Tiny House, Tiny Living, The Tiny Life.

Heating a Tiny House

Moving to the Northeast in the winter has it’s challenges. Now that we’ve moved to Vermont from the sunny South we’re doing research into heating appliances. We have been talking to folks in the area about what they use and we’re pondering between  four options.

Electric: Probably the easiest, cheapest option right now and fairly efficient in terms of heating a space our size. We could get through the rest of the Vermont winter comfortably with our current electric heater but it’s certainly not attractive. We would like a heating unit that is easy on the eyes as well as efficient. This would only be a temporary situation seeing as we will be hooking up our solar panels this summer and investing in a small wind generator later in the year. We’re also contemplating micro-hydro electric but that’s for another post!

Cost: None upfront,  just payment of the electric bill.


Jotul fireplace wood
Wood:  Carbon neutral, abundant in Vermont and high-heat producing this is our favorite option as of now. We met a tiny house dweller on a farm nearby who uses a wood fired stove. She loves it because she enjoys the processing of the wood and the look of the stove. She’s also able to heat water on top for tea making or dish washing.  When electricity has gone out during the winter she has had no problems keeping warm and heating food. There is a homey feeling to a wood stove that you just can’t quite achieve with gas fueled units. However, a wood stove is messier, with ash falling through and wood chips and bark trailing in from the wood. Jotul is a popular wood and gas stove company here in Vermont and folks tell us they are the best. We’re not sure they make one small enough for our space so we’re going to check out their showroom this week. We’ve also been looking at marine wood stoves as well as Woodstock soapstone stoves made regionally over in New Hampshire.marine stove

Cost: $600-$1000 depending on the make/model we choose.

Kerosene: Several people have told us that kerosene is worth the set-up and cost of fuel. It burns really hot and it is 90% efficient according to a local gas supplier. In terms of BTU output kerosene beats out propane but it’s not as clean burning and is more polluting to the environment although they make filters now that reduce emissions.  Kerosene is the cheaper option when compared to propane but it’s not as easy to find. I’m also most concerned about carbon monoxide so a vented heater would be essential in such a small space. The Toyotomi Laser heaters are an option but I’ve read a lot of mixed reviews. Overall, kerosene seems like a good option for back-up to electric heating but after more online research we are considering this option less and less.

Cost: $100-$600 including fuel.


dickinson propane heater
Propane: Clean burning, efficient, relatively inexpensive and easy to find we’ve seriously considered the propane option. Our stove currently helps heat our house and it’s run off propane so hooking up a heating element wouldn’t be too difficult. The Dickinson heater, popular with Tumbleweed designs, is attractive and efficient and definitely a contender to the wood stove option in our deliberations.

Cost: About $1000 including fuel.

Ultimately our main criteria for heating units include efficiency, safety, cost and environmental impact. We are deliberate in every choice we make with the house and want to make the best choice for our space, the environment and our wallets.  It’s not an easy choice but a very necessary one now that we live in a state with actual winter. It’s definitely going to be easier to heat the tiny house than it was to cool it in the hot, humid Southern summers!

 Your Turn!

  • What do you recommend for heating a tiny space? 

Via

40 Comments
  1. We wrote a similar post about heating the tiny house back in September 2010 and I don’t think the market has changed all that much. We were faced with the same sort of decisions due to size, cost, fuel, heat generated, etc.

    We have ultimately chosen to heat (and cool) with the ClimateRight CR-7000 MAX (http://www.climaterightair.com/cr-7000) which really is a fantastic unit. The ClimateRight is a deluxe, heavy duty, long lasting portable electric AC and heater combo made exclusively for small to medium sized outdoor enclosures and vehicles. Our unit works for 350-1200 cubic feet spaces. We live in 240 sq. ft. so the CR-7000 is ideal!

    Installation is super easy as well. In fact, we did a How-To on it that you can see here:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vpX_AXdGXdk

    What I like best though is that for what it is, there is no harmful gases or carbon emissions. It runs on standard 115v electric costing about the same as 3-6 lightbulbs.

    • Drew,
      Couple of questions. What did this unit cost you? What ultimately made you decide on this unit rather than a mini-split heat pump? Found your install video, what’s a “Tuba 6″ :) Also, smart move building a platform to create more storage.

      Tom

      • The unit originally cost me $750 plus shipping. I decided on the unit because of the low energy pull, the square footage it could handle, and its size/shape. It fit perfectly for my application (sits outside and connects via ductwork to the inside of our tiny house). I didn’t want to take up any wall real estate and to be honest….the units we looked at in that field were too costly at the time. I like the mini-splits and agree they work well but at the time….it just didn’t work for what we needed/wanted.

        What’s a tuba 6. That’s funny. Do you know how many folks asked me that? Is my accent that odd? HAHAHAHA.

        And thank you for the compliment on the platform. I can’t take credit though. My wife is THE brains of this operation.

    • You live in 240 sq ft but how high are your ceilings… are you still happy with it? I’m looking at 195 sq feet with a vaulted ceiling and in cubit feet, it seems that this unit would be too small? What has been your experience? Loft stay cool?

      • We have 12’3″ ceilings. We are still happy with the unit but we have ceiling fans that circulate air and we have 3/4 shade in the hot months so we don’t have that direct sunlight truly impacting us. Oh, and we do not have a loft. We are single level dwellers.

        • Thanks for info… looks like your unit (7000) is discontinued. Looks like they have a new bigger one coming out but not available yet

  2. Some things to consider before purchasing any stove type heating devices. First, they do get very hot so for safety it shouldn’t be near anything combustible and should be placed on and in front of a non-combustible surface such as stone, brick, masonry, etc. It might be difficult to do this in a tiny space as you probably won’t have the safety clearance around it due to your size constraints. You will also need to have a chimney installed and cleaned every year for safety reasons. I don’t know what your insurance situation is, but many insurance companies will add surcharges for solid fuel burning devices or decide to drop you as a customer if your property is not close enough to a fire hydrant and fire station. Finally, since your home is tiny, you will have to be careful you don’t bump into it and burn yourselves! Good luck with your decisions!

  3. We have heated a 24 x32 story and a half + finished attic with WOOD only for 20 of our 32 years together … recently added a kerosene burning Momitor heater as backup for freedom and age friendly … wodd is very labour intensive. As we consider a drastic downsize to a tiny home, wood will FORVER be part of our heating solutions … simply because of it’s dependability through virtually ANY conditions. As for backup, it will be as green as we can afford and definitely “off grid”

  4. I love the idea of a woodstove in a tiny house, and have seen it done in a few models (Kevin Rose’s Gypsy Rose, Tiny Tack House, Outdoor Research Tiny House).

    I think the major pro that outweighs most of the woodstove cons is the reliability of the fuel source. However, I’d also consider a supplementary electric source (radiant underfloor heating, or an electric baseboard) for quick relief of the cold, or if/when leaving a pet at home.

    I’d love to hear more from anyone using a woodstove, or contractor opinions about the safety of such!

    • There are a couple of things at play regarding a wood stove.

      Having grown up with wood heat I have had my share of cold middles of the night, waking up and having to run to the stove to stoke the coals, and having to spend afternoon upon afternoon getting firewood. However, the sheer size of a tiny house means less wood and smaller pieces; much easier to procure. I often worry though about the ambient heat being dry (same with propane) in the air, getting quite hot against your wall, and being left unattended in a largely wood home.

      The reliability of the fuel source is debatable too contingent on where you live and how friendly your neighbors might be should you run out of wood. I am never a fan of chopping trees down unless there is a replanting effort in place.

  5. Look into a ductless heat pump. Quite suitable for your area, a little expensive but no further costs and they mount high up the wall so they are out of the way and don’t take up valuable space

  6. The Jotul would blow you out of a real tiny house(130-150sqft.
    The Sardine made up by me in the Northwest is even a bit overkill unless you burn very small fires.How big(err small)? is your tiny house and have you figured out the heating BTU required to maintain the warmth you desire? Solar panels are not a viable option for conversion to electric heat,nor is storage by battery wind power. Steady microhydro if you have a year round stream that flows enough to generate a few Kw 24/7 would be ideal.
    The gas fresh air vented heater used in many tiny homes can be found on the net for well under a grand with some good shopping.

    If I turn off my heat and go on a trip and come back to find the temp inside down below freezing it takes me about the equivalent of 1.5 Kw or 5118BTU to raise my tiny house from 28F to a comfy 68F about an hour and then to maintain that temp much less. I built a very small rocket mass heater and it allows high burn temps safely contained and easy to moderate in house temps. .75 pounds of wood fed in over an hour period of time raises temps in winter example above in an hour and then a few chips or twigs of waste wood from a local cabinet shop keeps the mass warm and the house a warm steady temperature.
    Vermont winters are colder so a Sardine stove might be the ticket with the wide range of BTU’s from low fuel load wood to crammed full and damper wide open. Pricey though!
    Robert
    TheTinyBungalow

  7. I would definitely go with the wood stove if you can find one small enough for your house. If you are planning to buy your own land sometime in the future, you should be able to grow all of your own fuel on even a small plot using coppicing and pollarding.

    You are never going to be able to produce your own kerosene or propane, on the other hand, and if there is ever a shortage or a severe price spike you could easily find yourself without a heat source. Nor would you be easily able to convert to wood in that situation, as everyone else would be trying to do the same.

    One alternative you could use that would give you a bit of a backup plan is a stove that can run on both propane and natural gas. (Note: a conversion kit is required to switch between the two.) You can make natural gas at home using a biogas digester. Whether or not you could make enough to heat your home through a Vermont winter is an open question.

  8. Kimberly™ is perhaps the newest kid on the block for heating a tiny house, or other small space. In addition to being able to cook on the top surface, you could simultaneously generate electricity, heat water, and bake, with optional Kimberly™ accessories. The Kimberly™ stove has a tiny footprint and requires only a 6-inch safety clearance. Weighing just 56 pounds, Kimberly™ is also portable. Out of the box Kimberly™ burns wood or non-paraffin pressed logs. With modification, Kimberly™ will burn other fuels. In fact, Kimberly™ burns so efficiently that it was selected as a finalist in the Alliance for Green Heat Wood Stove Decathlon to be held November 2013 in Washington, D.C., sponsored by Popular Mechanics Magazine (among many others). Kimberly™ is not inexpensive, but its cost is greatly reduced when you consider the other appliances that Kimberly™ could replace when building a tiny house. Kimberly™ was born out of necessity when the inventor and his family were forced to live on a boat in Puget Sound, when they lost their business in the down economy. Be sure to site promotion code VLK25 for $25 savings on shipping if you decide to order.

    • Thank you, Vanessa. This is an absolutely amazing product. I never heard of Kimberly stoves, but now I am sold on them after checking them out! Thank you again and again!!!

  9. My suggestion, radiant floor heating. The heater is generally installed as a sheet between the subfloor and the finish floor, can heat the whole house gently, has no strong heat point to cause fires or burns, and is completely unubtrucive. They come in two flavors: electric or hot fluid.

    The electric is the cheaper and easier option of the two. Installation is a snap even for the uninitiated. The down side is the same as all electric heat. You can’t do electric heat with reneable energy (at least not easily or cost effectively), and you’ll need a dedicated, properly sized circuit in your electric panel. The latter is only something to keep in mind during construction, but the former may be a deal breaker.

    The hot fluid system is more involved and a poor installation can cause leaks in a place you really can’t get to easily, making repair difficult. The plus side is that heating water is fairly easy by direct renewable sources (evacuated tube solar hot water heaters) which work well even in the far north, but can be backed up or replaced by a propane on demand water heater, which you may already have for your home anyway. Propane models can even be converted to run off of home produced methane if you REALLY want to do it yourself.

    On a side note, has anyone seen a one of these floors implimented as an area-rug type installation. That way, you could still access it easily for maintenance or repair.

  10. Since winter is more than half over, I’d use the cheapest option for now & replace next fall with whatever it is that you prefer.

  11. What about a gas/electric heater out of a camper? You can have it run off of either electricity or propane and its designed for small places (campers).

  12. There’s also a Dickinson solid fuel heater about the same size as the propane one. http://www.go2marine.com/product/20010F/newport-solid-fuel-heater-00-newsf.html

  13. To me the tiny house movement is all about efficiency. Efficiency in size, resources and expense. Small hot water tanks are incredibly inefficient considering the amount of time hot water is used for showers and washing dishes, and a space hog in an already tiny house. On demand water heaters solve the efficiency issue and help with the size issue, but are still an expensive option for something used so little.

    So,I agree with Grant. Fluid based radiant floor heating but using an on demand propane water heater, with an option to add solar into the system. The key would be to use a variable flame heater which adjusts flame based on incoming water temperature. Essentially you would hook a thermosat to a water pump in a closed loop only heating the water enough to maintain temp until the thermostat was satisfied. You could add a switch at the shower and sinks to return the heater to tap hot water. There is a new sub-flooring product available that is aluminum clad OSB with channels cut in for tubing which makes for a very easy install and incredibly strong. Pipe in a DIY solar water heater and the on demand heater is used only at night.

    The increase in costs would be minimal compared to purchasing an additional heater which is only used in the winter. Depending on the climate and whether you had access to grid power the only alternative I think would be efficient and cost effective is a mini-split heat pump providing AC in summer and heat in winter.

    Tom

    • Hello Tom,

      Sounds like you have some great insights in the field, maybe our future plans would be of interest to you. We are right now developing a system whereby our wood stove can provide hot water for in floor, hydronic, and domestic hot water. We also are working on thermo electric generators so we can run pumps, fans and keep a battery bank charged. Our stove is now available and was planned for these accessories to be add on components. I am always interested in gaining real world input from people like you who “in the trenches”. This gives us an opportunity to develop products to help you “git er done”. If you would like to discuss any of these ideas I would be interested to know more about these technologies.

  14. Wow! Thanks everyone for the helpful advice. We are checking out the Kimberly wood units. This is all great info!

  15. Dickinson makes a stove that burns wood. It is about the same size as the propane model but is lower in cost.

  16. I’m very happy with my Navigator Little Cod. My house is 120sq ft, I use very little wood. I live in southern Canada with cold winters. Well insulated house, but single pane windows. If it’s really cold I have to get up at night and make an extra fire (-15C or under).

  17. Right now, we’re leaning towards electric radiant floor heat and the Dickinson propane unit. We won’t have the space for wood and with our cold winters we would have to continually add wood throughout the night.

  18. Make sure you factor in the cost of stove pipe and chimney if you go with a wood stove. We bought a Hobbit (made in England) off of Ebay, and are having a heck of a time finding 4″ pipe and chimney. The marine stove folks have stove pipe, but the chimney is only made in Canada! We haven’t ordered it yet, but it looks like it might double the cost of our stove installation. Still probably worth it (we’ve heated with wood for years now and love the chore), but definitely something to consider before you go out and buy yourself a cute little stove.

    • Just wanted to put an update here with info that might help anyone considering a Hobbit stove, or marine stove from Shipmate or Navigator. We FINALLY found the 4″ stove pipe and insulated chimney, but FedEx damaged the chimney during shipping. After a long fight with FedEx it looks like they will reimburse us. I put the damaged stuff up on Ebay. You can save yourself upwards of $300 if you don’t mind the dings:

      http://www.ebay.com/itm/Selkirk-High-Temp-Model-HT-4-Insulated-Chimney-/151026956435?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item2329e87893

      Another bit of advice: I’ve seen a couple people try to install Hobbit stoves with 4″ pellet stove pipe, which is NOT THE SAME THING. 4″ wood stove pipe and insulated chimney is extremely difficult to find and expensive, so I think folks are tempted to use pellet stove pipe. This is NOT SAFE, is a fire hazard, and will cause toxic zinc fumes to burn off in your home.

      • This is a good point. Many people do not factor the end cost as you said. Our $4000.00 package is complete end cost. We are however UL Listed for the use of 3″ pellet stove pipe. We use the pellet vent pro series as our chimney connector and in Tiny Homes on wheels we use this exclusively. For residential application we need to add type HT103 class “A” as a pass through for any wall or ceiling penetrations.

  19. I can’t image that no one has brought up the negative health effects of burning wood. While wood is a renewable resource, the particulates in wood smoke are very unhealthy.

    Please do your research. Here is a starting point: http://www.familiesforcleanair.org/sam-harris-on-the-wood-burning-delusion/

    • Thanks Bob! That’s a very important aspect to consider-contaminants. Appreciate the link!

      • HA thats a lobby group crap email with no good facts.

        Website fail: CHECK!

    • Dear Bob, As an industry professional of over 28 years who has recently come to market with a wood burning stove which is one of 14 finalists out of 261 global applicants (google Alliance For Green Heat Wood Stove decathlon) I would like to give you some thoughts. The first is that to some extent I agree with you. Old un-certified stoves or even new ones burned with no education or care for the environment can and do emit up to 70 grams per hour of highly carcinogenic particles of sizes (pm 10 to pm 2.5) that can get caught in lung tissue or even transferred into the blood stream. This is also known to aggravate all types of respiratory ailments including but not limited to ling cancer, emphysema, and a host of other health issues. What this “report” does not go into is that the new stoves run properly do not emit ANY visible smoke at all as these particles are burned as fuel before they can be released into the atmosphere. I can tell you all about the $42,000.00 I spent getting my stove certified if you would like a clearer education on the subject. The other thing this nearly worthless report does not address are things like the following. drilling, fracking, destruction of massive amounts of fresh water used to force crude up out of the ground which is then dumped into stream heads and water ways, shipping, distillation, trucking, pipelines and distribution networks requiring machinery to bury lines, the manufacturing and maintenance of piping networks……the list is huge. As an analogy I offer the automotive industry. I once had a 1974 dodge colt with a 4 cyl 4 speed which got 42 mpg. It did not have one computerized anything. Today’s vehicles have computer systems and catalytic converters which by nature of manufacturing are very hard on the environment and these cars neither get the mileage nor the life span, yet everyone thinks they are the solution to our green house gas issues. I insist that the information you are quoting is completely misleading and horribly in accurate. You yourself are promoting something which in fact is far far worse by all accounts when the whole picture is brought into view. I suggest you dig a bit deeper into real information in the future to avoid the taste of your own toes when you stick your foot in your mouth in such an embarrassing manner

      • Roger, I am not promoting anything. I was trying to convey that wood burning just wasn’t a pure good.

        I am also aware that there are stoves with emit less particulate. I am excited that you are working on one. How “clean” is it?

        After agreeing with the basics of my comment, I don’t understand why you felt necessary to attack me. You clearly have a vested interest in this subject, and it sounds like you should be pleased that someone might care about a cleaner stove.

        • Hi Bob….

          It is not really that I attack you, but felt this was a decent response to what WAS clearly an attack on the wood stove industry. Your wording was insulting, and sorry but clearly un educated. While I agree wholeheartedly about stoves of the past, you made wood burners as a whole look like morons and boobs who could care less about the population only for their own self centered needs. At the same time I really wish people would see the the “bigger picture” before making such huge sweeping statements. I also sent my response to the fellow who wrote the article you quoted. Does he work for the gas industry? Not to be rude, but this guy does not seem to have a clue. I do hope you will dig a bit deeper into this subject as you are clearly passionate about it as am I. There is huge work being done in this field, and I compliment all who have changed an industry drastically ( I believe more than any other in history). The percentage in cleaner results is to my knowledge far greater in a much shorter period of time than any technology I am aware of. The old stoves I mentioned at 70 grams per hour are being replaced by stoves like ours at 3.2 grams per hour, our next one should come in under 2 grams. The petro chemical option is in fact creating more damage day by day, I would refer you to pictures of the Alberta Tar Sands project. Seeing this makes me mad that I drive a vehicle…which uses gasoline. Fracking is polluting our watersheds beyond repair as well as causing man made earthquakes and sink holes. England has been importing compressed natural for decades from Siberia as they have sucked dry all of their reserves. Shipping this fuel also required more fuel so at the end of the day one has spent a good bit of what was extracted from the ground to get it to it’s destination. Could we do something in a better manner?
          have we really thought out where information comes from and who is supporting what. I guess if there was an attack of any kind it would be in the vein of dispelling bad press, for this I hope you understand my not offering an apology, but I do thank you for your resonse.

      • Wow, Roger! Your sound logic and clear reasoning make your argument indisputable. As someone hoping one day to have wood burning stoves, you forever dispelled any underlying concerns I may have had. I am forever sold on wood burning stoves and will henceforth NEVER be persuaded otherwise. Also, why should I pay the cursed energy conglomerates when God provides the resources for free? Thank you!

        • Thank you Jerry. Quite honestly I was immediately brought to task for being “too heavy handed” in my response which was also forwarded to the author of the “offending article” quoted. I stand firm by my statements and suspect this may have come from a gas company supplier. The world needs to look away from fossil fuels and develop things like hydrogen, wind, solar, and hydro…..I also ask what is the big picture? do wee need to maintain a grid or could people generate enough power to supply their own needs? This can only come by examining what we really need and adjusting our consumption accordingly thereby allowing different sources to be utilized.
          Thank you for your support.

  20. I would buy a Kimberly stove and generator in a heartbeat if I could make payments. Who has $4000 laying around! Wish I could afford it. It would be great in my tiny house on wheels.

  21. Has anyone ever heard of or tried the Wallas XC Duo stove? We’re looking into building a Vardo and are wondering whether it will be ok as a heater/stove combo unit.

    http://www.wallas.fi/index.php?id=81

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