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Tiny House Cold Climate Prep

Tiny House Cold Climate Prep

We recently moved to the Colorado Rockies after being evicted from Denver. This is our first cold winter in the tiny house. Read below for tips on how we prepped our tiny house for such a cold climate.

Tiny House winterizing - 0008Tiny House Cold Climate Prep

The following applications are intended for wintering in your tiny house. If you plan on storing your tiny house for the winter (not living in it) there are different methods for winterizing. Check out RV websites and forums for these methods.

Start with Decent Insulation

The first ingredient to keeping a warm tiny house, is insulation. We insulated our walls, roof and floor with rigid foam. We estimate our total R-value is R-18. If we could do it again, we’d probably splurge for spray foam to get a little more R-value. If you’re planning on living in your tiny house in an extremely cold climate, its a good idea to add an extra layer of insulation on the outside of your walls, like Mark Wipfli did in his Alaskan Tiny Home.

Skirt your Trailer

The coldest part of our tiny house is the floor. To save a few bucks, we built a snow skirt around our trailer. We also purchased tire covers for extra protection.

**Or check out this $100 DIY Tiny House skirt option that doesn’t melt every year! This is what I use now **

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Our propane water heater vents through the floor and our wood stove has a floor air-intake. It’s important to keep these vents clear so that the appliance can function properly. We dug air holes in our snow skirt so that those pipes could vent/receive oxygen.

Two options for FRESH WATER

Because our RV hose will freeze, we fill our 46 gallon fresh water tank every 3-4 days from a nearby spigot. Sometimes the spigot freezes, so we try to fill our tank in the afternoon when it has thawed. This takes some planning and thinking ahead. Trust me, it’s no fun to run out of water at night!

I considered purchasing a heated hose, but it was out of our budget. With a heated hose, we could stay hooked up to the spigot. No more tank fill days! This is what Brittany Yunker does in her Washington based tiny home.

**UPDATE: I purchased a heated hose and now use that every winter**

Plan ahead for your GREY WATER

Luckily, we are parked next to a large wooded area on private land, so we simply pour our grey water into an isolated area. We use all biodegradable soaps, so the environment is not damaged by our grey water. In fact, I like to think it’s a great way to recycle! Check with your local zoning laws and dispose of your grey water responsibly. Digging a french drain is a great option for grey water disposal, but you’ll need to dig below permafrost line. If this is your plan, start in late summer! We missed our opportunity.

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Protect your PROPANE

We screwed up big time and ignored this step, which is only necessary in EXTREMELY cold climates (like Colorado). The propane pipes froze in our tankless water heater*, and we had to replace them (setting us back about $235 in new parts). Ouch!  After that fiasco, we purchased a $380 propane tank blanketOuch again! We only purchased one, so we swap it whenever we swap tanks. If you are living in an area with temperatures that rarely dip below freezing, you can purchase the cheaper $95 propane blanket. A propane blanket will help your propane last longer and operate more efficiently. I didn’t think we needed one, but now I’m a believer!

*We have a propane tankless water heater. Be sure to ask the manufacturer about cold climate practices for your specific water heater.

The #1 mistake new Tiny Housers make for winter living is to ignore their water heater

Some Tiny House builders try to save space by installing the water heater on the outside of your Tiny House (sometimes in a utility area on the tongue). This area is not insulated, so your water heater is not protected from the elements. This means, if you choose to winter in your Tiny House, your water heater will VERY likely freeze because there is always water sitting inside of the unit’s piping. Make sure to ask your builder to use a water heater that can be installed inside the insulated part of your house if you plan to winter in a Tiny House.

Tiny House winterizing - 0005Humidity Prevention 

Condensation is the enemy. Most tiny home owners like to keep a window open or a skylight vented at all times to reduce moisture problems, but that’s not very efficient in cold climates. Our wood stove acts as a dehumidifier. We also purchased an electric dehumidifier for the winter season.

Screen Shot 2015-11-18 at 2.51.18 PMConsider covering your windows

While great for letting in natural light, windows are terrible insulators. We have fourteen double-pane windows in our tiny house, and that’s not counting two skylights and our half-glass front door! For extremely cold climates, such as Alaska, installing triple-pane windows (or opting to have fewer windows) is a good idea. We considered buying thicker drapes or places foam over the skylights, but I didn’t want to spend the money.

accurite
Accurite Weather Station. Photo: amazon.com

Purchase a Weather Station

Because we are obsessed with keeping our house warm and dry, we purchased a weather station to help us monitor our interior climate. We love it! Obviously, this is optional, but I can’t recommend it enough.

Don’t forget your tow vehicle

Our truck is parked outside and she does NOT love the cold weather. We try to run it on a daily basis, but some mornings she won’t start at all. We now have her plugged in to keep the engine warm, but she still acts up occasionally. I think Ol’ Bertha is up to her old tricks! Remember when she sabotaged our Alaska Highway trip and forced us to put her on a boat? Here are some tips for keeping a diesel truck warm in the winter (without a garage).

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29 Comments

  1. Liz Ackerman, Boise, Idaho
    December 14, 2015 / 11:48 pm

    A neighbor I had many years ago would apply sheets of plastic bubble wrap to the inside of his windows — the air space in the bubbles providing additional insulation. Bubble wrap comes in all sizes of “bubbles” so insulation factor probably varies based on bubble size. If I recall correctly he said he just sprayed the window with water (fine mist) and stuck the bubble wrap on. Heavy drapes are great for nightime cocooning while leaving the bubble wrap on all the time lets the light in, not so much the view though. Just a thought…

    • Jason C
      June 7, 2016 / 12:27 am

      They make a clear plastic film that can be applied to windows with double sided tape that works great. It comes in a kit that would easily be big enough to cover the windows in a tiny house. It usually goes for about 7-8 bucks. You shrink it with a hair dryer and you can see right through it. I used it on old single pain windows that when the wind blew you could feel the breeze right through the window and it worked awesome. Significantly lowered my heating bill. Will work on double pane windows as well. It will create a temporary third pane. there are a few brands out there. Duck, 3m, frost king. Usually can find it at Wal-mart.

  2. Robert T.
    December 12, 2015 / 9:03 am

    In the process of selection a wood stove to heat a 8′ X 21′ T.H.O.W .with loft. I know this is a” loaded” question . I’m trying to find out what this stove can really do.

    At what outside temperature does your Kimberly fail to heat your space ? OR stated another way When outside temperature range between 20 and 32 degrees F what temperature can you maintain inside using the Kimberly without use of a secondary heat source ?

    • December 20, 2015 / 11:10 am

      Hi Robert, we still don’t feel like we’ve thoroughly tested the Kimberly yet since we’ve been gone for a month and we’re not burning the recommended hardwood. We’re burning not super dry pine that we got from the property we parked on (price was right) and it tends to burn quicker and not as hot as hardwood. We use the Kimberly in conjunction with the EnviHeater to help even out the temperature when the fire goes out.
      With that setup (not so dry pine wood and EnviHeater), we easily reach over 70 degrees inside when temperatures are in the 20’s outside. I think it’d be pretty similar if we turned the EnviHeater off, it just helps when the flames die. Last night it got down to 21 degrees outside and we went to bed with a house at 77 degrees!!! By 7am, it was still 65 degrees inside. I assume the fire went out 2 or 3 hours after the last load of wood.

  3. November 30, 2015 / 6:52 pm

    My husband owned a trucking company using diesel trucks and I believe they would use heaters on the truck engines to get them started in the early 4:00 a.m. Hours….good luck…when and if I get mine I will be wintering in Florida!!!

  4. November 30, 2015 / 2:12 pm

    visit Utah Biodiesel and purchase a fuel filter heater. That tends to be the biggest problem with diesel freezing. You shouldn’t need anything for the propane tanks. I live on the east coast and ours were buried under 7 feet of snow and never had an issue.

  5. November 30, 2015 / 2:08 pm

    Hope I’m not double posting here, but remembering camping near Steamboat Springs at -20F while hunting (and successfully using propane), it strikes me that you might get close to the -43.6F evaporation point for propane at times, and that a tank heater plus some insulation might be a wise idea–I’m assuming you have some reliable electricity. Otherwise, you’ll want to see how well you can learn to “bank” the fire in your stove–our ancestors did manage to keep fires going all night, though the mornings were often chilly.

  6. November 28, 2015 / 5:58 pm

    Would one of those plastic make shift garages offer any solution to keeping your diesel truck warm by blocking some of the cold wind. I don’t know… do they come with zipper doors? Just a thought!

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