Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Power outage

I live in a place that doesn't get winters.
I like that.
...but then we got a moderate winter storm, followed by a fairly decent ice storm, and everything ground to a screeching halt. I was one of the 260,000 people without power. Mine was out for about 55 hours consecutively, and a few hours the day before for good measure, leaving me without power for about two and a half days.
This house I am renting... is kind of terrible. I had water, which not everyone without power did.
We have no wood stove. There is a fireplace which is designed to be for show, the amount of wood we fed into it the first night would have had the house toasty warm if burned even in the worst of wood stoves... it barely took the chill off the air.
After the first night, we didn't have any more firewood. The house hovered around 46*.
The heater, while it burns propane, does not work without electricity.
The stove is electric.
The water heater is electric.
Thankfully the Partner and I have a little Coleman Peak 1 Micro stove (I wanted a link for it, but it is apparently only sold at wallies and I refuse to link to them) for camping. He got it, I believe, before we ever met. Together, we used up the last of the first fuel canister, and started on the second. Cooking with only one burner was tricky, but without the ability to eat hot food we and our housemates would have been much more miserable. (I think everyone should have a camp stove for emergencies... also for camping!)
Being a very small person, I had a very hard time staying warm. I wrapped up in all the warmest clothes I have, wrapped up in blankets, and mooched off the Partner's body heat as much as possible. I also put lots of butter in everything I cooked, and ate as much as I could. (maybe I'll share my delicious hot-chocolate-with-butter recipe on my other blog...) Despite all this, I lost five pounds from shivering over those two and a half days. While most people would be celebrating, as I mentioned, I am a very small person. I will be working on gaining those precious pounds back.
Being so cold, I really began to think about how, if I were having my own house, I would do everything differently. Being bored and grumpy, I sketched a few tiny house plans on some graph paper. I would try to defend my terrible drawings by saying that my hands were cold... but to be honest, I just have no drawing skill. 

First: a vardo. 8x16, giving a footprint of  128 square feet.
Click to make bigger, so you can see what I'm talking about.
For the woodstove, I was thinking a two dog or a kimberly... the space I gave it is guestimated because I didn't have internet to look things up.
The stove is, as I have mentioned before, a two burner alcohol stove a la link.
The water would be a water crock... the bottles would have to be refilled occasionally, either from a neighbor, an artesian well, or, if all else failed, from a water dispenser in a store.
The sink, I'm thinking, would have no plumbing. It would just be a pretty bowl set into the counter which could be removed to dump the water when needed.
Light would be provided by a few olive oil lamps.
The drawback of this model is the absence of a shower and bathroom, both of which i would really like to have. Also, it might be a wee bit crowded for two people and a dog.

So next I drew a cob or strawbale house. It's 10x20 giving it a footprint of 200 square feet.
Click to make legible
This one was a bit frustrating because I wanted to have more room and to be able to change it's orientation or the positions of the rooms on a whim, which pencil and paper do not really allow.
Quick aside: Does anyone know any good free architect software?
I feel like I haven't thought this one out as thoroughly as the vardo. The heat on this one is provided by a rocket mass heater. (of all the links click on that one it's awesome!)
I couldn't really decide if I wanted a loft, for sleeping or if I would prefer to have another bedroom off to the side, but having things asymmetrical like that bothers me because I'm a little bit OCD.
The stove would be a little (probably propane) galley stove with an oven. There would be a nice big farmhouse sink, and and a propane on-demand water heater. There would be a mini-fridge under the counter, probably also propane.
Water... I am not sure of. Clearly it would depend on the resources where the house was located. Spring water is of course preferred, with well water coming in second. City water is sneered at. With well water, I would want to make sure I could still have water without electricity. I haven't really researched that very much, but I know lehmans sells hand pumps... pretty sure those wouldn't work with an on-demand water heater though. Hmm.
The toilet would be a composting toilet.
The bathroom has a small Japanese style soaking tub... because I like to soak in hot water.

So, there you have it. The saga of there being no power and how it made me very cold which made me think even more about having a house where I wouldn't even notice if the power went out. Where I would be toasty warm as long as I remembered to keep the fire going.
Until next time,


mamita said...

You forgot to mention you parents called in the Rescure party To save you from shivering away to nothing!

Natalie Nicole said...

Looks like fun! (the floor plans part, not the shivering in the cold part) I used floorplanner.com to play with plans before- it's kinda basic and you have to play around with it a bit, but it's fun. I liked that you don't have to download anything and it's free

Wesley Owen Campbell said...

When drawing up my tiny house, I used qcad. It's free and runs on Linux and that other OS. Also, a few things I have learned over the past decade of living in a camper trailer, avoid open flame propane as a heat source, water becomes a byproduct of propane and it will condense and cause rot, mold, and mildew. So, I suggest wood-burners for heat (also for cooking), wood is also easier to come by than propane.

And, I am huge advocate of solar power. I understand your aversion to electricity, but at times, it is nice to have. A simple 135 watt solar panel and two golf cart batteries is enough to run a laptop, a well pump, lights, and keep cell-phones and all other gadgets charged with a reserve that can last up to a week of overcast, no sun days.

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