On-Grid or Off: Plumbing Your Tiny Home
The first thing to determine is whether you will be living on- or off-the-grid in your tiny home; then plan the plumbing process. Depending on whether you are in a permanent, semi-permanent, or temporary living situation, your plumbing needs will vary.
Living on-the-grid occurs when you rely on and are connected to city utilities, like water and sewer, or when you are hooked up to lines in an RV park or campground. You may also be living in a semi-permanent situation, such as in a friend or family member’s yard, and temporarily utilizing their water and plumbing systems.
Living on-grid certainly makes the issue of a plumbing system a bit easier and presents more options. If you are staying on a piece of property that has a septic system or is hooked to a municipal sewer system, you can splice in a line. For a more temporary on-grid lifestyle, dispose of grey water at an RV park or campground dumping station.
Your on-grid water supply can come from digging a well or hooking a hose up to a neighbor or friend’s spigot; it all boils down to how permanent or temporary your living situation is. Ask plumbers about RV hoses for tapping into communal systems.
A compost toilet makes sense for those who want flexibility in terms of living both on- and off-grid, but you may also choose a conventional set-up. As long as you have access to a city sewer system or private septic, you can have a traditional toilet plumbed in; talk to your plumbing professional for more information. A low-flush style will be adequate for hooking up to communal water lines, and if you have a power source, an incinerator toilet is a viable option.
Living off-the-grid is liberating for many who don’t want to be tied down to public utilities or pay for service provisions. You are not connected to city water and sewer systems, so you are likely self-sufficient. This is more likely to be the case when living on a piece of undeveloped property or when you are camping.
Even if you have a toilet in your house that disposes of solid waste, you will need some way to dispose of the grey water from your sinks, bathing, and washing; you can’t simply dump this water anywhere, as it is against the law in many regions. Portable tanks are a good temporary solution, though this ebbs into living on-grid because you’ll have to empty them somewhere.
Another idea is to facilitate drainage of your grey water to your gardens, lawn, or foliage. Talk to a plumbing contractor about creating a water recycling system for your tiny house.
If you are planning on collecting water, such as rainwater or spring water, know that you will need ample storage and a consistent supply. It is probably more feasible to bring water in or, for permanent structures, dig a well. You could also increase your collection area and storage with an additional structure if you are in a permanent off-the-grid situation.
It can be difficult to dispose of waste from a toilet, also known as black water, unless you have access to a dump station, such as at a campground, which then compromises your self-sustainability. Incinerating toilets may require more solar energy than is practical off-grid, and low-flush toilets will need to be dumped somewhere;
If you want to go completely off-the-grid, you likely will want to invest in a compost-style toilet. Contrary to popular belief, a compost toilet doesn’t smell bad if you dump it every couple months.
You may choose to live the best of both worlds by going with a hybrid plumbing system. This is when you may be utilizing city water or waste with the right plumbing but also have resources in place for off-grid locations, such as water tanks or a compost toilet. This type of approach provides flexibility that strictly on- or off-grid living doesn’t provide.
Are you ready to make some decisions regarding your tiny home’s plumbing installation and repairs? Talk to the tiny home plumbing experts at Mitchell Plumbing, Heating and Cooling for the best options related to both on and off-grid homes.