How Do Tiny Houses Get Utilities?

How Do Tiny Houses Get Utilities?

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how-do-tiny-houses-get-utilities

If you’re thinking about renting or building your own tiny houses, you may need to set your home utilities before you move in. 

Setting up home utilities in a traditional home may be straightforward and isn’t too demanding since there are service providers who can help you throughout the process. But things may not be as easy if you’re going to set your home utilities yourself. 

Tiny houses, in general, get utilities the same way as conventional homes and RVs. There are services provided by power and utility companies. Every so often, however, some people wish to place their tiny homes off-the-grid, which means they have to set everything up on their own, especially if there are no utility and power companies anywhere near the location. 

Sometimes, a tiny house may use both grid and off-the-grid services. For instance, a tiny home can hook to an electricity grid but not to water service. 

The Importance of Utilities

Utilities refer to home appliances like water, electricity, gas, sewage, and internet among others. These utilities play a vital role in both economic and social development. And with these services, you get to have a clean and comfortable living environment. 

Imagine a home without water? Without power? Or without a proper sewage system? What a terrible life would that be! 

How Tiny Houses Get Water

Water should be your top priority. You can live in a tiny house without power, but never without water. So, when constructing your tiny home, you must think about how you’re going to get water. Some people think having some spigots, pipes, and a water tank is enough, but we beg to differ. 

how-do-tiny-houses-get-utilities-water

Your tiny home is technically low on space. As a tiny house owner, you must look for creative space solutions not only for storage but for water access as well. 

If your tiny house is “on the grid,” it means it’s near or within a city and you’re able to hook to the city’s water system. On the other hand, if your tiny home is far or nowhere near a city and connecting to a public water supply isn’t viable, then your house is considered “off the grid.”

The first thing to consider is getting water into your home mainly for bathroom and kitchen use.

Many tiny house owners get a water tank that can easily fit inside kitchen cabinets. This is where you will store your water. You fill the water tanks by connecting to a water supply using an RV hose (on the grid) or by carrying jugs of water to your tanks (off-grid).

The point of living in a tiny house is to promote a conservationist lifestyle. That means cutting back on excess. That means using jugs and bottles of water may be counterintuitive. 

But the good news is that there are still several ways you can store water without ever having to sacrifice your goal to go greener. And probably one of the most underrated — yet, effective — way to get water is by using what nature has already provided. 

Most tiny house owners like to use water collection and filtration systems. If, for instance, you live in a place with plenty of rainfall, water collection, and filtration systems may be the way to go. 

A water collection system works by gathering rainfall. It then processes the water through the filtration system, so it’s safe to use. 

And when you’re off-grid, you can heat your water by using a tankless propane water heater. You will also be needing a pump for water pressure in your shower and sink. The pump, however, needs a power supply. If you’re off-grid, then you may need a solar power system to power it up (more of this later). 

Drainage Solutions

Now let’s talk about where all the water goes. But first, understand these terms:

Greywater – water from your shower and sink

Blackwater – water from your toilet

Greywater is much easier to dispose of than blackwater. That explains why many tiny house dwellers prefer composting toilets over a conventional toilet system — there’s simply no need for blackwater disposal with composting toilets. 

[Must read: The 3 Best Toilets For Tiny Houses]

When you’re on the grid, you can connect to a septic system or a public sewer with a sewer hose to dispose of blackwater and greywater. 

Now, how about disposing of greywater when you’re off-grid? In an off-grid setting, greywater is sent to a portable storage tank (through pipes). Then, you will need to empty the storage tank as needed or if you’re at a designated dumping station. 

Or, you can also drain the portable storage tank into the ground that irrigates a garden. If you choose this option, make sure to use biodegradable shampoos and soaps so the greywater will not harm the plants. 

dumping-station-tiny-house

Using Blackwater Tanks

If the idea of having a composting toilet isn’t much of your liking, then you can use blackwater tanks. Take note, though, that disposing of blackwater is more complicated than greywater, especially if you’re in an off-grid setting. There are gazillion harmful bacteria in blackwater from toilet waste. 

So, if you don’t have a composting toilet, you can use blackwater collection tanks instead. Once the tank is full, you need to go to a dumping station and dump it. If this task is way too unpleasant for you, you can hire a professional service to do the work for you. 

how-do-tiny-houses-get-utilities-electricity

How Tiny Houses Get Electricity

Tiny houses need electricity. That’s for sure. Electricity is an essential service that makes life so much easier. It’s what powers on the air conditioner when we’re feeling hot, the portable heater when we’re feeling extra cold, the electric kettle when we feel like drinking tea, and the computer when there’s a job to do. 

Powering up your tiny dwelling is important whether you’re on or off the grid. So, what are the best power options for your tiny house?

You have several options. The best option depends on a number of variables. True, the idea of being completely self-sufficient is adorable, especially if you want to go greener. However, there are some drawbacks you need to consider as well. 

[Must read: How Much Electricity Do Tiny Homes Use?]

Below are the common power options along with their upsides and downsides:

Solar Panels

Most tiny house owners choose solar panels as a primary source of power, especially those in an off-grid setting. 

Having a solar panel system is also a great way of generating clean and free electricity. And since the electricity comes directly from Mr. Sun, you can cut your electricity bills and save a lot of money. 

Consider this: if you’re living in Iowa or Kansas, the electricity rate is $0.10 per kWh. If your tiny house uses around 700 kWh per month, that’s $70 per month. But with a solar panel system, you don’t have to shell out money — not even a dime. 

But then again, there are downsides, some of which may hold you back from choosing solar panels. 

solar-panel-for-tiny-house

The Disadvantages of Solar Panel

First, a solar panel system often has an astronomical price. The upfront payment is just too big for many tiny house dwellers. According to Energy Sage, the cost of solar in 2019 is $2.99 per watt. In the U.S, the average solar panel system size is 6 kW. Therefore, the average solar panel system costs about $12,600 after tax credits. 

If you think that’s way too expensive, then you’d be surprised to know that the solar panel price has actually fallen 23% over the past five years! 

And let’s not forget that the number of solar panels (and the system size) depends on the size of your home and power consumption, which by the way is also determined by the size of your household and the number (and quality) of your appliances.

That means if you have many appliances, a large number of dependents, and a *technically* large tiny home, then you may need a bigger solar panel system. This could be an issue for those who are on a tight budget. 

Here’s a list of the average cost of solar panels based on system size

System SizeAverage Solar Panel Cost(before tax credits)Average Solar Panel Cost(after tax credits)
2 kW$5,990$4,200
3 kW$9,000$6,300
4 kW$12,000$8,400
5 kW$15,000$10,500
6 kW$18,000$12,600
7 kW$21,000$14,700
8 kW$24,000$16,800
10 kW$30,000$21,000
12 kW$36,000$25,200
15 kW$44,900$31,400
20 kW$59,800$41,900
25 kW$74,800$52,400

Another thing to remember about having a solar panel system is that your petite home must be in a place with abundant sunlight, as it is the main source of your energy. This can be a drawback for people who live in a place that doesn’t have much sunlight, like Alaska, West Virginia, and Michigan, which are among the cloudiest states. 

There are companies that were able to develop solar panels that can generate power even when it’s cloudy or rainy, but such panels usually cost triple the price of the regular versions. 

Learn more: How Many Solar Panels Does It Take To Power a Tiny Home?

Fuel Power

A tiny house uses need smaller power sources compared to traditional residential homes. You can power up your tiny home with a gas generator, especially if you’re off-grid and hooking to a power source is not an option. 

Although this is also doable in bigger homes, traditional houses can better save money if they connect to an electricity grid. 

With a gas generator, you can power up your dwelling as long as you have access to gas. That sounds promising until you realize that you’ll only have power if gas is accessible. Otherwise, there’s just no powering up your dwelling. 

Disadvantages of Fuel Power

Noise

Other tiny house owners who have used gas generators already also complain about the noise and fuel expense. They are usually loud, which is a major setback for families with infants. A gas generator may not also be a good option if you’re in need of a quiet space (i.e., if you work remotely at home).

Fuel expense

How much you spend on fuel for your generator depends on how many kW it is, the size loads you are carrying, and how often you will be running it. These details should be in the spec sheet of your generator. It must also tell you how much fuel it uses at half load and full load. 

For example, a 20kW generator uses 205 cubic feet of natural as per hour at half load, and 302 cubic feet at full load. If natural gas costs around $12.75 for 1,000 cubic feet, that means your fuel expense is at $2.60 per hour at half-load and $3.83 per hour at full load. 

So, a six-hour use of generator will cost you around $15 to $19, which is anywhere between $450 to $570 a month! 

This is to say that your fuel expense will depend majorly on (1) the national fuel price, (2) your tiny home’s power consumption, and (3) the specifications of the generator you will use. 

Price

The price of fuel generator varies by type. A small generator can cost as little as $300, while larger versions can cost as much as $15,000!

Price of generator:

TypePrice
Solar$300 to $5,000
Liquid Propane$500 to $6,000
Gasoline$500 to $3,000
Diesel$3,000 to $15,000
Natural Gas$1,900 to $5,000

Here are the average costs of generators with their typical coverage:

Power CapabilityCoverageAverage Price
7 kW1 appliance / up to 8 circuits$1,900
11 kW2 appliances / up to 16 circuits$3,000
16 kW1,000 – 3,000 sq. ft. home$3,700
17 kW2,500 – 3,000 sq. ft. home$4,500
20 kW3,000 – 5,000 sq. ft. home$4,900
22 kW5,000 ++ sq. ft. home$5,800
30 kWCommercial spaces$12,000

Technically, you won’t be using as much as 30 kW powered generators, so that should give you relief. But then again, you have to consider how much power you actually need for your dwelling. 

Installation

While it’s not such a bad idea if you install your generator, it would be wiser if you hire a professional service to do the work for you. One incorrect wiring can backfeed power into the grid and cause major fire damage. 

Fuel cost and generator price are expensive already. To make things worse, it requires big fat cash to pay professional crews that will handle the installation. 

On the brighter side, the cost may not be as much with traditional homes, yet it is still something to be concerned about. 

Maintenance

Poorly functioning generators can put you to a lot of risks. That’s why you need to perform certain preventative maintenance needs on a monthly or quarterly basis. If you know you can perform this all by yourself, then you can save money from paying a professional. Otherwise, you want to consider saving up to pay someone to do the job.

Tasks to perform includes:

  1. Checking battery, exerciser circuits, and alternator voltage
  2. Repairing leaks in coolant
  3. Inspecting belts, clamps, bolts, and connections, as well as replacing them when needed
  4. Changing the oil and filter

The Best Generators to Consider

If you search for “best generators” on Google, you will be presented with hundreds of generators — all of which claim to be the “best.” 

There’s just too many generators out there that selecting becomes rather difficult. So we’ve filtered the best options out there to make things much easier on your end:

WEN 56380i Super Quiet 3800W Portable Generator

Features:

  • Provides consistent power of 3,400 watts for 8.5 hours (at half-load). 
  • Offers DC-port, AC port, and USB port
  • Electric start mechanism
  • Economy mode available
  • Digital load display
  • Creates less noise compared to other generators; only 57 dB noise output
  • Shut-off switch makes shutting off easy

Pulsar 4,000W Gas-Powered Quiet Generator

Features:

  • Compact
  • Highlights power rating of 3,500W
  • Can run for 15 hours at 50% load
  • 3.4-gallon capacity
  • Noise output is at 63 dB
  • Offers AC outlet of 20 amps, 30 amps, and DC outlet of 12V
  • USB outlet available
  • Remote start mechanism

An excellent alternative would be this Pulsar G2319N 2,300W.

Champion 100233 3,400W Generator

Features:

  • Has inverter capability
  • Features a power rating of 3,400 W
  • 120 V AC outlet and 12 V DC outlet available
  • Can run smoothly for 7.5 hours at 25% load
  • The wheels make it easy to move around
  • Noise output is only 58 dB

DuroStar DS4000S Gas-Powered Generator

Features: 

  • Offers a power rating of 3,300 W
  • Reduced vibration
  • Noise output is 69 dB
  • Can run for 12.5 hours at 50% load
  • 4-gallon tank
  • Steel frame
  • Air-cooled for prolonged use
  • Gas-powered

Westinghouse iGen4500DF Inverter Generator

Features:

  • Features 3,700W power
  • Dual powered
  • USB outlets, AC port, and DC ports available
  • 3.4-gallon tank capacity
  • Can run smoothly for 18 hours on a full tank
internet-connection-for-tiny-house

How Tiny Houses Get Internet Connection

Getting an internet connection for your tiny dwelling is not as difficult as you think. You have several options to choose from. 

Wired Connection

One way to get connected is to use wired cable internet. This option is best for tiny houses that are near or within a city. Not only is an easy option but also the most affordable. 

While many people today choose WiFi over cabled internet, there’s no denying that a wired connection has some advantages over wireless. In terms of speed, wifi wins the game, but a DSL connection lets you transfer files between devices on your network way faster than WiFi. 

This is because transferring files to your other devices don’t use an internet connection, but only the speeds your local network hardware provides. 

Local speed is important when:

  • You have devices streaming from a media server. A DSL connection boosts the quality of the stream. 
  • You need to perform a backup. Backing up using a wired connection is faster. 

Pros:

  • More secure than a wireless connection
  • Transferring data/files is faster 
  • Great for a home office

Cons:

  • Difficult to set up; involves a number of cables
  • You won’t have much freedom to move around with your device
  • A less convenient option for public use

Wireless Internet

Not having a wireless connection is so not 2019…. You know what I mean. WiFi offers fast and convenient internet connection, making daily internet tasks smooth — be it for work or entertainment. 

With a wireless connection, you can get your devices connected to the internet without the need for cables and ports. You are free to move around in your tiny house with your device yet still connected to the web. 

One problem you might often find yourself dealing with is that WiFi connection tends to get slower the more devices are connected to it. 

Pros:

  • You can move around your home without getting disconnected. 
  • Transferring files don’t require the use of cables. 
  • Most establishments (restaurants, coffee shops, etc.) offer free WiFi. You could be a freeloader. 
  • Several devices can connect to a WiFi connection. 

Cons:

  • Transferring of files may not require for cables, but it’s slower compared to DSL. 
  • The internet connection tends to drop in WiFi. 
  • The strength of the internet depends on your location, especially if you’re using a mobile hotspot. 
  • Interference from other electrical devices may slow down your internet speed. 
  • Household items can block the signal and weaken the connection.

Satellite Internet

Satellite internet may be the best internet option for off-grid tiny houses. With it, you can get a reliable internet connection in places that WiFi and DSL connection are not viable. 

Those who want to place their tiny houses in a secluded area or a place way too far from the grid, then satellite internet is the way to go. 

Pros:

  • A satellite internet connection allows you to browse the web in places that WiFi and DSL connection cannot reach. 
  • More affordable
  • Easy to use

Cons:

  • The weather can affect your internet speed.
  • The strength of your internet depends on how the receiver is placed. 
  • Rain can cause interference and slow down your download and upload speeds

Read more: Get Your Tiny Home Connected: How To Get Internet

Related Questions

How do tiny houses handle sewage?

Hook up your tiny house to city sewage or a septic tank. If you have a holding tank, you can empty blackwater by dumping it in a dumping station. 

Can you use the bathroom when power is out?

It depends on what toilet system you use. Composting toilets don’t need electricity, but incinerators do. 

All About Tiny Houses is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

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