Thinking about power

Wed, 04/16/2014 - 09:15 -- webmaster

It was a bit cold in the trailer this morning when I woke up. Some time during last nights rain & snow the electricity went out, and I've now learned that all the heating systems require electricity to function. Thankfully it wasn't bad, and the temp in the trailer was only down to 55F while it was less then freezing outside.

I've long been a fan of redundancy in critical systems. For example if you have a propane stovetop and an electric microwave, you can still cook if either (but not both) the electricity and propane are out. In that case your redundancy is at the terminal, or functional, end of the spectrum. The other main source of redundancy is at the supply end. For example you might have solar cells charging a battery pack that feeds into a transformer plus a traditional on-the-grid power supply. Ideally you'd have redundancy at both ends for all your critical infrastructure.

For the tiny house I've been planning to build I've been avoiding thinking much about a wood stove. The potential for a house fire as well as the maintenance of cutting and splitting wood, bringing it in, and needing to be there regularly to keep the fire going are all factors against it. However, as a complement to other heating and cooking systems it can be quite useful, and as long as it has the ability to be used for cooking it is the ultimate backup. Of course, in a tiny house finding one that is appropriately sized might be tough. Too big and it will not only take up too much space but also overheat the house.

We do have three solar panels we're planning on installing, so systems that use a little electricity are also going to be acceptable. Perhaps a pellet stove would work, but they aren't as versatile. On the other hand, they can run autonomously, allowing you to be away for longer periods. But then there's also the cost of the pellets and what if the supply dries up?

Another option is a boiler to go with the wood stove. If your house has a tank heater, the wood fired boiler can feed into the tank, lowering the tank heater's cost as well as extending its effective size. Some people even have a radiant floor heating system hooked up to their wood fired boilers. The Hobbit stove, which is made for smaller spaces, has such an option ( ) but they are a bit expensive and made in Europe so shipping might add expense. But the idea is really nice.

I won't be deciding these things today, but I am starting to get into thinking about them much more now.