What I really need is a Washer Dryer combo.


No big deal right?


But wait a minute. Hold up. It’s only 110v. Some reviews say it takes 6 HOURS to dry a load! That won’t do. I can do better.


To understand the final outcome, it’s important to know that I’ve been fascinated with washing machines for a long time:


Yes. This was recorded on VHS tape. That’s how long ago it was. The composite video digitizer we have only works with windows XP so yes this is a video of a video. This was a nice little weekend project. Basically I could wash a months worth of clothes in one go with this. A teenager’s dream. Draining the 40 gallon garbage can used for this was…. difficult. The clothes line also fell over due to the very wet clothes I was trying to hang on it (no spin cycle), and each piece of clothing had to be hand-wrung in the end.


So. Then we had college. Laundromat was three or four blocks away. Unacceptable hardship I tell you! I did what any clever college student who was trying to save money would do: examine the true nature of the problem. What about a washer cleans clothes? is it the soap? the agitation? the spin cycle? The rinse? Only one way to find out.


Try washing socks in all the various combinations, compare the results. Turns out that at least at an empirical level, most of the cleaning action – killing bacteria that make bad smells – is done by the soap and the agitation is really only there to get the dirt. So. minimize dirty-ness and you can get rid of the agitator we saw in the earlier video. Yes. All you have then is a bucket, a hose, and some laundry soap.

And the solution to the clothes line is to just hang the clothes on their final hangars, positioning the washing bucket beneath them so any drips end up back into the bucket. Directing a 1500 watt space heater at the clothes will expedite drying but just like the people with the above mentioned washer, it can take 6+ hours to dry them.

For at least a year in college the bucket-washer was reasonably effective, and spared me the 10 minute trudge through the snow plow berms along route 9 with a laundry tub. However, the water usage to actually get the clothes clean was…. rather high.

The next apartments had a washer/dryer included. Lesson learned.


But, the time came for me to finally purchase my very own washer. And I wanted the best. So I inspected craigslist on a fairly regular basis, until one day a working whirlpool duet front load direct drive washer with stainless steel drum showed up. $100 and a short truck ride later I had my washer. I figured – add a blower, a heating element, a couple relays, maybe worst case a VFD, and I’d be all set to build a washer dryer combo, and no way would I be using a little 110V heating element.

The actual version is alot more messy. This project went so far off the rails that at times I wasn’t sure if I would ever finish it. I knew I was in trouble when I needed a hole for the hot air to enter through the front door. The glass front door. It went downhill from there.



Final numbers:

$100 washer

$100 electronics

$100 unused servo amps & burned up power supply.

$25 furnace blower fan

$100 misc.

Oh yeah – and – waaaay too much time. So much I don’t even want to admit how much. *sigh* Suffice to say that buying a brand new combo machine would have been significantly cheaper if I assign any value to my time at all. Or buying a separate washer dryer and stacking them. Or pretty much ANYTHING else.


How-to technical infos:

3 phase BLDC motor driver basics

3 Phase Basics (Parts 1 & 2)

Discrete transistor based servo amp:


Seriously, wish I’d found these guys before I soldered up my own servo amp. I ordered one from ebay if/when mine breaks.



Adding Back EMF detection (without halls) and feedback/detecting stall (awesome article)

Sensorless BLDC Control with Back-EMF Filtering Using a Majority Function



Arudino AC Current transformer (monitor blower and power supplies for shorts/other bad stuff)



Final electrical schematic:


How about a cut and paste from the code? Basically 3,5,6,9,10, and 11 drive P or N FET’s that switch the 48V power supply respectively.

pinMode(2, OUTPUT); //Connect our servo amp via relay board. (AND disconnects washer servo amp!)
pinMode(3, OUTPUT); //phase A, pull up
pinMode(4, INPUT_PULLUP); //run-mode timer switch. Note to self: this is active low!
//may want door switch status? Whatever. Won't break anything if you run with door open, will probably just not dry. so no biggie.
pinMode(5, OUTPUT); //Phase A pull down
pinMode(6, OUTPUT); //Phase B pull up
pinMode(8, OUTPUT); //blower + 48V power supplies (two relays)
pinMode(9, OUTPUT); //Phase B pull down
pinMode(10, OUTPUT); //Phase C pull up
pinMode(11, OUTPUT); //phase C pull down
pinMode(12, OUTPUT); //240V heating element contactor.

//A0 => Potentiometer (unused)
//A1 => Input heat temp
//A2 => Output heat temp
//A3 => Humidity sensor
//A4 => Current sensor

Not sure if anybody cares to see the Arduino sketch that runs this. There are a couple of different things I played with getting this to work: software 20khz pwm, using arduino pwm to approximate sine waves. lengthening pulse timing based on back emf signal seemed to make the most difference for top speed and reliability. So of course I never bothered to implement that for the final version as it doesn’t seem to need it.

Other references:

How to Oven Form Acrylic


Organization!? What!?

Well, until now there has not been a juicy group of cohesive tiny house pictures – only a smattering throughout the build log. I present, the current overview page:


Hooray! Seriously, check it out, it’s cool. And it’s completely duplicated below ’cause nobody’s going to click the link.

Tiny House Overview:

 I’ve been sketching up floor plans and wondering what it would be like to live in a tiny house since some friends and I drove a modified school bus across the country in college. Eventually, I was able  to use another cross country move to justify purchasing a 32′ goose-neck cargo trailer. I could move all my stuff, and then I could test living in the trailer. If I liked it, I could do a full tiny house conversion. If not – turn it into a mobile shop or even sell it without too much of a loss on the whole adventure. I loved living in it, and here’s the rundown on the current state of the trailer/house. I’ll update these pictures once I get some cargo nets installed on the upper shelves.

Here’s the trailer roughly as it sits in my parents yard. I cleaned up the hoses since this was taken.


Pardon the mess!

Pardon the mess!

Build log:

Phase 1, Prototype & Testing

Phase 2, The Build

Phase 3, Tiny House Living!

Phase 4, Reflections and Troubleshooting


Floor plan: (Yes this is the best overall drawing I can find. Plenty of detail sketches though…)



Standing in the middle and looking forward:



Office + electronics shop:

Computer Desk

Look left to the multipurpose desk: piano, electronics, etc…




Looking at kitchen.

On Bed, looking back

Coffee station: (Note modified espresso machine: clear plastic top for easy maintenance access. Also tall enough for normal cups.)


Still haven’t decided what to do for under-counter cupboards so plastic is the name of the game.

Stove, sink, beer on tap, fridge, and dishwasher!

Kitchen & bar/fridge

Ok. Got me. *Cleans up to take next picture.*  Current washer-dryer and backpack storage, bathroom on the left.

Washer and clothes

Tiny Bathroom! More changes and updates are in the works on this front.

Its not as bad as it looks


Load center for the house, Also mill controls, shower valve, water storage tank fill port, 1kw inverter, solar charger, and rag-pile.


Mini-shop! I can heat the entire trailer with only the little space heater shown in this picture.

The Shop

Tiny House Woo!

Parts 1-3 are here:

Phase 1, Prototype & Testing

Phase 2, The Build

Phase 3, Tiny House Living!



This has been fun: I didn’t know how to do half of the stuff required, but I did a little research or reading and followed the instructions. Nothing is complicated here, just common sense. Honestly, I spent basically 3 weeks cutting and taping foam blocks into place. I found a couple themes as I was doing this project: 1. it’s not very hard to make building a tiny house fun. 2. The more you build, the better you get at doing it. Have you ever wanted to fix an old house but don’t want to loose $ or be chained to something? No better way to try than build a tiny house first. 3. The build experience will give you confidence. 4. Do your research, read the instructions, and things will go well for you. Example: Our local hardware store doesn’t sell the right tape for the foam blocks – learned that by reading the web site of the foam manufacturer. Pretty much everything I didn’t know was available with some minor web searching. 5. Anyone who will let you build a house in their backyard is a saint. 6. It’s a good deal. Even going 100% over budget on my materials my house will still payoff in 4 years.

January: Hot water’s in, working on a homemade HRV when I’ve got time. Recently had a slight issue with some cold weather vs. the black water storage tank. Not installing tank level sensors also might have been a bad idea. At any rate, passive heating on the black water tank is only good down to around 25f w/ wind. Which is actually pretty good considering. Haha the burner melted it in less than an hour, looks like a little insulation is in order!

Lol. Oops.

Lol. Oops.


Phase 3: Tiny House Living!

wp-1452221649806.jpegMid Nov- Not a whole lot of progress on the trailer itself in the last week or so, That’s ok, it’s very livable! Brewed a beer with friends and have been setting up the office and computers to get ready to do some computer programming projects that have been on the list for literally years, long before the trailer project was even an idea for me.

Gotta keep those priorities straight.

Gotta keep those priorities straight. Hef & IPA on tap.



Electronics desk + Piano stand + Desk. Kinda messy but making progress.



3 monitors = 3x as productive right?


Enabling me to spend time on programming projects is one of the main goals of the trailer project. Looks like I need a computer room!

Large, outstanding to-do items include: Buy a hot water heater & plumb it in, Change pex hose clamps to crimps, Integrate & measure efficiency of home-made HRV. And a host of dozens of other details hahaha. Also need to get a laundry setup going: haven’t been able to find the right washer-dryer combo. May have to build something, more on that in the future. Overall, the plan is to take care of trailer projects whenever I need a break from programming!

Shop space. Other half the reason for doing this. 4 axis CNC mill, storage and workspace for all the rest of the tools. Believe it or not, all the tools used to build the tiny house fit in the tiny house!

IMG_20160108_124610 IMG_20160108_125357

My thoughts have changed slightly about how I would do this project again: I think I would at least shop for a toy-hauler camper – then modify and fix as appropriate – would be much easier, and most of the systems are already there. That said, they can run 60+k new, and 30+k used so you’d have to shop for one in the 15-20k range and those can be hit or miss.

If you don’t mind being in debt, you should be able to find financing for a camper-trailer.

My trailer is exactly designed for my needs and is very well insulated so I’m certainly not feeling any regrets, and I learned a lot along the way.



Revised & final numbers:

5k trailer

5k supplies & materials. ~ No. More like 10k (Stuff adds up, even if you’re just hacking it together.) (or: it’s American Re-work: We had to pay to do everything twice!)

~16k lost wages (revised to 8k after additional analysis.) (remember taxes) (Also original number I wasn’t sure how long the build would take) Delving deeper: we should really analyze ‘lost savings’ not lost wages:

  • Was really only saving $1000 a month…. over 6 months, Would have saved best case maybe 8k. (yes I know 6*1000 != 8000. Let’s assume I was extra frugal)
  • Some might say that I should assign a value to my time as if I’d been working for myself, and this number should be closer to: $30+/hr * 50hr weeks * 14 weeks (best guess of my time actually spent building this (1/2july,1/2aug,sept,oct,1/2nov) = 21k.
  • Or should I say 3.5 months of actual build time * 1k/month savings rate?

I like considering vs. the longest time because I was not working for that entire frame, even if I was windsurfing and playing for a good portion of it. I don’t like assigning an hourly wage to my time and saying I generate this much value because there’s no guarantee i would have generated anywhere near that much value for myself. Going off of previous best case savings rate for entire time without a job is probably fair.

~2k heath insurance.

Initial estimate forgot to include: Food costs: Call it ~ 2k over the time actually spent building (does not include $ spent windsurfing/adventuring)

Minus side: spent/lost: 5k + 10k + 8k +2k +2k = 27k (19k Cash, 8k savings that weren’t banked)

So what’s the payoff:

Assuming 2 moves offset over next 5 years or so, at 2k per move + 2k of your labor per move (Moving sucks) =4k/move -> 8k

27k – 8k = 19k to return to piggy bank. Not half bad.

Looking for $600 month in rent savings * 12 mo = $7200/year or around 3 year payoff assuming 2 moves. 4 year payoff assuming no moves.

Original budget was 26k, but that breakdown was 10k materials and 16k time. Having a bit of a cash safety cushion is definitely a good idea before you do this.

That said, I can see more uses for this trailer than ever, and would do it again in a heartbeat.


Phase 2, The Build

Version 0.42 mid Sept. Planning. Lots of it. Still living in trailer. What do I need to have fun, not die, & fix stuff? Everything else goes. I’ve noticed it’s totally in-vogue right now to focus on how good throwing things out feels. You know what sucks? Not having something when you need it. I’m not saying you need to hoard things -> keeping stuff you never use is dumb because it prevents you from quickly locating stuff that you might actually need. But being prepared with a well organized toolbox can be very valuable when you need it. Case and point: brewing some beer: I dragged out the brewing gear and we brewed a hefeweizen in a morning. No need to purchase anything other than the ingredients.

So you say, keep your gear, but put it in a storage unit, why keep it in your tiny house!? Here’s why: assume 30 minute trips to storage, + effort to load unload: that brewing just went from 4 hrs to 5 hrs. That job where you need the special tool: just went from 10 mins to 1hr 10 mins. If you forget even one thing there then you’ve got another trip on your hands. I rented a storage unit for my outdoor gear and tools at my previous apartment. I could walk there in 1 minute. Even then it was still a pain and added about 5% or 10% to the time it took for me to complete almost any job. I say Never Again!

What would you do for 10% more free time?

Version 0.43 Mid Sept. Truck transmission done, no more distractions from the trailer project. I’m not a religious person but the mechanic gods were watching over me on that one haha…


trailer components are now fully in motion for the trailer. Had trouble finding a shower pan of a good size. Goal is a toilet that mounts in the same pan so you can just clean the toilet by hosing it off with the shower nozzle. Pallets of supplies are starting to litter mom & dad’s yard and patio and any other space I can use.


Thank goodness it’s still sunny & not raining yet.

0.44: Late Sept: Planning more or less done, all stuff is here. Here’s a rough white-board sketch.


Shower pan is not made in the dimensions I want. No big deal, cut the bottom out of a cast iron bathtub. Indestructible, right size, and $50. (Plus another $50 in drill bits, grinding wheels, and sawzall blades.) Right on.


Custom Shower Pan. This photo is from after it was being installed.

0.45: Late Sept/early Oct. Moved back to the basement, and began insulating, starting with the front – office area. Biggest challenge is attaching the insulation to the steel ribs of the trailer: the insulation is 2″ thick so you have to drill through the plywood wall, then find the stud, then drill it. Then set a screw in the same hole… I’ve wasted hours doing this so I’m really hopping it works well haha! insulated the floor of the office, but not the rest of the trailer floor yet, waiting to see if the floor collects moisture – if it does then I’ll need to insulate.


After the left-side wall insulation was complete, I re-built the bed & under-bed storage area to have less wasted space and be slightly more elegant than the original cargo-storage rack that was in version 0.1. The revisions made the to-do list because they’re easy to do at the moment, and I REALLY do not want to have to open any walls after the job is done.



0.46: Early Oct. Plumbing & electrical sections that go in the wall need to be complete before wall is installed. This also requires that I actually have a complete plan for the plumbing and electrical more than just “these fittings should fit together and do what I want.” Laid out the plumbing, found a couple revisions & then got it all glued in. There is no grey water tank. (But you say, it’s a tiny house! how can you be so evil to the environment!?) Well according to more experienced sanitation engineers (seriously check ’em out, lots of good grey water adventures) than I, grey water turns into black water after only 24 hours, and I have zero interest in trying to empty a grey water tank every 24 hours, let alone trying to empty one when it’s minus 10 out. Instead I have one (soon to be insulated?) 40 gallon black water tank, and gray-water “take-off” valves. If I am near a real gray water catchment/disposal system, I can open these valves and hook up my shower + laundry water for proper recycling: watering grass or trees. Otherwise it’s not worth the separate tank and extra plumbing to me – seeing as the trailer should spend most of it’s time connected to a house or at an RV park, this is fine.

0.47: Mid Oct: Almost entire trailer is insulated! 7/8 of ceiling complete, and doors still remaining.




Still struggling with drilling holes in the metal studs. Walls going back up, Now for a test-kitchen! Plan is easy to change plywood counters and shelves as I test various kitchen layouts. Goal is dishwasher, sink, toaster oven, prep space, cabinets for storing things, and of course an espresso station. Cooking is on the BBQ, fridge is a modified chest-freezer. After that it’s on to the bathroom and finish the electrical.

Under-hung sinks are awesome.

Under-hung sinks are awesome.

0.48: Mid-Late Oct: Ran remaining electrical wires and plumbing – still struggling a bit with the fact that to finish the plumbing and electrical, the walls need to mostly be up, but to finish the walls, the plumbing had to be done. At any rate, got all the wires and pipes in about the right spot, put the walls up, tacked the ceiling supports, hung light fixtures etc… Lots of drilling and Dust in the trailer so am still living in mom & dad’s basement/studio.

My thoughts at this point in the build: Tiny house dwelling is awesome, Iterative development is the way to go if you want to end up with optimal layouts. Some stuff you just don’t notice in CAD.

If I was building another, I’d do it all from scratch on top of a 36′ or 40′ three axle goose-neck flatbed trailer. (longer + more weight cap = more shop space. Without the shop I could have fit in a 24′ trailer just fine. Without brewing & outdoors gear, that could shorten to 16′ easily. Without office space, that could drop the ceiling down to 6.5 feet. Regardless of what I put in it, I’d plan on one side having the windows & doors, and the other having extra insulation & minimal windows: in the summer time, face the windows north to dump heat. In the winter time, face them south to gain heat. That said, I’m happy with the current layout and size, it’ll work just fine.



0.49 Late Oct – took a crack at the mini-bathroom and it’s walls – want plenty of time for the solvent/glue used to hold FRP panels up to dry before I move in.


Finished bathroom walls.



Yep. Cleaning the toilet used to suck. Now just spray hot water at it from a distance till it’s clean.

Fabricated some sheet metal sections to complete the “tub surround” We’ll see if they work.


Custom sheet metal brake: Hammer + 2×4’s.

Found some roller-track and corrugated plastic to use as a shower door: Am pretty proud of the cost engineering here: $50 for 2 tracks, and $20 for 1 4×8 corrugated plastic sheet! You find me a non-nasty, waterproof, opaque, lightweight sliding shower door that is 6′ tall for that! Good luck. Plus it turns out I needed the scraps from the door to build my heat-recovery-ventilator later on so that went better than I planned it for once!


Installed a shower mixing valve and most of the fresh water plumbing, tested and everything leaked past ~70psi, good thing we only run at 50psi haha. But seriously, long term, will need to change out all the pex tubing hose clamps I used for the more robust hose crimps.

First crack at a copper counter top was a total disaster! 36 gauge copper = basically aluminum foil but copper colored. Found some 22 gauge locally for the same price as the 36 was! I wish I’d checked around better before!

How not to do it.

How not to do it.

The 22 gauge copper counter tops look great! No clear-coat, just straight copper and watch it age naturally. Realized the sink drain wasn’t quite right so screwed around with plumbing in the dishwasher for a while till it looked good.

0.50: Early Nov – Custom bathroom surround is done. Even the ceiling should be waterproof. We’ll see. Bathroom has a vent and light, added wireless light switches by sky-link for main area. Wireless switches allow you to break all the rules about where light switches should be. I mounted mine to a door even.


Wired the load center & terminated all the outlets & switches/etc. Connected up to house power with some 50A extension cables made for RV’s so I can get power from a house or wherever there’s a plug, I suppose even a generator could work in a pinch. No requirement for any inspections here, though I did attempt to follow common sense.


Wired in the solar panel on a 12V deep cycle marine battery – goal is for that marine battery to stay topped up by the solar panel and use it for various 12V systems onboard: waste pump, Water pump, HRV, 1kw inverter for light off-grid operations. Hopefully will be enough to keep the computers on if the power goes out.

Tested waste system one last time with clean water, tapped ½ NPT threads into the manhole cover in our back yard, Screwed in a garden hose adapter to the waste pump. Bathroom is mostly done, installed toilet, turned on the power, plugged stuff in, swept up and vacuumed a bit, and best of all: I moved in!


Phase 1, Prototype & Testing:

Here we go:

Aside: Most of this phase I spent windsurfing, only working on the trailer a couple days per week.

Full of crap, just back from N.Y.



Screw that, let’s go sail.

13.1 Determination Pays off

version 0.1 Mid/Late June 2015. Been dreaming of this for years: having my own space! Had no insulation and was just a leaky cargo trailer + my desks and a rough layout of where things could go, but it’s now waterproof! Gran helped me seal it up by holding the ladder while I sealed up obvious holes with RTV. (Get it from your local auto-parts shop. The blue stuff is oil resistant.) Tested it by spraying it down with a garden hose while Gran watched for leaks inside. Bed was sitting on top of a cargo-storage rack some work buddies helped me with in N.Y. and was wrapped in a tarp to prevent mattress from getting dusty. (Or wet from any unexpected leaks!)



Removed container style door locking hardware in favor of more traditional door knobs that can actually be opened from both sides of a door! Don’t want to be trapped if someone locked the door on the outside ya know. Trailer is completely uninhabitable for more than a few hours. Lesson learned: plywood smells bad. (comes from formaldehyde in the glue they use, and it’s actually bad for you.) Electrical is 2 extension cords + a couple of outlet strips. Don’t seem to be popping any breakers and we’re pretty low load. But then on hold while I went to Alaska.

So: on to version 0.2: hook up stereo, (who wants to work without music!?) then paint the inside with some sealing primer to lock the nasty glue in the plywood & cut dust. Voila! Smell goes away! Fabricated a platform over the rear axles for storing various toys underneath, also should improve weight distribution by keeping load over the axles. Intuition suggests plumbing may need to go under platform in some future version. Actually can spend time in the trailer now! And I needed it, spending time in parents basement was getting old.

Version 0.3: Mid July, Dang. It’s hot. The aluminum trailer walls seem to be radiating alot of heat into the trailer. Obviously this would happen yes, but it turns out to be quite nice on a summer night. Did you know most of your food cooks due to the radiant heat in the oven, not the conductive from the air?! Yeah you probably did if you read Reddit or cook alot.  When it’s 105 out, the trailer is about 110, remember no windows yet. About the time the thermometer hit 100 I got the sawzall out and cut a great big roof ‘vent’. Now we’re talking.

Version 0.35: Later July Bought a used furnace blower fan, retrofit to always run and screwed it to a table. Now it blows probably hundreds of CFM of air at me, and out the roof vent. It’s like it’s always blowing 10mph or more haha! Still hot, but the wind makes the heat more bearable. There’s no way this is energy efficient. AC is a must for the final version. roof-hole/vent was completely open to air, covered with plywood + spacers to prevent unwanted critters. Bugs are negligible out here, either the wind or the heat or both, they just aren’t a problem at least through june/july. Lots of windsurfing in late July, wind was great. Started sleeping in trailer.

Version 0.4: Aug: Adventures with work buddy & family conclude, back to home. Still hot. Skylight/roof vent is in wrong place. Air flows through trailer and out top vent, missing me. Oops! Patched old hole, ordered & installed a real vent with a screen. Added a window to look out of and improve airflow. Good thing I’m prototyping or I’d have been cutting away insulation/etc… New vent seems to work well now! Bugs seem to have finally shown up so I rigged up a screen for the front door.


Version 0.41 Early Sept. Living in this thing is getting pretty sweet! Brewed beer with Sister and ya know… this could actually work. Right on. I’m going to do this tiny house thing, might be really fun.


Initial budget, what’s the ROI!? Napkin:

5k trailer

5k supplies & materials.

~16k lost wages (remember taxes)

-8k 2x moves offset (2k per move + 2k labor per move=4k/move)

=26k invested, 18k left to pay off as rent. (10k cash, 16k time)

rent @ $600/month (for comparable amount of space, more like 1200 if in a city, but factor in ~ 600 to pay for some kind of parking so I’m guessing $600 either way)

18k/$600 = 30 months -> 2-3 year payoff, depending on where you live, and how many times you move, and if you have to rent your parking space. Not counting skills gained, or entertainment value, or any revenue it might generate. Let’s do this!