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Posts Tagged Heating

My First Winter In A Tiny House

After getting back from Croatia I’ve been learning a good bit about living in my tiny house in the winter. This December in Charlotte has been breaking records left and right for how cold it has been. Most mornings when I wake up it’s been in the 20’s which is very cold for this time of year.

The real issue for me has been right now I’m running off a generator and propane heater for my heat. Soon my solar panels will be installed and I can shift to my mini split. The generator has been working well, but because of how energy intensive the heater is and how cold it is, a full tank will only last about 3-4 hours. The propane heater works great too, a 1 lb propane tank will last about three hours.

My strategy has been mainly to heat the house up for about an hour while I get ready for bed and then shut things off. With the propane heater, its a “catalytic” heater that while is technically a flame, it is more efficient and doesn’t use up as much oxygen as a open flame would. I don’t want to leave it running when I sleep because of it being a flame and also the danger of low oxygen. The heater has a low oxygen detector that will shut it off if it comes to that, but I don’t want to chance it regardless. Once I fall asleep, I’m fine until I wake up anyway.

One thing that I’ve learned is that the floor is always cold. Being on a trailer there is obviously an air gap below the trailer. I know a lot of people have used skirts for their house, but I’m not a fan of the look and its not windy in my location, so I’m not sure how effective it would be. It may come to be installing a skirt of a sort, but I think I’d like to start with trying an area rug. I think this might be an easy way because I noticed that when I stepped on a piece of cardboard that I happened to have on the floor, it seemed to do a pretty good job of feeling warm on my bare feet.

So far it’s been a pretty cold winter in my tiny house. That’s about to change.

Very soon a solar panel system is going in that will change my heating situation drastically. I will have a huge battery bank that will let me run my mini split and keep my space heated and on a timer, without the danger of an open flame or running the generator. The timer will be really helpful because I can drop the temperature when I’m asleep nestled under my covers, but then ramp back up right before I wake up and have to get out of bed. I’ll also be able to set it to maintain a minimum temperature, which will be nice because I can keep it a reasonable temperature, but not draw a ton of power.

The other thing I’ve noticed is since its been so cold outside, I’ve been inside my house more and wanting to go outside. Nothing really bad, but I’ve been so used to be going for long walks and just enjoying the weather since its so much warmer in Croatia, right now it’s a little too cold to just spend time outside. I have been spending some time at the gym, at cafes and I also went out and bought an outdoor fire place to have a fire pit at my tiny house. All of these have been great for handling this need to get up and do something. I think this will subside when I get power set up because I can then get Internet hooked up and set up my desk. That will help a lot.

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

Getting Cold Feet?

mobile mini

And interesting development over at Mini-Mobile Cottage.  They recently have moved into their new Tiny House and have run into an issue with Tiny Houses: cold feet!  Now I am not talking about second guessing themselves, no they seem to be quite happy, but I mean literally their feet keep getting cold.  This is a result from have a open air space below the trailer which isn’t insulated or closed off.

Trailer 2

If you have ever been in a trailer park or taken a good look at one you will notice people try to close off the gap between the trailers subfloor and the ground.  This hides the wheel axles, but also creates a air pocket of air, a barrier to the cold and heat of the outdoor temperature.  Most of the time I don’t like the look of how they do it, everything from fake stone to sheet metal.  But then again if you stay allot warmer I guess its worth it, just do some nice landscaping.

Jeff and Arlene…..or rather just Arlene came up with a approach to use Industrial Wool Felt, at $1 a foot its a pretty good steal and it’s 1/2″ thick.  Check out their post on it, which is rather funny, about their cold feet here

Back when I lived in my loft apartment it was really hard to heat – or rather pay for the heat – when you have 15′ ceilings and single layer exposed brick.  My solution was to warm it just enough to not freeze the pipes and I bought a pair of these

bootiesNow I got a ton of flack from my girl friend of the time, until she tried them out, but at then end of the month I was always happy to see that I had cut my bill in half.  However I am looking forward to only having to heat the space of a Tiny House.

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