Once the immediate wonder of being inside of a tiny home on wheels (THOW) wears off, the first question visitors usually ask me is about how I’m connected to electricity, water, and sewage utilities to my accessory dwelling unit (ADU). To put it simply, I’m currently connected to city utilities but I’ve designed it so this can change depending on my location.
Tiny houses come in all shapes and sizes, but my choice to go with a THOW meant I had to carefully consider where my house was going to go after the build during the design phase because, after all, a house on wheels can be moved to an entirely different location! I had to consider questions like, will the house be on land that I own or on a lot I am renting? Will that lot have city utility connections nearby or will it need to be off-grid? Perhaps a combination of both? Where will the waste connections go? What am I even permitted to do? What if I want to move–how do I future-proof my house?
I knew that my THOW would first be going into the back of a corner lot in a San Jose neighborhood, so this meant I would be in close proximity to city utilities (more specifically, close to a single-family home that is connected to city utilities). But, I also knew that I wanted the flexibility to move my house across the country and live off the grid if I wanted to in the future. For this reason, I worked with a tiny house builder and designed my house to have flexible connections to power, water, and sewer utilities.
Power: Electricity & Propane
My THOW is equipped with standard plug that goes into a receptacle which draws power from the main house’s electrical panel. These receptacles can be 30A or 50A so you’ll have to calculate power loads to ensure there’s enough amperage to go around when you’re drawing power. This powers all the lighting and appliances in my tiny house. I’ve also planned it out so if I move off-grid or want a more sustainable source of electricity at any time, I can convert my power supply to solar panels mounted on my roof.
My tiny house is also equipped with an upgraded LPG (liquid propane gas) system so if I want to I can live off the grid and still have power for cooking and hot showers. LPG has been around for ages and is a safe and convenient option used by campers; it can also serve as a great backup for any situation where you don’t have access to electrical power like a power outage or a remote location. Most people who own a THOW meant to be on the move would likely opt for a more portable tank size, but since mine is an ADU I opted for a 30lb propane tank that should last me about 3 months between refills.
Water: Potable Water Hose w/ regulator, filters, and softener
The water utilities coming into my THOW is rigged through a simple outdoor hose bib with a pressure regulator on a potable water hose (for now). At the time of approval, the City of San Jose did not require anything more so I’m set, but after speaking with the plumbing inspector in charge of drafting the next iteration of THOW ADU regulations I’ve found out that other THOWs will likely require two additions that prevent water backflow–these are upgrades I will voluntarily include in the coming weeks.
I’ve attached a water filter to my potable water hose and I had another water filter installed under my kitchen sink. Soon I will be upgrading to a new copper hose bib and hooking up a water softener outside between the two filters to further treat my water. In the future, I can use this same connection to hook-up to a rainwater collection tank if I want to move off-grid.
Waste: Secured sewer line routed to a cleanout
Finally, we arrive at the most complicated of connections–the waste outlet. What do you do with the greywater and blackwater waste generated in your tiny home? Well, the most secure option would be to hard pipe the unit’s sewer outlet to a clean out pipe which runs into the municipal sewer. This may mean that if you don’t have a cleanout already, you will have to dig a new trench and hard pipe a cleanout that flows to the city sewer which will go under the THOW as I did. But connecting to this cleanout using standard plumbing connections can be difficult because not all flexible attachments are not made in standard plumbing sizes. We can solve this by petitioning the city’s plumbing division to allow for a custom setup and its requisite attachments to route waste into the cleanout pipe, but you’ll have to demonstrate that the hose is protected, stowed away so it doesn’t get damaged by people or animals, and affixed at a 1/4″ decline so it performs well. I currently use a flexible drainage outlet secured to a wooden support which is mounted under my THOW and connected to the sewer cleanout using elbow attachments. Be warned, you’ll want to make sure this is a solid, secured, sealed connection that will last to avoid any messy leaks. If I decide to move off-grid in the future, I can use the same setup to dump into a septic tank or attach a blackwater tank under my chassis which I can empty periodically. Ideally, I would like to switch to a composting toilet and greywater tank.
And there you have it! My tiny house is connected to city utilities through a 50A receptacle, potable water hose, and a secure sewer line setup that I had approved by the plumbing inspector. The important takeaway here is that I was able to use flexible connections for a THOW ADU setup that still allows for me to easily disconnect and move the unit in the future.
Connecting your THOW ADU to utilities will depend on the location you will place the unit and your future usage/moving plans. I can help you determine the best way to connect to utilities depending on your situation and get these plans approved by the city! Get started today by putting yourself on the list to schedule a free consultation with me to discuss your specific tiny house plans. It takes less than a minute and the sooner you get started, the faster you’ll get your THOW approved. Why wait?