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Turning Your Tiny Home into a Smart Home

As we explained in ‘7 Benefits of Living in a Tiny House’, many people are shifting to smaller homes to save money and simplify their lives. Tiny house living at its core is about maximizing your life. With more and more smart home technologies coming to market every day, smart tiny homes are the next big thing.  Here are a few ways you can automate and improve your home life:

Identify Your Needs

Don’t fall for needless automation. Yes, lights that automatically turn on at set hours and blinds that go up and down at specific times are impressive, but do you really need these features? Canary co-founder Jon Troutman told Curbed that a truly smart home is one that solves real needs. The products you will install and use should add something of value to your home and make your day-to-day life easier, safer, and more convenient. In the same article, IFTTT’s Linden Tibbets shares the same sentiment and suggests that people start off by thinking of a problem they want to solve. He mentions as an example the door of his house, which is down three flights of stairs. Naturally, he wants to see who’s down there, so a connected doorbell or connected camera will certainly be useful in this instance.

Think of problems that you think the technology will be able to solve, particularly as a tiny home has a unique set of challenges. Determine locations in your home that could use a boost of innovation. Find areas for improvement that will make your life better, easier, and safer. Some common needs include a thermostat for temperature control, security devices for safety, and smart TVs for entertainment.

Get the Right Products

dc75781581e9ecd17511cdb302838cb6Once you’ve identified what you need, it’s time to get the right products that will either add value to your home or solve an existing problem. Take, for example, Tibbets’s aforementioned door problem. He could install the smart tech Nest Outdoor, which consists of connected security cameras capable of sending custom alerts once they spot people in the vicinity. Business Insider’s list of the best smart home gadgets has a wide variety of smart home technologies that can be applied to different uses.

Invest in a Brain

A smart home brain is an online platform that links all smart devices in your humble abode so you can control them via a single app using either a smartphone or tablet. Intel created a smart tiny home that demonstrates the benefits of implementing the technology into your own home. It has an Internet of Things platform which serves as the brain of the company’s own smart tiny house. The biggest advantage of smart technology in a tiny home is that you can use it to move furniture electronically, allowing you change the setup of your room with the click of a button.

The Future is Smart

1d71eee7df97e91c191ca915ac0f41dbNow, no one can blame you if you are having second thoughts on turning your tiny home into a smart yet still humble abode. There will be expenses, and not everyone is tech savvy. But going smart is clearly the way to go now, as smart technologies are fast becoming commonplace in the U.S.

General Electric is using IoT-enabled sensors in one of their plants to collect, in real time, data that can be used by plant operators and managers to improve their factories and products. In the future, smart homes will also be able to make use of these same sensors to detect potential problem areas, like minute cracks in walls and busted wires. This type of technology could also be used to plan out space- and energy-saving layouts.

Another key development of smart technology is being seen on the road. GPS technology is now very much commonplace in the automotive industry, and the technology is constantly evolving with the IoT. Where once GPS was used primarily for directions, it can now be used to monitor a wide variety of features, including tracking the journeys of vehicles and measuring fuel consumption to improve efficiency. The commercial trucking industry was able to fully utilize this data when the Electronic Logging Device (ELD) Mandate was introduced last year. Verizon Connect reveals that the ELD automatically records and logs a vehicle’s journey, which in turn allows the fleet companies and drivers to evaluate and improve the routes of the trucks. Through reducing time on the road and saving on fuel consumption, this has allowed companies to become more environmentally friendly and reduce their carbon footprint. For tiny homeowners, this type of GPS technology can be used to minimize their own carbon footprint when they move their home. Sustainability is a key ethos of tiny home living, and installing smart technology means that every aspect of living in a tiny home can be monitored to become more eco-friendly.

The ongoing smart revolution is certainly upon us, and a tiny home is the perfect space in which to take advantage of this movement. Turning your tiny home into a smart home will make your living space more comfortable and convenient.

Article By: DreamHigh_RJ

The Fixers Manifesto

Automotive repair no matter how small is still something that freaks me out. So when a headlight went out on T2 I was worried and irritated that it was going take time and money that I don’t have to repair. So, in true Tiny House fashion, I went on Youtube, watched a video, got supplies, and $15 and 5 minutes of work later, my headlight was as good as new.

Over the last few years, through building 2 homes, a car camper, a school bus, and helping out with dozens of other projects. I have learned the value of just doing and not worrying about the little voice that says “but you don’t know how…”. When you stop caring about the possibility of failure you truly realize just how much you CAN accomplish.

To this day, when I start a new project or do something for the first time, I feel completely stupid and like all hell is going to break loose, then… at the end of the day, somehow the project is complete and (outside of typically a few scratches and bruises) nothing terrible has happened.

I’ve come to learn that over thousands of small tasks, my intuition knows what it’s doing even if my conscious brain has no idea what’s going on. This has taken time (and hundreds of screw-ups) to build up, but it’s amazing how now when I’m working on a new task things just seem to “work out like I planned them”… despite there being no real plan to begin with.

Nothing is ever perfect and striving for perfection will just leave you disappointed. Rather, I’ve learned to strive for beauty. There is beauty in function, but there is also beauty in flaws. I once had a volunteer help build. She had never used power tools before and was so worried about messing something up that she just about refused to try anything. I explained to her… It will be okay… first, with what we were doing, even if she completely screwed up  I would only be out a couple bucks in lumber. A small price to pay to help someone gain valuable life skills. Second, even if she didn’t install something perfectly, that little flaw would be a memory. A memory to me that would be much more valuable than the “perfect home”. That simple conversation had such an impact that by the end of the day she had learned 7 different power tools and was confidently cutting, nailing and screwing paneling up in the home.

I pride myself in being a fixer. A creative problem solver. And someone who is flawed – breaks things – and fails often. I’ve come to a point where I’m more comfortable cutting something to bits and rebuilding it than I am using an item for its intended purpose. I am proud that despite pressures from others and the little voice inside my head that says “can’t”… I keep moving forward day by day making beautiful things.

This freedom is indescribable. Being a fixer doesn’t require any special skills or knowledge, it just a willingness to try. So next time something of yours breaks. Rather than buying a new one. Take the time to try and repair it. Every fix tells a story and a fixed thing is a beautiful thing. Fixer_Manifesto_2.0_type_only

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4 Myths About Tiny Homes

Busting the Myths about Tiny Homes on Wheels

Living in a tiny home is living intentionally, away from what society thinks you should do, away from debt, and away from many day to day stresses. It gives dwellers freedom of location, finances, and time. While living tiny is not something new, it has been newly embraced as people realize the current system of big houses, big mortgages, and big expenditures is unsustainable for the long term.

Despite the various benefits, this life of minimalism has its misconceptions. The reason is ignorance and the myths that surround tiny homes.


4 Myths About Tiny Homes

Tiny homes are meant for young hipster singles:

The biggest market for DIY tiny homes is actually women over 50 who have never built anything before. Tiny homes are about living intentionally rather than just living small. At Terraform Tiny Homes we have worked with families of four to traveling entrepreneurs, to single mothers. Tiny Homes are about a lifestyle more than a physical structure. They are suitable for anyone who wants to take control of their life and live intentionally.


Tiny Homes feel cramped:

It’s all about how you design them! At Terraform Tiny Homes, we strive to make each tiny house as spacious as we can so that you’re able to live comfortably.

When designing it is important to take into considerations things like, how the light moves through the house during the day, color pallets, room flow, and other concrete design features. In Terraform One we used pull-away walls and pocket doors to keep the whole home feeling open while still providing privacy when needed. Another tiny house dweller once told me “despite their home being the same exact size… Terraform One felt SO much bigger”.

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With Terraform Three smart design takes an extremely tiny footprint and expands it, as one visitor described, “like Mary Poppins purse”. 54 sq ft of interior living space expands to 124 sq ft of usable space by opening up a back wall, turning the roof into usable space, and other clever design features. DIY tiny homes may feel cramped at times due to lack of professional planning but ones constructed with experienced guidance can be surprisingly spacious and comfortable.

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They aren’t safe in a storm:

Not true! They are built to withstand hurricanes. When you are going down the highway at 60 mph and an 18-wheeler blows by at 60 mph in the opposite direction… That’s a 120 mph gust hitting your home. Add in potholes, swerves and bends in the road, and any number of road hazards, every tiny house move is a CAT 5 hurricane. So Tiny Homes are built to withstand these conditions. With the recent hurricanes in Florida and Houston, the tiny homes in the area did just fine. Learn more about their stories.

Another perk of living in a mobile dwelling is that in case of harsh weather conditions or expected hurricanes, you can take your home to a place where the weather is pleasant, something that you can’t do with a brick house.


Composting toilets are gross:

Living in a tiny house myself, I can assure you this it isn’t true at all. Through multiple exhibits, I’ve had over 10,000 people through Terraform One… Every exhibit I intentionally don’t dump my toilet beforehand to show first hand they are not as scary as people think. To this day, even with 3 weeks of poop and 10,000+ people just a few feet away, no one has told me that my toilet stinks.

Depending on your level of comfort there are different options. I use the Nature’s Head composting toilet which separates liquids and solids and has a vent fan to prevent odors. This is the Rolls Royce of composting toilets and comes with a high price tag, but the results are great. Many use simply a 5-gallon bucket and sawdust, while I haven’t gotten that brave, Terraform Three will have a DIY toilet somewhere in the middle of the two.

Composting toilets are much better for the environment. The average toilet uses 1.6 gallons of water per flush and is flushed between 5-7 times per day. Add that all up and the average person uses almost 3,000 gallons of fresh drinking water yearly. Crazy to think about when you realize 844 million people, 1 in 10 people worldwide, don’t have access to clean water at all… and we poop in ours.

Terraform-TolietIf the environmental crisis wasn’t convincing enough… composting toilets, believe it or not, are much easier to clean.  They can be removed from the home, taken into the yard and simply hosed off. Much nicer than dealing with chemicals and sticking your head between the toilet and the cabinet to clean. A skeptic when I moved into my house, I have become an advocate for composting toilets as seen in my bedpan planters in Terraform One.


As Tiny house designers and dwellers ourselves, we strive to help people of all ages and backgrounds live more intentionally. While there are compromises and some struggles with living tiny, the net impact is extremely positive. This is how the tiny house community has evolved over the last few years and has witnessed a rapid rise in members.

Tiny house on wheels designers, Terraform Tiny Homes offers car camper designs, school bus conversions, and many more services to make your dream of living in an alternative dwelling come true.  

7 Benefits of Living in a Tiny House

Honestly, the best decision of my life was to downsize to a tiny home. After building a 250 sq ft home, then realizing that my tiny was still too big, from 250 sq ft I downsized once again to 54 sq ft. The Tiny House life has given me so much joy and amazing experiences.

The lifestyle is rapidly growing. DIYers all over are seeing the benefits of living large in very tiny homes. The best part is that just about anyone can build their own tiny house with a little tiny house coaching, some research, and a bit of creativity.

By going tiny you don’t have to spend 15-30 years of your life paying off a mortgage. Rather, save that money, travel the world, explore new places, meet new faces, or simply live a less stressed life.

If this isn’t convincing enough, here are seven more benefits of living in a tiny house:

Benefits of Shifting to a Tiny Home

Save Money

Buying a home bigger than your needs and budget can lead to years of struggles and stress in order to pay off the debt. Spending beyond ones means leaves a person financially and emotionally vulnerable. It limits options. You may feel as if you have to stay in an unhappy job, budget to the penny, and be stressed about the “what ifs”.  Downsizing to a tiny home reduces financial strain in a multitude of ways.

  • Moving to a smaller place (whether that be from 5,000 sq ft to 3,000 sq ft or from 1000 sq ft to 200 sq ft) has the obvious benefit of being cheaper to rent or buy. With the average American spending 30+% of their monthly income on rent, going from $1000+ per month to a few hundred per month by going tiny opens up your budget to a lot of possibilities.
  • Going smaller also saves on utilities. Simply put it takes a lot less energy to heat, light, cool, and maintain 200 sq ft than it does 1500… This adds up to hundreds every month in savings
  • There are many less tangible savings of simplifying.
    • You are less vulnerable to buying things just to fill space. It is proven, if you have the space to fill a room, you will fill it… Even if you never use that nightstand or bookshelf, a large space seems uncomfortable without stuff. 
    • You are less susceptible to planned obsolescence, which means you spend less money on stuff that is designed to break over and over again.
    • When you go small, the process of downsizing often means you have lots of things you need to sell. Which in turn, makes downsizing profitable.

Within a very small budget, you’ll have a roof over your head and the comforts of home customized to your needs.

Enjoy Financial Freedom

As compared to a typical home that can range upwards of $150,000; a DIY tiny house average around $30k. If you were to purchase one outright, they tend to average between $60-80k. In the states, 30+% of people’s income goes towards housing. Crazy when you think you could be debt free in a matter of years by just living differently.

Plus, tiny homes are versatile. They can be an income stream when not in use. If you decide to go into a normal home again, they make great guest houses or home offices… Or, sell it, and make back most of your expenses.

Freedom From Clutter

Only the things that you actually love will end up staying in your tiny home. Simplifying your stuff means more clarity of mind and less losing things. Everything I own brings me joy in some way, if it doesn’t, I get rid of it. Additionally, I lose my keys about every day. Luckily, I live small so it’s not too hard to find them. Everything has a fixed place, which means slightly less chaos!

Living in a tiny house makes life more organized, comfortable and enjoyable. It makes room for things that actually matter and gives independence of time, money and location.

Time Freedom

Since you’ve reclaimed 30+% of your income, that equates to essentially a 30% raise. Some people take that as “I need to work 30% less today” or “I can retire 30% sooner”. Either way, it frees up time now or later so that you can pursue your passions. The satisfaction of knowing that you have shelter, enough food and other possessions to keep life going sets one free. A 9-to-5 job can be replaced with freelancing or part-time jobs much easier, letting you pursue things that matter to you. With less to take care of, living in a tiny house is sure to give you more time for doing things that actually matter.

Permanent Roof Over Your Head

By switching to a tiny home, you will always know you have a home even if things go downhill. If you were to face financial hardships or lose your job, you won’t be homeless. A tiny house can be easily paid for, up front with a few years savings and if circumstances change, you can always move it to a new location.

Location Independence

Being able to adapt as life changes is something we all need, and living in a tiny house gives exactly that. Location independence is one of the main reasons why people switch to houses on wheels. One can easily move in case of a new job, stay close to friends and family, escape if a natural disaster is expected, and never pay for a hotel room on a road trip.

Stay With Like-Minded People

My favorite benefit of going tiny is being part of a like-minded community. Tiny House people, in my experience, are some of the kindest and welcoming people that I have met. There is a sense that we’re all crazy. Your craziness may be a little different than mine, but that’s okay. Staying with like-minded people makes life lighter and happier.

Ready to get started?

If you too wish to switch to a simpler, happier life in a Tiny Home, get in touch with Terraform Tiny Homes. We offer unique and attractive tiny home designs and alternative life coaching to help you live your best life today.

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The Terraform Tiny Home Story

At 22 years old, I was on top of the world. I had just obtained a Bachelor’s from one of the country’s best design schools without any debt, I’d already started an amazing career at a well-known advertising agency, and I ran by own side-business in the evenings. Everything was going my way. So, I decided to reward myself with something I’d always secretly wanted—a motorcycle. Little did I know this bike would be the catalyst for my tiny house.

Once I made the decision to purchase a motorcycle, I got to work finding the perfect bike. I even took riding classes before meeting up with a Craigslist contact. I left my apartment with $3,000 cash and returned with a new favorite toy. I was elated. After two days of practicing in a parking lot, I built up the courage to actually ride to work. The way there was fine, but it was on the way home that it hit me. “It” was a big, black, SUV.

She was distracted by her cell phone and blew through a stop sign. My plans for the upcoming weekend and my left femur were then shattered. I’d never broken a bone before, but I lead a “go big or go home” lifestyle, so it seemed appropriate the largest, strongest bone in my body was shattered into a thousand pieces. I was thrown from my bike, helmet wrenched off. Through recovering from full-body road rash and undergoing a series of surgeries on my leg didn’t seem too positive, the experience would change my life forever.

While cooped up after surgery, I came across a click-bait article titled “Couple Builds Home for $22,000”. I watched the accompanying video, thinking this 200-square-foot home was absolutely insane. Who the hell would even want to live in a space that small? As time passed, I began to see more posts about Tiny living. Call it divine intervention (or tracking algorithms), but the more I saw the more intrigued I became. I started to understand how some people lived in tiny homes and even imaged a hypothetical one for myself. Tiny houses had taken up permanent residence in my brain.

The next few years brought waves of enthusiasm about, and avoidance of, tiny houses. Just as I’d get excited about building a house, the stress about money, inexperience, and massive scope of the project would shut me down for months at a time. Then, I’d wander to the opposite extreme of needing to build. I knew renting apartments was a waste of money and felt stifled by the prospect of building a permanent structure home. After spending a deal of money on a new car, I realized this mental back-and-forth was ridiculous. Even if I utterly failed at going tiny, I knew I had to try.

Over the next few months, I contacted an architect, a trailer manufacturer, a shell fabricator, and found land to build my new home. I painfully wrote a $12,000 check for my trailer and walls, knowing I’d thrown myself past the proverbial point of no return. I did my best to keep busy with prep work in order to distract myself from this insane decision. On September 2, 2015, my trailer arrived at the home of the parents of one of my good friends. The next day the walls were delivered. The day after that, September 4, construction began.

10 volunteers gathered under the blazing Texas sun. Over the course of two days, and with the direction of Artisan Tiny House’s Patrick Sughrue, these inexperienced builders created the shell of my new home. We battled triple-digit heat, heavy paneling, and utter exhaustion. In the end, though, we were all exceptionally proud of what we’d built.

Shell Complete

The tiny house became a second job of sorts over the next four and a half months. I would work my 8:00-5:00 day job, anxiously awaiting to rush home and start my real work. I’d eat, throw on battered work clothes, and make the half-hour commute to the build site. I’d work until 1:00 in themorning or so, then get up the next morning and do it all again. Finally, on January 15, 2016, I left my over-priced city apartment and moved the last of my possessions into my (still under construction) new home.

I kept my full-time job for the next month and continued to build late into the evening. I soon became fed up with agency life and made the decision to quit my corporate position and begin my own marketing firm. Thankfully, my existing freelance clients were excited about this prospect and ready to expand the scope of their work. For the first time in my life, I felt totally in control. I owned a home, started a business, and was debt free with the financial stability to live each day as I wished. Of course, this major life transition came with several stumbles and much uncertainty, but each challenge was welcomed as a chance to develop myself.

One major challenged occurred in March when I was asked to exhibit my less than finished home as Earth Day Texas 2016. I agreed to participate despite my home being in no condition to be seen by 100,000+ people the following month. I rushed to finish projects before moving my house for the first time in April. The house was rock solid, but I was a mess.

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My home was visited by 5,000 people on the grounds of the Texas State Fair. 3,000 more saw Terraform at another exhibit a few weekends later. Many of these individuals had never seen a tiny in person. It was surreal to be considered an “expert” by so many since I was still in disbelief I’d even accomplished a such a build.

The summer months continued to be eventful. In June I was approached to be on HGTV’s hit show, “Tiny House Hunters.” I originally turned down the network because they wanted me to say I simply bought my home. After some negotiation, they agreed to let me tell my building story. I toured homes on the show for “inspiration,” one of which belonged to a friend of mine. We shot her tiny home Friday, then packed it up for a cross-country move the following Monday.

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I prepped a second “tiny house on wheels,” as a travel vehicle. My Honda Element soon became a 32-square-foot micro camper for a two-month excursion to scout for a new place to put the big tiny house. The trip turned into four months and my car became my home. I rushed through the last leg of my trip to make it back to Texas for the holidays, I returned home and was overwhelmed at the excessiveness of my 250-square-foot tiny mansion. I had become so comfortable in the car, even through freezing nights and giant storms. My experiences had far outweighed the need for the comforts of a traditional home.

 

car-camper-designI think my tiny house experience was similar to most others. A life-changing event prompted contemplation and the need for change. The change takes form as a tiny house. Fear, doubt, and overwhelming scheduling almost crushed my tiny house dreams, but in the end, it was all worth it.

I learned the do it yourself mindset in a tiny house goes far beyond simply getting a roof overhead. The ability to problem solve and willingness to get your hands dirty to accomplish an insurmountable goal transfers to many things in life. A community willing to gather around an individual trying to follow his (crazy) dreams brings about renewed faith in humanity. And the opportunities to teach, inspire, and help others meet their goals is endlessly rewarding.

All I wanted out of a tiny house was a cheap place to live. I got so, so much more. A tiny house isn’t just about the home, but about the life it allows you to create.

For more information about my tiny home and adventures, please visit TerraformTH.com, follow me on Instagram @TerraformTinyHomes, or send me an email at Richard@TerraformTH.com