Tankless Water Heater Located in a Wall Cavity

The blog, Backyard Home Pros, recently posted an article about the Noritz Tankless water heater that saves room by fitting snuggly into the exterior wall studs of your  tiny or small home. Most tank water heaters can take up approximately 8-10 square feet of space and even a regular tankless water heater needs space for accessibility and will usually be installed on the outside of a home, which on a small home, is less than pretty.


The Noritz Tankless water heaters are eco-friendly and energy efficient and can provide up to 40 percent in utility cost savings. The water heaters come in several different sizes and models including the NRC83 with a maximum of 157,000 btuh and weighs about 60 lbs. One of their smallest water heaters is the indoor/outdoor NR50 which has a maximum of 120,000 btuh and only weighs 33 lbs. Each of the water heaters come with a tiny enclosure that protects the studs, insulation and the interior walls from leaking and damage. A small cover or door can be placed over the unit for access from the outside. The one disadvantage I see is that insulation cannot be added in front or behind the unit.


According to Noritz, a tankless water heater also reduces carbon emissions. If every U.S. household installed a tankless water heater, it would equate to the CO2 savings of taking about 6.7 million cars off the nation’s roads. In addition, Noritz instant hot water units last up to twice as long as traditional water tanks and use recycled components and replaceable parts which keeps older water heaters out of landfills.

All of our micro, tiny and small home designs anticipate using both a tankless water heater and a mini-split ductless heating and cooling system. Space saving and efficiency go hand in hand here at Cozy Home Plans.

Photos by Backyard Home Pros and Noritz

By Christina Nellemann for [Cozy Home Plans]

Saving Water with Dual-Flush Toilets in your Cozy Home

I remember the first time I saw a dual-flush toilet. I was visiting family in Europe about 15 years ago and noticed that all the toilets had two buttons on top of the tank: for Number One and Number Two. At the time I thought it was a brilliant idea and wondered why these types of toilets had not made it into the U.S. At least, I had never seen one. They were actually created first in Australia in 1980 by Caroma Industries to help remedy the lack of water in the country caused by erratic rainfall and major drought, and have only recently come to the U.S.


These types of toilets handle solid and liquid waste differently depending on what button or lever is pushed. The dual-flush toilet uses a larger diameter trapway that doesn’t clog as often as a conventional toilet, needs less water to flush efficiently and saves more water than a low flow toilet when flushing liquid waste. This helps conserve water and helps with the production at water supply and treatment facilities. In 2013, he Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports that by the year 2013, an estimated 36 states will experience water shortages as a result of increased water usage and inefficient water management from aging regional infrastructures.

So, what if you have a Cozy, micro, small, little or tiny house? Will a dual flush toilet help you save water and money and bring your house up to more modern, environmental standards? Dual-flush toilets are more expensive than standard American toilets, however they are similar to install and you can even install a converter that could be a fraction of the cost.


This Old House has a helpful video on how to install a dual-flush toilet:

You can purchase a dual-flush toilet from manufacturers like American Standard (for about $200) and Kohler (about $350). Two new models of dual-flush, high-efficiency toilets have been realized by Toto USA. They have wall-hung (starting at $450, not including the in-wall tank) and two-piece (starting at $850) models featuring a current style that pays tribute to mid-century modern design. Push for a light flush of 0.9 GPF or pull for a full flush of 1.28 GPF on these ADA-compliant, WaterSense-compliant commodes. Toto says homeowners won’t have to worry about cleaning every solid stop either — a common complaint with some dual-flush toilets — because the SanaGloss-coated, cyclone-inspired flush system “spins away debris, matter, and bacteria, which reduces the time needed to clean the unit.”


By Christina Nellemann for [Cozy Home Plans]

Rainwater Capture for Your Cozy Home

The season of rain and warmer temperatures is coming up and a great way to save the water that falls onto your tiny or small house is with a rain catchment system. Many rainwater capture systems (especially in the hot Southwest) are built underground and the water is then used to water the garden or replenish a water feature. With some smaller homes, with small yards, this may not be feasible. However, there are various ways that you can use your roof to capture rainwater for later use.


One of the simplest ways to catch rainwater is in a collection barrel. These barrels can usually hold about 50 gallons of water and cost around $100 or so. The top of the barrel is closed to keep out bugs, animals and children, so a tube is attached to the roof’s downspout and the water runs directly into the barrel. Many of these barrels have a spigot at the bottom where you can attach a hose for watering. Another way to catch rainwater is with a larger rain harvesting tank. These tanks are usually made of a heavy plastic and sometimes include a leaf/dirt strainer, a lid, an overflow assembly, a plug and a water hose spigot. They hold around 1,000 to 1,500 gallons of water and can weigh around 250 lbs. The cost for one is around $600.


Several Cozy Home Plans are ideal for rainwater capture: The Granite Mountain’s mansard style roof can maybe have a rain barrel or four on each corner of the roof. The Skylight Mountain has a high pitch to its roof that is great for collecting water and the larger High Point actually has several roofs on the downstairs and upstairs portions of the house that can collect even more water.


Photos by Jason Vance, Will Merydith, and Rain Water Systems


By Christina Nellemann for [Cozy Home Plans]

Small Ponds for Your Cozy Home Garden

Even though it is still snowing parts of the country, this is actually a good time to get a head start on your tiny garden for your Cozy Home. We did a post last year about small vegetable gardens for your small home…so how about adding a water feature to your garden with a small pond or fountain? Many cultures add water features to their gardens to represent peace and balance. In Japanese culture, water represents serenity in nature and in Islam, the word paradise means an enclosed garden with the sound of water. Water not only brings peace to your green space, but it also attracts helpful wildlife like birds, frogs and dragonflies.


Because your Cozy garden is small, your pond or fountain should be too. This saves you time and money up front and care and maintenance later on. You can get a huge range of ideas for garden water features from Pinterest. There are several different types of ponds and fountains that you can build yourself for around $200 in supplies.



Pre-formed Pond

You can purchase a pre-formed pond liner from any home improvement store for around $30-$75. To install, all you need is an area large enough to dig a hole for your pond, a shovel and a level and some sand to set the liner. Flagstone, flat rocks and other plants can be put around the pond once it’s installed and filled with water. A fountain or spitter and some water plants can also be added to aerate the water. Here is a great video by Patti Moreno on how to install a pre-formed pond in a small space.



Vinyl or Rubber Pond

Vinyl ponds give you a little more leeway as to the shape and size of your pond. High quality vinyl is laid inside and over the lip of your pre-dugged hole and held down with rocks, soil and other landscape materials. You can add pond pebbles and rocks to the bottom as well as fish and plants. Vinyl is more expensive (around $90 for a 10×10 foot liner) and is prone to damage from rocks and roots.


Patio fountain

If you want to keep it even more simple, just add a small pot or container fountain to your Cozy Home patio or deck. These can be made with various pots and fountains can be purchased in a garden store or online for around $20. If the pot is large enough, fish and plants can also be added.


Photos by chiotsrun, brevort and jrconlin


Japanese Soaking Tubs for a Tiny House

If you are looking at purchasing or building a Cozy Home Plan and want to save space in your bathroom, look into getting a Japanese soaking tub. These luxurious, little tubs have been used in Japan for centuries and not only get you clean, but can add style and a little bit of hedonism to a basic bathroom. When I was in Japan a few years ago, every day I relished in my daily bath on an outdoor deck, and found out that Japanese people make it a daily ritual. Traditionally, Japanese clean themselves first with a shower and then soak in a small “ofuro” or a small, deep tub full of clean, hot water that is emptied once a day. These tubs are about 22-24 inches deep, half the size of a regular tub, and have small chairs or built-in seats for ultimate relaxation.


Japanese ofuro come in several different materials, sizes and shapes. They can be circular, rectangular or oblong. They can be made of wood, acrylic, composite, metal or even copper and they can fit from one to two people to an entire family. Some modern Japanese tubs include jets like a hot tub, but they are not necessary. A handmade wooden tub can cost you between $900 and $1,200. There are even some available on Etsy. You can purchase a round or unique shaped tub from Signature Hardware for around $2,000 or create your own out of concrete.


Water Conservation for a Tiny House

One of the best aspects of a Cozy Home or a tiny house is the ability to save more water and hence, more money, on your utility bill. Water conservation also prevents wear and tear on your septic system and excess water pollution of local lakes, rivers and watersheds. About 3/4 of all indoor water is used in the bathroom. A smaller home will have less bathrooms than a traditional home, and a smaller home will also accommodate a smaller washer and dryer. Most smaller homes also may not have enough room for a dishwasher, so your hand-washed dish water can be used for indoor or outdoor plants.


Here are 10 additional ways you can conserve water in your Cozy Home:

1. Install a composting toilet

A flush toilet accounts for about 30 percent of the water used in a typical home and each flush uses about 3-7 gallons of water. If your local building codes allow them, install a composting toilet like a Sun-Mar or an Envirolet toilet. The up-front cost is more expensive, but it will save a lot of your household water.

2. Install a rain catchment system

Use natural rainwater for your yard and garden. A roof area of only 1,000 sq. ft. can provide approx. 600 gallons of water during a one inch rainfall.

3. Don’t install a garbage disposal unit in your kitchen

Garbage disposals require lots of water to operate property. Collect your vegetable kitchen scraps and put them in a composter for your garden.

4. Install a gray water system

If you are building your own home and the permits allow for it, install a gray water system to water your land or garden. Gray water is water from your sinks, showers and washers…but not from the toilet.

5. Use a front load washer

A front loading washer uses about one-third the amount of water than a top loading washer. They can be more expensive, but they are used widely in Europe and can be installed in smaller spaces.

6. Plant drought-resistant lawns, shrubs and plants

Skip the lawn and plant drought-resistant ground cover, plants and shrubs that are native to your area. Use the principles of xeriscaping for a garden with low water usage.

7. Put a layer of mulch around trees and plants

Mulch will slow evaporation of moisture while discouraging weed growth. Adding 2-4 inches of organic material such as compost or bark mulch will increase the ability of the soil to retain moisture. Press the mulch down around the dripline of each plant to form a slight depression which will prevent or minimize water runoff.

8. Use a broom, not a hose, to clean driveways and sidewalks

9. Check for leaks in all your indoor and outdoor pipes and faucets.

A small drip can waste about 20 gallons of water per day.

10.Install water-saving shower heads and low-flow faucet aerators 

Inexpensive water-saving low-flow shower heads or restrictors and aerators for faucets are easy to install. A low-flow head will use less than 2.5 gallons per minute.


Photo by Sustainable sanitation/Flickr

Choosing a Water Heater

Choosing a Water Heater

No matter what size Cozy Home you decide to build, you will need a hot water heater to heat the water going to your sinks, bath or shower. You have a lot to consider when selecting a new water heater for your tiny home. You should choose a water heating system that will not only provide enough hot water for the house, but that will heat the water efficiently which will save you money. You will also need to consider the different types of water heaters available, determine the right size heater as well as the fuel source for your home.

Types of Water Heaters

Conventional storage water heaters

These types of water heaters offer a ready reservoir (storage tank) of hot water that is supplied by a cold water container or a cold water tap. This supplies a steady supply of water for a certain amount of time. Unfortunately, if the tank runs out, the hot water will run out until it can be heated again.

On-demand (tankless or instantaneous) water heaters

On-demand water heaters do not have a tank and the water is heated directly from the source for a continuous supply. The rate at which they produce is limited by the thermodynamics of heating water from available fuel supplies.

Heat pump water heaters

A heat pump usually heats or cools a home, but they can also be used to heat water in either a stand-along water heating system or as a combination water and space heating system. Heat pump water heaters use electricity to move heat from one place to another instead of generating heat directly. Therefore, they can be two to three times more energy efficient than conventional electric resistance water heaters. To move the heat, heat pumps work like a refrigerator in reverse.

Solar water heaters

Solar water heaters—also called solar domestic hot water systems—use the sun’s heat to provide hot water.  Solar water heating systems include storage tanks and solar collectors. There are two types of solar water heating systems: active, which have circulating pumps and controls, and passive, which don’t. Most solar water heaters require a well-insulated storage tank. Solar storage tanks have an additional outlet and inlet connected to and from the collector. In two-tank systems, the solar water heater preheats water before it enters the conventional water heater. In one-tank systems, the back-up heater is combined with the solar storage in one tank. Three types of solar collectors are used for residential applications: the flat-plate collector, the integral collector-storage system and the evacuated-tube solar collector.


Tankless coil and indirect water heaters

Another efficient solution is a tankless coil or indirect water heater. This system uses the home’s space heating system to heat water. A tankless coil water heater uses a heating coil or heat exchanger installed in a main furnace or boiler. Whenever a hot water faucet is turned on, the water flows through the heat exchanger. These water heaters provide hot water on demand without a tank, like a demand water heater, but because they rely on the furnace or boiler to heat the water directly, tankless coil water heaters work most efficiently during cold months when the heating system is used regularly. Indirect water heaters offer a more efficient choice for most homes, even though they require a storage tank. An indirect water heater uses the main furnace or boiler to heat a fluid that’s circulated through a heat exchanger in the storage tank. The energy stored by the water tank allows the furnace to turn off and on less often, which saves energy.

Selection Criteria

When selecting the best type and model of water heater for your home, you also need to consider the following:

Fuel type, availability and cost

The fuel type or energy source you use for water heating will not only affect the water heater’s annual operation costs but also its size and energy efficiency.


To provide your household with enough hot water and to maximize efficiency, you need a properly sized water heater.

Energy efficiency

To maximize your energy and cost savings, you want to know how energy efficient a water heater is before you purchase it.


Before you purchase a water heater, it’s also a good idea to estimate its annual operating costs and compare those costs with other less or more energy-efficient models.


Photos courtesy of Pocosolar, A-Water Heaters and Eastar-Jason

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