There always seems to be that one tricky light in a house. You know, it is the one that is operated by two different light switches. Of course, the switches are across the room from each other, leaving you trapped in a little game of who is on and who is off. You flip the switch closet to you to the ON position. Nothing happens. You look over at the other switch and through your squinted eyes you see it is also in the ON position. No good. Wait a second! Why wasn’t the light on in the first place then? Frustrated you walk over to the other switch. Mind you this required you getting up out of your favorite chair and taking several steps that were otherwise unplanned! You flip the opposing switch to the OFF position and light magically comes on. “Eureka!”, you think. This one has to be off and the other, on. Doesn’t matter though. It’s not the point of the story. The point of the story is that until you actually live in a house, some things just won’t make sense. They look good on paper and theoretically seem plausible. But until you are right there with them – living with them – you don’t know for sure. That is how it is when it comes to preparing your tiny house for cold weather. And boy is our nation experiencing some cold weather right now!
Sure you should have an electric hose warmer to keep your water from freezing as it comes out of the spigot. Yes, it is a wise idea to have proper insulation throughout the house. And of course, it is wise to have a primary heating system and maybe even a small backup unit. But that still doesn’t cover everything. Maybe the following tips will help take you from ‘Staying Warm In Your Tiny 101’ to the more advanced and less thought of ‘Staying Warm In Your Tiny 301’ course.
PUT A BLANKET AROUND IT
So you have a water storage tank built into your house? Maybe it is in the flooring or even under the trailer? Guess what? When temps dip below 32ºF the tank and the water in it is not immune to freezing. The floor insulation will not keep the water warm enough to avoid freezing. That is why you should research adding an Omega Flexible Heating Blanket. The blankets are easy to install as they just adhere to your actual holding tank. They are available in 120V which makes wiring rather standard, and they can be programmed to come on at 40º and turn off at 60º; just inside the safe-from-freezing zone.
PROVIDE A SOURCE
Sure, no one likes to look at a water storage tank. That is understood. However, if you so cleverly hide your water storage in a front storage closet (on the tongue of the trailer) or under a bench or something of that nature, the insulation in that area will only maintain the heat provided. Consider putting a louver cover or a vent that allows the warm air from your house to circulate into the storage area. You have a better chance of maintaining your water temp (read: keeping it from freezing in extreme cold) and thereby keeping your pipes intact.
NO. NOT THE DUCT TAPE AGAIN
If you use a tankless hot water heater that vents inside you are going to want to make sure there is some heat in that utility area. While tankless hot water heating systems contain freeze prevention heaters, the hot and cold water plumbing lines leading to and from the water heater do not. Protect these lines from freezing by insulating them with items such as pipe covers, solenoids or heat tape.
OPEN CABINET DOORS
You may not know this, but pipes are often located in the cabinets and especially in their areas of connection (near the kitchen faucet and the bathroom appliances, etc). As the temperature begins to reach the freezing point, it is a good idea to keep cabinet doors open so that the heat from the rest of your tiny house can keep these pipes warm as well.
COULD YOU CLOSE THE CURTAINS PLEASE
Ask most any tiny houser and the one thing they will agree on is that windows are the key to having a spacious feeling small space. They let in natural light. They expand the living area, making the world your living room. They lose a lot of heat no matter what EnergySaver certification they are. Let’s admit it. Windows are the best and the worst given the time of year. One way to make your windows operate with efficiency during the bitter cold of winter’s bite is to hang heavy duty curtains or even quilts over the windows. During the day, let the sunlight in to warm the ambient temperature of the house. But as soon as the sun sets, close the curtains (not shades!), hang the quilts, and keep in your heat!
CUT A RUG
It seems simple enough. The floor is cold and it seems that cold air is rising from underneath your trailer despite your insulation. Get some heavy area rugs. Lay down a few quilts. It may not be pretty but it will certainly add some insulation and keep those floors from getting so cold, which, in turn, affects the ambient temperature of the house.
KNIT A HAT AND BUY SOME MITTENS
If worse comes to worse and you lost the war with the pipes and your teeth are chattering a mile a minute, put on your favorite knit toboggan, maybe a scarf, and some 3M insulated mittens. You may not have water flowing through your house but you’ll be warm in your own skin!
Did we miss anything? Should there be a graduate level course on staying warm? What are some of your tips? Did we miss anything? Please let us know in the comment section below or by visiting our Facebook page to join the conversation. If you just want to follow our tiny house experiences and lessons, follow us on Instagram!