Over the years, while my Tiny House dream faded in and out, one of the concerns that kept nagging at me was how I would manage heating and cooling.
There are many options for heating (propane, natural gas, electricity, wood stoves) and a few for cooling (fans, a/c, “swamp coolers”). My goal is to find the mix that will best work with my electrical plans.
The bad news is that heating and cooling require the most energy use of anything I’ll be using in my home, but the good news is that since the house will be under 150 sf, it won’t take much to regulate the temperature.
Here are the basics we’re going to start with for sure:
1: Good insulation. I like the idea of this wool insulation and many others have used it with success, especially in tiny homes.
2: I absolutely need to have a ceiling fan in place, like this picture from Oregon Cottage Company (where I intend to buy my plans):
The three types of heating source I considered were the woodstove, propane stove and electric heater.
First the wood stove:
Vogelzang BX22EL Lil Sweetie Cast Iron Stove
I have to admit, that little guy is cute and offers that “home-like” feeling that would be very cozy in the winter. However, since I work full time and have a little one running around, I don’t think it’s the best option for us. I wouldn’t have the time for the maintenance it requires, and there’s just something wrong with mixing 4 year old boys and fire…
Next, propane heat:
Mr. Heater 10,000 BTU Propane Radiant Vent Free Heater #VF10KRADLP
I strongly considered this propane heater…according to specs it heats up to a 300 sf room (which is double the size of my future tiny house), so it would be able to handle the load with no problem.
Where I wavered, however, is the use of propane. I’m just worried about carbon monoxide poisoning from using this as a continuous heat source. Plus, I’d like something that regulates itself according to room temperature. It’s still up for consideration, but I’m leaning towards:
I did a lot of research among the different types of electric heaters. There’s ceramic, oil, infrared and probably more I’m forgetting. My biggest concern, when choosing an electric heater, was how efficient it is, and how much wattage it uses.
DeLonghi HMP1500 Mica Panel Heater
This Mica panel heater seems to be using a newish technology and the reviews suggest it works really well. One review said they use this heater in a 200 sf room and the room gets to 80 degrees! You can use it on low (750 watts), or high (1500 watts). What I like about this is that using my Prius backup generator (more coming on that soon), I can power up to 1000 watts, so if we lose power, I can still use this heater on low (as long as I’m not using much else). It can be used free standing, but it also mounts on the wall, which I prefer. I was pretty sold on this Mica panel heater, but then I saw this:
Econo-Heat 0603 E-Heater, White
This guy uses only 400 watts and is supposed to heat up to 120 sf. It works via convective heat transfer, so it won’t take a cold room and make it warm very fast, but the reviews indicate that if you turn it on, after awhile, your room will heat up and this will keep it at the warmer temperature. Some reviews say it even works for rooms larger than 120 sf. Like the mica heater, it mounts on the wall (and it’s paintable, should I ever tire at looking at it).
Since it’s less than $80, I’m thinking of giving it a try. If it doesn’t work out, I can always try the Mica (also under $80 but uses more wattage). Or, I could supplement it with another 400 watt panel (or a 250 watt panel, they make those, too) and still be at the same, or just under the wattage of the Mica.
Whether I buy the Mica or the Econo-Heat Panel, reviews suggested using it with the following plug-in thermostat so it will cut on/off as needed:
Lux WIN100 Heating & Cooling Programmable Outlet Thermostat
It look like using this is pretty much like having all the benefits of a programmable thermostat while using a space heater (or air conditioner!).
For Spring and Fall, I’m hoping that intelligent use of our windows, in addition to our ceiling fan will cover most of our cooling needs. But Summers in Virginia can get pretty nasty.
I considered a Ductless Mini Split Unit like this:
Pioneer Ductless Mini Split Air Conditioner, Heat Pump, 12000 BTU (1 Ton), 13 SEER, Cooling, Heating, Dehumidification, Ventilation. Including 16 Foot Installation Kit.. 110~120 VAC.
This is like a heat and air pump, but smaller and ductless (as the name implies). Building that into the design is appealing, but it seems like no matter what, even if I go with a lower BTU model, it’s still going to suck some wattage. I also worry about failure. If it fails in any way, it’s going to be a pain to replace, whereas if I have individual units, I can just repair or replace each item as needed.
So for those ridiculously hot Summer days, I think I’ll just go the safe route and find the lowest BTU A/C I can find:
Frigidaire FRA052XT7 5,000-BTU Mini Window Air Conditioner
The lowest BTU a/c I’ve found so far is 5000, and that’s probably about right since it says it cools a room up to 150 sf. With good use of a fan (or fans), this should cool the tiny house enough. 5000 BTU = 1465 watts, so it’s on the high end of what I want to use. The WAY high end. We certainly could not use it in the event of a power outage. But…if we can be smart about the amount of solar exposure we get during the hottest months, maybe we won’t need to have it on that much.
So those are our tiny house heating and cooling ideas for now. Do you have any suggestions or ideas to add?