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Recap: Meeting on Backyard Tiny Houses in Great Barrington, MA

Last week’s public hearing in Great Barrington, MA addressed using tiny houses on wheels as backyard cottages.  (If you haven’t already seen it or need a refresher, refer back to this blog post).

After the meeting, I spoke with Jonathan Hankin who is the president of the Planning Board.  Here’s his recap:

  • The meeting was 3 hours long and had lots of controversial items to cover!  The proposed tiny house ADUs weren’t discussed, negatively or positively.
  • Public comments remain open until next week’s meeting, which is on Thursday.  However, since there hasn’t been any negative feedback, Jonathan seems confident it should pass without issue.
  • Next week’s meeting is when all the proposed changes to Great Barrington’s Zoning Bylaws should be put on a warrant. Those changes will officially pass (or not) at the Town Meeting, which takes place the last week in May.
  • All the changes that pass in Town Meeting will go to the Attorney General for review.  Her report should come back in August or September.  All changes that she approves will be retroactively in effect back to next week’s meeting (get your Delorean ready).

As a side note, the Massachusetts Attorney General, Maura Healey, visited the B&B Tiny Houses workshop last year and said, in front of many members of the press, that she feels tiny houses are a good affordable housing option.  She has also signed the Nantucket, MA zoning bylaw allowing tiny houses, so we feel good about Atty. Gen. Healey signing Great Barrington’s as well.

-K. Jackson

Pictured from left: B&B Tiny Houses Owners Chris St. Cyr, Jason Koperniak, Mitch Bressett, and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey outside the Arcadia Tiny House. Photo from iBerkshires.com.

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.

 

 

 

All About Composting Toilets

Composting toilet

Composting toilets are the best option for those wishing to live sustainability and off-grid. Composting toilets will cost more upfront and will require additional steps; however, they also save water, energy, and waste can be recycled as fertilizer.

composting toilet

Good quality composting toilets are relatively odorless. Most of the toilets will have a fan that works to suck out any odor that would emit from the toilet. The toilets usually work by separating liquid and solid waste. Solid waste will go into one chamber that will be mixed with peat moss in order to help break the waste down. If you are staying somewhere where composting is not allowed, you will bag the solid waste in a biodegradable plastic bag and throw it away–much like a baby’s diaper is thrown away. Otherwise, you will be able to use the solid waste as compost. The liquid waste will be stored in a tank that will need to be disposed when it’s full. You can dispose the liquid waste in toilets, RV dump stations, or the ground if you are in a remote place where that is allowed. You will have to dispose of waste every 3-7 days for liquid waste and every 2-4 weeks for solid waste.

Pros

  • environmentally friendly (reduces water/electricity use and creates compost)
  • suitable for off-grid living
  • cheaper in the long run than installing a septic tank
  • odorless (as long as it’s properly installed and well taken care of)

Cons

  • maintenance: the two types of toilets below require little to no maintenance unlike composting toilets
  • you must always have peat moss
  • may not be legal in your municipality: check with your town hall

Other Types of Toilets

We have previously written about other types of toilets in one of our previous blog posts. Three other types of toilets in tiny houses are traditional, macerating, incinerating and dry-flush toilets.

Traditional toilets that are used in houses can be used in tiny houses; however, traditional toilets can’t be used with tanks. This means that your tiny house must be permanently in-place and hooked up to septic or sewer system in order to use a traditional toilet.

Macerating toilets break up waste and toilet paper into a fine slurry that is then expelled into the sewer or septic tank.  The flush mechanism is powered by electricity.  The user experience is the most similar to a regular flush toilet: press the button, water comes into the chamber and flushes the waste away.

toilet tiny home

Dry flush toilets are lined with foil which, when “flushed”, wraps around the waste in a sealed packet, similar to a diaper genie.  The packaged waste can then be thrown out in any trash can just like diapers.  The flushing mechanism is also powered by electricity. For more information on these and our other types of tiny house toilets, read our previous blog post. 

Dry Flush Toilet

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How Do I Get Power & Water To My Tiny House? All About Tiny House Hookups

Hooking up a tiny house to power, fresh water, and waste water is easy– just plug and play!

Tiny House RV Hookups- Power and WaterFrom left: the tiny house power source, an extension cord with an adapter to fit into any three-pronged outlet; the water hose inlet; and covered outdoor outlets for all your chili-pepper-string-light needs.  Not pictured: grey and black water outlets, under the house. 

Fresh Water

First, you’ll need a source for fresh water in your tiny house.  You can source water from a town water line, a well, or any other potable water source.

Tiny houses that stay in one location can hook up to water through an RV hookup, which includes an underground water source with a pedestal that feeds water into the sinks and other faucets as they are used.

If there are water tanks in your tiny house, they can be filled with potable water via a hose, whether the hose is permanently attached to a stationary house (in freezing temperatures, wrap heat tape along the hose), or, if you’re traveling with your house, intermittently.  You can also have a water truck come and fill up your water tank, although that’s a more expensive solution.

Waste Water

How will you get rid of your waste water?

Depending on what your town allows, you may separate your grey water from your black water if you can use your grey water, or you may put all waste water into black water.  Grey water may be used in irrigating gardens (again, as long as your town allows it) and you use eco-friendly soap products.  More on greywater use is here.

Either way, your waste water will need to go somewhere!  B&B Micro Manufacturing can build in grey and black water tanks to your tiny house, or you can permanently tie-in your tiny house to a septic or sewer system.

Power

The simplest, cheapest power source for your tiny house is running an extension cord a building that already has power.  Many people who live in their tiny houses full-time park their houses beside or behind the house of a friend, relative or landlord.  Others may lease or purchase a property that already has a power source.  If you need to have new power lines run to your property, check in with your town. Learn more about connecting undeveloped land to power and water sources here.

Solar powering tiny houses is another option, albeit the most expensive one.  Off-grid solar power systems for tiny houses, including solar panels and batteries, cost anywhere between $3,500 and $10,000, depending on your power needs.  If you’re choosing solar power for your tiny house, we will help you choose the most energy-efficient appliances for your power system.  You can read more about your solar options and our tiny house solar energy partner, AltEStore, here.

The TL;DR* for tiny house water and power is that tiny houses work just like RVs, and they can be quite simple and easy to plug in.

Have questions about your tiny house power and water?  Ready to buy your tiny house?  Contact us!

  • Where will your tiny house be located? Will it be used for travel or set in one location?
  • Will your tiny house be used as a year-round residence or as a vacation home? How many people will use it? Anything else we should know?
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

*For all you newcomers to the internet (where have you been?), TL;DR means “Too Long; Didn’t Read”, or “In Summary” if you’re being polite.