Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Living with an origo 6000 alcohol stove

The post below was originally written for www.tinyhouselistings.com but I wanted to share our experience with our Origo 6000 with our blog viewers as well. Be sure to subscribe to Tiny House Listings to see my weekly blog post on tiny living!




Living with an Origo 6000 Alcohol Range

 

Building the kitchen was my favorite project when we converted the bus. I enjoy doing most of the cooking in our home and love to explore different recipes and culinary genres so a comfortable, functional kitchen was very important to me. A key appliance that we spent a long timediscussing and researching was our range.

 

Since we hoped to travel and maintain the ability to surviveoff-grid, an electric stove was out of the questionThey use far too much electricity for our battery bank.


My husband, Chris, was against propane from the start. Despite it being used safely in thousands of households and RV’s, there are risks and potential complications of plumbing a combustible and potentially explosive gas into a small living space. We hoped to travel regularly in our home, so the added concern of leaks after bumpy travel or shifting terrain was a big concern. Additionally, safely installing propane requires extra equipment and expense and after a hefty pro/con list debate I agreed that propane wasn’t right for us.

 

After months of research we decided on purchasing a non-pressurized alcohol stove and oven, the Origo 6000 by Dometic. Here’s what our experience has been like living with this range for the past year.



Simple Design

These types of ranges are frequently used in boats. They're hardy, simple, and easy to use and fix. Since the alcohol is not pressurized, it’s not explosive. In fact, it's actually the vapor that comes from liquid alcohol that catches fire. You can have a glass of alcohol and light it on fire but only thevapor at the very top will have a flame and the bottom will remain liquid.

 

When you lift the lid of the stove you can see the two vapor-canisters held inside. Inside the fuel canister is woolthat absorbs the alcohol and releases the flammable vapor.It’s a similar concept to the butane canisters you see under catering trays.

 

The stove is started easily by opening the flange over the fuel canisters and igniting with a lighter. Cutting off oxygen, by turning the flange to zero, shuts the stove off instantly. The oven works the same way as the stove except the heat is distributed up the walls of the oven for even heat distribution.

 

Setup is extremely simple. The stove is gimbaled to sway with the waves so you just mount a bracket on either side of your counter opening and drop the stove into place with two large bolts that slip through each bracket and the stove hangs between themA pin at the bottom corner can be slid into a hole in your cabinetry to stop the stove from swingingWe parked on a very uneven surface during our last trip and I just unhooked the pin and the stove automatically became level for even cooking.



An investment

Our range is one of the most expensive items in the bus. At right around $1500 they’re definitely an investment. I tried finding a used range online but they retain their value and last for so long there were virtually none available. I do remember finding one. It was for sale for $1300 but was in Europe and not worth the shipping cost so we bought onenew from a marine store. I’m sure with lots of patience and time you could find a used one somewhere.

 

This alcohol range is very expensive on its own, however everything you need to install and use it is included in the box. There’s no additional holding tanks, wires, plugs, gauges or safety features required. Remember to take into account all of the components required before choosing arange that’s right for you. Also, if you don’t require the use of an oven, there are alcohol one and two burner stoves available in the $200-500 range.

 



Functionality

I’ve been cooking with our range for the past year and truly enjoy using it. It took some getting used to but once I got the hang of what kind of heat each setting provides I’ve been able to cook everything I was used to cooking in the past on our electric range.

 

I haven’t used the oven much this summer because it heats up the bus when on for long periods of time. Last winter Iused it to cook many things including baked goods andcasseroles. I’ve found that there are a few “hot spots” in the oven where cookies turned out a little crispy. I intend on adding some ceramic trivets to the oven to help maintain and distribute the heat a little more evenly. Additionally, it’s important to keep an eye on the thermostat in the oven to ensure it’s heated to the correct temperature. The knob to control the flame only has 4 settings so getting the oven to be not too hot and not too cold takes some practice.

 

Fuel

Each of the range’s fuel canisters last us 2-4 weeks depending on how often we use them, that’s about 4-10hours of cooking time . We purchase denatured alcohol from the hardware store for about $15 per gallon every few months. Although this is a hefty price difference from propane, we like that it gives us less of a dependence on fossil fuels and should the need arise, alcohol isextinguishable with water. It’s also possible to distill your own ethanol and this is something we intend on looking into in the future.

 

I’m very happy with our Origo 6000 Alcohol Range. It provides the functionality and simplicity that our household requires and is a great conversation piece with friends and family tour the bus. Although they may not be right for everyone, this range is Just Right for us.


Monday, July 21, 2014

Some Good News

It's a truly lovely evening. I'm curled up on the couch with the laptop listening to the Edward Sharpe station on Pandora. A thundershower is rolling through the area with rain pitter pattering on the metal roof and hood of the bus. Poor Willow is cowering in her nook. Chris is across from me at the table sipping coffee and reading a textbook about some crazy medical ailments, I'm sure. He just asked me to look up the word "fecundity". I was about halfway through the wikipedia article on fecundity (found here for those who can't resist) when I suddenly started reflecting on all of the moments that led up to this one. So many moments of stress, frustration, mistakes, excitement and many more emotions but mostly moments of happiness. Looking back at the 6 months it took us to build the bus I feel happy. I actually miss the days of waking up early, going out to the bus with a cup of coffee, sitting on the floor and planning what we wanted to accomplish for the day.


My view of Chris studying at the table

These days we're much busier than we were when building the bus, or at least it seems like it. Chris spends 50-70 hours a week at school and I started a new job at an art studio last month. We don't see each other as much but still find ways to enjoy evenings like this one. Doing our own tasks but still together.

We have some good news. We've been living in the bus for almost 10 months now and we are still happy. No regrets, no worries that we made the right choice, just happiness and pride that we've come so far. This home that took so much of our time and energy and most of our money to build has been good to us and we're trying to be equally good to her.

As with any, home ownership has its trials and tribulations. We changed our house' oil last month (now that's an infrequently used sentence). It was something that we were intending on doing right after our trip in April but time got away from us. I was stressed about it at first but it turned out to be really simple and much less expensive than taking it somewhere. As always, thoughtful planning and patience paid off.

Chris putting in one of the new oil filters

We've also had an amazing increase in supportive followers on our Facebook page and website. They seem to be from all walks of life and though we've never met most of them, they're as easy to chat with as old friends. We frequently receive messages with questions from fellow bus converters and it's a real honor to see that people are going out of their way to ask us for advice. We rarely go anywhere without thoughtful comments or questions about the bus from friends and acquaintances. It's become more a part of us than we ever imagined.

Last week, a friend we made through the Florida Tiny House Enthusiasts Group came out and did a video tour/interview of the bus for a new mini series on Florida Tiny Homes. I'll share more information on that soon but we're very excited to finally be able to offer others a better glimpse into what it's like being in the bus other than just in pictures.

A last bit of exciting news is that I started writing posts for the Tiny House Listings blog 3-4 times a month. It's an amazing honor to be able to share my interest in Tiny Homes with such a wide audience. I share my posts on the Bus's Facebook page each week so check there if you're interested in reading what I've been writing about.

I'll leave you with this adorable picture of my two favorite guys. Good Night All!



After conquering fecundity, Chris relocated to the floor for some Winston Snuggles




Sunday, June 8, 2014

The Eccotemp L5 and L10 Hot Water Heaters: A Review

We purchased an Eccotemp L5 unit back in December 2013 for $109 and were very excited. We had been living in the bus for two months with no hot water and it was starting to get chilly out so cold showers were no longer acceptable. We easily mounted the unit on the side of the bus and plumbed it into our relatively simple system of one tub and one sink. We saw other Tiny Homes using the same units in a similar way and it worked well from the very start and gave us plenty of heat, was relatively quiet and fairly efficient. During that time we were going  though a five gallon propane tank every six to seven weeks or so.

It seemed to hold up well and worked fine after several rainy or windy days and we carefully watched the temperature to ensure it was drained properly when it got below freezing (only one night this winter here in Florida). Plus it was pretty cute.








About a month ago we started noticing that every once in a while after running the hot water for a while we'd hear a "squeeeeeel poof" sound coming from outside. We tried to make it happen for a while so we could observe but it seemed to be random.

Then, one night, I heard heard an exceptionally loud whine and boom from the water heater and rushed out to see if it had completely exploded off the bus. Fortunately, it was still mounted firmly to the side (with the recommended clearances) but the top guard was glowing red from heat. We immediatly switched it to the off position and turned off the propane. The next morning we inspected it more closely and could see a very obvious black mark from the ball of flame that had erupted from it the night before. At that point we were very thankful for our steel exterior shell, which survived unscathed.



Chris took down the water heater and took it apart to see if he could figure out what went wrong. The inside was a wreck and pretty crispy. I took a bunch of photos and sent them to Eccotemp as the heater comes with a year warranty and it'd only been about six months.


Inside the front cover

A melted ball of metal, not sure where this went


The back of the water heater was all warped


The ignition

I was a little disappointed with the service from Eccotemp at first. It took four email exchanges and over a week before they actually addressed the problem. At first, they said we voided the warranty by permanently mounting the unit to which I responded with several direct quotes from the users manual indicating that the unit could be permanently mounted. For example, under the "Getting Started" section of the users manual, the manual says "Use the top tab on the unit to suspend from a screw adequate to holding 15 pounds. Place at a comfortable height without putting stress on the gas hose. If the unit is to be permanently mounted, use screws to attach the bottom tab firmly." There were also several explainations as to how to plumb the unit into a garden hose or an existing system. Additionally, the warranty said nothing about mounting the unit permanently.

I also explained that there were many raving reviews on their website about this product being used in a similar way as ours and that I felt it was a defect in something inside the unit that went wrong, not an issue with quality of the overall unit. I also made it clear that I found direct communication via phone to be more efficient and pleasant than email.

Three days (and two more cold showers) later I got a call from Mike at Eccotemp. They use an internet phone service there and his call was dropped three times during our conversation. That was pretty frustrating. At first Mike was a little defensive, he made it clear they would not be replacing our unit and apologized that the manual was misleading and said they would be rewriting it.

Mike suggested that the Eccotemp L10 would be a better model for us as it is made to be mounted permanently outside and had a rain guard. I agreed that we should upgrade to the L10 for our next unit and fortunately, they were willing to work with us on the price. They essentially gave us the price of the L5 off of the L10, normally $260. They also covered the cost of shipping and shipped out the new unit that day. Mike became much more pleasant to work with and talk to after we decided on this resolution; he was actually a really nice guy.




Yesterday, we mounted the new unit. It's 8" taller than the first plus it has a flue at the top. It worked right away and seems to be doing just fine. We are able to run it at a much lower gas to water flow ratio than the L5 and the hot water gets to our faucet in under a minute. I'll write an update on our experience with the L10 in a few months, but for now we're satisfied.

We chose the L5 originally because of the size, the fact that it had a battery start and the excellent price. We never had any issues with it as far as leaks or traveling, though I wish we had gone with the L10 from the start to avoid this whole experience. I know of several people who have been living with the L5 for years with no problem so this experience may just be an exception, not the rule.

Overall, Eccotemp puts out a great product for the price that meets the unique needs of many tiny home dwellers. However, in the event that you do have an issue and need to contact them with something you need to be diligent and firm otherwise it may not be resolved in a timely manner. No one has time for cold showers.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Tiny House Magazine

We're so honored to announce that an article we wrote about the Just Right Bus is featured in this month's Tiny House Magazine! This month marks the 17th issue of the magazine and it is jam-packed with 66 pages of beautiful Tiny House material. From a review about a composting toilet to coverage on the Tiny House Conference and a story about two weirdos that live in a bus, this magazine is Just Right for anyone who has an interest in Tiny homes.

You can purchase the 17th issue of the Tiny House Magazine for $3.99 and if you use the "Buy Now" link below we will receive a percentage of the proceeds. Thank you for your support!


Buy Now!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Living with a Water Trough Bathtub


We get more comments on our water trough bathtub than any other part of the bus so I’d thought I share what it’s like living with one. The idea to use this kind of tub came to me one morning as I was drinking my coffee (as most good ideas do).

Shortly after we got the bus we discovered that a traditional shower wasn’t going to work. Although Chris can stand up straight in the middle of the bus, he has to duck when he gets to the sides since the ceiling curves. With the added height of a shower pan and tile, he wouldn't have the most comfortable bathing arrangements. We brainstormed various ideas of solving this issue and came to the conclusion that a tub would be best for our space. We would sit down in the tub and use a hand held shower nozzle so we wouldn’t have to take a full on bubble bath every time we bathed. I’m not sure what caused me to search images of “water trough bath tub” but when I found the pictures below and learned the price compared to a traditional tub, I was sold.

That same day we went to our local feed depot and purchased our new 48”, 100 gallon water trough bathtub.


Water trough’s go by various names including stock tanks, horse troughs, livestock tanks, and galvanized metal tubs, among others. For the sake of this post I will just call ours a tub. They also come in a wide variety of sizes and shapes. I recommend visiting a feed depot or local hardware store and trying out the tub you’re interested in. We almost purchased a tub that was about a foot shorter than the one we got to save space but changed our mind and opted for the wider one as we felt it would be more comfortable to sit in.

Here are a few examples of how others have used water troughs in their bathrooms.

(Source)

 



After about 8 months of living in the bus I thought I’d share our personal pros and cons about using a water trough bathtub.


Pros:

  • Inexpensive: We bought our tub for around $100 at the local feed store. They had one in stock so we were able to take it home that day. Similar sized claw foot tubs can go for over $1000!
  • Easy Install: To install the tub we drilled a drain hole, two holes for the faucet and attached the tub to the wall with 2 bolts. It’s nestled between our closet and kitchen counter so we’re not worried about it shifting during travel.
  • Light Weight: These tubs are considerably lighter than traditional bathtubs. I’m able to lift the tub on my own. It’s a little big and bulky but this is a huge plus to those who are weight-conscious when building. We were also able to store it in the bus while building and use it as a makeshift bench since it was so easy to move around.
  • Stylish, for some: I’ve seen a big increase in the number of people using these tubs and we always get compliments on the chic, rustic look.
  • Durable: Though they’re available in plastic, our tub is made from galvanized metal and meant to withstand abuse from livestock. We don’t have to worry about it chipping or cracking like a traditional porcelain tub.
  • High Sides: Since the tub has such high sides, we don’t have to use a shower curtain. Though we could easily spray water on the floor with our handheld claw foot tub shower nozzle, we’re careful and aware. Any spray is quickly and easily wiped up after we’re done showering.
  • Great Storage Space: When we travel we store many things inside the tub including a basket full of small, semi-fragile items that normally live on the counters. Our vacuum also lives in it from time to time. Additionally, we planned to install a foldup countertop over the tub for additional counter space, though we’ve found we don’t really need that space right now.

The tub was a great counter space for tools while working on the bus

 The Tiny House Conference
 Photos by Christopher Tack
Cons:
  • Alterations Necessary: The tub came with a drain plug in the side, about an inch from the base so we had to drill one in the floor. They’re also flat bottomed so we designed our tub nook to have a 1-inch slant so the water would flow toward the drain.
  • Not built to bathe in: If you’re looking for a luxurious bubble bath then a water trough probably isn’t for you. They’re straight walled and high sided so getting in and out may be difficult for some and if you want any sort or recline you’ll have to install a seat of some type. Additionally, they’re made of thin metal so the water stays warm for a relatively short period of time. Since we only really take showers in the tub, I hit the sides and bottom with a spray of warm water before getting in so that I don’t have to sit on the cold metal and that usually does the trick.
  • Not that easy to clean: Though the tub rarely looks dirty (and I suppose that’s a pro) it has a rubber seal around the base and up one wall that seems to be a magnet for soap scum. I’m constantly scrubbing it clean but do so very carefully as this seam keeps the floor and wall waterproof and I don’t want to damage it. The strange curves to the walls also make it a little awkward to scrub.
  • Negative stigma: I’ve seen these tubs referred to as “Red Neck Bath Tubs” but I suppose it’s up to you if that’s an insult or not.
  • Placement: These tubs take up a lot more floor space than a shower pan. To keep the open feel in our bus we essentially bathe in the kitchen/living room. I understand this may be a con for some so that’s why I included it here. However, it’s really no big deal to us. Just the two of us live in the bus and we can easily shut the curtains and the whole bus becomes our shower room. To be honest, this is the case for every room. We have a 200 square foot kitchen when we’re cooking, bedroom when we’re sleeping and bathroom when we’re…well, you know.


My mom told me that when she was little, her family used a bathtub to water their horses because they were cheaper and easier to find than horse troughs. An image of a horse relaxing in a claw foot tub immediately popped into my head when she said this.

Overall, we’re satisfied with the tub. It gets the job done and is a great conversation piece though I don’t think I would put one in my home if I had space for a standard shower. A water trough bathtub is not for everyone but it’s Just Right for us.

What kind of tub or shower would you build in your tiny home?

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Swooning over Tiny House Swoon

We're so excited to share that our lovely bus has been posted on the Tiny House Swoon website! This site was one of our major sources of inspiration during the design phase of building the bus and is a continued source of awe and admiration. It's an honor to be included among the other Tiny Homes of the world and we've received some very encouraging and thoughtful comments from fellow Tiny House Swoon followers.

For all of our new friends, welcome! Sadly, I'm not as good at posting blog updates as some of my fellow tiny house bloggers. So if you'd like regular updates on the bus I recommend you like us on facebook at https://www.facebook.com/JustRightBus .Also, to anyone who may be interested in converting a school bus or is already in the process, please feel free to connect with us directly. We'd love to help in anyway we can!




Sunday, April 27, 2014

Just Right Bus Photos



We were very lucky to finally have some professional photographs taken of the bus while we were at the Tiny House Conference. Christopher Tack did an excellent job of capturing what it feels like to be inside the bus and it could not have been a more beautiful day. Enjoy!






















































 The Tiny House Conference
 Photos by Christopher Tack