Unfortunately, when it comes to building a tiny home, “small” doesn’t always equate to “cozy.” Cold northern climates present a unique challenge for homeowners. With space at a premium, there’s often little room for the same type of heating systems you may find in a conventional home.
Faced with dropping temperatures, it may be tempting to just buy an RV and drive south instead. But living in Canada shouldn’t stop you from building or owning a tiny home—just make sure you consider these factors before you begin the ultimate downsize.
Although there’s less space to heat in a tiny home, there’s also less room for furnaces and ductwork, which is why proper insulation is key. Choosing high-quality insulation (such as vacuum-insulated panels) with a high R-value to install in the floors, roof, and walls will play a major role in keeping you toasty. Double-paned or triple-paned windows are also a must.
If your home is mobile, creating a temporary seasonal foundation around the exterior of your home may also protect you from the elements. Covered hay bales stacked around the exterior of the home, for example, will create an extra layer of insulation.
With proper sealing to ensure the home is airtight, little will be needed to heat the small space. Radiant heating, electric space heaters, wood stoves, and propane heaters are all options, while ceiling fans may be helpful to draw hot air up and distribute it around the house. Passive solar heating will also play a role in ensuring that you stay warm all winter long.
While sealing your tiny home and choosing materials that have high R-values is vital to reduce energy and heat loss, this comes with its own set of problems. Without an exchange of fresh air, moisture build-up caused by cooking and showering can lead to mould growth.
While tiny houses in warmer climates can opt for RV-style roof holes with plastic covers, those in cold climates will need to install a duct system. But with reduced room for ductwork, this can be a challenge. One solution is to install a compact ventilation system such as the Lunos e2. Used in the Leaf 3, a tiny house designed for the climate of the Yukon, the Lunos needs minimal room and is energy efficient. Another solution is PVC piping, which was used by these homeowners in Wyoming to combat extreme weather.
Gone is the massive hot water tank that you’re probably familiar with. Worse, living in a tiny home increases your chances of burst or frozen pipes.
The first solution is to avoid installing pipes on the exterior walls of your house, where they are more likely to freeze. Secondly, select a piping material that is unlikely to burst when the temperature drops, such as such as cross-linked polyethylene (or PEX piping). Finally, pipes can be wrapped in heat tape or foam insulation.
In order to stay warm, clearing snow off your roof on a regular basis will also be necessary. The Leaf 3 boasts a sloped roof for this reason, which doubles as lofted sleeping space.