Let there be Light

Hi! I’m Nico Metais, the electrical team leader for SCU's rEvolve house. Our team has been hard at work designing the energy system for the house. There are many challenges to face when designing a full energy system for such a small house, the first being “where do we put all the solar panels?” This is especially tricky since one of the main features of our house is a deck on the roof. The first step is to reduce the number of solar panels through high efficiency appliances. For this reason, the team has decided to use LED strips for lighting inside the house. We are still working on making them look aesthetically pleasing but these will enable us to greatly reduce our electricity consumption, especially when compared to traditional light bulbs. Additionally, this means there will not be any hanging lights in the house, which is particularly important when the house is on the road.

The team has also been hard at work figuring out the specifics of the energy system. This includes selecting an inverter for converting the DC power from our batteries to usable AC for powering all our appliances. We have also made progress on selecting a charge controller in order to use the electricity from our solar PV array to charge our batteries. It is a challenge to figure out what company would be the most compatible with our system but it seems as though Schneider Electric’s products will work. Their devices are made to talk to each other in order to increase their overall efficiency and send power consumption information to an online database, allowing users to view these results via an online portal.

I joined Tiny House because I love working on solar projects. Working on Tiny House has been different to projects I have worked on in the past in the sense that the engineering challenges are even greater since space, weight and price are all very limiting factors. These challenges are exactly what drew me to the project and overcoming them is and will be extremely rewarding. I can’t wait for the day where everything will be wired and with a flip of a switch, all appliances and lights will come to life!

 

One of a Kind Bathroom

Hi, I’m Brianna and I am on the mechanical engineering team for the rEvolve House. My specific job is the wet bathroom design, a task that has proven to be quite challenging. Irrefutably the hardest part was finding light-weight materials for a bathroom—no tile, marble or any other common bathroom walling. For months we have gone back and forth on design—from vinyl sheets, to bamboo, to a full fiberglass shell, to our current design. Finally, we were able to get an accurate finalized look of the bathroom.

After having made multiple trips to Home Depot, and doing extensive research online, our wet bathroom team finally decided on a design. For those who are unfamiliar, a “wet” bathroom is a normal bathroom—except that there is no shower pan. The whole floor is designed to get wet, resulting in no difference in flooring throughout the whole bathroom. After much deliberation on costs-benefit analysis, we have come to decide on a customized fiberglass pan that will rise up shortly on the wall. For the walling, we will use waterproof paneling that will go over the lip of the fiberglass pan. The aesthetics of the bathroom we are looking into are glass corner shelves and a mirror.  The biggest challenge in designing was choosing a design that college students can build. Sloping can become quite complicated with a circular drain, so we had initially decided to do a tough drain. However, we realized quickly that this drain would run into the joists underneath the house. This made us reconsider our decision, and we came to agreement on a circular drain, in light that we have a friend that can assist in the sloping of the bathroom. Overall, the bathroom should be a solid shell for the flooring, with lighter colored wall panels.

Today, one of the team leaders announces to us that they are changing the dimensions of the bathroom. These next two weeks, we will be revisiting our calculations to account for this change. It may be a bit hard, since the room isn’t perfectly rectangular anymore, yet we will make sure to get the job done right!

Shedding Winter Weight

Our Tiny House may be small, but it’s got a bit of a weight problem. Our trailer is rated for 14,000 pounds; however, that is not including the weight of the trailer itself. This means that we can only add about 9,000 pounds to the current trailer if we still want to be able to transport it without our axles falling off (which we do). As a team, we have been working on reducing our weight wherever possible by finding light-weight siding and transporting the house without the batteries and bed.

 

One of the weights of the trailer that will (hopefully) stay on the trailer during transportation is the added steel. In order to secure our walls to the trailer, bolts were needed to be placed in specific locations around the edge of the trailer. In addition to the bolts, two receivers were welded to the back of the trailer to attach the house’s mech box. This box will hold our salt water batteries and will be detachable so that the weight of the batteries do not have to be included in our 9,000 pound transportation limit.

Two weeks ago, Father Reites and I went to SOS Steel to talk about what additions needed to be welded onto the trailer and where to weld them. Every trip I took with Father Reites was its own little adventure. This trip was full of him stealing stickers, debating with me about what lumber to use for our mudsill, and refusing to let me carry the trailer hitch which was way too heavy for one 78 year old man to be carrying by himself. He was one of the hardest working people I have ever met and he motivated me to work harder because I knew he was going to check and question all of my work. I know I speak for our whole team when I say we will miss his stubbornness and complete dedication to the project and its team members.

The Mech Room

Hey, this is Jonathan Borst, a Mech Team member from Santa Clara University's rEvolve Tiny House. Our team has been working arduously this past week to finalize critical functioning elements of our house. Don Bollard and Marcus Grassi have finalized the layout of our AWESOME mechanical room, an additional storage space for water tanks and pumps underneath our house. We are still working on insulating our tanks, and ensuring that we do not have any thermal related issues within our plumbing system. Finally, we are working on integrating our plumbing into aesthetic parts of our house, wrapping up our design of the bathroom, adding a built in vacuum into the house, and creating a layout for the new exterior power box. The house is really starting to feel like it is coming together!

After Nico Metais and the Electrical Team determined the equipment needed to power our house, the Mech Team realized that we needed more room to store the equipment. The exterior power box was a decision to create more space within our house by placing our power equipment in a detachable, weather resistant box on the side of the house. Since it is detachable, the power box could be easily removed during transportation of the house, and reattached on location. Creating this power box will be a design challenge in itself. The box must hold our three AHI battery stacks, a charge controller, our AC and DC power distribution panels, a control panel, and a communications box. The wiring and controllers will need to be organized and easily accessible, it will need air circulation, and it needs to be strong enough to hold the massive weight of the batteries and controllers.

After creating a sketch of the power box in AutoCAD 360, I feel that I am close to finalizing the layout of the box. In addition, I am thinking about how we can best run wires inside of it. The next step will be to make decisions on materials and to work with my team to create the structure of the box and do calculations to ensure that the power box can safely hold all of its components. As a first year student, I still lack a lot of experiential knowledge. I am seeking guidance from upperclassman teammates and learning a lot as I go. Working with Tiny House Team has been an invaluable experience for me and I ecstatic to see Santa Clara’s rEvolve House competed this summer. Until next time!