A Year in the Life

And what a year it has been! We purchased our trailer exactly one year ago today, and while we had no idea what we were in for, looking back upon the past 12 months we have learned an indescribable amount. We’ve learned how to timber frame, how to build windows, how to manage a job site, how to wire a house, how to plan for off grid systems, and most of all how to work together to accomplish all of these tasks.

Before we got started on electrical and insulation, we took a bit of time to clean up, because who doesn’t love a tidy job site? We’ve been checking on the windows regularly as they were installed just before several winter storms. They have been holding up great! And only one needed to be refit after swelling and rubbing on the casement.

After dozens of hours of research, we finally felt ready to start on electrical. There was a fair amount of prep work that needed to happen before we actually started running wires. Because we are going to be using canvas as our wall covering, we needed nailing/stapling space around the outlet and switches, so we cased each electrical box with wood. We gathered all of our supplies and came up with a wiring diagram to help us navigate along the way.

One thing that made the wiring a little more complicated is that we are wiring for both AC and DC. The AC is run to send power to all outlets and a few light fixtures. The DC powers additional lighting, the range hood fan, a water pump, and we even ran a line that can power a solar fridge in the future. The idea is that our house is going to be off grid some day, and it will be nice to be able to run the house in “low power mode” during those long dark days in the winter. We can shut off the inverter and its constant draw, but still have most of the electrical system up and running. The complication is that AC and DC wiring must not be run in parallel chases. They can cross perpendicularly, but never run side by side. This resulted in using a lot more wire than we initially estimated. We originally budgeted for around 250 feet of wiring, but ended up using over 500 feet. I could only imagine wiring a full sized house!

This whole process was brand new for both of us. I have played around a little bit with simple DC circuit wiring, but never anything this large or complex. It took a while to wrap my head around but I’m feeling pretty good about the process. Being that there is not really a set of electrical standards and practices for tiny houses, we didn’t strictly need to follow code, but we made every attempt to follow both NEC and AYBC standards. And just to be extra safe, we’re having it inspected by a licensed electrician before we energize the system.

When I got around to wiring the distribution panels, I had a lot on my mind. Two different systems with two different sets of standards, very similar in theory but not always translatable. For the AC system the black (hot) lead gets wired directly to the fuse while the white (bond) is wired to a neutral bus bar. For the DC system, the black or yellow (negative) is wired to the negative bus bar and the red (positive) is wired to the fuse. For some reason I was in auto pilot when I got to the DC panel and spent an hour feeding, splicing and crimping all the wires to the wrong locations! It took almost another hour to correct, but it should be good to go now!

Now its time for planning and contemplation about the next several steps.


3 thoughts on “A Year in the Life

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