Depending on where you live, you’ll want to spend the winter in your tiny home feeling warm and cozy. Without proper research, you could end up with ice cold feet or wasting precious energy opening windows in an overheated small space.
This is why choosing the correctly sized heater for your tiny house is so important. Let’s take a look at some recommendations and tips for staying toasty (and smart!) in your tiny home this winter.
First, you need to calculate how many BTUs your tiny home will need to regulate the temperature in a manner that is both efficient and comfortable. British Thermal Units are the approximate amount of energy it takes to heat one pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit. Use this calculator to help determine the number of BTUs based on the dimensions of your space, insulation conditions, and desired temperature changes.
Next, we will go over the different types of tiny house heating systems to help you find out which option is best for your lifestyle.
Grid Tied Heat
Intended for the permanent or semi permanent location for your tiny house with a grid-tied source that provides reliable electricity. In other words, you aren’t moving anytime soon!
These are sleek, fairly compact units that are mounted inside the home with a compressor that is mounted outside in order for it to work. The fan system blows air throughout the room, effectively cooling or heating the space.
- Ideal because you have the option of both heating and cooling.
- Energy efficient
- For temperature drops below zero, some units struggle with generating heat
- Can be pricier than other heating options
- Can’t be covered up if it doesn’t fit the design aesthetic of your tiny home
Price: avg. $2000
It’s incredible to see the way in which people have invented ways to make technology look good. Electric heaters today are an example of that. Today, you can purchase a good ‘ol plug-in electric heater that looks like a rustic stove.
- Newer models look great, and can fit a rustic or stylish design aesthetic
- Silent & simple set up
- Electric heat is more expensive
- Smaller units can take longer to heat up a tiny house in extremely cold temperatures
- Keep in mind, some plug-in models get hot on the surface and can burn small hands!
Price: avg. $160
Under the floor heating, more traditionally seen in bathrooms, is now becoming more popular in main rooms of modern houses. But is it worth the extra cost? It’s up to you to decide if the set up and price is worth the toasty toes.
- Consumes less energy, is more cost-efficient
- Easy to control temperature
- Takes up less space
- Installation cost
- Certain types of flooring are more effective for radiant floor heating (i.e. tile)
- A minimum floor height is required to install systems
Price: avg. $10-20 per square foot / $200-$250 installation fee
Itching to get on the road? With this type of heat, you and your tiny home are not bound to one location. Some of the more popular methods of heating your off-grid tiny house are by using energy generated by solar, wood or propane.
Exploring alternative solutions? Solar energy and anything environmentally friendly is pretty popular nowadays. Like many trends, solar power is also fairly pricey. If you decide to shell out the cash for going solar, we salute you! Before we continue, a key thing to understand is the difference between active and passive solar heating.
Active solar heating uses additional equipment (back up systems) to store and convert solar energy into electricity.
Passive solar heating creates heat without external systems, and generally relies on windows to capture and retain heat (i.e. a greenhouse).
An active solar heating option, this system relies on the collection of solar energy that heats air which is then circulated through the room.
- Cuts the cost of energy bills
- Relies on sunlight
- Unless you’re a professional, you might want some installation assistance!
Price: avg. $1000-$6000 dependent on size
For this type of heating system, it’s important to understand the difference between direct-vent and non-vented units. Non-vented units have no direct connection to outside, and are said to create vapors that give off a funny smell. Let’s stay away from those.
This system is compact and all fumes are piped directly to the exterior of your tiny house. While you won’t have to worry about fumes, you will have to make sure your pipes meet clearance specifications on the road.
- Can fit a stylish design aesthetic
- Controllable heat
- Durable & quiet
- Can be pricey
- You’ll need to carry multiple propane tanks onboard
- Not the most sustainable option
Price: avg. $4000
Figuring out what size wood stove you need is extra important because you don’t want to take up unnecessary space in your tiny house. With a real fire in your home, you will also want to take necessary precautions to ensure that your wood stove is secured into the floor, as well as that there is a safe perimeter around the unit.
- Real fire (you can’t beat the wonderful smell and feel!)
- Can be compact but still pack a ton of heat
- Great design quality
- Real fire (take extra precaution!)
- You’ll need to create space to carry your firewood
Price: avg. $600
Geothermal Heating Pumps
This is an electrically powered heating and cooling system that sends heat between your tiny house and the ground through long loops of underground pipework. Although extremely efficient, you won’t see too many of these around because they are quite expensive to install (and also underground).
- Greatly reduces greenhouse gas emissions
- Cuts cooling and heating costs
- Not a lot of maintenance required
- The hefty price tag
- Involves digging of the land
- You’ll need a specialist to install
Price: avg. $15,000 - $20,000
You might be reading this and thinking, how do I choose when there are so many options? You’re not alone. Remember, the best tiny house heating option is the one which suits your individual home and personal needs. For example, an individual with access to grid-tied power might choose to have the more eco-friendly, off-grid option.
Consider these questions before you go:
- How many BTUs does my tiny house heating system need where I will be living or travelling?
- Will I be needing off-grid or grid-tied power?
- Will I work from home or will I be away during the day?
- Do I have access to sources of fuel (i.e. wood, propane etc.)
- Am I willing to pay more for alternative energy?
-Am I on wheels or on fixed foundations?
At the end of the day, many tiny house enthusiasts support a mindful way of living–this is particularly true when it comes energy consumption. However, if the most cost-efficient option is your goal, then choose what best works for you and your lifestyle. Remember, the power is in your hands!