Posts Tagged Off Grid

Tiny House Toilet Options: What It’s Really Like To Use A Composting Toilet

Tiny House Toilet Options: What It’s Really Like To Use A Composting Toilet

tiny house toilets
Tiny house toilet options are a rather taboo topic; it’s an area where I think people have a lot of questions but are too afraid to ask. It’s one aspect of tiny living that sparks morbid curiosity.

  • How do you set up a toilet in a tiny house?
  • What are your tiny house toilet options?
  • How does a composting toilet really work?

And of course, Is a composting toilet gross? Does a tiny house toilet smell?

NAVIGATION

But we all must heed the call of nature. If you’re planning a tiny house, you need to know your toilet options, so you can be sure to choose a tiny house toilet that you can live with. Today I’m going to give you the straight talk about tiny house toilets. As someone who’s lived with a tiny house composting toilet for years, I’m happy to share all the honest details of my experience with tiny house toilets.

My Tiny House Toilet

My Tiny House Toilet

When I first built my tiny house, I was firmly against composting toilets of any sort. Frankly, I thought it sounded strange and challenging. I wanted a flush toilet.

My tiny house setup is pretty similar to others’ situations. I stay on a piece of land owned by a friend, and we have an arrangement where I can stay there if I pitch in on the taxes for the land. When I was deciding where to spend on land setup, I was treading that fine line of spending enough to make it livable, but not so much that I couldn’t walk away if something didn’t work out. So I ran water to my land for about $4,000. I installed a driveway for $2,000.

But then I got an estimate to have a flush toilet installed, and I went into sticker shock. It was $50,000!

tiny house outhouse toiletThere are a lot fewer regulations around freshwater compared to sewage. There are more inspections, infrastructure, health codes, and more that you have to navigate. In Charlotte, where I live, the permit for water metering alone is $2,200 for freshwater and $9,700 for a sewer connection! That’s just the meter! You’re spending almost $10,000 just for the privilege of paying for sewerage.

So for price alone, I decided that maybe I could reconsider the necessity of a flush toilet. I grew up camping; I went through boy scouts. I figured I would give a compost toilet a shot and see if it was really so bad.

Several years later, I can attest that a compost toilet is a totally livable tiny house toilet option. I barely think about my toilet anymore. It’s become part of my routine home maintenance and housekeeping, and it’s no big deal.

I recently put in a septic system on my property, but it’s not specifically just for my tiny house; it’s for my planned expansion. It’s much cheaper than connecting to sewer. Fortunately, where I live, it’s allowed. In many cities, if there’s a sewer system, you don’t have a septic option. Many places won’t give a certificate of occupancy without a sewer connection either.

If you do have the option of septic, it’s much more affordable. At the low end, a septic system costs around $3,000. They average between $5,000-$10,000, up to as much as $30,000. If you live in a highly-populated area like New York or California, you may have more environmental restrictions, so even septic gets expensive.

Regardless of where you live, if you’re considering a compost toilet as one of your tiny house toilet options, there are quite a few things to consider in your exploration. As someone who decided rather quickly as I was building my tiny house, I must admit that it’s not bad. I really don’t mind my compost toilet at all.

Tiny House Toilet Options

Tiny House Toilet Options

If you’re building a tiny house and want to weigh all your tiny house toilet options, there’s quite a range to explore. Here are a few of the more popular tiny house toilet choices and what I’ve learned about each.

traditional flush toilet

Traditional Flush Toilet

As far as tiny house toilet options go, this one is probably the most comfortable but maybe the least practical in terms of cost (and depending on your land setup). To have a flush toilet, you’ll need to connect to your cities sewage or install septic. For some people, it’s worth the investment. For others, it’s a deal-breaker.


five gallon bucket

5-Gallon Bucket Composting Toilet

From the most traditional to probably the least traditional, you can go with the economic 5-gallon bucket composting toilet. These are easy enough to make. You line the bucket with a bag and affix a toilet seat to the top. You fill the bucket with an absorbent substrate.


luggable loo toilet

Luggable Loo

I have the Luggable Loo, and I’m quite pleased with it. I’ve been using it for years. It’s very similar to the 5-gallon bucket option, but the lid snaps into place, and it’s built to be extremely durable. Initially, I chose this tiny house toilet option out of convenience, but it’s worked well for me. Compared to the other costlier options, I haven’t found any noticeable drawbacks to choosing the Luggable Loo composting toilet.


Separett Villa 9215 AC-DC Composting Toilet

Separett Villa 9215 AC/DC Composting Toilet

The Separett Villa 9512 is a waterless and self-contained composting toilet. There’s a high-tech fan system that helps vent and a tank for holding waste. It’s big enough for three weeks of use by several people. Bob Vila voted it the best composting toilet on the market, but the price tag is a little high at around $1,000.


Sun-Mar Excel Non-Electric Waterless Composting Toilet

Sun-Mar Excel Non-Electric Waterless Composting Toilet

The Sun-Mar Excel unique-looking toilet is a self-contained compost toilet that requires no electricity to work (perfect for a tiny house). It’s high capacity, and according to the Daily Gardener, “If you’re only going to use it now and again—perhaps in a cabin used on weekends—it will cope with five to seven users.” The vent on the back helps keep it from smelling. Again, this toilet is around $1,200, making it a cost-prohibitive tiny house toilet option for some.


Self-Contained Composting Toilet

Nature’s Head Self-Contained Composting Toilet

The Nature’s Head Self-Contained Composting Toilet separates solids from liquids, making it a practically odorless option (almost all toilets will have some odor, of course). The Nature’s Head toilet needs to be emptied every few weeks and can be used with a composting medium (like peat moss) to help make it simple to compost. The price point is around $1,000, making it a similar tiny house toilet option to the other composting toilets I mentioned.


Self-Contained Composting Toilet with crank

Nature’s Head Dry Composting Toilet with Crank Handle

Voted one of the best composting toilets by NY Mag’s The Strategist, the Nature’s Head Dry Composting Toilet with Crank Handle seems to be a preferred choice for RVs, campers, and van-lifers. The crank handle helps agitate the contents of the toilet, making it compost faster and easier. An Amazon reviewer and user recommends spraying it out after liquids, using a spray bottle filled with water and natural dish soap, which minimizes the smell.

In general, I’ve heard the best reviews of the Nature’s Head toilets, and I’ve also heard positive reviews on the Separett. It’s also important to recognize that certain toilets will have safety certifications, which can help if you want to be sure to go the completely legal route. Some municipalities require toilets to meet specific codes and regulations. If this applies to your area, you may want to consider one of the commercial brand toilets.

tiny house water

What Is It Like To Have A Composting Toilet?

What Is It Like To Have A Composting Toilet

So, what is it really like to have a composting toilet? I get asked this question more often than you’d think. People want to know—does it smell? How do you use a compost toilet? Isn’t it gross?

First of all, I was definitely concerned when I started on my tiny house journey. I’m very clean and tidy, to the point of being a bit of a neat freak. So the thought of a dirty, smelly toilet in my tiny home was not appealing to me. Plus, I worked a professional job, where it was necessary to be hygienic and presentable at all times.

composting toiletBut after several years, I can say, it’s not a big deal at all. It’s incredible how quickly you get used to using a composting toilet. Besides, I’m often out and about, living my life during the day. To be very candid, it’s rare that I need to use my composting toilet. Not to mention that I live on 32 acres, and being a guy, I can find a tree for liquid waste. There will be weeks, sometimes even months, where I don’t need to use my composting toilet at all.

Now for solid waste, it’s a little trickier, especially if you’re not out and about throughout the day. Even with liquids, going in the same spot year after year becomes an issue. It can damage the soil, trees and pose certain hazards (and urine smells).

I also should add the caveat here that as a guy, I’m not as familiar with feminine hygiene needs and the composting toilet, so I had to do some research on the topic. Macy over at Mini Motives has a comprehensive post about feminine hygiene and composting toilets. It seems that many of the sustainable options for menstruation work just as well with composting toilets. As she says, “Whatever you use is your preference, and they CAN all be used with composting toilets.”

Charlotte has a lot of health requirements surrounding the disposal of solid waste. You are required to bag it and put it in the trash. At first, this seemed odd to me, but if you think of it like baby diapers or dog waste, it’s really not too different. There are eco-friendly bags that help. I also suggest reading the Humanure Book, which delves into what you need to know to compost human waste safely.

I’ve learned that the smell factor is an issue if you don’t separate liquids and solids. Things that are wet smell more and break down quickly. Bacteria are drawn to warm, wet environments, especially those that are dark and have oxygen. So, it’s essential to keep waste covered and dry.

You can still use toilet paper with a compost toilet, especially if you’re bagging it up. There’s RV-specific toilet paper that breaks down quickly and is suitable for those with compost toilets.

Tiny House Toilet Indoors Versus An Outhouse

Tiny House Toilet Indoors Versus An Outhouse

Almost every tiny homeowner I know has a composting toilet inside their tiny house. When I first started using a composting toilet, I was still in the process of building my tiny house. Because of this, I was using my bathroom as storage, and I had no space for anything. I wasn’t sure what to do with the toilet, so I set it up outside with a little coverage deck (again, keep in mind I live on a vast, isolated piece of land).

tiny house bathroomsWhen the house was ready, it was time to move the toilet inside, and I remember thinking, “Why?” Why would I want to invite smells, bacteria, and occasionally even flies into my house?

If you can make an outhouse or outdoor bathroom happen, I say, why not go for it? I’ve seen some nice setups, where people have a little shower in their outdoor bathroom, a sink, and a little toilet. You could go with an outdoor bathroom or just an outhouse. It’s less of a headache than having a bathroom indoors.

But of course, there are some hazards, including pests, bugs, and even animals that are more prevalent outdoors (and more likely to break into your outhouse). In the middle of a winter storm, pouring rain, or the dark of night, not everyone loves going outdoors to do their business. Plus, it gets very cold in the winter, which is excellent for keeping smells at bay but not great for comfort. The heat can get intense in a small space in the summer, and you may end up with flies and bugs.

You have to weigh the pros and cons of the outhouse versus an indoor bathroom with a composting toilet and decide what’s right for you. Again, my experience is as a guy who is very comfortable outdoors and lives in an isolated area. For a family or those living in a tiny house community, your needs may be very different.

Compost Toilet Hacks & Materials

Compost Toilet Hacks and Materials

If you decide that a composting toilet is the right tiny house toilet option for you, certain items will make your bathroom experience more pleasant and easier. Not only will these items cut back on the smell factor and keep your bathroom cleaner, but they’ll prevent some of the issues that arise with tiny house toilets.

Tiny House Toilet Hacks

Tiny House Toilet Hacks

  • Consider a built-in woodchip bin. A built-in bin is a nice feature in a tiny house bathroom. You could, of course, use a bucket or container to hold the wood chips, but having the bin makes it look more cohesive. I’ve seen some built-in bins about 2 feet x 2 feet, with a closed lid to store the chips.
  • Install a solar-powered vent fan. A fan is a must-have if your bathroom is indoors. You need something to move odors out of the small space. Make sure the end of the vent is carefully screened to prevent flies and pests from sneaking into your bathroom.
  • A urine diverter keeps the toilet smelling fresh. Even though we think of solid waste as the source of smells, the truth is that wet matter smells much more than dry. If you want your bathroom to stay fresh, a urine diverter is a fancy funnel that splits the liquids and the solids. I’ve heard from female friends that this is an especially appreciated feature.
  • Seal the toilet lid carefully. Take time to seal the toilet lid very carefully. A good seal will go a long way toward keeping smells out. You can use weatherstripping, similar to what you would use on a door, to get a nice tight seal.

design your dream tiny home

Tiny House Composting Toilet Materials

Tiny House Composting Toilet Materials

The other question I often get about my toilet is about the materials used to absorb the liquids and solids inside the toilet. You need some absorbent material in the toilet to keep things from getting messy or smelly. For me, wood shavings (yes, from the pet store) are my preferred choice.

I’ve tried many materials, and the same wood shavings you’d buy for hamsters or guinea pigs work well inside your compost toilet. It’s absorbent, low-odor, cheap, lightweight, and easy to deal with. It might feel a bit funny buying hamster shavings for your human toilet but let me tell you—it works!

Composting Toilet Materials Options


wood shavings compost material

Wood Shavings

What I use, and my highest recommendation. I’ve tried many toilet materials, and the shavings from the pet store are the best, cleanest option.


sawdust compost

Sawdust

Similar to pet wood shavings, sawdust works well for composting toilets. The main issue is that unless you live near a lumber mill or own a woodchipper, unlimited sawdust can be tough to access.


use cat litter as compost material

Cat Litter

Some folks have tried various types of cat litter for composting toilets. It’s a bad idea, and it isn’t a sustainable option that works well for humans.


coco coir composting

Coco Coir

Made from the shells and husks of coconuts, coco coir is sustainable and can work well for composting toilets, but it’s challenging to come by and can be expensive.


compost with peat moss

Peat Moss

There are more sustainable peat moss options out there now, and it’s not difficult to find. As far as materials go, peat moss isn’t a terrible tiny house toilet option.


wood ash compost

Wood Ash

I wouldn’t recommend using wood ash as your tiny house toilet material. It’s very messy and hard to deal with. It is, however, odor absorbent.


grass clippings as compost material

Grass Clippings & Leaves

I’ve also found that this is not a great long-term solution. Unless you have something to finely breakdown the clippings and leaves, it’s a pain to maintain. Plus, leaves and grass clippings have their own smell as they breakdown, which can exacerbate the already smelly situation.

compost bucket toilet construction steps

Should You Choose a Composting Toilet For Your Tiny House?

Should You Choose a Composting Toilet For Your Tiny House

All in all, using a composting toilet isn’t a bad tiny house toilet solution. Having used one for many years now, it’s not terrible at all. To be honest, I hardly even think of it most of the time.

There are a lot of people out there who claim that a composting toilet doesn’t smell…and they’re unfortunately wrong. The odor seems to be the biggest worry for most tiny house owners, and I’m not going to lie—it’s a toilet; it smells. The biggest thing you can do to mitigate the smell is to keep your toilet outside and choose the outhouse option as your bathroom solution.

I realize that an outdoor toilet isn’t realistic for many people, so the next best way to combat the smell is to have a really good ventilation fan. If you install a high-quality fan and keep your toilet sealed, you will minimize the smell. It’s also crucial that you’re diligent about using plenty of cover material and cleaning out the toilet frequently. Those steps will go a long way.

If you choose to dispose of the waste in a bag, you can put it out with the trash (again, like pet waste or a diaper) in most places. It’s not pleasant to think about, but once you’re used to it, it’s really no big deal. If you choose to compost, make sure that you have the approval of the landowner (if that’s not you).

While most of us probably don’t want to think too much about the toilet for our tiny house, it’s one of those things that makes life more livable, clean, and comfortable. The call of nature is something we all must heed, so it makes sense to find a tiny house toilet solution that you can live with in the long term.

Even though I’ll admit, I decided to take the plunge into a composting toilet as a last-minute solution to save the plumbing costs; it’s something that I’ve been satisfied with for years.

design and build collection

Your Turn!

  • What are your biggest concerns about using a composting toilet?
  • Do you prefer an outdoor or indoor bathroom?

How Do Tiny Houses Get Power? Connecting Your Tiny Home To The Electrical Grid

How Do Tiny Houses Get Power? Connecting Your Tiny Home To The Electrical Grid

how do otiny houses get powerTiny houses take a page from RVs when it comes to getting power. You have three main options: be fully connected to the electrical power grid, go fully off the grid, or to use a hybrid approach.

Whatever way you get power into your tiny house, it will take some planning and jumping through hoops when it comes to codes. With all of these recommendations, I’d strongly encourage hiring a licensed electrician.

Also check out the more detailed posts on tiny house electrical.

*Disclaimer: Keep in mind that if you wire your own tiny house, you’re assuming all risks. It is suggested that you hire an electrician and consult local, state, and federal officials for all safety measures and code compliance. See our full legal page for further information here: https://thetinylife.com/about-us/legal/

Connecting Your Tiny House To Power – Standard Method

connecting your tiny house to power grid

The easiest method to connect your tiny home to power is similar to how RVs get power, which is through an extension cord. You’ll want to use a drop power cord sized for a 50-amp circuit. While you could go smaller, it’s suggested that you plan to have a full 50-amp circuit for some buffer and future expansion.

Power Grid To Electrical Meter

power grid to electrical meter

The power from the power company will be fed from the grid through your electrical meter to your main box. This is the most difficult part because it is the focal point of the permitting process. For stand-alone power, you may be able to get a temporary power pole for a while, but at some point, you’ll need to convert to a permanent connection.

The easiest way to do this is to have another house on the property that’s already connected to the grid. Barring that, figure out a way to have “an excuse” to have power on the property before you have your tiny house there. Things that I know have worked for people in the past are having a power connection for a powered gate, a security light on a pole, or a little shed that you need power in that they can connect up.

tiny house electrical

Tiny House Power Connection

Tiny House Power Connection

tiny house power connectionOnce you have power on site, you’re going to want to connect your tiny house to that power source. To do this practically, use an RV-style plug connector like the one below. These are very affordable and allow you to make a custom length drop cord for your tiny home.

Another great thing about these is that they’re seen as a “temporary” power connection by building codes, which makes navigating building codes and electrical codes much easier.

Connecting Your Tiny House To Power – Off-Grid Method

connecting your tiny house to off grid power

This option is most realistic if you’re not moving a lot. To power your entire tiny house, you’ll need a lot of solar panels. As someone who has lived off the grid for close to a decade, believe me when I say it’s not without its downsides. I get into all the details in the below posts:

tiny house solar power setup
how to run ac on solar power

Connecting A Tiny House To Solar Power

Connecting A Tiny House To Solar Power

This is going to be identical to the standard method above with the only difference being that instead of the power coming from the power grid, you are your own power grid. It’s important to note that your solar panel array will produce power in DC (direct current) and will need to be converted by an inverter to AC (alternative current). From there, it will output the energy into a single line which will connect to your tiny house via the RV extension cord.

TINY HOUSE SOLAR SETUP

tiny house solar setup

Connecting Your Tiny House To Power – Hybrid Method

This method is essentially the best of both worlds, but does require some extra work and thus extra expense. In general, I’d say this method isn’t for the DIYer and that you should loop in a licensed electrician because it gets pretty complex quickly.
To do this, you’ll have to have your traditional power grid source and your solar power source set up. Both of those will feed into a net meter power meter, and from there the power will output from the meter into your tiny house.

Your Turn!

  • How do you plan to get power in your tiny house?

Why You Need To Be Using Propane In Your Tiny House

Why You Need To Be Using Propane In Your Tiny House

why use propane in a tiny houseMany people look to propane in their tiny house because it’s a practical way to heat, cook, and generate power. It’s also widely available and pretty affordable to boot, while the broad array of propane appliances and applications makes it practical, especially if you’re living off the grid.

NAVIGATION

Why You Should Use Propane In A Tiny House

why you should use propane in a tiny house

As I mentioned, propane is an ideal way to run your tiny house mainly because of three things: It’s practical, portable, and affordable. When I first started designing my tiny home, I hesitated when it came to propane because it’s a non-renewable fossil fuel. But after crunching the numbers, it was the only realistic way I was going to be able to go off grid.

Propane is Practical In A Tiny House

Propane is Practical In A Tiny House

Propane is a very versatile accelerant when compared to what else is out there. A gallon of propane is equivalent to about 27 kilowatt-hours, which is a lot especially for the density. You can get a lot of use out of a small amount with minimal downsides and, all in all, it’s pretty safe.

solar power for tiny housesIf you want to live off the grid, you’ll quickly realize that propane is the only practical way to do so. People often have aspirations of getting by entirely on solar power or using firewood, and while both have their place, they also have practical limits.

When planning, I drew up budgets for my solar array with two scenarios: one using propane, the other avoiding propane. The difference in system costs was an additional $60,000 for panels and batteries that do not need propane. I have been living off the grid using a mixture of solar power and propane for over eight years now. Trust me when I say that propane needs to be part of the mix.

Propane Is Portable

Propane Is Portable

The portability of propane is a really nice feature and makes it even more practical. I use 20 lb. propane tanks to do everything with my tiny house. At that size I can easily carry them around and swap out empty tanks. I can also quickly load up the tanks in my car when it comes time to fill up.

Propane In A Tiny House Is Affordable

Propane In A Tiny House Is Affordable

Because 20 lb. tanks are so widely available, they’re easy to find at a price that won’t break the bank. All in, I spend about $100 a year in propane for everything. I cook a lot, grill a lot, take long showers, and more. In general, I set aside $15 a month to cover propane costs including the cost to retire and replace tanks when they get too old over time.

How Much Propane Does A Tiny House Use?

How Much Propane Does A Tiny House Use

Like I said, I use 20 lb. propane tanks to do everything with my tiny house and have eight tanks in total. That includes one tank for my gas stove top and hot water heater, one for my outdoor gas grill, one for my outdoor shower in the summer, and one for my back up heater, plus backup tanks.

heating a tiny houseI only get propane once a year, so eight tanks is perfect for my needs. Typically I use one 20 lb. tank every three months for cooking and heating water, for a total of four per year. I use one or two for supplementary heat per year. Then my grill uses two or three per year. My eight tanks usually last me about a year, give or take.

Keep in mind that I cook three square meals a day, every day. I also love taking long hot showers, and on workout days, that may mean two showers per day. I also love to grill, so three to four nights a week I grill out. Depending on your needs and preferences, you may use more or less.

How To Install Propane In A Tiny House

How To Install Propane In A Tiny House

My general advice is to leave this one to the professionals. Hiring a plumber to run your gas lines in your tiny house will run you around $1,000 all in and, in my mind, that’s money well spent. However, if you want to try installing it yourself, I have a few suggestions.

Tiny House Propane Diagram

Tiny House Propane Diagram

tiny house propane delivery system diagram

Keep Your Propane Lines As Simple As Possible

Keep Your Propane Lines As Simple As Possible

The fewer connections and junctions in your propane lines, the fewer places there are for gas to leak. My suggestion is to centralize your propane lines to one end of the house, use an exterior mounted tankless hot water heater, and have your stove top right on the other side of the wall where that tankless heather is.

This keeps most of the gas lines outside of your house and shortens the runs for your gas lines.

Test All Your Connections By Spraying Soapy Water

Test All Your Connections By Spraying Soapy Water

Once you have your system set up, make sure you check each and every connection by spraying a mixture of water and dish soap. This will get your connections all sudsy and, if there is a leak with the gas turned on, you’ll see small bubbles form.

Have A Gas Leak Detector

Have A Gas Leak Detector

In addition to your smoke alarm and carbon monoxide detector, you should consider having a gas leak detector like this one off Amazon for only $20.

Tiny House Appliances To Run On Propane

Tiny House Appliances To Run On Propane

There are different appliances you can consider running with propane in your tiny house. I mainly run my hot water heater and cooktop, but I’ve talked with different tiny house folks to get them to weigh in on the suggestions below.

Tiny House Propane Heaters

Tiny House Propane Heaters

I use propane as a backup for heating in my tiny house. Since I live off the grid, there are times that I’m running low on power in my battery bank. This is particularly the case in the winter, since the days are so short.

I use a Mr. Heater Propane Radiant Heater that I’ve had for years now and works really well. These are specifically designed to be used indoors and include a low oxygen sensor shutoff and a tip over shut off.

The one downside is also the major upside. It is designed to be unvented, so it’s super simple to setup, but if you don’t know, propane heaters like this put off a lot of moisture into the air — about 32 ounces of water per gallon of propane burned.

The other option is the Dickson Propane Fireplace. This one is pretty expensive, but it’s the only heater I found that is low enough BTUs for my tiny house AND is direct vent. That makes it a big winner in my book.

portable propane heater
wall mounted propane heater
tiny home propane heater
propane heater in tiny house

How Many BTUs To Heat A Tiny House: 4,000-6,000 BTUs

This is highly dependent on your climate, but for my climate in NC, where the winter can get down into the 20s and 30s at night, 4,000 BTUs is just about right, and sometimes even too much.

Propane Hot Water Heaters For A Tiny House

Propane Hot Water Heaters For A Tiny House

I love, love, love my tankless hot water heater and the gas options make it so simple. I’ve talked about my tankless hot water heater for my tiny house before, and also how I don’t recommend the popular RV-500. If you’ve never had a tankless before, they’re great. Endless hot water yet much smaller and lighter than traditional tanked versions, which is a huge plus.

tiny house tankless hot water heaters

Rinnai
V53DeP
Precision Temp RV-550 Eco Temp
L5
Eco Temp
L10
Rheem
RTEX-11
Rinnai V53DeP Precision Temp RV-550 Eco Temp L5 Eco Temp L10 Rheem RTEX-11
My Ranking
Flow Rate 5.3 GPM 1.5 GPM 1.5 GPM 2.9 GPM 2.68 GPM
Energy Type Propane/Natural Gas Propane Propane Propane Propane
Why Consider Best performance and build quality Good option for 12-volt systems Great for outdoor showers Budget friendly with good functionality Super compact
Who Is It Best For General and off-grid water heating RVs Weekend cabins and seasonal outdoor showers Budget-minded tiny house folks Those on the grid
Price $550 $1,195 $129 $349 $275
BUY NOW BUY NOW BUY NOW BUY NOW BUY NOW

tiny house hot water heater comparison

Tiny House Propane Cook Tops And Stoves

Tiny House Propane Cook Tops And Stoves

I’ve used just about every kind of cooktop out there and if I wasn’t off the grid, I’m not sure what I’d choose between an induction, glass top, or gas range. I’ve used all three and liked them all.

That said, my tiny house has a propane cook top, which is made by Verona. I chose that one because it was one of the few two-burner models out there. The funny thing is that it’s not meant to be used as a main cooktop, rather as a secondary one, but I was able to buy it stand-alone and it’s worked out great!

tiny home propane cooktop
propane cooktop in tiny house
small kitchen poropane cooktop
propane cooktop

tiny house kitchen inspiration

Tiny House Propane Fireplaces

Tiny House Propane Fireplaces

Some people really like having the look of a fireplace without all the ash and smoke. For me, I found that a nice Wood Wick candle will bathe my entire house in a very soothing light that I love. There are also nice small wood stove options out there, the Dickerson Marine Stove, and then various gas inserts you can choose from.

The hardest part here is finding one that is small enough and with a blower that doesn’t take too much power. Venting is also a concern, because the flue pipe sometimes is required to be quite big to vent properly.

propane fireplace in tiny home
advantages of propane fireplace
tiny house gas fireplace
tiny home propane fireplace
small propane fireplace
propane fireplace

tiny house heating options

Propane Generators For A Tiny House

Propane Generators For Tiny Houses

If I could do one thing differently about my solar panel system, it would be to have a backup propane generator be part of the system. I may still do this because my inverter actually can sense when the batteries are low and automatically start the generator to run until the batteries are topped off and then shut down.

generac generator

Generac 6998 Guardian Series 7.5kW – Propane Generator

Generac is one of the top brands of standby generators on the market and a 7.5 kW generator is a great size to power almost everything in your tiny house without any sacrifices. Connected to your existing LP or natural gas fuel supply, it kicks in within seconds of sensing power loss automatically and runs for as long as necessary until utility power returns.

Kohler Generator

Kohler 6 kW Generator – 6VSG – Propane Generator

The generator made for renewable energy, including solar power or other remote applications. The KOHLER 6VSG battery-charging generator efficiently charges battery banks when renewable energy sources can’t keep up with demand. If your battery charge drops below a pre-set level, the 6VSG charges it automatically.

Briggs and Stratton Generator

Briggs & Stratton 40626 12kW – Propane Generator

Standby generators offer a new upgraded control system that features multi-line text and graphics, programmable exercise times, and a low-speed idle mode to save fuel and reduce noise. A new automatic voltage regulator communicates directly with the controller to help optimize generator performance and deliver tighter voltage control.

Your Turn!

  • How are you planning on using propane in your tiny house?

Off-Grid Internet: How I Get Wi-Fi In My Tiny House

Off-Grid Internet: How I Get Wi-Fi In My Tiny House

off grid internet for a tiny house or homestead

NAVIGATION

In a world that does so much online these days, having an off grid internet option for my tiny house was a must. My entire job is remote and online, so having off grid Wi-Fi in my tiny house that’s off the grid was a non-negotiable for me. I know many people are wanting to work from home in a tiny house or on a homestead in a rural location, so here’s how I got internet in my tiny house while off the grid.

Estimating Your Data And Speed Requirements

Estimating Your Data And Speed Requirements

A good place to start is to understand what you actually need out of your internet connection. This comes down to a few key numbers:

  • Connection type
  • Download speed
  • Upload Speed
  • Latency
  • Data usage

Connection Type

internet connection type

One the largest determining factors on how fast a connection is, how it performs, and its reliability is what type of connection it is. The list below is in order of how well it will perform, from best to worst.

types of internet connections

FIBER INTERNET: Fastest connection type, uses light through fiber optic.

CABLE INTERNET: Uses cable TV, tops out at 100-300 mbps

DSL INTERNET: Faster than dial up, slower than cable.

SATELLITE INTERNET: Uses a satellite dish. Like DSL but feels slower due to latency.

DAIL-UP INTERNET: Slowest connection. This is basically obsolete.

Off Grid Internet Download Speeds

Off Grid Internet Download Speeds

How fast you can download files is most of what we do when we’re using the internet. In general, you’re going to want at least 2 megabytes per second (mbps) at the very minimum. It’s important to note that many internet companies will sell plans of estimated speed or “up to” speeds, but the daily reality is often much less.

For instance, a cable ISP will sell a plan for a 50 mbps speeds, but you’ll typically see between 5 and 10 mbps at any given time, with the ability to spike higher if you are pulling down larger files.

In general, you’ll want speeds in these ranges for different types of internet usage:

0-5 MBPS 5-40 MBPS 40-100 MBPS 100-500 MBPS 500-1000+ MBPS
Checking Email Streaming video Streaming HD Streaming UHD All Uses
Streaming music Video calling Online gaming Fast Downloads
Web Surfing Simple Gaming Large Downloads Best For Gaming

Off Grid Internet Upload Speeds

Off Grid Internet Upload Speeds

Uploading speeds are often an overlooked metric and if you’re a professional that needs to move large files up into the cloud, push something to a server, or other work with large files, you’re going to want to pay attention to this.

If you’re a casual user that will do some web surfing and sending emails, an upload speed of 2-4 mbps for attaching small files to the internet and other upload tasks is sufficient. If you’re going to do any online gaming, you’ll want 5+ mbps (with a very low latency). Finally, if you’re a creative professional that needs to move large files, 5+ mbps is good, but you want as much as you can get.

Latency With Off Grid Internet Solutions

Latency With Off Grid Internet Solutions

This gets a bit into the technical side that most don’t concern themselves with, but latency is a measure of how much time it takes for your computer to send signals to a server and then receive a response back. You ideally want this to be as low as possible, but it can never be zero.

Anything under 100 milliseconds (ms) is considered “acceptable,” but you generally want to have it be somewhere between 20 and 40 ms, particularly for gaming or video calls.

Data Usage While Living Off The Grid

Data Usage While Living Off The Grid

Data usage is just how much data you use, often measured in megabytes (mb) or gigabytes (gb). When I do my daily work, I’m most often surfing the web, writing emails, or using web-based apps. Very little of my day-to-day work involves video—I either use phone calls or voice-only Zoom or Skype calls.

For that kind of work, 2-3 gigs per month is more than enough for my use. When I get into streaming videos, like watching YouTube or Netflix, my data usage balloons to a lot more.

Netflix Hulu Disney+ Amazon Youtube
Low 0.3 .65 0.7 0.8 0.3
SD 0.7 1.3 1.3 1.4 0.5
HD 3.0 2.7 2.0 2.0 1.5
UHD 7.0 7.2 7.7 6.0 3.0

All numbers are Gigabytes per hour.

Off Grid Internet Options

Off Grid Internet Options

In a world that does so much online these days, having an off grid internet option for my tiny house was a must.

When I moved off grid for the first time close to a decade ago, the land I was on was pretty close to the city. But because of the size of the land, local internet service providers wouldn’t run cable internet out to me. I’ve since moved out to the country and getting internet on rural land is even more difficult.

Rural Internet Service Providers

Rural Internet Service Providers

The good news is that there are quite a few initiatives connecting rural communities to internet because it can open up so much economic opportunity for working remotely, online education, and much more. In a weird twist of fate, it looks like my town in the mountains will get fiber internet before I could get it in the big city, because if a municipality is going to install internet infrastructure, it’s almost the same cost to put in fiber vs cable or DSL.

I wanted to start here because I think it’s important to bring some attention to the fact that the US Government makes funds available to rural communities for internet infrastructure build outs. In many cases, a town can apply to start their own internet service as a utility. These programs have seen a lot of success for towns that decide to pursue it. If your local government hasn’t already pursued this, take some time to discuss it with your elected officials.

Projects like this can take years to come to fruition, but you can start the process and shape the future of your town while relying on some of the below options for off grid Wi-Fi.

Starlink – Elon Musk’s Satellite Internet

Starlink satellite internet

150+ MBPS download 25+ MBPS upload 20-40 ms latency $99 per month

We are about to enter a golden age of off grid internet connectivity, and with recent COVID concerns, we are finding more and more employers are allowing people to work remotely. Elon Musk’s Starlink Satellite Internet is a major step forward to that end.

At the time of writing this, there are 485,000 concurrent users of Starlink and the initial real-world tests are very impressive considering there are only 1,000 satellites of the 12,000 satellites planned to be placed in orbit. People are consistently getting over 100 megabytes per second while downloading and at least 25 megabytes per second in upload speeds. Those numbers are not company reported, but what actual end users are seeing during their daily use.

pro tipStarlink’s dish uses a small heater to keep snow and ice off the face. The heater and dish can use about 150 watts maximum, with an average power of 100 watts continuous when it’s cold out. If you’re living on solar with battery backup, you’ll want an extra 366 amp / hour in your batteries to cover this.

Starlink’s dish uses a small heater to keep snow and ice off the face. The heater and dish can use about 150 watts maximum, with an average power of 100 watts continuous when it’s cold out. If you’re living on solar with battery backup, you’ll want an extra 366 amp / hour in your batteries to cover this.

This is all possible because Musk owns not only the satellites, but the rockets to deploy them en masse as well. And because of his reusable boosters, he can deliver those satellites for 10% of the cost of other competitors.

From talking with people about their Starlink experience, I’ve only heard resounding praise from people. They note that it was pretty easy to setup, connection was done via their phone, and their internet is very fast. The service charges a $499 setup fee which includes all your hardware, then $99 a month from there.

At this time, there isn’t any data cap, which will be something I’d watch closely for in the future. While fast speeds are key, having data limits would be a major blow to what might otherwise be the perfect solution.

Project Kuiper – Amazon’s Satellite Internet

Amazon Satellite Internet

150+ MBPS download 25+ MBPS upload 20-40 ms latency TBD per month

I wanted to include this so people are aware of this option in the future and I’ll update it as more info becomes available. While details are very sparce now, we expect that Jeff Bezos’ satellite internet provider will be pretty similar in performance and specs to Starlink with one major exception.

Right now, they are aiming for around 3,336 satellites, which is about 65% less that what Starlink will have. At this point I’m speculating, but I’d assume that they’re going to first focus on the US regions and China, and then later Europe and South America. They may back off of China given that their government is already making statements against these options as it would allow citizens to have internet access outside the Chinese government’s control.

At some point, it becomes a math problem of too many people per satellite, but what it will do is bring competition to the satellite internet space. That usually is a good thing for us as the consumer.

Cell Phone Hot Spots – Verizon, AT&T, T Mobile, Sprint

Cell Phone Hot Spots

15+ MBPS download 2+ MBPS upload 50-70 ms latency $40-$60 for 5 GB per month

The next most practical manner I’ve found is hot spotting using my cell phone. Right now, I have a 15-gig limit on my cell phone hot spot through Verizon. When combined with my unlimited internet on my phone plus calls and texts, it costs me $85 per month.

The one major downside that I find is that the signal disconnects from my computer every so often, so I have to reset it. This isn’t a huge deal, but it’s not like the “always on” connection that we’re used to with other traditional sources. I find that if I stop using my computer and it goes into sleep mode or isn’t active for a while, I have to reset it.

The biggest downside to this frequent disconnection is that I can’t use it with security cameras, on an Amazon Alexa or Google Home, or to monitor my solar power with my array data tracking interface. All of these applications will work at first, but at some point, something will trigger it to disconnect and unless you’re there in person to re-initialize it, you’re stuck.

This was a major road block when I wanted to set up some remote cameras on my land to monitor things while I wasn’t there. The internet connection would inevitably reset and I’d lose my video feed without being physically present to fix it.

pro tipWhen searching for rural land, bring along pre-paid sim cards for the different cell phone carriers. When you’re actually on the land you’re considering, take the time to test each carrier on that specific parcel where you think your house will be located.

By in large, I’ve found that Verizon is most expensive, but is often the most reliable and widely accessible. There have been a few times when another network could connect better, but I’ve found from practical experience that Verizon is the best in most circumstances.

Accessing internet through your cell phone has a few major downsides. In most cases, the speeds are adequate, except for video conference calls. I’ve found that when watching Netflix on Verizon, I can watch about 20 hours per month on my hot spot with the 15 gig per month plan. Keep in mind that general surfing and email uses very little data, and if I was just doing that, 2 gigs per month would be all I’d need.

One thing I’ve been doing lately is occasionally going to a coffee shop to work for the day as a change of scenery, and while I’m there, I’ll take advantage of the download feature that Netflix and other services offer This lets me download a few episodes or a movie or two to my device, then later watch them without using any bandwidth. I’ve found this to be a really great way to keep data usage low while still watching the shows I love.

fastest mobile networks in 2020

Other Hot Spots – Karma, Skyroam, etc.

internet hot spots

15+ MBPS download 2+ MBPS upload 50-75 ms latency $50-$70 for 5 GB per month

There is a whole host of third-party companies that make hot spots that either can be used with a major cell phone carrier or on their own network. In general, I have found these to be pretty lack luster. I’ve personally used the Karma hot spot and it was just okay.

In my experience, it’s better to go straight to the sourcewith a major cell phone provider, because third party device makers have to use their signals anyway. There aren’t any features of these third parties that make them stand out from the major carrier’s devices.

Fixed Point To Point Internet

Fixed Point To Point Internet

5+ MBPS download 2+ MBPS upload 20-45 MS latency $75+ per month

There are some cases where an internet provider offers fixed point to point internet service where they have a tower with an antenna on it. If you have a line of sight to their tower, you can usually get internet. I’ve done this with a business I used to run as our backup internet and it worked phenomenally.

pro tipTalk with your local point to point internet provider, as they usually are a smaller mom-and-pop operation that can let you know if you’d be able to connect to their service before you buy any land. You may have to mount the antenna on a tower.

Your speeds will depend on your plan, but in general if you have line of sight, you’ll have a decent connection. If you do a lot of video calls or gaming, this can be a tad slow in terms of latency, but overall this is a great option.

These services tend to have an upfront cost to get connected and for equipment (and possibly the cost of a small tower on your land), and the service will be about $10-$50 more a month than your standard cable provider, but all in all, this is a decent option.

DSL Internet

DSL Internet

1+ MBPS download 500+ KBS upload 20-45 MS latency $50 per month

One possibility in some areas that have a phone connection is DSL, which runs on a wire that looks like a phone cord, but is technically different. This option isn’t great, but it is definitely better than nothing and has the advantage of being more stable than a hot spot connection.

The downside is that it’s much slower than any of the other wired connections. However, if you want to have a remote camera or monitoring for your solar while you’re away (some monitors are also all cloud based), DSL can provide the stability you need. This type of connection is usually pretty affordable and fast enough for basic surfing and emailing.

Hughesnet Satellite Internet

Hughesnet Satellite Internet

2+ MBPS download 200+ KBS upload 100+ MS latency $60 for 10GB per month

Let me make this simple. Don’t use this. I’ve talked to so many people personally who’ve used this and, across the board, said it was one of the worst experiences of their lives. Slow to no connection speeds, spotty, difficult to use, and frustrating customer service.

The data caps seem pretty generous on the surface, but their measurement methodology skews it in their favor and you’ll burn through that very quickly without doing much online. In general, anything with video or gaming is out of the question using Hughesnet Satellite internet. Between the data caps and high latency, this is a non-starter for everyone.

The service also comes with a multi-year contract that they hold people to as a way to lock them in. They know how bad their service is and if it weren’t for the contracts, people would leave.

For more information, read this reddit thread from a former Hughesnet employee, it is very eye opening.

Cell Phone Extenders And Repeaters

Cell Phone Extenders And Repeaters

Many off grid people look to cell phone extenders to get a better signal in their house. It can be the case that outside your home you’ll get okay cell reception, but the second you step inside, your cell phone signal is awful.

People who live in metal-clad houses or barndominiums will frequently have this issue because the metal sheeting on the outside blocks the signal. If you do live in one of these houses and have a good internet connection, a lot of modern cell phones can use Wi-Fi to make the calls instead of a cell phone signal.

That said, I’ve personally tried one cell repeater and it was a very frustrating experience, especially considering that I’m a very tech savvy guy. Talking with others, I have yet to hear of anyone using any of the available options that could get one to work well. In most cases, people couldn’t get the extender at all, and those who did found it to perform so poorly it wasn’t worth it.

Making Sure Your Location Can Get Internet

Making Sure Your Location Can Get Internet

The last point I want to make is a big one: a word of caution. Getting internet is so critical to today’s world that it can be hard to imagine that you might not have a connection. I am all about living a simple life, disconnecting from social media, and living life on your own terms, but I also need to square that with the reality of needing a connection.

I love living simply and I want to make sure that technology is working for me and not the other way around. If you’re looking at living somewhere, buying some remote property, or just setting up on some land without an existing internet connection, proceed with caution.

If you call your local ISP, they may very well say that you’re in their service area, but then later on when you go to set up service tell you they can’t do it. It’s a story I’ve heard many times. If I were to do it all again, I would purchase land and have in the offer letter a contingency that the sale is canceled if internet can’t be established.

In my due diligence stage of buying land, I’d actually have them run the internet connection and power lines out to the site and plug in on the land itself and do a speed test. This may seem extreme and is most certainly unorthodox, but in a world that revolves around internet connectivity, it’s so crucial.

Having access to a high-quality internet connection while living off the grid or in a tiny house enables you to get a big city job that pays well while giving you the low cost and slow pace of the country life. It’s a major tool to you earning a good living and staying connected.

Your Turn!

  • How do you connect to the internet while off grid or in a tiny house?

Heating a Tiny House: How To Heat Your Tiny House And Stay Cozy All Winter Long

Heating a Tiny House: How To Heat Your Tiny House And Stay Cozy All Winter Long

heating a tiny house

NAVIGATION


Heating a tiny house 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 a few options.

Choosing Which Tiny House Heater Option Is Right For You:

There are a few things to consider when it comes to choosing a heater for your tiny house and it boils down to a few key things. First off will you be on the grid or off the grid. Off grid winter heating will narrow your options to a few, while if you are on the grid, you have many other options.

Once you’ve determined your grid status, you’ll need to consider the practicalities of your lifestyle. What do you want your life to be like day to day and what is and isn’t going to work for you. Many people idealize a wood stove, but they don’t think about waking up in the morning to a cold house before they can stoke a fire up again. For me I just wanted the simplicity of pressing a button, so I opted for a heat pump in my tiny house.

Sizing your heating system is critical to keeping your house nice and warm without getting too hot. I’ve been in my fair share of tiny houses where a heater either couldn’t keep up with how cold it was outside and I’ve also been in an equal number of tiny houses that were so hot we had to open windows in the dead of winter to prevent us from sweating. For me, I needed a tiny house heater that made about 3,000 BTUs for where I live in N.C. Use a BTU calculator to figure out what is right for you tiny house.

comparison of heating fuel prices

Finally price, money is important. Some setups cost more on the front end and less over time, while some are cheaper to start with and require on going costs or the costs are higher over the long term. I’ll dig into each of these as we go through all the options.

Electric Heater Options For A Tiny House:

heating a tiny house with electric

Electric Heater Pros

  • Inexpensive
  • Easy to find at any store
  • No installation, just plug in
  • Can find the right BTU size for you

Electric Heater Cons

  • Takes up floor space
  • They’re not particularly good looking
  • Expensive to run, draws a lot of power
  • Not practical for off the grid

Electric
Cost

  • $40-$100

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 and it takes up floor space. This option also requires you to be on the grid, most of these heaters start at 1,500 watts for a around 5,000 BTUs and go up from there. With electrical loads like that, you’d have to have a very expensive solar array to power that in the winter.

The great thing about electric heaters is that they’re super cheap, we picked our us for around $45 and you can find that at any major big box retailer. The do work well to heat a space and you have two main options: forced air and radiant heaters.

Forced Air is for when you want to heat up a space fast, the fan in them often is pretty loud, but you can heat the space quickly which is nice when we come home from work and want to turn up the heat. While they are noisy, this is a good option for us because we are out and about often, so we turn down the power while we are gone.

Radiant Heat is for when you can take the time to let a space to heat up. These are often oil filled radiators style heaters, which are near silent in their operation and gently heat the air around them. If you’re on the grid and going to be spending a lot of time in the house this is a good option because you can heat the house up and then let it coast.

Since this would only be a temporary situation right now, 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!

Heating A Tiny House With A Wood Stove Or Pellet Stove:

heating a tiny house with a wood stove

Wood or Pellet Stove Pros

  • Cozy fire is nice
  • Less impact on environment
  • Can be used to cook, heat and more
  • Fuel generally cheap

Wood or Pellet Stove Cons

  • Medium to high initial cost
  • Needs large clearances
  • Hard to find one small enough
  • Takes work and can be messy

Wood or Pellet Stove Cost

  • $800-$2,000

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 wood stove in her tiny house. 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.

Tiny House Wood Stove Options

It’s not easy to find a small wood burning fireplace, most are just too big for a small space. 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 Dickinson Marine wood stoves as well as Woodstock soapstone stoves made regionally over in New Hampshire. Kimberly Stoves are also an option, but are expensive.

Finally Hobbit Wood Stoves are a popular options because it’s one of the few best heating options for small homes due to it’s size. It’s designed for small spaces so it’s a serious contender for wood stoves for your tiny house.

ways to make the most out of a wood stove

There are a few considerations you need to make when it comes to having a wood stove in your tiny house. First is getting a stove small enough for you tiny house, if you don’t size it right, it will generate too many BTUs and leave you roasting inside your tiny house. This happens to most people when they try to heat their small house with wood because it’s hard to find a wood stove that’s small enough.

Next is the space it takes up. Wood stoves require a lot of space just in their size, but also in clearances. You often need to give a good amount of space around the wood stove to make sure it’s safe and doesn’t catch nearby surfaces on fire.

Finally consider your lifestyle and how a wood stove will impact that. Wood stoves require frequent tending, wood needs to be chopped, stacked, then hauled in and finally the stove needs to be cleaned. It’s a lot of hard work and it can be a messy affair when soot gets out. Pellet wood stoves I’ve found to be a happy medium between ease of use, easy temperature maintenance and ease. You can’t really make your own pellets, but there is a strong case to be made for them.

Kerosene Heaters For Indoor Use:

heating a tiny house with kerosene

Kerosene Heater Pros

  • Vented or un-vented
  • Thermostat Controlled
  • Burns very clean

Kerosene Heater Cons

  • Medium to high initial cost
  • Uses fossil fuels
  • Hard to find fuel sometimes

Kerosene
Cost

  • $80-$1,500

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 we have found 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 kerosene heaters are an option, but I’ve read a lot of mixed reviews. Another option is a free standing kerosene heater like a Dyna-Glo heater, which is nice because you can remove it when not using it. The main downside is that it isn’t a direct vent heater, so you need to be careful about air quality and safety. Overall, kerosene seems like a good option for back-up to electric heating,m but after more online research we are considering this option less and less.

Tiny House Propane Heater Options:

heating a tiny house with propane

Propane Heater Pros

  • Vented or un-vented
  • Thermostat Controlled
  • Burns very clean

Propane Heater Cons

  • Medium-to-high initial cost
  • Uses fossil fuels
  • Hard to find fuel sometimes

Propane
Cost

  • $80-$1,500

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 is an attractive and efficient option and was a contender to the wood stove option in our deliberations, but after talking with many other tiny housers, we heard a lot of bad things. Mainly that they look nice, but don’t put out enough heat. Even though the Dickinson heater says it puts out 4,000-5,500 BTUs, many people have called that into question. It also lacks a thermostat which was a deal breaker for us.

The other really good option if you’re considering this is a Mr. Heater propane heater. This was great in the south because we didn’t always need a big heater, so we could store it away when we needed to, but on those colder than normal nights we could break it out and heat our tiny house up fast. While it uses 1lb propane canisters, we felt it was very wasteful, so we got the 20lb propane tank connector hose (the size your grill runs off of).

What I like about propane is that it’s pretty cheap, I run my tiny house off of it and we spend about $100 per year heating the house, using it to cook and for my hot water heater for my tiny house. The other thing is you can get the tanks refilled almost anywhere and I prefer to use the 20lb tanks because even when they are full, I can carry them pretty easily.

Tiny House Heat Pumps:

heating a tiny house with heat pump

Heat Pump Pros

  • Can heat and cool
  • Thermostat Controlled
  • Takes up no floor space
  • Very efficient

Heat Pump Cons

  • High initial cost
  • Requires some expert help to setup
  • Doesn’t work in very cold climates

Heat Pump Cost

  • $800-$3,500

This is a good option for people who live on grid, because heat pumps are getting more and more efficient. In really cold locations this should generally be avoided because the system functions by capturing any available heat from the air and concentrating it to heat the home. Once you get to around 30 degrees, most units have electric heating coils to boost the system, but that puts you back in the boat of standard electric heating.

The upside to heat pumps is that the provide heating and cooling for your tiny house, which is what I ultimately decided for my system. While it is difficult, you can run a mini split off solar with a large enough system and an efficient enough system.

The main brands you want to look for is Mitsubishi and Fujitsu, both make good units that are a high SEER rating which is a measure of how efficient they are. You’ll want to find a unity that is at least a SEER 20 for on grid use, if you’re off grid you want to be as high of a SEER rating as possible. At the time of writing this, Carrier just launched a new mini split that is a SEER 42 which is astounding.

What’s great about mini splits is you can mount the air handler on the wall so it doesn’t take up any floor space. It is also programmable, so the thermostat can turn on and off when you want and some even allow you to control via your phone so you can turn it on remotely to come home to a toasty house.

Best Heating Options For A Tiny House:

best heating options for a tiny house

Now that we’ve broken down some of the major types of heaters for a tiny house, I want to share what I think are the best options when it comes to heating a tiny home.

1. Carrier Infinity Heat Pump – $2,500

Heat pump by carrierIt’s hard to beat these heat pump mini splits because that can heat and cool all in one unit. Their high efficiency inverter heat pump with a SEER of 42 is insane, I have yet to setup one, but I’m guessing it can heat at around 500 watts which is unheard of.

2. Heat Storm Deluxe Indoor Infrared Wall Heater – $80

convection electric heaterThis is the best alternative I’ve found to the popular Envi Flat Panel Heater which is no longer made. What’s great about this heater is it plugs right into an outlet, its very low profile so it doesn’t take up much space because it mounts right on the wall. The kicker is that since it’s just a plug in heater, you can remove it easily and store during the warmer months. At $80 and a 10 minute install it’s hard to beat it if you’re on the grid.

3. The Hobbit Small Wood Stove – $1,100

hobbit small wood stove for a tiny houseFor those who want to go off grid with your heating you’ll need a very small wood stove and the Hobbit Wood Stove is one of the smallest ones out there. While you could go with the Kimberly Stove, its very expensive. At 18 inches x 12 inches you can’t get much smaller and still feed it wood, so this is a great option for those who want to heat and cook with wood.

4. Mr. Heater – MH9BX Propane Heater – $69

Mr. Heater propane portable heaterThis is a great heater and super practical. It runs off of propane which you get almost anywhere, it’s easily portable and it puts off a lot of heat when you need it. I think everyone should have a Mr. Heater regardless of what heating option you go with as a back up heating source. It can be fuels by 1lb tanks or you can get the hose for grill size tanks.

5. Oil Filled Radiator Heater – $72

oil fille radiator heaterThis is another good option and make the cut for my list because they’re good at heating spaces, you can wheel it in when you need heat, but still store it when it’s warmer weather. The oil filled radiator means you have a nice even heat that doesn’t make much noise. The down side to these is that use up a lot of energy, so if you’re off grid it’s not an option and if you are on grid, power bills can be high.

Considerations When Heating Your Tiny House:

considerations when heating your tiny house

The last few points here to consider are safety, indoor air quality, and insulation. Obviously safety is paramount and many of these flame based heaters can lead to fires if you’re not careful. If you have smaller children, a heater on the floor presents a hazard to kids touching it. Indoor air quality is something to consider too. When in such a small space, as you burn fuels you’re using up your oxygen and putting out gasses like carbon monoxide which is serious business. Venting is always preferable, but it’s a trade off because venting takes up a lot of space and need to be done correctly.

Finally if you’re build your own tiny house, it’s important to make sure your house is well sealed and spending more money on insulation upfront will result in a lot less money being spent later on. Don’t skimp on your insulation and choose the highest quality windows that you can afford.

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!

which fuell option is best for heating a tiny home

Your Turn!

  • What do you recommend for heating a tiny space?
  • What options have you considered?