Daniel Schmidt

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since Jun 16, 2015
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tiny house solar woodworking
Jacksonville, FL
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Recent posts by Daniel Schmidt

The best bet would be to figure out the largest load you have, size the breaker to that, and calculate a wire size capable of handling that amperage with a maximum voltage drop of 5%. If you only have devices with standard plugs, it would be cheaper to replace the breaker with one rated at 15A like standard residential branch circuits. Following the formula shows you would need 8 gauge wire. If you need more than that it might be substantially cheaper and easier to run two circuits using two 8/2 direct burial cables. Beyond that would mean much heavier cables, likely need to be in PVC conduit, and greatly increase costs.

Depending on the electrical panel you might be able to add a double breaker that fits in a single breaker slot if no more slots are empty. It really depends on a number of things (brand, amperage of service, etc), so it might be worthwhile to find an electrician to go over everything. Never work on live circuits or expect that a circuit isn't live. I personally have been zapped from guys way more experienced than me telling me to work on something and then forgetting and turning power on.

Two circuits would probably be wise for the new tiny house, especially if you have any electric kitchen appliances. You could split the loads so neither line gets overburdened and avoid tripped breakers. Putting refrigeration and lights together would let you know that when the lights go out the fridge is also out, and a separate circuit for kitchen countertop loads or any other large 'continuous load'. A safety disconnect box should be more than sufficient for safety should you need to cut power in an emergency. Going to a full sub panel will greatly complicate things and increase costs. I would treat it like any outdoor load such as a detached shed, pool, or air conditioner unit. Safety disconnect, outdoor rated waterproof boxes and connectors, and GFCI. If GFCI breakers are overly expensive, what we used to do was run power from a normal breaker to a GFCI receptacle, and then wire appropriately from there so everything on the load side is protected.
9 months ago
When sizing wire, on top of voltage drop consideration, you want to factor in the maximum current draw allowed by the breaker. If you undersize the conductor it could lead to a fire or damage to the wire insulation and cause an electrocution hazard. It's been a number of years since I was an electrician, but I'm fairly certain that hasn't changed. Also keep in mind that many electrical inspectors are not electricians, and as such will often err on the side of saying no to things they don't understand or are not comfortable with. Even doing everything 'by the book' and would otherwise be passed by most inspectors doesn't mean your local inspector will approve.

I would never recommend someone size a conductor for what they use 'most of the time' and then attach a larger breaker. The breaker size determines the maximum current by which conductor size is calculated (I believe the word in the code is 'shall', conductors shall be be sized larger than the maximum current of the breaker). Back when fuses were popular, some people would just install a larger fuse, or jam a penny under it, and many houses burned down or were on the verge of it. It's part of the reason the National Electrical Code book looks like a large novel compared the the children's book size of the first edition.

I read up on it and the formula for figuring out CSA (Cross Sectional Area, in circular mils) doesn't seem to have changed, nor the maximum 5% voltage drop for residential branch circuits. Doing the math for (KIL)2/Voltage Drop=CSA shows me the closest appropriate size wire for ~200 feet @ 30A would be 5 gauge (which would likely be hard to find locally) so you would need 4 gauge wire. This page goes over everything:


The trick of using a 240V circuit as 2 x 120v circuits with a single neutral is referred to as an Edison circuit. If the neutral ever becomes disconnected, it tries to push 240V across when things are plugged in on both sides. If there isn't anything plugged in on both sides, there will be no power. Once you connect something to complete the circuit to both sides there will be a huge power spike, with varying results depending on the type (resistive, inductive) and size of load. My electric shop teacher had a sheet of plywood with this kind of setup and showed how to ruin things using an Edison circuit. They aren't allowed by code in residential wiring as far as I am aware.
9 months ago
Is there any way to get one of those nifty automatic underline things when the forum sees 'BRK' so the tooltip spells it out and links to the relevant thread? I've been out of the loop and never connected BRK with 'Biological Reverse Kickstarter' and also seem to have a hard time associating that with the benefits for boots taking pictures of stuff, even though I've listened to most of the podcasts. Some of that may just be health issues and brain overload on my end, but apparently I'm not alone in the misunderstanding.
You could potentially make a larger hole for the roof penetration and run several ducts inside it. I don't know about making one for 10 ducts potentially 6"+, and unless it was perfectly central then I'd imagine it might be a bit long of a run for the furthest heater. If the design is going to use an Oculus, then I don't know how that will affect things. It might not look great to have all of the ducts go up the center, and I don't know how wind could come in to play with having exhaust ducts next to a large opening in the roof. It might be better to run a few ducts side-by-side to a few larger roof penetrations towards the perimeter.

The idea of minimizing the number of holes in the roof is a good one. Instead of punching 10 separate holes evenly spaced around the roof, having fewer holes would reduce the chance of leaks and minimize troubleshooting any leaks that do crop up. If the building were freestanding it might be good to have them exhaust individually through the wall, but I guess that wouldn't be any better for earth berm walls.
1 year ago
I see is the birdshit one in Chrome and Firefox on Lubuntu 19.04. Had to screenshot and magnify to notice that it matched your pic. Also the extra space on the quote button.
More or less reiterating what others have said, I use baking soda for odor control and peppermint oil before going out. It's probably too harsh for many people, but I just put on straight baking soda and it kills the bacteria that make odor. It works better and lasts longer than deodorant sticks which I gave up several years ago. When I sweat it will run down my sides, so if I have any injuries the baking soda will make it burn.

My understanding of organic oils is that the smells coming from them are volatile organic compounds (VOC's), and as such they oxidize rather quickly. Especially applied to a warm body, or clothes on a warm body, and particularly in a warm climate, they will oxidize even faster meaning that applying them for a better smell will be short lived. Of course my experience is that many people are trained to believe that if a person doesn't exude a strong pleasant smell then they must smell bad without ever smelling anything repulsive. I did some minor testing with it and specifically asked people after I started using baking soda and people smelled nothing positive or negative. By putting oil on before going out someplace, they get that initial impression that I smell like peppermint which appears to trick them in to thinking I smell good even after the scent wears off.

I have been using rosemary as sort of a door step. I have a series of random pads I've acquired to brush off my feet when coming inside and will step on a dried out rosemary branch to give off a nice smell. They will last for a number of weeks this way. I wonder if a tiny pouch with rosemary or other leaves kept in a pocket or on a necklace or something would be useful. Just tap it a few times to give off a strong scent.
1 year ago
I've given some thought about this today and hopefully can bring up some points that will be beneficial. I think there are a few things with your goals and Wofati style building that need some consideration. First about your goals:

1. Live debt free  

I love this! Minimizing debt and doing things for yourself to minimize unnecessary future spending is the gift that keeps on giving. Paying attention and practicing is a great way to reach that goal.

2. Energy efficiency

This is probably closer to my heart than anything else with permaculture. Not wasting personal energy is nice, and minimizing outside energy inputs goes hand in hand with reducing spending. There are a number of things from electricity to thermal mass and insulation that can be used to increase efficiency, or misunderstood and reduce efficiency.

3. Self built as much as possible  

Given the later line saying that you are not builders tells to me that you probably need some hands on time with building before building a house you expect to spend your life in, and you need something more straightforward to start with. The earthbag idea seems good for learning a few things while creating a structure that will serve you well in the future without outrageous upfront costs. A small scale model of the home you want to build might be another exercise that could enlighten you to some pros and cons before committing to the final build.

4. Build with what's available, natural, repurposed or reused

This is one of the main tenets of Wofati building. If anyone is interested in building a Wofati style structure, it seems paramount to me that you look closely at the Wofati definition and give each aspect serious consideration before trying to modify it, doubly so if your building skills are limited. Too many changes can end up defeating the original purpose of the design. The Wofati Page gives a detailed explanation which I will summarize:
"Woodland" I'll let others debate on whether it is possible or not to build in this style without being in or near a woodland and on or not on a slope. I'd imagine earthworks and creating a food forest could be beneficial, and having plenty of cheap or free lumber for the structure is critically tied in with another part of the definition.
"Oehler" is for Mike Oehler inspired underground house design.
"Freaky-cheap" This ties in with being in or near a woodland. If you can get all of your logs without paying for the logs themselves, just the cost of working them in to shape and moving them, then you can achieve Freaky-cheap materials. You may need to pay for top tier skilled labor to make this work, which might be a great place to spend your money if you aren't well versed with timber framing or underground structures. I would be looking for examples of actual timber framing and references before hiring someone.
"Annualized Thermal Inertia" I believe this is where the rubber meets the road, and flies in direct contrast to so-called 'common knowledge' and conventional building. Just adding insulation randomly to a thermal mass can have deleterious consequences to the point of negating most of the benefits of the mass. From what I can tell, no insulation and more mass is both cheaper and more effective than using insulation. The mass regulates the temperature inside, and as such must contact the interior space you are trying to regulate in order to work. Insulation inside, in the walls, or between the walls and the mass will break contact between the interior and the mass and defeat the thermal inertia.

In the case of the Wofati's at the Lab, they were made to face away from the sun to prove that the thermal inertia can work without passive solar gain. For anybody else that wants maximum efficiency, you probably want to take advantage of the passive solar heating by facing the opening South towards the sun. A large mass, plus a rocket mass heater, plus passive solar should yield a space that is more efficient to keep warm than nearly any other house design. If you go for a lighter roof without earth, you can likely still make use of the rest of the ideas. I personally would look into adding something to the ceiling inside to reflect radiant heat back to the floors and walls to keep it in. Rocket mass heaters, passive solar, and thermal mass give a great deal of radiant heat, and certain reflective materials can reflect over 97% of radiant heat back into the living space. I'm not certain about what kind of testing has been done in this space with all natural materials, but aluminum, mylar, and steel can all reflect radiant heat back quite well.

I'm about all out of steam for the night, so hopefully that gives some more food for thought.

Amy Rising wrote:
We need to build quickly.

Amy Rising wrote:
Low cost is a must.

I believe the saying goes something along the lines of, "Good, fast, cheap - pick two." If you demand fast and cheap then it would be amazingly difficult to also get something good unless you can do it yourself. All of the other aspects mentioned can be worked through to get what you want, but there isn't any way I know of to create more time between now and a fixed point in the future. The wofati's (wofaties? wofatii?) at the lab were built by people given specific instruction and still had many issues because Paul was too busy to just sit there and micromanage everyone. The effort and money was invested and there were still very many issues that took a good bit of time to sort out.

I worked doing conventional house framing for a number of years, as well as part of many phases of conventional construction and have noticed a lot of things along the way. I have never seen a set of plans that didn't have at least one small discrepancy from one page to the next that needed to be deciphered on site. It takes awareness and skill to catch and rectify small issues early on before they become big problems. Even with the best plans and 3D models, there are always things people wish they knew beforehand and now have to live with because it is too late.

One thing that throws off virtually everyone unfamiliar is how fast early construction phases go compared to the total construction length. Excavation can usually be done in days at most. Framing can usually take weeks to months at most. Even with framing, getting the bulk of a small house together may only take a few days, then sheeting, engineering reinforcement, and adding in dead wood for sheetrock can end up taking weeks. The uninitiated might think the framing is 'done' after the crane comes to set roof trusses, but there is plenty of work left. Seeing the hole dug and the skeleton go up quickly makes people think it will be done 'soon', and a year later there are still multiple tradesmen showing up for work every day.

Houses take a long time to make completely livable. The houses on either side of me, one built new and one a remodel, have taken two years each to complete when the owners thought they would be done in months. That is with people skilled in each field, all of the tools they could ask for, and in a port city that is (in square area) the largest in the country, where materials are easily sourced. If time is genuinely that limited, and you and your family absolutely must survive the winter in whatever gets built, then you may want to give serious consideration towards how confident you are of making any structure livable in the allotted time frame.

Do you have a backup plan? Is there a place you can take your family if you can't meet the deadline? If not, would temporary housing work until you can build what you want? Tiny houses or a pole barn that could get you through the winter and be useful in the future might be a better option than putting all of your eggs in one basket. It's one thing to go for broke and suffer the consequences alone, but if you have to live with other people then there is a huge mental tax when everyone has to struggle through a situation.

Don't let all of this discourage you, I'm very cheap and cautious. If you can find a close friend or family member you can trust that has enough skill to manage a project like this then you may be able to pull it off. If you go in without anyone knowing a clear plan of what they are doing then the end result will be way off base from the initial vision.
Necromancy is raising the dead. Most other forums tend to view bringing up threads more than X days or weeks old as a negative thing, and is considered posting to a dead thread, thread necromancy, or necro for short.

This forum is quite different, where knowledge is curated and adding useful info that is on topic to a thread of any age is welcomed. I can understand why some other places with very time sensitive topics wouldn't want people to keep reviving old threads, but it always struck me as being very curious when a thread that is filled with knowledge where someone could make a meaningful contribution would get locked simply because it sat idle for a few days, scattering information around and making it extremely difficult to find important nuggets of knowledge. Compound this with forums changing their file structure and breaking all old links, and you could spend years trying to learn something complex and be left essentially sabotaged. I clearly know this from experience and am extremely grateful for this site!
2 years ago
I showed up to the party late, but it's good that things are working out. I too have been spending years now doing elderly care and it takes unwavering physical and mental fortitude. Many people have no idea how difficult and intricate daily life can be for a caretaker.

And on that note, perhaps for forum nomenclature the word "caretaker" under the community banner would be a way for all types of caretakers to find relief and perspective, as opposed to something that has names in it pertaining to those being cared for.
2 years ago