Building a Shipping Container Home | EP05 Connecting to Electricity and Water
hi I'm Ben and this is the house I built out of
containers now I've been interested in
containerarchitecture for quite some time but I had a really hard time finding good information about how to get
buildingpermits or how much would it cost well we did the research we documented everything that we did and now we're so excited to share with you what we learned so check it out all right so this episode is gonna be a little bit on the technical side we're gonna cover all the sort of utilities plumbing HVAC concerns that go into setting up a
containerhouse so we're gonna start with how to go from raw land to a house with utilities from there we do an overview of the electrical system I'm going to show you how I connected this
containerhouse to the utility grid I'll give a little bit of insight into my thinking for why I chose to be connected to the grid with a battery backup rather than going all the way off the grid I'll go over the plumbing systems and how we connected the house to
waterand show you the heating and cooling systems that we installed in this house all right to start how to go from raw land to a house with utilities now one of the most confusing parts of buying raw land is figuring out whether or not it's going to have access to municipal
waterI looked at a whole bunch of different lots at zeroes I talked to the different real estate agents and I never really got clear answers from the...
real estate people they really don't know and then ones just the thing oh yeah you can drill a well or you could do solar it's a lot more complicated than that those things are legitimate options but really expensive and they're not guaranteed so for example you could hear oh you could drill a well but there might not actually be
waterunder your particular part of land that was an issue I ran into with the septic is that oh you can do this but in that case that particular piece of land proved to have a lot of complications and it wasn't as straightforward as the real estate agents were telling me so the best thing that I found is to go right to the local utility suppliers and my taste is Joshua Basin
WaterDistrict they have a really great map on their website this shows you all the areas that they cover so you can actually put in your APN number for your particular piece of property that you're looking at and they'll tell you whether or not it can be connected to their
waterso don't think the word from someone is actually trying to sell the land and makes their money off of that deal go right to the suppliers find out for them you go beyond hole it's kind of a pain but just get that done and you'll have better information so the land that I purchased the real estate agent said they didn't know about
waterbut I looked at actually the satellite views of that lot on Google Maps and I can see that there is electrical...
poles running right alongside and that gave me a good hint did that have access to
electricityand them from there I called Southern California Edison which is our utility provider and they confirmed that they would be able to provide service although I would have to pay for a new transformer to be installed on the pole near me now
connectingto utilities isn't free I had to pay a fee to the Joshua basement
WaterDistrict for a new
watermeter I had to pay for excavation to actually run the pipes from their meter to the house and then to pay for different safety features like a backflow protection device and things like that they will really make sure that my house is working well with their system so those were all costs as the
homeowner that I had to take on for the
electricityhad to pay for a transformer to be installed on the pole now because that transformer added weight I also had to pay for excavation and for them to add an extra support cable to make the pole more sturdy and to pay for the excavation from the pole to the house and the wire and conduit that goes into there and of course for the installation of electrical panel and all the things that go with that so although I spent almost as much money just
connectingthe house to
wateras I paid for the land itself all right so now let's go to an overview of the electrical systems and how we connected the
containerhouse to the utility grid we located the house about 70 feet from the nearest...
utility pole the meter and main breaker panel will be located on the side closest to the pole all the wiring for the interiors will come off of that main breaker panel and the different
containers will be connected via underground conduit we installed a battery backup system that can provide
electricityif the power goes out this system will also serve as storage for the solar panels so now let's go over the process of how we connected the house to the electrical grid
connectingto the electrical grid is done by running a wire underground through some conduit from the pole to the electrical Mead and main breaker panel the utility company wanted a straight run between the electrical meter and the pole this is because the wire they're gonna pull through the conduit is really thick and having lots of turns in the conduit can make it difficult the conduit needs to be about four feet underground and we need just a single right angle turn to turn up from this trench and into the bottom of the electrical meter now the problem with this is is that the concrete foundation sticks out past the edge of a
containerso we're going to dig down into the dirt and then cut a slice into the concrete so that we can get this right angle turn that's flush up against the side of the
containerMarko used a large concrete saw to make some slices right into the foundation and then from there he switched to a jackhammer to break away the pieces now he could have cast the...
conduit right into the edge of the foundation slab but we hadn't had a chance to confirm yet with the utility company exactly where they wanted electrical panel but cutting this notch into concrete went faster than I expected so it all worked out the electrical panel is quite heavy so Tony cut some pieces of 2x4 that would allow the box to rest at the right height while he drove in self tapping screws with the electrical panel in place it was now time to dig the trench the electric company gave us really specific specifications about the depth of the trench the fact that it had to be lined with sand and that the conduit Run had to be straight except for the right angle turn up into the electrical panel all this took about two days but finally we were able to get the conduit turn right up snug against the
containerwe filled in the space around the conduit with quikrete fast-setting cement this is a pre-mixed cement that comes in 10-pound tubs later we had two additional conduit runs one is for the battery backup system and the other one is to power the septic pump the rest of the electrical installation went easily installed outlets lights and ran wires according to the electrical plan an electrical plan is an architectural document that is used to tell the construction workers where to place all of the electrical components if you're using an architect to plan out a construction project this is an important page to review if you're really particular about where...
you want to charge all your electrical devices we also ran wires through underground conduit to connect the
containers to each other I welded up some pieces of steel square tube to make covers to protect these pieces of conduit
connectingto the electrical grid was a lot of work and it cost a fair amount of money so a lot of people have asked why didn't I just go off the grid with solar so now I'm gonna go over why I went grid-tied instead of off the grid photovoltaic panels or solar panels are really great there's no moving parts they last a really long time and other than just keeping dust off of them they're virtually maintenance-free storing to energy they produce for a completely off-grid
homeis the challenge now there's a lot of battery options on the market in fact I'm going to show you a option from goal zero that we use is a small backup system in case the grid does go down but to truly be full time off the grid you need to rely on that battery bank for everything and that means you have to size it big enough so it can handle the worst weather that you might expect every 10 to 20 years and so that's the inherent inefficiency is that you have to size everything for the worst-case scenario but you're paying for that infrastructure all the time so if you're going fully off the grid with all your power coming from solar you really have to take into account those anomalous weather activities and not just that you also have to think...
about when your demand or your usage might be higher than normal if you have houseguests over for the holiday if you size your system for the average day where it's just you you might not have enough capacity to have a lot of guests in place and then if you size your system for these unusual situations again you get this really big system then on an average day you're not really using it to its full capacity and all of this infrastructure both the solar panels and the batteries are pricey so when you're designing an off-the-grid house you sort of in the sticky situation of do by design towards the average and be cost efficient or do a design towards the exception but then spend a lot of money a grid-tied house lets you use the utility grid as a free battery so when you over produce you sell back to the grid and when you under produce you draw from the grid so this lets you keep your energy storage more minimal and just for emergencies and it really lets you design to the most common scenarios that you're actually living in now if you're interested in grid tight house with net metering check out the work of my architecture firm zero energy design grid-tied is what we recommend in most cases now what I did for this
containerhouse is a little bit different I'm connected to the grid for all my electrical needs but I installed a small goal zero backup battery system in this way if we have a power outage I can still power a few key circuits in the house...
namely the refrigerator the Wi-Fi and lights and stuff like that now one of the reasons I went with this system is that it was super easy to install which is what I'm going to show you know so we're here today and we're installing a new gold zero product this is a
homeenergy system and what's really cool about this is that it can provide a battery backup in case the grid goes down so there's a few main components of the system we have the Yeti which is the brains of the situation and that's a lithium battery then we have the the massive amount of storage that we can get in the lead acid battery and then the last part is that transfer switch so if a disaster happens we're just a normal power outage we'll be able to go out there let the transfer switch and be running off of that system but the reason I like the goal 0 products so much isn't that they're good in an emergency is that they're good everyday you see the whole system is portable and modular so I actually use this system for powering the majority of my construction tools during this build nothing needs to be wired together with an electrician it's all just plug and play and I have used it to charge everything from my power tools to an electric motorcycle and we've only had one power outage in the last 18 months so I'm not getting a lot of value out of that so what I've been thinking of how to take advantage of this system on a more regular basis is I'm...
gonna use it to charge my electric motorcycle and the majority of my power tools that are battery-powered this way I can install three small 100 watt solar panels on the roof plug that right into the goal zero and that way I have a little self-contained system that I can use for these extra electrical needs and that way I'm getting value every day out of the goal zero system in addition to having a B they're nice and ready if the utility grid goes down so this is a very high level explanation you can go much deeper into this topic and there's all sorts of cool ways you can model out systems and really figure whether work specs for you but I hope my brief explanation was a little bit clarifying hooking the house up to
waterwas a lot less complicated than
watermeter was installed we just had to run pipes underground and then enter the
containerat two different points we're gonna have a single on-demand electric hot
waterheater service the whole property so then we had to run hot
waterlines back from the heater to the other
containerfrom there it's just about running hot and cold
waterlines to all the appropriate plumbing fixtures for the underground pipes that are bringing
waterto the house we use PVC I'm really not sure what my excavator and plumbers were thinking and why they didn't go in a straight line but it still worked once we got close to the surface we switched to copper installed a shutoff valve and then the...
pipe goes up into a tee that goes to a hose bib on one side and into the
containers on the other I've soldered copper before and it's a little bit tricky and because this is all going to be inside the walls and I don't want any leaks I left all of the pipes sweating to the experts the plumbers actually started on the Ruffins before we even started unto framing and then they came back periodically as we framed out the walls that would support the showerheads the supplies for the laundry machines and the hot
waterheater the back end of this 20-foot
containeris going to be used as a laundry and mechanical space after putting up sheetrock we installed a Rheem on-demand hot
waterheater and it's been fantastic I was a little concerned at first because of the distance but it all works really well and we got plenty of hot
waterand now let's talk Heating and Cooling we're gonna use mini split ductless heat pumps to both heat and cool the house there are two major components to the system the outside part is called a condenser it is a fan and condenser coils that either extract heat from the
buildingor add it back into it this is done through tubes filled with working fluid and no air is actually blown into or out of the
buildingthe inside unit is called the air handler and that uses the working fluid to either blow hot or cool air multiple air handlers can be connected to a single condenser in the main unit I have two air handlers one in the living room...
one in the bedroom and they're connected to a single condenser the guest room has a single ceiling mounted air handler and the less often used office and storage space has two wall-mounted air handlers and all three of these air handlers are connected to a single condenser having two
containers on a single condenser and involve digging a trench and running the lines with the working fluid underground the design of the system and the installation was all handled by
HomeServices team they send the team out first to measure the spaces and find a good place to install them and also to check out the amount of insulation that we're using so they could appropriately select components that would work for this house the installation team worked really fast and was able to install the whole setup for the whole property in just one day the only thing that has to pass through the wall from the inside to the outside are some electrical wires a hose to get rid of condensation and a couple of thin copper tubes that are insulated for the working fluid mini splits have no ducts so they avoid energy losses associated with the duct works that central forced air systems have duct losses can account for more than 30% of energy consumption for space conditioning especially at the ducts are in an unconditioned space such as an attic I wanted to use them for the
containerhouse though because they don't take up a lot of space and they give you a lot of design...
flexibility I didn't want to cut through more metal joist or lower the ceiling so that I'd make room for the ducts then Staller hit all the lines and cables inside this nice housing we use the channel at the bottom of the
containerto tuck away the set of lines that run to the second air handler these mini splits come with a remote control that allows you to raise and lower the temperature and they have a variety of other settings as well but we really wanted to take this up a notch so we installed these eco be smart thermostats which give us all sorts of great control options I'll put a link to these and the other systems that we used in the description box below I really like the functionality of the mini splits and the wall-mounted units don't really bother me but some people find them a little bit visually obtrusive so what we thought would be cool is that for the smaller 20-foot
containerif we test it out this brand-new offering from Mitsubishi and that is a ceiling mounted air handler now that involves dropping down the ceiling then we just did that with some two by fours and plywood and I wouldn't want to do this for the whole 40-foot
containerbecause that's actually gonna be living space but here the only area that I'm actually gonna need to lower the ceiling is right over the bed and that's gonna make it this really nice cozy nook so I took the disadvantages of this system and then turned them into an architectural feature I highly...
recommend mini-split ductless systems for remodeling or for small
homes that you're
buildingfrom scratch not only did I use them here in Joshua Tree I used a similar Mitsubishi system in my Boston loft as well you can request a free consultation by calling 1-800
HomeDepot and their experts will provide multiple options that are right for your
homeand that climate that you're in now you wouldn't want a cool or warm air coming right down on top of the bed but don't worry this air hammer actually shoots the air out at an angle so it's actually going past it so if you're into bed you won't get hit directly by the airflow so I know that was a lot of technical information in the next few episodes we're gonna get back to sort of finishing the exterior of the house painting it and start getting into the interior design as well sorry about the delay in this video I've been really busy with the other
homemade modern stuff and a few other projects that I got going on but I should be wrapping up the rest of this series within the next two to three months if you're interested into architectural drawings for this project I'll have a link to where you can get those in the description box below and I'm starting to put together a list of all the commonly asked questions and one of the last videos that I'll do for this series is just a Q&A session where I go through and answer all those commonly asked questions so keep them coming in...
the comment section alright that's it for this episode thanks for watching be sure to subscribe and turn on notifications I don't have a regular posting schedule so if you want to know when a video goes live click that notification button so you get a get notified I'm never going to be spamming out this account the videos are going to come whew far between so it's pretty safe to hit that Bell alright bye