Plumbing for Tiny Houses
Tiny houses are growing in popularity across the U.S as lower maintenance, more energy efficient, lower impact housing options. These homes are just what they sound like: miniature. They are often in the size range of 117 to 874 square feet and are often portable. While their size may evoke a kid’s playhouse, they are authentic, fully functioning homes with a kitchen, bathroom, and sleeping quarter. Most are connected to an electrical grid and feature an indoor plumbing system. While in concept these tiny homes can seem bold and innovative, there are still many logistical concerns that must be properly addressed for the home to function as it should. One of these central concerns is the home’s plumbing.
Standard tiny houses require a water supply. From pressurized water hookups to toilets, water heaters, and sewage disposal, the basic needs for homes are nearly universal–no matter the size. Most tiny homes are built to be hooked up to a pressurized water system, but these homes can also be outfitted with RV-like water tanks to have water access if the house is moved to an area without pressurized water connections. These tanks should be large–40 gallons or so–and mounted securely within an insulated part of the structure. The home also needs a grey water tank to store used shower and sink water, a fresh water inlet, a water pump, an accumulator tank, and one way valves to allow municipal water into the system without manual valve switching.
Tiny houses also need water heaters. These come in a variety of styles and sizes, from tankless heaters to small electric heaters. The overall plumbing system in a tiny house as a composite of all of these components needs to allow for easy draining and accessibility for repairs. In many ways, plumbing for these types of homes is akin to a typical RV plumbing setup. Plumbing needs to be efficient, accessible, and self contained when off the water utility grid. This is especially relevant to water efficiency–namely when not connected to pressurized water. The right kind of faucet aerators and shower heads are crucial to factor in alongside the size of your water tank. For tiny homes, water saving devices are highly recommended, such as water conserving shower heads, foot pedal water valves, and compost or incinerator toilets instead of black water tanks.
Plumbing for tiny houses is a serious endeavor and should be approached with the same care and precision of plumbing a larger house. This means avoiding the DIY approach unless you are experienced in plumbing techniques. Hire a professional or purchase the tiny home already built and plumbed and have the components thoroughly inspected. Tiny homes do differ from other ‘conventional’ homes in that there is some flexibility in certain elements of the plumbing design, such as the water intake system and waste disposal system. If you’re considering buying a tiny home, keep these factors in mind during your search.