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Sunday, May 15, 2016

Low Income Home Options – Tiny House, Yurt, Earthbag Home, or RV Living?


May 22, 2016 HOME INFO

Three years – that’s how long I have to decide where I’ll be living after I move out of my daughter’s home. Will I choose a tiny house? An RV? A mobile home? A condo? A townhouse? A Yurt? An Earthbag house? So many options! 

If you have only a small income and you are seeking new accommodations, I hope my research will help you decide where you want to live. 

In a couple of months I’ll be moving into my daughter’s and son-in-law’s home to help care for their new baby who will be born in a couple of weeks. Three years will go by quickly but three years should give me enough time to research different living options. The information I’m gathering here will prepare me for my August, 2019, move. Maybe it will help you, too! 

ALL INFORMATION IS SUBJECT TO CHANGE AS I FURTHER RESEARCH MY OPTIONS, SO STAY TUNED! If you've read this blog before, look for UPDATE info below:

Places I’ll Cross Off My List

What I know so far is that I do not want to live in a house or a townhouse, because of the expense and because my back can’t handle yard work – although if I found somebody to do the yard work for me, I might consider those options if I could find something I could afford. I really don’t want to live in an apartment or a condo, either, because smokers don’t care that their smoke travels through the ventilation system. Also, I’m allergic to animals and can’t have them in the same building where I live. Dander would be everywhere. 

I wouldn’t mind living in a mobile home again or in a tiny home if the home was located somewhere between where all of my family members lived and, as I mentioned earlier, I could find a responsible individual to care for my lawn. 

“HOME” OPTION CONSIDERATIONS 

Tiny Homes

I have a prerequisite for living in a tiny home – it must be located on a lake so I can see the lake from a screened-in back porch. A tiny home on a lake would be my first choice. But unless I can find an affordable one on a lake, I’m going to have to consider other options.

After researching all of my options, I have discovered that tiny homes in Illinois are very costly (almost as much as that of a larger home). Lake options are expensive as well! And though inexpensive lots are available, they are quite ugly. The “lakes” look like muddy tributaries of mosquito-laden rivers. 

Regulations sometimes require a certain size for homes on lakes or in certain areas, so tiny homes may not be permitted. I would have to find a piece of property and investigate the codes on that particular piece of property. So the only reason I would buy a Tiny Home would be if I could get lakefront property, the area allowed tiny homes, and it was located in an area between family members.

Because you can move tiny homes, you need to know how big they can be for travel. According to Tiny House Design: In most U.S. states this maximum size is 13.5-feet tall, 8.5-feet wide, and 40-feet long – 65-feet maximum including the tow vehicle.

UPDATE: I’ve come to the conclusion that the reason Tiny Homes are SO EXPENSIVE is due to the excessive greed from builders who saw the popularity of Tiny Homes and capitalized on their popularity. If I decide to go this route, I will look into local builders, or perhaps contact a high school construction teacher with a class willing to take a semester, or even a year to build one. The experience might even provide a future income for the some of the students!


UPDATE JULY 2016 Consider using hemp batting for insulation. Hemp batts are supposed to reduce energy bills by providing healthy internal environments that are conducive to staying cool in Summer and warm in Winter – thereby resulting in low energy costs.

UPDATE August 2016: Google offers a 3D program for anyone interested in designing their own homes. Download it at Sketchup.

A Yurt

Wile a Yurt would probably be the most affordable option for me, I wouldn’t feel particularly safe in one. I would feel as if I was living in a tent. Also, I live in the midwest where tornadoes are rampant, and I wouldn’t be able to keep the Yurt in any one place too long. The thought of packing it up and moving it all the time doesn’t appeal to me – at all. 

Because of my asthma and allergies, I would need an air conditioning unit, but because of the transient quality of a Yurt, Yurts don’t come with AC. So I’m going to cross this one off the list as well.  If you want information on Yurts, though, check out THIS WEB SITE

A Sandbag or Earthbag Home

I like the look of Earthbag homes. I like the domed effect and the rounded shape you can achieve with one. I’m not sure I want to investigate building codes and jump through legal loops to get one made though, and because I wouldn’t be able to make one myself, I’d have to hire people to build one for me, which would make the costs skyrocket. I may have to research this option more, because I can have electricity and plumbing built in one of these types of homes and an Earthbag home is a far more appealing option to me than a Yurt would be. I can also get solar panels built into an Earthbag home – another attractive option.

Green Home Building states that, “Earthbag structures are safe, extremely durable, highly adaptable and owner-builder friendly. They are resistant to floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, fire, bullets, insects, rodents, mold and will not rot.” 

UPDATE: Important information from Earthbag Building: “The main problem with building codes is that earthbag building is so new, the technique is not generally recognized officially, so it may take longer to convince the authorities that the method is viable and safe….Building materials go through an expensive ASTM testing and certification process that can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Manufacturers have to do this in order to meet code and sell their products. This has never been done with poly bags because most bags are used for packaging rice, etc. The best you can do is contact the manufacturer and get their material specifications for shear strength, weave, UV rating, etc. -- whatever they can provide and hope this satisfies the inspectors. Because the bags are not tested specifically for building houses, it will be up to the discretion of the building inspectors whether or not to accept them. One thing that may work in your favor: the bags have probably been ASTM tested for packaging. If you can get the ASTM number and data then maybe the inspectors won't notice or care. They mostly want the info for their records.”



Class C vs. Class B vs. 5th Wheel vs. Tiny Home

As a result of my research so far, my preference is to live in an RV, so I can travel between homes that belong to family members. The problem with RV living is that I’m not at all eager to empty the black tank or to stop at laundromats every week. I also don’t want to have to depend on my family to help me fill the tanks. 

So I’ll keep investigating all of my options and this blog is where I will update my research every time new information arises. Check back if you want to see how my research is coming along.

If I get a Class C or even a Class B RV (most definitely cannot afford a Class A, nor would I want to drive something that large), I would pay only one insurance, and the Class B or C would be smaller than a 5th Wheel. A 5th Wheel would require me to buy a truck (suggestions from some sites are to purchase an F250, F350, or F450 or other similar truck sizes), and I would be paying insurance for both the truck and the 5th Wheel. A 5th Wheel is attractive, because I could fit a washer and drying in it, but do I really need that much space? More to think about!

RV Considerations:

Thor Synergy – This Thor RV uses diesel, so Thor appeals to me – This $95k motorcoach would cost under $600/mo. But I’m concerned about the slides. I’ve heard that they leak in other brands. Maybe Thor has fixed that problem. The videos I’ve watched promise no leakage.

Coachmen 5th Wheel – Comes with triple slides, and options include a fireplace, central vac, washer, and dryer. I may have to consider this attractive option, but I’m kind of afraid of driving something so large, and again, leaks? 

Pleasure Way Class B – The 2016 model has all kinds of upgrades including solar panels, something that really appeals to me! It’s small, but, again, how much space do I need? I don’t want to feel claustrophobic, and I want to feel as if I can move around easily, but what if it's too small for me? I’ll have to reconsider this option.

UPDATE May 22, 2016: 2017 Wonder Leisure Travel Van – (for consideration) Uses diesel fuel, has a Ford transit chassis, and comes with a 3.6KW Onan Generator. Features a lot of updates, including touch-screen technology on the dash, and includes a Queen-sized Murphy bed fold-down, under which are chairs and a table. Retails at $114,811. 

UPDATE August 2016: And the winner is – the Leisure Travel Vans Unity FX! After researching for so many months, the RV that I absolutely love is the Unity FX. Unlike the Pleasure Way Class B, this RV offers a separate living space. The flexibility appeals to my love for change, and this RV gives me that. The only changes I would make to it would be to add solar panels and a composting toilet. 

UPDATE January 2017: I’m reconsidering getting the Unity FX – way too expensive! Also, parking RVs is a problem I’ll have to consider, so I asked a friend about the cost for parking RVs, and she responded with a comprehensive list of FREE parking spots! Free RV Camping,  Parking, and Boondocking

Water Usage

Shower – The average American shower takes about 17.2 gallons (65.1 liters) and lasts for 8.2 minutes with an average flow rate of 2.1 gallons per minute (gpm) (7.9 lpm). Whether I decide to buy an RV or a Sandbag home, I’m going to have to conserve on water.

Savings on showers – from EcoOptions:  To save on water usage, get low-flow faucets and showerheads. The average household could save more than 2,900 gallons per year by installing WaterSense® labeled showerheads. Also, get a water pressure regulator so that when I fill the tanks, the pipes don’t burst. I’ll need to check into getting heat tapes for winter or let faucets drip to prevent pipes from freezing in Winter. I would prefer heat tapes. Heat tapes saved me when I lived in mobile homes.

Washing Machines – Typically use between 40-45 Gallons; High Efficiency uses between 15-30 Gallons. Always purchase High Efficiency appliances! Another option is to buy a portable washing machine and hang my clothes to dry. I hang most of them now anyway.

UPDATE: I located a new resource for renewable energy consumption at Renewable Energy World.

UPDATE JULY 2016 – Somebody on one of the sites I visited mentioned that joining an inexpensive gym would help people who didn’t want to empty black tanks. You could work out at the gym and then take a shower – every day if you wanted! National gyms with easy access, like Planet Fitness, which charges only $10 a month with a $39 yearly membership fee would be great for a single person. My water bill in the last place I lived was under $20 a month. Exercise and a shower are incentives I can live with!

UPDATE NOVEMBER 2016 – Water Catchment Systems and Rain Harvest Systems collect rainwater and, with the use of water purifiers and treatment systems, catch rain from rooftops, which drops into barrels. According to Mother Earth News, “The best roofing material for rainwater catchment is uncoated stainless steel or factory-enameled galvanized steel with a baked-enamel, certified lead-free finish.” Also check out Blue Barrel Systems and Rain HarvestHow to Build a Rainwater Harvesting System  

Electricity Usage Considerations

From WandrlyMagazine“To figure out exactly what you need, find out how many amps your devices require. Here are some common appliances found in an RV.”

Air Conditioner, Microwaves, Electric Water Heaters
14 Amps

Blenders, Coffee Makers, Televisions
5 Amps

Laptops, Drills, Range Hoods, Fans, Water Pumps, Radios
4 Amps

Lights, CO & LP Detectors
1 Amp

Gas Refrigerator
2 Amps

UPDATE: How much electricity does an American home use? 
From U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA):  “In 2014, the average annual electricity consumption for a U.S. residential utility customer was 10,932 kilowatthours (kWh), an average of 911 kWh per month. Louisiana had the highest annual consumption at 15,497 kWh per residential customer, and Hawaii had the lowest at 6,077 kWh per residential customer.” 

So if I, as a single person, use even close to that much, which would probably never happen, but I have to account for the possibility, I’ll have to consider the following solar panel kit options (see section below), keeping in mind that 1000 watts (W) = 1 kilowatt (kW). The following panel information comes from Wholesale Solar

1 100W Panel would provide 500 Daily Watt Hours 
2 100W Panel would provide 1000 Daily Watt Hours 
3 100W Panel would provide 1500 Daily Watt Hours 
4 100W Panel would provide 2000 Daily Watt Hours 

UPDATE NOVEMBER 2016 –  LithiumCard PRO saves on electricity because it (purportedly) recharge batteries 300% faster than most other chargers.

Portable Appliances

Washing Machines 
If the RV is very small, I would look into portable washers (Walmart sells them). They are only 1.6 cu. ft. in size. I had one once and could fit 3 pairs of jeans into one (it may have been 1 cu. ft), so while I was taking care of a family of 5 at the time and it took nearly the whole day every day to wash, I could hang my clothes up to dry, and if I needed to wash blankets, I could go to the laundromat. Consider Magic Chef 1.6 cu. ft. Top Load Portable Washer.

Composting Toilet
Using a composting toilet in an RV appeals to me, because I really don’t want to empty the black tank; with composting toilets I wouldn’t have to use the black tank at all. However, these toilets are EXPENSIVE – around $2-$3,000 (also found at Walmart)! Sun-Mar Centrex 3000 High Capacity Central Composting Toilet Systems are supposed to provide one of the best composting toilets, but as I said, they are very expensive!

UPDATE June 2016 Recommended from Zyl Vardos –ZYLVARDOS.com – Nature’s Head Composting Toilets.

RV Wind Generators or Wind Turbines 
Very little information is available for personal use wind turbines. Because Illinois and Indiana are such windy areas, though, wind turbines seem like they would be a viable option if they were more readily available (some systems, such as Tycon Power Systems, shipped and sold by Flytec Computers, are sold at Walmart).

The Home Depot sells a 2000-Watt Wind Turbine Generator for $2500. Because of the weight of these wind turbines, though, I wouldn’t be able to use them in an RV. I would need something much smaller.

2500 watt portable versions (The Trinity 2500 goes for $6,000 – I probably don’t need one that large) are usable in winds 2mph and less and with auto stop feature and water & weather proof. (Found one at ErvSolar.)  

Also check out the article, Introducing The First Portable Wind Turbines

A plus for using wind turbines in residential settings (particularly if I choose to move into a Tiny House), is that I would have to connect it to the electric grid and, with such a small home, my electricity would probably be free. I could also get a check from the electric company for electricity I didn’t use!

UPDATE: WindPax offers 3 different types of portable, collapsible wind turbine generators: The Wisp, a 25 Watt generator for powering small electronics and running LED lighting; The Breeze, a 100 Watt unit that supplies power via a standard 12 V outlet and standard USP;  The Cyclone at 400 Watts, is used primarily as a village power station for multiple applications. 

The only problem I see with this company (so far) is that on their Kickstarter page, they haven’t updated progress for their financial backers since April 29.  I may have to invest in The Trinity 2500, since it provides the amount of power I would need in either a Tiny House or an RV. The Trinity 2500 comes with the very important Inverter! The 400 Watt version can power an electric car!

An excellent article about whether or not to invest in a wind turbine appears in the May/June issue #167 on the Home Power website in an article entitled, 2015 Wind Turbine Buyer’s Guide: Why, Where & How to Do Wind Electricity, written by Ian Woofenden and Roy Butler. While the article relates specifically to home installation, I found it helpful in determining if any wind turbine would be a viable option for living in an RV or a tiny home. 

As of now, wind turbines don’t appear to be cost-effective. Who knows the strides manufacturers will make in the next three years though. Even so, if I invest $6,000 in a wind turbine, and my monthly electric bills come to approximately $50, I would need a tower 30+ feet tall in order for it to work. That makes no sense if I choose to live in an RV – I would be paying upfront for something I would need for the next 10 years. I’m close to 65 years old. I might as well just use solar panels for my major appliances and perhaps a small, inexpensive wind turbine just to charge my electronics.

Over the next 3 years, I’ll be revisiting the wind power option. In the meantime, personal use wind turbines (most under $2,000) to consider include the following:

Air40 Wind Turbine
Air-X by Sunforce
Rutland 1200 Wind Turbine
Trinity Portable Wind Turbine (Trinity 2500)
Wind Sail Receptor by Richard Steinke (still in Kickstarter status)
The Windwalker 250 RV Wind Turbine

Generator 
A generator probably already comes with whatever RV I choose to buy, because generators are necessary for RVs, but one would be good as a backup plan in other structures as well. 

Batteries
One probably already comes with the RV, but I need to make sure the battery is large and new.

Propane 
Will need one for heating the RV water heater. Suggestion at one site is to buy my own, but the post was from over a decade ago, so…? I think most newer RVs already come with a propane tank.

Solar Panels 
Need ?# of solar panels, depending on the size of the RV. Solar powers DC (direct current) batteries inside the RV. Also need an Inverter (see below) to convert DC into AC (alternating current, like that used for plug-in appliances) for use inside the RV, like Go Power (see below), AND a Solar Controller (see below) to prevent the solar panel from overcharging the batteries  (find at WindyNation Also Amazon offers a couple of different ones – check for others).

Inverter Try GP Electric

Go Power GP Electric Calculator recommends how much battery life I would need for the RV.

Solar Controller can also be found at GP Electric.

UPDATE June 2016: Another consideration, if I decide to buy an  RV that doesn’t come with solar panels is to use portable solar panels, like the ones offered by Zamp Solar RV Education 101. Another option would be to have five (5) solar panels installed on the roof of an RV in a configuration that would allow the sun to hit the panels on all four sides and on the top. 

NOTE TO SELF: make sure that the type of battery (i.e., Gell Cell, AGM {Absorbable Glass Matt}, and Lead Acid batteries) that comes with the RV is compatible with whatever solar panel(s) I purchase.  Incorrect battery type settings will damage the battery, so it’s important to know what type of battery I’m using. The chart shown on Zamp Solar will let me know the best type of solar panel for the battery type I would be using. 

UPDATE August 2016: The Wynns have researched the use of solar panels for years. For lots of information regarding solar power in boats, RVs, tiny houses, etc., click the link.http://www.gonewiththewynns.com/solar

Cooking
Most RVs come with either 2 or 3 cooktops and an oven, along with either a microwave or a microwave/convection option. I’m also curious about the Nuwave Precision Cooktop (~$60), so I want to check into that option.

Lighting
ALWAYS USE LED LIGHTS!!

USED RVs
Run an Internet check on, “Top Rated RVs in (list year)” – I might be able to get a used RV and upgrade it. A great place for upgrading, according to Technomadia (see below), is MasterTech RV Services in Elkhart, Indiana. I could add the type of generator and battery I need and also have solar panels put on top. 

Phone & Internet
Portable Satellite is too expensive an option and has been for several years. Cellular seems to be the better option, but according to several YouTube videos, even campsites that list, “Free Wifi” don’t have much to offer. You end up sharing the Internet with possibly 200 other campers and your Internet is s-l-o-w.

Look into MoFi Router for Internet connection.

RVMobileInternet.com (Technomadia) suggests using Wifi range extenders, such as PepWave or Wifi Ranger Elite. Put on a roof to enable the router inside the RV to expand coverage. I could also use a mobile cradle-style booster.

Roadside Assistance
Technomadia (see below) suggests using Cachet Emergency Roadside Assistance.

Camping
Though I don’t plan on camping, since I’ll be visiting family most of the time, I want to keep this information on hand in case I ever want to travel with friends – freecampsites.net.

Connecting with other campers through, “Our Village” (founder’s name is Curtis) will help me when I run into problems and can connect with seasoned campers.

Boondocking/Drydocking (Free Camping)
Apparently some grocery store parking lots and Walmart allow people to stay overnight. Of course you can’t get water or sewer hookups, and you can’t stay more than one night, but food is readily available.

Workamping
The ability to work, travel, and camp while RV'ing. 

UPDATE NOVEMBER 2016 Storage Solutions for Tiny Homes or RVs This web page offers LOTS of storage solutions for tiny spaces.

Videos

I’ve been relying on several YouTube videos to help me decide what I want to do and where I want to go. Gone with the Wynns, Follow The Hearts, and Technomadia are some of the RV videos I’ve watched.


UPDATES will appear within the content of this blog, so if I add anything new, I’ll change the date on the top of this blog.

Photo is from Tiny House Listings

1 comment:

  1. This is a great resource, Theresa!! It's so helpful to have a breakdown of all the costs and everything.

    For those of you considering living in an RV, I'd like to offer some hope! We interviewed over 20 people who chose the RV lifestyle, all with stories ranging from military vets, to young and eager to travel, and everything in between.

    If you're interested, you can find it here: http://www.thewanderingrv.com/rv-living/

    ReplyDelete

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