Baby it’s cold outside. Surviving the cold snap in a tiny home

Last night we knew it was getting cold outside. Our windows were frosted over and our home wasn’t holding the heat from the fireplace as much as it normally does.

We’ve become very efficient at starting fires. When I say we, I mean me. Ryan’s skills have vastly improved but I can start a fire out of almost anything these days. I don’t rely as heavily on kindling and dry logs as I used to. I shouldn’t be surprised. Starting multiple fires each day, every winter, for two seasons, has its perks. I am the fire master. more “Baby it’s cold outside. Surviving the cold snap in a tiny home”

Unbelievable! One woman and 5 dogs in a camper battling Canadian winter

Carla has taken tiny to the next level. She lives in 90 square feet with her five pups Kinnea, Natook, Peach, Bella, and Jacks. The little family lives in in southern Ontario in the Lake Erie area.

After ending a bad relationship, Carla needed somewhere to be independent with her dogs. She had always been drawn to tiny living, with vast knowledge dating back to the origins of the movement. She was originally inspired by the Martin House which emerged from the aftermath of hurricane Katrina. Later, she followed the original tumbleweed home by Jay Shafer for further inspiration. “The doing without all the trappings of modern life drew me, I love camping and I could camp for the rest of my life quite happily” Carla says. more “Unbelievable! One woman and 5 dogs in a camper battling Canadian winter”

Turtle Island Tiny Homes – affordable living across North America

A husband and wife team, Michael and Kirsten are the creators and builders behind Turtle Island Tiny Homes. Bringing 30 years of house construction to the table, Michael is a very skilled and experienced builder. With the first three homes built in Alberta, Turtle Island Tiny Homes understands Canadian climate. The crew has since moved to Qualicum Bay, BC where they carry out production with one additional part time employee. They call themselves Turtle Island, as it is the name of North America, according to some indigenous groups. more “Turtle Island Tiny Homes – affordable living across North America”

Top 10 ways to find used materials

1. Habitat for humanity, Restore

Restore offers a wide range of materials for building and renovating. Stock is donated from individuals and companies. Proceeds go towards building homes for those in need. Swing by if you need cupboards, a sink, tools, or maybe just a cheap can of “Great Stuff”.

2. The free store

Yes, these do exist. If you are lucky enough to have one in your city, head there right now. Normally you pay a small fee to get rid of your stuff an then it’s free for the taking.

3. Consignment stores

more “Top 10 ways to find used materials”

Living tiny doesn’t mean sacrificing your creativity (Sheri’s Alberta home)

The headhunt for fellow Canadian’s has been very challenging. Regardless, we persevered and it paid off. We finally tracked down a lovely woman, comfortably tucked away in the cold.

Sheri is a tiny home dweller living in central Alberta, outside of the Red Deer area. A new chapter of her life began after a divorce. She packed up and made the move from Vancouver Island so that she could be closer to her kids. She decided to go tiny in order to cut her living expenses down as much as possible. The build was partially funded with her divorce settlement and has successfully helped her achieve her goal of no payments aside from food and a cellphone bill. more “Living tiny doesn’t mean sacrificing your creativity (Sheri’s Alberta home)”

We built our insulated solar shed for $240 Canadian (instead of 3 grand)

Like most Canadians, we have no room for our solar setup in our house. With so few sunlight hours during the winter, we needed a giant setup to get us through the overcast days. 8 batteries alone are way too bulky to fit into our home so we resorted to building an outdoor structure for them.

Sheds are pricey and they aren’t normally insulated. The insulated sheds that we found were over 3 grand! We needed a cheap solution so we created this design from recycled materials and a few trips to home depot. more “We built our insulated solar shed for $240 Canadian (instead of 3 grand)”

What about water in -40? An update

Click here to see our current water tank structure (November 2016)

Following up on our last article seen HERE , I’m going to start off with a brief overview of what’s been happening with our water heater..

On demand water heater update:

After reading the portable eccotempt L5 horror stories, we decided to shy away from using the one we had. After days/weeks/ months of reading mixed reviews for the other models, we decided to invest in a good one. We ordered the Takagi T-KJr2-IN-LP Indoor Tankless water heater ($843.41 on Amazon) because of the wonderful feedback. Unfortunately it came damaged in the mail. more “What about water in -40? An update”

The bucket we poop in (Composting 101)

Hey folks. I thought I would do a little write up on our “composting toilet” and sum up the concept for any newbies out there.

Composting toilets are basic little units. You can buy fancy ones like these:

Or you can make your own like this:


Or you can rough it like this:

luggable loo

We made ours like this:


It’s all the same idea.

A bucket, container, bin, (whatever) collects your waste and then you compost it. Not a complicated process at all. After you “do your business” the fecal matter is covered with some sort of organic material. Cover materials include corn husks, rice hulls, shredded junk mail, leaves, and peat moss. We use a mixture of sawdust and scrap coffee and tea grounds. The cover materials insure that there is no smell and they aid in the composting process.

Most people choose to separate waste from urine, though the humanmanure handbook discourages it. Urine is heavy and requires a lot of sawdust so we choose to run it outside and directly into our compost bin. Almost all commercial models are designed to separate.

Fancier commercial designs may include a fan to dry out the waste, shrinking it, so the unit needs to be emptied less often. There are also units with cranks in place so you can rotate the pile. Some models require the use of enzymes and deposit fresh soil out of the bottom.

We purchased the Separett Privy 500 toilet setup which diverts the urine from the feces by catching it in the front and funneling it away. I’m going to outline our design so that potential toilet DIYers don’t stumble upon the same problem we did.

The separett toilet seat came with the design outline seen here. If you buy the seat, privykitDO NOT use the minimum requirements. This is our fix and another one can be seen here. The minimum requirements will make you a cute little unit, but you will not be able to remove the bucket when the time comes… Unfortunately, it is not as easy to “disconnect the pipe” as the website promises. For us, it was nearly impossible. I literally shredded the end of the hose attempting to pull it apart. Our bathroom is quite small and does not permit us the space to remove the bucket through the side of the toilet. We had to find another solution.

First, we sawed off the threading on the hose connector so that the hose could easily pop in and out of place. I found an industrial clamp that fit perfectly around the pipe and the hose. I built a hinged door in the front so we could access the urine clamp. I also added hinges to the top so that once the bucket is full, and the clamp is disconnected, we can simply swing up the top and remove the bucket.

Removeable lid Urine flap Rubber stopper

The back draft solution.

With a gentle breeze, the smell of urine and cold air (REALLY COLD AIR)  was drafting into our bathroom. With advice from this guide , I made some modifications and created a “trap”. The trap is a section cut from a rubber exercise band with a small hole in the center. It provides enough room for the urine to pass through while preventing a back draft.

Finally, we purchased a standard toilet seat to replace the Styrofoam one that came with our separett. We sawed off the screws so that they could be inserted into the wood holes that we drilled. This way the seat can be removed whenever we need to flip the top up to access the bucket.

And voila! We now have ourselves a composting toilet AKA a poop bucket. We’ve been using it since we moved into our home and couldn’t be happier. Our original plan to eventually replace it with a “better model” has been foiled. This is all we need.

What has been your experience with composting toilets? Comment below or post to our facebook page

Until next time,

-The Copper House.