny house move is height restrictions on roadways. Since the department of transportation typically restricts loads to within 8’6” wide and 13’5” tall many tiny houses are built to those limits for maximizing interior space. Unfortunately, not all bridges, over passes, and telephone cables are beyond these limits. Further, some gas stations have roofs that are also below these limits and can’t be accessed with the trailer attached. Because of this, it is very important to scout out your route for potential conflict locations and plan out good spots for re-fueling. There are long-haul trucker resources for best route information and most states allow wider and taller loads with a permit. The nice thing about obtaining a permit is that you get certified expertise regarding the routes that will work for your “haul”.

The Journey
Hitching up a tiny house to a truck is similar to any other utility trailer or camper. Follow the guidelines set by your trailer manufacture and you are good to go. Briefly, we raise the trailer tongue with the mounted jack, back the truck up, and lower the tongue receiver onto the ball hitch mounted to the truck. We then plug in the trailer’s electric cord into the truck’s bumper outlet for powering the trailer’s brakes and lights. Finally, we attach the safety chains/break-away cables and double check that the trailer lights and brakes are operating before hitting the road. For our house, we purchased the ball hitch size that fit our trailer and decided on an adjustable modular hitch system that can be swapped or moved up and down. Because we don’t own a truck, we wanted our trailer hitch to be as adaptable as possible to whatever we have available to tow.

Driving down the road the first time was nerve-wracking. Although we had prepped and double checked our route, it’s nearly impossible to measure every wire that appears to hang low across the street. Every wire looked “too low” and every passing commercial truck seemed too close to our house. However, after a few hours on the road we relaxed into the ride. Our second move, from Yreka, CA to Red Bluff, CA was much easier both in length and because of our experience from our prior move.

On our second move we were also relaxed enough to enjoy all of the smiles, honks, waves and thumbs up we received rolling down the highway. It never ceases to amaze me when I see someone’s first impression of the little house. It’s a look of sheer wonderment and smiling. We literally had so much encouragement on the road and at rest areas that our friend Dee suggested we should have a little wooden shop sign with our blog address, RowdyKittens.com, on the house for advertising.

The Arrival
Even though our last move was easier than our first move, nothing beats the feeling of relief when arriving at our destination safely. It’s like being a kid on the first day of summer after a difficult school year. We can literally feel the stress melt away and excitement build in us for our new location.

After placing the house were we want it, we take our time setting up camp. First we connect water, electricity, and begin leveling the tiny house. Secondly, we hang out with our new neighbors. We always have our immediate needs of food and drinks planned out so that we don’t need to worry about unpacking boxes on the day of arrival. Instead, we can relish in learning the stories of our new neighbors and start the difficult process of making more friends and never forgetting those that we left behind.

A Sincerely Heart-Warming Campaign

Tiny House, Big Heart on Indiegogo.

Tammy and I had the pleasure of meeting Kim and Jenn in one of the Portland Alternative Dwelling construction workshops. They are a really wonderful and sincere couple. The tragedy in the video above really hits home for us because the previous summer, our tiny house was parked in the EXACT location that Kim’s house was parked. This tragic fire could have just as easily consumed our tiny house instead of hers. We donated to the cause because we feel solidarity with the tiny house movement. You may ask, “What about insurance”? Read this blog post by Dee Williams to learn about the current state of Tiny House Insurance.

Life changes fast. Although bad things will happen to all of us, its important to remember that community, friendships, and empathy are all the tools we need to build resilience in the face of disaster.

Sincerely, Logan.

Where the hell have you been?!?

Hi All,

I wanted to post a little update on where the hell I’ve been and what I’ve been doing! I’ve been:

Also, Tammy and I were featured on Home and Garden TV and they finally released the online version of the video:

Cheers, Logan.

Choosing Tiny House Kitchen Tools

Kitchen Tools

Kitchen Tools – photo by Tammy Strobel

I live in a house that is approximately 120 sq ft. When people see my tiny house they assume that I don’t cook or bake much since I must have a tiny kitchen. Although my kitchen is smaller than most, I haven’t changed my appetite for preparing food at home. To demonstrate how I adapted to my small kitchen space I wanted to share a brief list that I use when choosing tools for my kitchen. Rather than give an exhaustive list of all of my kitchen gadgets here I think its more useful to provide just a few examples that show how my tiny kitchen philosophy can be summarized into five criteria: Utility, Storability, Number, Durability, and Multipurpose.

Utility: The theory behind many kitchen gadgets is wonderful, however, if an object is difficult to operate, awkward to store, or just plain ugly, it simply will not be used. Although I have many criteria on this list, I value utility above all else because, if an item is not used, the rest is meaningless. Easy to use kitchen tools that perform well, are comfortable to hold, and beautiful to look at are ensured a space in my home. Since I only have a few kitchen tools I feel it is very important that I enjoy using them.

Storability: With a kitchen counter area of just 14 sq ft (including the cooking-range), storage space is limited. It is crucial that the tools I use be small and stack well. Because of this need, I typically use items designed for camping and backpacking to take up less volume of space. My plates and bowls, made by cascade designs, offer a similar effective size as traditional place settings but do not have the decorative “skirting” around the eating surface and stack with minimal wasted space between them.

Multipurpose, Small, and Stackable Kitchen Tools

Multipurpose, Small, and Stackable Kitchen Tools

Number: Along with storability I find it is also ideal to reduce the number of kitchen items I own. Even if something is amazingly compact and stackable it seems silly to own a dozen place settings when I can only seat a maximum of six people indoors. I also find that having fewer items helps simplify my surroundings and allows me to spend more money on one durable, quality item than for several cheap items.

Durability: Since I’ve reduced the numbers of items I own, I tend to use the tools I do have more frequently and rely on them more. Because of this, I need greater durability from my tools. In addition, I believe that complexity will nearly always reduce durability since there are more parts that can potentially break. For this reason, I do not own any electrical kitchen appliances. For example, my cooking range uses denatured alcohol and all of my other gadgets are manually powered. I recently acquired a manual coffee grinder from a nearly 150 year-old german company, Zassenhaus, with a 25 year guarantee. In an age of “planned obsolescence” it is wonderful to own a gadget that is designed to be useful, beautiful, and durable.

Zassenhaus Coffee grinder - photo by Tammy Strobel

Zassenhaus Coffee grinder – photo by Tammy Strobel

Multipurpose: My kitchen tools ideally have more than one application. For example, since most of my kitchenware is designed for camping I can take it with me on weekend trips and I don’t need to store a special set of “camp kitchen” tools. Further, much of my camping kitchen gear is designed to work together so my plates also double as pot lids.
Although ideal, multipurpose usefulness does have limitations. For example, once I used my cascade-designs kettle as a stew pot during a camping trip, however, the next morning when I boiled water for coffee and tea I experienced a mingling of flavors that wasn’t pleasant. This flavor mingling persisted even after washing the kettle thoroughly at home. Because of this limitation I admit that I have more single task tools than I would like to have for comfort reasons. On the bright side, my home is larger than a backpack, so I can afford the space and freedom to place a greater emphasis on the other criteria above.

Although my meals don’t require a food processor or a four burner stove, I still eat very well and don’t feel limited by my small dwelling. I can bake, fry, grill and steam nearly anything in my little kitchen. Doing more with less is empowering and I find that I quite enjoy tickling the pallet of my guests and leaving them wondering how I made such a wonderful meal in such a small and simple kitchen.

Minimalism

happiness36

Voluntary Simplicity – Photo by Leah Nash

Recently a blogger emailed me an interview regarding my thoughts on Minimalism. I thought I’d include my responses here. Although minimalism isn’t specifically tiny house related, it does relate to my lifestyle surrounding tiny house living. What do you think about minimalism as a philosophy? Feel free to leave a comment below. :^)

1. Do you consider yourself a “minimalist”? Why?

No, I don’t consider myself a minimalist. Although others may label me and my lifestyle that way, I’ve never been comfortable with that label. I think the label of minimalism is incomplete because it emphasizes the practice but not the philosophy. Because of this emphasis, the connotation of minimalism can be easily confused with asceticism or austerity. To alleviate confusion I usually refer to my lifestyle as voluntary simplicity.

2. What does minimalism mean to you?

While the literal definition of minimum describes the least possible, I would define ‘minimalism’ philosophy and ideology as the focus on “having enough”. Having enough to me means finding adequate comfort in material wealth and health to focus on human relationships and satisfying experiences.

3. How do you apply minimalism in your life?

Decluttering by removing excess material stuff is the basic practice of minimalism. Minimalism liberates me from the costs of superfluous possessions (i.e. time, money and emotional stress), and thus fosters happiness by increasing time and money spent on friendships and experiences that create joy.

4. What do you appreciate the most about minimalism?

This practice of removing what I don’t need has helped me become aware of the basic tools that are required for living a comfortable and healthy life. Further, I appreciate that minimalism encourages active contribution and acknowledgement to our dependance on community.

5. In what you way were you changed by minimalism?

Before minimalism, I felt limited by my circumstances in status, inexperience, and wealth but practicing minimalism has helped me think more creatively about what is possible. For example, I currently live in a 128 sq ft tiny cabin. My choice of shelter may seem extreme to some but I have everything I need to foster health and comfort. I’ve minimized my housing expenses to “enough” so now I can focus on actively contributing to my community and savoring the things that I enjoy.

6. Give a tip or two on adopting “minimalist mindset” in personal finance.

I would highly recommend reading the book “Your money or your life” by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin. The authors of this book gave me the original inspiration to try minimalism and voluntary simplicity. The most profound aspect of the book was defining money as “life energy”. To adopt a “minimalist mindset” in personal finance I would recommend considering how long will you have to work to pay for the stuff you purchase and asking “is this thing worth a piece of my life?”

To view more photos by Leah Nash visit: http://leahnash.com

Tiny House Details: Composting Commode – Questions Answered

Composting Toilet – Photo by Tammy Strobel

About a month ago I decided to write an article describing our tiny house composting toilet system. As the delay in posting suggests, writing an article about composting has turned out to be a bigger project than I realized. While writing the article I made the rookie blogger mistake of “writing the perfect post”. I tumbled down a rabbit hole of tangents and details and decided I should include some information on the laws and regulations regarding composting in California and Oregon. I quickly felt paralyzed by the sheer volume of information on the topic and yet the lack of technical legal details. Because of this silly fear of being overwhelmed I stopped writing.

With time I realized that all I really wanted to do in the blog post was share what I know and describe the materials and tools we use for our composting toilet. I also wanted to answer any questions that readers have about our composting process. Whenever we do public tours or host the media, our composting commode generates the most curiosity by far. I’ll be writing more on this topic in the future but for now I thought I would answer the questions that were left in the open comment thread. Also I’ve included a video conversation below regarding a composting system that is nearly identical to ours. Laura Allen and her organization Grey Water Action inspired us and we now have a similar compost design. In the video Laura also describes some of the basic legal framework regarding composting toilets in Oakland, California.

Questions from the open comment thread are answered below:

I’d love a general overview, your thoughts and experiences, etc….
I’ll do my best to share my experiences in my answers below and in future articles. The video above also does a great job of explaining the context, philosophy, and experience of using a composting toilet.

Is there a smell?
No. The experience is similar to a traditional flush toilet where the only offending odors occur during use. When the composting toilet is not in use the only smell that I can detect is the earthy aroma of peat moss that we keep in a container by the toilet. We use peat moss to cover the solid waste after use. You can use many different carbonaceous materials to cover the solid waste and typically the composting toilet area will smell faintly like this material (e.g. sawdust, coconut coir, grass clippings, or peat moss are the most common).

How do you use the jar of dirt that’s always in the corner?
It is difficult to see from the image but that “jar of dirt” is actually peat moss. We use the peat moss to cover the solid waste. The peat moss neutralizes any odors and initiates the composting process. To start the composting process you need three basic materials: carbon, nitrogen, and microflora (bacteria). The solid waste (from us) contains the nitrogen and microflora and the peat moss is the carbon. The microflora metabolize the nitrogen and carbon (and oxygen from the air) creating heat and eventually finished compost that is ready for use as top soil.

What about showering, dish washing, hand washing, etc.
I’m not sure what this question has to do with composting toilets but I’ll answer it anyway. We have a hose from a garden faucet for running water to our sink and our grey water is captured through traditional plumbing pipes in the house to a container outside the house. We use only biodegradable soaps in our hand washing and dish washing so we can use our captured grey water to irrigate trees and shrubbery on the property. We currently shower at my parents house during the winter but this spring and summer we will have an outdoor shower set up with a similar system as the grey-water capture described above.

Where does your water supply to the tiny house come from?
We do not use water in our composting toilet system. For our drinking and washing water we have a well on the property with an electric pump. We retrieve our water from a frost-free faucet through a potable water hose to the house. Unfortunately, in the cold winter weather, we have to switch from running water to “walking water” (carrying water to a counter crock) as the water freezes in the potable water hose. On the bright side, when we have to haul water by hand, we become very conscious of our water consumption and typically consume about 1/3 of the volume compared to normal.

I’m very interested in how it is with you two living on such tiny space with a toilet.
The experience is fine and we’ve never had a problem with privacy or odor. We have a door and window blinds to seclude the space. I’m sure some people are intensely private and need more distance from others to feel comfortable but again we’ve never had an issue.

What’s it like when you both are home or have guest and someone needs to use the toilet?
When a guest needs to use the toilet we give them a quick lesson on how the composting process works. If guests feel comfortable with more space we’ll go outside for a bit and give them the whole house.

Why did you choose composting? What other options are there for off grid living. What type is the most like a “normal” toilet?
We chose our composting system because it was the simplest, lowest cost option for us. There are many options for off-grid toilets. Our system is one of the simplest but they also get much more complex. You can even put in a traditional flush toilet septic system off-grid if you desired it. It is important to remember though that all systems require upkeep. Our system requires a small time investment twice a week whereas large septic systems typically require a relatively big time and money investment about once a year.

What is the upkeep like? I’m curious how often you have to empty the bucket? What do you do with the compost when you remove it from the toilet?
The upkeep is pretty easy. About twice a week I empty the container of peat moss and solid waste into our large (50 gallon) recycled plastic composting barrels. I briefly aerate the compost with a long auger tool, rinse out the container with vinegar and water and reinstall the sparkling clean container in the toilet. The liquid waste is separate and we empty that container once a day by diluting it with grey water (1:8) and irrigating the trees and shrubs. The plastic composting barrels (recycled from use as apple juice containers) keep any waste from entering the environment until it has been fully composted and tested to be free of harmful bacteria. Urine is sterile and is not harmful to the environment. To the contrary, when diluted appropriately, urine provides a rich nitrogen source to plants and trees.

Did you look at the Marine composting toilets like the Nature’s head or the Swedish “Separett” toilet systems.? Separating urine and fecal waste makes a lot of sense to me.
Yes, we use a “Separett” in our composting system like Laura in video above. We did also look at Nature’s Head. I really like the self contained aspect of the Nature’s head but the expense and anesthetic all plastic construction made us reconsider. Our friends Audrey and Tomas have a Nature’s head and seem to like it in a recent review.

Tiny House Details: Composting Commode – Open Comment Thread

Composting Toilet

Our composting toilet – photo by Tammy Strobel

Hi everyone,

I’m working on an article about our composting toilet system. In the post, I will describe the materials and tools we use for our composting toilet. I also want to answer any questions you have about the process. Whenever we do public tours or host the media, our composting commode generates the most curiosity by far. Please leave a comment below with your questions about composting toilets. Thanks!

Tiny House Details: Chapter 3, Lighting

Tiny House Lighting

Tiny House lighting is important during the long winter nights

For the majority of my adult life I have rented apartments for my home. As a renter, I always took lighting for granted. I moved in, flipped a switch, and light would appear. I changed bulbs when necessary, but lighting fixtures were beyond the extent of my knowledge. Once I set out to design a tiny house, I found my ignorance challenged by an unexpected abundance in lighting choices. How ignorant you ask? Well, lets put it this way, I was unaware that “sconce” was a word.  Not only did I have to battle my ignorance I also had to consider lamp type, placement, fixture type and cost. Below is a summary of what I learned and a story of the saga I endured…

Lamp Type:

Light Emitting Diode (LED):
These lamps are wonderfully bright, energy efficient, and compact in size making them ideal choices for a tiny house. Although they are relatively expensive in upfront costs, they tend to last longer and be more conducive to off-grid power set-ups. In my experience, LEDs seem best suited for spotlighting task areas in the house. Although I have not tried the LED bulbs designed to broadcast light and illuminate entire rooms, reviews of these products suggest they are not as suited to this as incandescent or CFL bulbs. Other complaints of LED lights typically describe an unaesthetic blueish color to the light. These complaints are a bit outdated as more yellowish wavelengths are becoming more available in LEDs due to the public demand for a “warm white” bulb. Some users experience a “flicker” with LED lights but this problem can be eliminated by reducing the small fluctuations in household voltage.

Compact Fluorescent light (CFL):
The CFL bulbs are an inexpensive and energy efficient replacement for incandescent bulbs making them a great compromise to the larger upfront costs of LEDs. This lamp type has an intermediate lifespan between LED and incandescent bulbs and gives a terrific color of light. The biggest complaint most owners have about this light is the fragility of the bulb and the relatively toxic contents of mercury.

Incandescent:
This technology type is similar to the original application of electricity to lighting and over 100 years old. These bulbs are cheap, bright, and hot. The United States Congress have passed legislation to phase out this lighting type due to its inefficiency and soon these bulbs will no longer be available. Some tiny house folks have joked that have a few of these bulbs would be all that was needed to heat a tiny house. However, there are more efficient heat sources and you don’t have to worry about the heat in the summer time.

Halogen:
In my opinion this lighting type is similar to incandescent technology. Halogen lights have a tremendously bright output given their relatively compact size and are commonly used in more specialized applications. The main disadvantage is the relatively high cost of the bulbs given their short-lifespan and the heat output.

Field-Induced Polymer Electroluminescent (FIPEL):
I have no experience with these lights. I read about them recently as an interesting new commercial venture that produces light with electricity and a conductive plastic. As I understand it, the technology is relatively old but new carbon nanotube production methods have effectively increased light output. Although no hands-on reviews are available yet, the advantages of these lights appear promising. I believe these lights will likely have all the benefits of CFL lights yet lack the shortcomings of fragility and toxic contents. According to the developers, FIPEL bulbs are expected to be available in late 2013.

What we installed:
After experiencing a paradox of choice, Tammy was overwhelmed with the thousands of lighting fixtures and a multitude of lamp options. I was abandoned and left to narrow down the options. To simplify my choices I tried to focus on my needs, budget and long term cost to operate. Each area of the house had different needs so I tried to consider each area as a separate project instead of trying to find a light type that would be a compromise fit for everything.

Kitchen, Reading Bench, and Bathroom:

IKEA Inreda LED puck light

IKEA Inreda LED puck light

For the areas of my home that were task-oriented I chose the spot-light puck-style IKEA Inreda LED lights. Although these lights are designed for cabinets they work well for our needs. The lights cost approximately $50 and are bundled as a pack of four with a built in transformer and a plug for an outlet. Katy, our tiny house builder, stripped the plug and hardwired the lights so they would work with a traditional light switch. The IKEA Inreda LED lights have worked well for us the past 14 months, however the quality of these lights are a bit flimsy and not robust. The connectors between cables are relatively loose fitting requiring extra care in the set-up. We had to trouble shoot a few issues with a poor cord connection because of the cheap IKEA components. Thanks to Katy, we had easy access to the LED hardware for trouble shooting. She artfully hid the cords under molding and placed the LED hardware (cords and transformer) in sensible cabinet areas for future maintenance and repair. In retrospect I’d suggest using a USA based LED manufacturer like Affordable Quality Lighting that makes better quality components and values customer service.

Loft and “Great Room”:

Wall light Sconce

Wall light sconce with CFL bulb

For areas of the house that needed more general lighting I chose more traditional wall sconces with CFL bulbs. These sconces were relatively inexpensive, put out plenty of light, and allow for upgrading bulbs in the future if we decide to try LED bulbs, or potentially, the new FIPEL bulbs.

Porch:

The porch light was my most challenging decision. This light choice was challenging because of the limitations of outdoor options, house design and the amount of light needed. Because the house has windows on both sides of the front door there was no room to fit a wall-mounted porch light. Further, the porch roof is only a few inches above my head so a recessed light was required. Since there was only about 4 inches of space between our loft floor and the porch roof this was too shallow for a traditional recessed light fixture. I ended up choosing a recessed LED step light from Affordable Quality Lighting.The compact size of the LED fixture was perfect with a recessed depth of less than 2.5 inches. It makes me smile that our porch light for the tiny house was so small that it required a fixture that most people use for lighting stair steps. Even the LED “bulbs” were small, at about the size of a quarter dollar.

I no longer take light fixtures and house details for granted. After going through the process of choosing tools and materials for the tiny house I can now appreciate the small details I find in other homes. I now pay attention to how things work and the rationale behind why they were chosen. After reading an entire post about lighting I’m sure that you are also a connoisseur of tools and materials so tell me in the comments about your favorite lamps. Why are your favorite lamps so special? Further, if I missed any lamp types or fixtures that deserve recognition please let me know in the comments. Thanks for reading!

Cheers,
Logan.

Further resources: For greater detail on lamp specifications see this guide and FAQ provided by ELEEK in Portland, Oregon.