Most parts of the country are starting to feel the deep effects of the fall now and the Indian summer has moved out. Leaves have changed and almost all fallen. The areas of higher elevation are seeing snowfall and coastal cities are feeling the gusts off the water. It’s time to start thinking warmth. Much of the life of a tiny houser revolves around temperature control. The build is about insulation and material choice in addition to the appropriate heating/cooling system. In 1999 when Jay Shafer initially built his award-winning Fencl tiny house he inadvertently set a new sort of standard for those to follow. Jay installed a Dickinson Marine Propane Fireplace Heater.
For years such a model became a stalwart unit for tiny houses on wheels. But years have passed, times have changed, and new technologies have come about. Now we are seeing propane heater, wood burning stoves, radiant floor heating, mini split AC/heat pumps, and more. Like so many options available to the DIY builder, the choices can be dizzying. Based on experience and testimony, here are the best heaters available today for your tiny house.
One of the most popular heating options right now is the use of an actual wood burning stove. These little boxes are a great source of heat for small places because they put off ambient heat rather than a direct stream of warm air. Because of their size, you don’t have to actually have standard size logs. You typically use slivers of wood or bits of downed wood found naturally in the outdoors.
Another popular option is to use a propane stove. These can come with a bit of a safety concern though. It is recommended to only use a direct vent unit in a living space so that exhaust vapors and fumes vent directly to the exterior of the space. This, of course, adds expense, so is often overlooked. There are great options though through companies like Vermont Castings that offer propane units that look just like wood burning stoves but have remote control thermostats, timers, LCD control panels, vent filters, and more! The great thing about these units is you get the cozy ambiance of a fireplace with all the heat of a larger, electric unit!
If you are living on-grid an electric space heater may be just the answer. They range in size from small ceramic units that work great next to your reading nook and come as large as a traditional fireplace insert producing heat for nearly 1,000 sq.ft. The trick, if you will, is that they produce heat through electric coils and then use a blower system to circulate the warm air. They can be energy hogs though depending on their size and they can sometimes be noisy when the blower is on.
Similar to the electric space heater is the infrared heater. These are electric powered but far more energy efficient and loaded with a ton of features including log insert controls (size of the flame, brightness of flame, and even sound effects) and heat output controls via remote control! The notion of “infrared” may be offputting though. However, infrared technology is nothing more than a form of electromagnetic radiation wherein a body with a higher temperature transfers energy to a body with a lower temperature.
Recently mini-split units have begun popping up on the majority of professionally built tiny houses on wheels. Because of the minimum floor space in a tiny house to begin with a mini-split make a lot of sense just in that department. Installation is fairly easy as well although it is a bit more than just plug and play. The evaporator unit of the mini-split is placed outside of the home (mounted on the side of the house or on the hitch area, etc) and the fan/control unit is mounted to an inside wall (and towards the top of the wall so as to be out of sight and traffic patterns). They were initially designed for zone heating and cooling but with a tiny house being so small, it acts a zone and is heated appropriately and for very little money or electrical draw.
Is there a heating option we left out? How do you currently heat your tiny house? Let us know by commenting below or visiting our Facebook page.