Tiny Homes in Cold Climates?

Posted: Nov 5, 2015 by BHHSMT

Do you think you could live in a "tiny" home?  The thought of living in a space that is a fraction of what one may be used to is a bit like a fantasy, in which it seems it wouldn't work!  Ahh, alas, it works for many, and below is a guide to building and maintaining a tiny home in cold/very cold climates.

The cold months are upon us, a time when many of us are more aware of our heating, power and overall energy output.  Tiny homes are becoming more and more popular all over the world with innovative and creative designs that can cater to just about any specific need, including energy efficiency.  So, how do you design a home specifically for cold/very cold climates?  Well, for the most part, you would apply the same measures as you would with a traditional home, only on a smaller scale, starting with the home site. 

During the winter months, the sun is a great source of warmth from the south, therefore, one of the first and most important moves you can make is to face your longest wall facing south.  Planning the majority of your windows along the south facing wall allows for natural sunlight and warmth to be utilized as a heat source, for FREE!  Pay attention to where trees are located on your building site, keeping in mind that you don't want to create too much shade, if any along the south wall.  The type of trees that you have also play a factor in the process, for example, if the trees shed their leaves and the majority of their branches, chances are you will still be able to soak up those rays in the winter while obtaining nice shade in the summer.   A handy tip that may otherwise be overlooked is to avoid using sky lights in these cold climates.  During the winter the location of the sun is lower than in the summertime, meaning you will end up with maximum heat from the sun in the summer (when you likely DON'T want it) and little to zero heat in the winter months.

Passive solar building design involves using window placement, walls and floors to collect solar heat energy in the winter and to reject it in the summer, when  you likely don't need it.  Insulating the walls, floors and roof like crazy is one of the absolute basic solutions in keeping your home warm and energy efficient in the cold.   Be sure to use a water resisten caulk around all windows and doors, as this can help save on up to 50% of energy loss due to cracks and leaks.  A way to use the floors to collect heat is by using alternative heat options, one which proves to be even more cost effective in tiny homes is the use of radiant in-floor heating.  Often heated by hot water, the radiant heat does a stellar job at keeping homes very warm!  Whichever heating system you choose for your home, be certain to keep it operating properly by performing routine maintenance on it to keep it in tip top shape.

In addition to the way you situate your home on the building site, the placement of the windows, use of effective heat sources and proper insulation techniques, one of the final steps to keeping your home warm and toasty is to insulate pipes and other plumbing.  There are several options, below are some inexpensive and effective ways to keep those pipes from freezing and to keep them operating smoothly during the cold weather.

Pipe heating cables: These cables start around $20 and go up in cost depending on the length.

Foam insulation tubes: Often these come in 6ft lengths and start at around $8 each.

Heat tape is around $12 for 100ft.

Take the time to research the benefits of living in a tiny home before knocking it!  Where you once thought you could only survive in a 2,500sf home, you may be surprised to realize how simple and cost effective it can be to chop those square feet down to 600 or less.  The tips and techniques above, as mentioned, can be used for any home in a cold or very cold climate, but perhaps you should challenge yourself while saving money by investing in a tiny home!