What are Heat Recovery Ventilators (HRVs) and do I need them in my Tiny House?

What Do HRVs Do For The Air Quality In My Tiny House?

Do I need one in my tiny house?

The tiny houses built by B&B Tiny Houses are well insulated and sealed.  This works great for keeping the inside warm in the winter and cool in the summer, but it means the air inside can get stale.

HRVs, or Heat Recovery Ventilators, control a home’s humidity, reduce indoor mold and mildew, and exhaust stale, polluted air.  Unlike traditional vent fans, however, HRVs recover some of the warmth that’s being exhausted to the outside in the winter time, while removing the pollutants and moisture to ensure that the fresh air coming in is still warm.  Maintaining the temperature of the air while exchanging stale air for fresh air cuts down on the cost of heating a home.

The HRVs we use in our tiny houses come in pairs, where units are placed on opposite walls and air flow is transferred back and forth.  In a tiny house, only one pair is necessary, because it’s such a small space.   Each unit is installed directly on an exterior wall, so no ductwork is needed.  Even when the door to, say, the bathroom is closed, it’ll still work because we leave a 3/4″ space beneath the door in tiny houses with HRVs.  They are turned on and off by a switch.

From the 475 Lunos e² HRV website:

#6 in the photo is the part you’ll see on the interior wall of your tiny house.  #1 is what you’ll see on the outside of the tiny house.

Where should HRVs be used?

Heat Recovery Ventilators are for use in the USA’s northern states.  Energy Recovery Ventilators (ERVs) are to be used in the southern states.

Does an HRV warm or cool the house?

No; it maintains the inside temperature, rather than sucking all the heat or cool out of house.

Is it loud?

The system contains a sound muffler.  It produces 0.12 sones at its lowest setting while a quiet refrigerator in a quiet kitchen produces about 1.0 sones.

Do I really need an HRV in my tiny house?

There are a few factors to consider when deciding whether to spring for an HRV.  The type of HRV we use costs around a few thousand dollars, so it’s worth spending the time to decide whether you really want one in your home.

Factors to consider include:

  • How many people will live in the tiny house?  The more people, the staler the air will be.
  • How often is the tiny house used?  Is this your primary residence or your vacation home?  If it’s just used as a weekend cottage, an HRV system is probably not necessary because new air pollutants will not be introduced every day; a simple bathroom exhaust fan, while less energy-efficient, should do the trick.
  • What is your sensitivity to mold?  HRVs prevent the buildup of mold and mildew: those with an allergy or sensitivity to mold or mildew will benefit from an HRV system.
  • Do you have breathing issues?  Those with asthma, dust mite allergies, and other breathing issues may benefit from this air exchange.
  • What is your cooking style?  Scents from cooking may linger in a home, even with propane stoves come with a range hood.  An HRV can help get rid of cooking odors.
  • How energy efficient do you want your house to be? HRVs introduce new fresh air, warmed by the old stale air, into the house.  Consider the cost of the HRV versus the cost of heat energy you’ll save by installing one.  If you aren’t heating your tiny house full-time in the winter, the HRV will take longer to pay for itself.

What if I don’t use an HRV?

It’s important to not let mold and mildew build up from the moisture created by your bathroom and kitchen.  But if you don’t have an HRV in your tiny house, there are other ways to get fresh air into your home.  Our tiny house bathrooms come with a vent fan that goes on whenever the bathroom light is switched on.  Vent fans will let the heat out of your house in the winter, but they are included with the basic model tiny houses and are much less expensive to install.  You can also just open your windows periodically to let the fresh air in. All of our houses with a propane stove/oven also come with a kitchen range hood.

How do HRVs work?

This video explains how a heat recovery ventilator works.  The example shown in the video is for a much larger house; the ones used in tiny houses look like white squares, CD case shaped attached to the wall at opposite ends of the house.

The Coolest Tiny Home Add-Ons

At B&B, all of our tiny houses are customizable to your preferences. That means that you get to pick all of the finishes in your tiny house. Check out some of our customers’ favorite features and add-ons below.

Solar Panels

Solar panels can be fully installed on your tiny house for as little as $10,000. Grid-tied solar energy offers a great way to live sustainably and you even have the option of selling back excess electricity–a win-win!

Read our blog post on the two most common types of solar panels: off-grid and grid-tied. 

Shiplap

Who doesn’t love shiplap? At B&B, we offer shiplap bare, painted, or stained. You also have the option of having the shiplap on the ceiling.

Shou Sugi Ban

Shou sugi ban is as practical as it is functional. Originating from Japan, shou sugi ban weatherproofs the exterior of a house through charring the panelling of a house. The result is a beautiful, contemporary house. Shou sugi ban can come in a range of colors from lightly charred to completely black.

Futon sofa

Sleep up to two more people in your tiny house through a convertible futon sofa.

Expanded Porch

If you know that you will be keeping your tiny house in a single location, then an expanded porch is a great way to even better enjoy your surroundings. Also, they are great for entertaining!

Apartment Sized Fridge

Living tiny doesn’t mean that you have to sacrifice a full-sized refrigerator.

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Quiz: Which Tiny House is Right For You?

We know: there are so many beautiful designs to choose from and the choices can get overwhelming!  Which is the best tiny house for you?

Click each answer that’s the best fit for you: there are no wrong answers!


What's your approximate budget?

Tow it yourself or have us deliver?

Which master bed configuration is your favorite?

How many people will be sleeping in your tiny house?

 

What’s the Best Size Tiny House for Travel?

Tiny Houses on Wheels are sized for the road.

An 8 1/2 foot width is standard in tiny houses because that’s the maximum width that can safely travel down roads without an oversize permit.  We also build some tiny houses on wheels 10 feet wide and procure oversize permits in every state they’ll travel through to get to their destination.  10 foot wide houses, of course, aren’t recommended as houses that will travel more than once.

While the length of tiny houses is variable (we’ve built everything from 16 feet to 32 feet) the height is also restricted by the road.  13 1/2 feet tall is the maximum, which means the ceiling can be just over 10 feet from the floor inside the tiny house.  That’s why we can’t build a sleeping loft you can stand up in– unless you’re only two feet tall.

What size vehicle do you need to own to tow your tiny house?

You should have a vehicle with a towing capacity that exceeds the weight of your tiny house.  This article will help you determine what towing capacity you’ll need based on the estimated weight of your tiny house.

It can be helpful to take lessons first.

If you don’t have experience towing, see if there are classes offered in your area before you set out on the road with your tiny house in tow.  If you don’t want to take an entire course, have someone you know who’s experienced in towing give you a few pointers.  Having someone watch what you’re doing in-person is more helpful than YouTube videos, because they can tell you what you’re doing wrong and right.

Shorter tiny houses are lighter.

We recommend a house up to 24 feet long for towing.  Anything larger (or heavier) gets unwieldy for travel.  (We can still build a bigger house if you’re not planning on traveling with it!)

If you don’t want to tow your house, hire a professional.

There are companies that do this all day, every day so you don’t have to.  If you’re only moving your house once, it may be best to leave the towing to the pros.  If you’re on the east coast, email us at info@bbtinyhouses.com for a towing company recommendation.

 

Where Can I Put My Tiny House? A Near-Comprehensive List Of Tiny House Parking Resources

Where Can I Park My Tiny House?

This is a question we get almost every day.  Often, your town won’t have already considered whether to allow tiny houses as year-round residences: it just takes someone to ask.

Start out by looking at the zoning laws in your own town.  B&B Tiny Houses are built to RVIA standards, which legally classifies them as RVs.  If your town or city doesn’t allow RVs, then you can either ask your planning board or go to another town.

arcadia tiny house

Networking is a common way people find spaces for their tiny houses: start out on Facebook, Meetup, or in person at a tiny house festival.  By using personal networking rather than tiny house websites, you might find someone with land willing to rent a space to you who hasn’t previously heard about tiny houses or considered renting a small piece of their land for one.  Try Facebook Groups that are tiny house specific, or just general community groups.  Before agreeing to rent someone’s land, though, make sure both you and the potential landlord are aware of the tiny house legalities in that community.

Countrywide Resources on How To Find Legal Tiny House Parking:

American Tiny House Association: A network of tiny house enthusiasts with resources for how to make tiny house living legal year-round in your own community.

Search Tiny House Villages: RV Parks, villages, and communities across the United States and Canada that allow tiny houses.

Try It Tiny: Short-term and long-term rental lots, often on privately owned property, for your tiny house as well as tiny houses for rent.

State and Region-Specific Tiny House Networking:

AK  Alaska Tiny House Enthusiasts
AL
AR Tiny House Living Northwest Arkansas
AZ Tiny House Community Living: AZ
CA SF Bay Area Tiny House Enthusiasts
CA Bay Area Tiny House – A tiny move toward a big change
CA Los Angeles Tiny House Enthusiasts
CA https://www.meetup.com/Los-Angeles-Tiny-Houses-Community/
CA LATCH Collective 
CA Tiny Advocacy Network (Los Angeles & California )
CA LA Tiny Houses 
CA Ojai Tiny House Community 
CO Colorado Tiny House Enthusiasts
CT Tiny House Connecticut
DC https://www.facebook.com/groups/DCtinyhouses/
DE
FL Tiny House Florida 
FL Florida, Tallahassee https://www.facebook.com/groups/tinyhometally/
FL Florida, Tampa Bay https://www.facebook.com/groups/693589730762896/
FL Florida, Pasco-Hernando area https://www.facebook.com/groups/1650096761737214/
FL Tiny House Alliance of Southwest Florida https://www.facebook.com/groups/1404783419608950/
GA https://www.facebook.com/groups/TinyHousesinNGaMtns/
HI https://www.facebook.com/groups/bigislandsmallhouses/
IA https://www.facebook.com/groups/273652806154475/
ID https://www.facebook.com/idahotinyhouse/
IL Illinois https://www.facebook.com/groups/731344926984404/?hc_location=ufi
IN Midwest Tiny House Movement
KS Kansas Tiny Living
KY Midwest Tiny House Movement
LA https://www.facebook.com/groups/1460734957582044/
MA Tiny House Enthusiasts of Western MA, Hudson Valley NY, and Southern VT
MA Greater Boston Tiny House Enthusiasts
MD
ME maine tiny house people
MI Midwest Tiny House Movement
MN https://www.facebook.com/groups/529259517204945/
MN https://www.facebook.com/groups/558484264254126/
MO https://www.facebook.com/groups/385730028246126/
MS
MT
NC Tiny House Asheville https://www.facebook.com/groups/tinyhouseasheville
ND
NE Tiny House Enthusiasts — Nebraska https://www.facebook.com/groups/1063289160410288/
NH New Hampshire Tiny House Fans
NJ Tiny Houses & Sustainable Living in NJ www.meetup.com/Tiny-Houses-in-NJ/
NM https://www.meetup.com/Albuquerque-Tiny-House-Meetup/
NV https://www.meetup.com/Las-Vegas-Tiny-House-Meetup/
NY Tiny House Enthusiasts of Western MA, Hudson Valley NY, and Southern VT
NY Upstate NY Tiny House Group https://www.facebook.com/groups/UpstateNYTinyHouseGroup/
OH Midwest Tiny House Movement
OK https://www.meetup.com/Oklahoma-Tiny-House-Builders/
OR American Tiny House Association – Oregon Chapter https://www.facebook.com/groups/361664944193345/
PA https://www.facebook.com/groups/1605149929698127/ PA Tiny House Association
PA Tiny House Western PA
PA Philadelphia Tiny House Community
RI https://www.facebook.com/TinyHouseRhodeIsland/
SC https://www.facebook.com/groups/573443916065759/
SD https://www.meetup.com/Black-Hills-Tiny-Houses-Meetup/
TN https://www.facebook.com/groups/TNtinyhousepeople/
TX Dallas / Fort Worth: Facebook “DFW Tiny House Enthusiasts”: https://www.facebook.com/groups/tinyhousetribe/
TX Meetup “DFW Tiny House Enthusiasts”: https://www.meetup.com/DFW-Tiny-House-Enthusiasts
TX
Austin: Facebook “Village Farm Austin Tiny House Community”: https://www.facebook.com/VillageFarmAustin/
TX Houston: Facebook “Houston – Tiny House Enthusiasts”: https://www.facebook.com/groups/houtinyhouseenthusiasts/
TX Meetup “Austin Tiny House/Co-Housing Building Meetup”: https://www.meetup.com/Austin-Tiny-House-Co-Housing…
UT Utah Tiny House Enthusiasts: https://www.facebook.com/groups/339520372897518/
VA https://www.facebook.com/groups/828369990609711/
VT Tiny House Enthusiasts of Western MA, Hudson Valley NY, and Southern VT
WA https://www.facebook.com/legaltinyhomes/?ref=br_rs
WI https://www.facebook.com/groups/529259517204945/
WI Wisconsin Tiny House Enthusiasts https://www.facebook.com/groups/1610503869176227/about/
WV https://www.facebook.com/groups/355757411274724/
WY
Did we miss anything? Let us know via email: info@bbtinyhouses.com.

I Spend All Day Every Day Inside A Tiny House. Here’s What I’ve Learned About Small Space Design.

I work in a tiny house.  More specifically, a mobile office.  Here at B&B, our company has grown faster than our factory has, so now a few of us share the 8 1/2′ x 20′ Brodie Mobile Office for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week.  During that time, I’ve learned quite a few things about how to best design a small space for maximum working and living.

Here’s what I’ve learned:


Windows and skylights make a huge difference.

Before moving out to the mobile office, I was working inside the factory in a little room we built into the corner of the warehouse.  This room had windows to the factory but no windows to the outside.  Now that I’m in the mobile office and my desk faces two windows, my quality of life has really improved.  The old office, although it was bigger than the mobile office, felt a bit cave-like, and not in the way of grand echoing caverns; it was more like those tiny spaces spelunkers narrated by David Attenborough have to squeeze their bodies into.  Anyhow, with its tall ceilings, skylights, and windows all around, the tiny mobile office, although smaller than the old office, feels way more spacious.

Both for air exchange and light, it’s nice to have windows on all sides of you.  Opening a window at either side of the house creates a nice breeze. Because you’re surrounded by windows rather than looking at one or two walls with windows, the space feels more expansive and airy than a smaller space.

The take home: In a small space, you’re closer to the windows, so they don’t have to be as big as you’d think to provide a huge amount of light and views. Careful placement of windows to maximize light, view and air exchange makes all the difference. 


Choose your floor color wisely.

This goes for any house, not just tiny houses, but it’s something I’ve learned from this particular tiny house so I thought I’d share it here.  I can’t stress this enough: choose a floor color that’s not going to show every single piece of dirt, dust, sand, mud, piece of grass, and microscopic pebble.  This house was photographed on a day when the snow went up to our knees and we mopped the floor just before the shoot.  If we hadn’t, you’d see all kinds of smudges on it.

The absolute best floor for mud-concealment is this grey one with lots of color variation.  This house (the Arcadia Tiny House) has been exhibited on rainy, muddy days with hundreds of people (and double that number of boots!) walking through and you couldn’t even tell it was dirty.

 

Left: The dark floor of the Brodie gets dirty   Right: The varied-color floor of the Arcadia doesn’t show dirt!

The Take-home: If, like me, one of the things about tiny living that appeals to you is your laziness for cleaning, don’t get a floor that’s going to drive you crazy if you don’t mop it every day!  (The bright side is I only have to mop 140 sq. ft!)


Mobile offices are great for greeting customers outside the work area.

Our workshop has six tiny houses being built at a time, with houses, trucks, deliveries, forklifts, et cetera rolling in and out of our factory doors all day.  We don’t generally like to invite visitors inside this active work environment simply because it’s too much of a liability.  Having the mobile office outside as the face of our company allows us to greet customers in a safe environment, free of sawdust, noise and hazards.

The take home: designing your tiny house is the most important thing– but placement of the tiny house can make or break your experience inside.


More people can fit in an 8 1/2′ x 20′ space than you think without feeling claustrophobic.

We’ve had non-claustrophobic meetings with ten people inside.  The level of claustrophobia definitely depends on the amount of stuff inside the house.  Since this is an office, not a home, and most of our files are digital, not on paper, we really don’t need that much stuff inside the mobile office.  We keep architectural samples, like color chips, siding swatches, and stain samples, but other than that pretty much everything’s digital.

Additionally, the objects that we do have are stored inside the cabinetry so they don’t add to visual clutter.

The take home: we live in a world where you no longer have to have a lot of physical stuff.  In a small space, digitize (and back up!) everything.  One might think closed cabinets make a small space feel smaller than open cabinets, but they’re great for hiding clutter.


Get white noise and air exchange for a shared tiny space.

It’s quiet in the mobile office.  Really quiet.  It’s a side effect of being well-insulated.  So during mealtimes it can be a bit… overwhelming for someone who doesn’t like to hear others chewing.  My favorite white noise generator is Celestial White Noise on YouTube.  Ten hours of a gentle hum that you tune out after a minute and don’t have to hear every time your coworker shifts in their chair.

  

Pictured: the mobile office’s in-wall electric heater, which doesn’t include air exchange

I have hot soup for lunch all the time in the winter.  To make sure the mobile office doesn’t then smell like soup for the rest of the day, I always open the restroom door and turn the extractor fan on after eating a hot lunch.  It only takes a couple minutes to return the air in the house to freshness.

Certain heating and cooling systems also include air exchange (ours doesn’t)– I’d recommend getting that if possible.

The take home: get white noise and an extractor fan. 


tiny home brodie mobile office studioTall ceilings and not too much clutter on the walls really make a space feel bigger.

Perhaps this goes without saying, but I think it’s worth mentioning the tall ceilings inside this tiny mobile office.  In order to be road-legal, the tiny house has to be under 13 1/2′ tall so it can fit under bridges, trees and power lines.  With the inside floor being just over 2′ off the road, there is still room for a taller-than-usual ceiling inside– and it makes a huge difference!

The take home: Be sure to design your tiny space with as much ceiling height as you can. 

 

 

What’s The Difference Between a Modular Home and a Tiny House on Wheels?

Resideo Tiny House, Resideo Tiny Smart Home

Left: A Tiny House on Wheels- the wheels are obscured by shrubbery.  Right: A Modular Home: no wheels, slab foundation (coming soon!)

 

 

 


Tiny Houses on Wheels

Tiny houses on wheels are permanently on the chassis.  The tires can be removed but the house will always be on the trailer. If you want a tiny house on wheels but don’t plan to travel with it, we can also permanently anchor a tiny house on wheels to the ground, remove its tires, and skirt it.  Road-legal limits of 8 1/2′ wide and 13 1/2′ high constrain the size of tiny houses on wheels. We are certified to build tiny houses on wheels by the RVIA, so our tiny houses on wheels are legally considered RVs.  Tiny houses on wheels don’t require a building permit, but you’ll need to make sure RVs are allowed in your zone of your town.

Modular Homes

Modular homes are constructed in pieces in a factory and then transported to the home site to be assembled and attached to the foundation.  They look just like traditional houses– you can’t tell the difference between a modular home from a traditional home just by looking at it– and can be any shape and size as long as each module is small enough to travel from the factory to the build site.  After a modular home is built and inspected inside the factory, it is transported to the site and then permanently attached to a foundation (basement, slab, or pin foundation) where it is inspected again.  B&B Micro Manufacturing is certified to build Industrialized/Modular Homes by the State of Massachusetts.  Modular homes are financed using traditional home financing and there’s no difference in zoning for a modular home versus a traditional site-built home.  B&B Modular designs will be released in early 2019.

Both types of homes are built inside our factory in Massachusetts.  The advantages of factory-building include a quicker build time (we don’t have to stop working in extreme weather) and a less expensive build, especially when the home is built alongside other homes of the same design.

Are Composting Toilets Allowed in Massachusetts?

Composting toilets and greywater systems can be a great solution for how to deal with waste water.  But are you allowed to use them on your own land in MA?

Spoiler alert: Like pretty much every code, there’s not a single easy answer that applies everywhere.

According to mass.gov, for residential homes: “Title 5 (310 CMR 15.000) allows composting toilets for Remedial Use and also certifies them for General Use in new residential construction where a system in full compliance with Title 5 could otherwise be installed. The local approving authority (typically the Board of Health) must also approve installation of a composting toilet through a Disposal System Construction Permit and Certificate of Compliance. Check with your local Board of Health for its approval procedures.”

Read all the details here:

Source: https://www.mass.gov/files/documents/2016/08/qm/comptoi.pdf

Note that this doesn’t apply to tiny houses on wheels– only homes that are permanently affixed.

In summary, Title 5 allows for conforming composting toilets and a greywater system in new residential construction where there could otherwise be a septic system.  However, this doesn’t mean it’s allowed in every town.  The local Board of Health will also have to approve it. 

Here’s how to get in touch with your local Board of Health in Massachusetts.

But wait: a composting toilet isn’t the only option for your tiny house!

B&B offers five different toilets for tiny houses on wheels: the best solution for you depends on where you’re parking your tiny house, whether it’ll move, what utilities are available and how often you’ll use your tiny house.  Check out this blog post on the 5 Types Of Tiny House Toilets.

 

 

 

5 Home Design Ideas for Renovating a Small Space

5 Home Design Ideas for Renovating a Small Space

Whether it’s a tiny house or small space, follow these guidelines for maximizing space.

1. Declutter and Add Storage

Add storage everywhere! This is where you can be creative and build storage in unconventional ways.

2. Light colors

Light colors allow for the space to feel fresher and bigger.

3. Windows and Mirrors

Adding natural light will make a space feel more open. By adding windows and placing larger mirrors where natural light hits, you’ll maximize the freshness of your space.

4. Multi-Use Furniture

Space-saving furniture is perfect for a small space as it allows your room to become multi-functional.

5. Vary vertical and horizontal dimensions

If possible, vary the dimensions and finishes in both the horizontal and vertical direction. When done correctly, this helps the space feel less uniform and allows for the eye to wander.

small space furniture tiny house

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