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.
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.
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.
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!
- What do you recommend for heating a tiny space?