A Little Fan for a Little House

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And by little fan, we mean little. Our fan is 24 inches across. Tiny indeed! We originally bought a 30″ wide fan, thinking that would fit, but then discovered there was a very real danger of hitting it on the way into the loft. So we had to rethink things a bit.

The fan itself is made by Monte Carlo, and we had to order it online. Its reviews said it had a lot of power for being just a little fan. We sure hope that is true; this is our only source of AC at the moment! We do plan on building a DIY air conditioner later on, but that’s a topic for a future blog post. (PS. You can find anything on the Internet.)

 

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Anyway, even for being so small, it was actually really tricky to install. It was surprisingly more tricky than our bathroom fan (aka the ‘fart fan’, as our friend called it) and that one was installed through a wall. The trickiest part about tiny fans in tiny houses is, and always will be, finding the right parts. Allow me to explain: tiny houses like ours have a beautiful pitched roof which looks great, but hanging a fan from the ceiling is a no-go unless you can buy a cathedral roof kit, which is obviously sold separately.

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I’ll spare you the details, but suffice it to say we had to pull up a part of our roof panels, buy a special fan kit for cathedral style roofs, buy a new electrical box, rewire the lines to the fan, and buy a specialty support rod off of the Internet. It was a bunch of work! But the end result was worth it.

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And now we have a lovely fan! Another project down!

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We’re glad to have another important part of the house finished, and this actually happened to be the last large electrical feature we needed to install before we could test electrical. Next, we only need to put in one light in the bathroom, and a few switches and outlets! Be on the lookout for our future post on testing our electrical system!

Tiny House Electrical – You Conduit!

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The bathroom wall with its electrical and plumbing mostly done.

Electrical was a bit more complicated than plumbing. For one, we had to determine ALL the fixtures we’d be using, where exactly they would be going, how much power they would draw, etc. Lighting the great room turned out to be the most difficult. Like we’ve mentioned in earlier posts, we are looking for low impact, and off-grid ready appliances, so we shopped around for LED lights. Drew’s parents had a large collection of left-over light fixtures from their kitchen and bath business that we were free to choose from. These came in handy on several occasions.

We thought about having recessed can lights like traditional homes, but decided against it once we realized that the recessed part of the light almost always required a 6” deep ceiling stud, which we simply did not have room for in our 2×4 roof. We found a large box of task lights in Drew’s parents’ shop that we initially thought would be perfect for the great room. Drew rigged up a few lights and hung them up on the ceiling. For 12v lights, they lit the room up like they were 60 watts bulbs! They looked great in the space, but they seemed to heat up rather quickly, which we thought was odd for LED lights until we realized they were xenon lights. Oh well…

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Our attempt with can lights.

Then we saw a design online where a tiny home used LED strips along the tops of the walls on either side of the great room. It lit the room up with the beautiful looking glow of reflected indirect light. Perfect! We definitely want to use LED because it uses less energy and produces less heat.

We chose a  very small ceiling fan (that hopefully won’t hit our walls when it spins), two wall sconces for the dormer walls, one sconce for over the half circle window, a set of decorative track lights for the nook, two kitchen lights, and a sconce for the bathroom. Plus, we bought an outdoor light for the front door as well. We lucked out with the track lights because a builder Drew ran into had some extra lighting he didn’t need, so he gave it to us. (Thanks again!)

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Our new porch light! Note, the white paint line on the half circle window above is from when Sierra attempted to paint the shakes surrounding the window, and the bees living in the eaves decided that wasn’t the best idea.

We decided to run our house on 120 volts AC because this was the most common, most easily managed type of electrical setup we could create for ourselves. Simply put, more, better, and cheaper appliances are available when you use a traditional electrical load. This means you have more choices for energy saving appliances once you start looking for them. Since we had a tight space for our kitchen, we decided to splurge on an under-counter refrigerator that was much larger than your usual dorm fridge.

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Electric setup for the nook. The wire will be hidden by a trim piece we’ll be installing later.

It should be mentioned that there are some great and ingenious food cooling solutions for totally off-the grid homes. We’ve seen propane powered fridges, flexible power fridges that can take 110v AC and 12v DC. There was even a time we were convinced we were going to convert an old chest freezer into a super-efficient refrigerator that used less than $12 worth of power in an entire year. (Thank you Internet.) However, in the end, we decided we could afford a larger, foodie-friendly fridge at the cost of an extra solar battery or two once we made the switch.

Speaking of solar, we are looking into using a portable all-in-one solar station called the SolMan. It is a box that contains all of the batteries, solar panels, and related equipment needed to charge a few computers and run a few small appliances off the grid. It can be upgraded with more battery storage or solar panels and all you need to hook your house up to it is an extension cord! There is absolutely no need to install those puppies on your roof and clench your stomach (and your wallet) every time you drive your house under an exceptionally low-looking overpass.

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Lightswitch for the nook light. Since we have so many boxes we took to labeling the wires for clarity.

Because we were mentally exhausted from all the plumbing research, and we were both busy with jobs and life, we decided to play it safe and hire an electrician for this part. Because Drew’s parents work in the construction business, they knew a contractor that could help. And that’s how we met Tom.

Actually, that’s a bit misleading. I (Sierra) have never actually met Tom. For all I know, Tom doesn’t exist and never has existed. Due to busy work scheduling on my end, Drew is the only one who ever actually interacted with him. Ever. Drew also tends have uncanny knack for understanding technical stuff, so as far as I know Drew made Tom up and did all the electrical himself. It’s become a running joke with us.

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Drew’s electrical design

So Drew met with Tom and showed him a diagram he’d mapped out of our electrical system. Tom then gave us some wire to get started (thanks Tom!) and taught Drew how to install it.

Then he left Drew and I to install our electrical boxes and the wires leading to them. It was actually pretty easy. It also made everything overall easier for us since we knew the plan backwards and forwards and we didn’t have to explain our incredibly complicated and amateur electrical plan to a professional who had other things to worry about.

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The red and black wires are for the LED strip lighting. The white wire leads to the loft. The silver metal pieces are the wire guards.

Then we (meaning Drew) called up Tom and met with him to look over our work. From there, Tom installed our electrical box and “did all the complicated stuff” of building a circuit box, installing all of the breakers, wiring the supply line to the box and explaining 3-way switches to Drew.  Then Drew and I finished up the rough wiring by installing some junction boxes. We also went through the house and installed these metal wiring plates that get installed directly over a wire or a pipe so it will be impossible for us to drill into a live wire. Ouch!

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We set it up so we can turn on/off the loft lights from downstairs, as well as from upstairs, for convenience.

And that was it! Working with Tom (I guess indirectly on my part, haha) was fantastic! It was nice for something to go smoothly for once. Honestly, this was way easier than either of us had expected for having hired a professional. We were thinking we would have to explain the whole project to Tom and then watch over his shoulder to make sure he was installing it the way we needed it. Nope! No such troubles. Tom, just as calm as you please, explained how to wire an outlet, how to wire a switch, and how to put together an electrical system in the simplest way he could, and then left us to install our plan the way we wanted. It was a great arrangement for everyone.

Now we’re working on the walls. We’ll dedicate a whole post to that coming up. Stay tuned..