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.


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

Precision Temp RV-550 Eco Temp
Eco Temp
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

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?
  1. Wow, Ryan. You bring a lot of experience to this world. I get there’s a lot that goes into these tiny house energy decisions, and you are an encyclopedia for us, so thank you for that! I do enjoy your The Tiny Life feed.

  2. One thing I learned about gas piping, if you are using traditional threaded steel pipe, is not to use soapy water for leak detection. It makes the steel pipe rust much more quickly. I buy leak detection liquid for a few bucks from the hardware store and use that instead.

    The other thing I have noticed is that for very small leaks, neither soapy water nor leak detection fluid will find them. For those I put my nose right up against each joint and sniff until I find the culprit.

  3. Thanks you have me lots of ideas for our tiny cabin, one question do you have running water you hook up to your tankless water heater because we don’t have running water here any ideas thank you again Christina Deering

  4. This was very helpful, you obviously have experience, and I sincerely
    appreciate you writing it down to help dingbats like me.

  5. It gets incredibly cold where we will be moving to so it’s safe to say that we might need to have a furnace installed. The house featured is is so cute and it’s interesting to know you can find heating systems on propane that are small enough and with a blower that takes less power than usual. it would also be nice to subscribe to delivery services so we don’t need to go out for refills. http://longhornpropane.net/

  6. I’m looking at going off grid in a summer cottage. I understand I’d need to replace water heater and range with propane and would also likely install a propane fireplace. But I’ve also been told my other appliances might all have to be replaced, as the pure energy quality (don’t know how to properly say this) from the solar array can burn out computer boards in modern appliances. I also read that flash water heaters can’t be properly drained in winter (need to drain cottage to avoid burst pipes.) Are you able to comment on either of these issues?

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