The realities of living tiny, part 3: efficiency

I’ve spent the last couple of days talking about how impractical our RV living is from a space standpoint.

Today, I want to talk about how impractical it is from a sustainability standpoint. Because RVs are not very efficient. They definitely have a smaller carbon footprint than your average McMansion, but they’re not efficient. There are better ways to shrink our carbon footprint.

Lets start with talking about what an RV is. It is basically a giant car. Which means that it gets hot as blue blazes inside an RV when the sun is shining. It is constructed more like a car than a house. That means single-paned windows; really inadequate insulation; half normal electric half auto electric systems; the list goes on and on and on.

Then there are the holding tanks. Hypothetically, the grey water tank could be left open since we are constantly hooked up to the sewage system. However, the black tank can never be left open (google “pyramid of doom RV” if you don’t have a weak stomach). We generally leave the grey tank closed and empty it whenever we empty the black tank, because the grey water (from the kitchen sink and shower) will rinse all of the smelly black water out of the drain hoses so that we don’t die from the stench. It’s a pain in the ass to go outside and dump the tanks when it’s rainy or cold or dark, and when the tanks are full it cannot wait.

Our overhead lights (and almost all of our lights are overhead) were originally incandescent bulb automotive fixtures. In recent years, we’ve started seeing more and more options that utilize LED bulbs. We have begun the process of switching out old fixtures for newer ones that are compatible with the LED bulbs, but we don’t want to needlessly add more stuff to  the landfills so we wait until a fixture absolutely must be replaced before doing so. All of the lights in the magic bus are powered by the automotive electrical system, which actually runs off of regular electric power that is routed through some sort of converter that I could understand if I studied it long enough but don’t want to bore myself so…

I digress.

Ultimately, RVs are not well insulated and therefore are not energy efficient. side note: Unless you can get your hands on one of those Canadian made tripleE models that are built to keep the inhabitants alive through a Canadian winter but who has the time and money necessary to obtain one of those?

So as we start planning our small house, we know that we want to plan for energy efficient construction methods and energy efficient appliances and fixtures. This is where all that time spent watching Mike Holmes (that Canadian contractor turned HGTV/DIY reality tv star) has truly paid off. Mike Holmes is an advocate for smarter building practices. He keeps up with technological advances in building materials. He is constantly trying to teach people that they’re focusing on the wrong things when they’re focusing on their Carerra marble countertops and subway glass tile backsplashes. Holmes’ position is that they need to first focus on whether or not the structure will actually keep water and inclement air out of the home, whether or not the plumbing and electrical is done correctly so that there are no indoor floods or electircal fires and such, and whether or not the structure is built in such a way that the walls won’t cave in under the weight of the roof. Once people have made sure that the house will be built properly, then it’s OK to focus on what Holmes calls the “lipstick and mascara”.

When we get ready to build our small house, I’ll be focusing first and foremost on making sure that we insulate properly, that we use efficient appliances, that we use LED lighting, and all that stuff that Holmes has made me aware of. Then, once I make sure that the floor plan works for us and the home is energy efficient, I can start looking at finishes and fixtures. Sunshine’s lucky here–I’m a minimalist almost to the point of brutalism; so I won’t be needing a lot of blingy swarovski crystal encrusted drawer pulls, and multiple rooms that serve similar purposes, and shit like that.

side note: again, I”m not saying there’s anything wrong with swarovski crystal encrusted drawer pulls, I’m just saying that they’re not my taste. If you like swarovski crystal drawer pulls, by all means, you do you. Also, if you need a sitting room and a living room and a den and a media room and an office, by all means have at it. I just don’t want to clean that many rooms and I don’t want to be paying to heat and cool all those extra rooms, so I won’t be having them.

I’m looking forward to planning and building a house that is efficient and that meets our unique set of needs and desires. I’m also looking forward to living in something that is warm inside in the winter and cool inside in the summer, without having to use a lot of electricity or natural gas or whatever to keep it that way.

final note: I’ve already started a pinterest board with ideas for the small house, and as we firm up our plans, I’ll share some of them here.

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