Bummer .. It’s Time to Winterize the Tiny House

Marc Bilodeau/ Planning, Tiny House

Since I live in Maine, winter is a reality. Snow, cold, and ice are a way of life for many months each year. Despite efforts to ready the tiny house for comfort throughout the winter, it isn’t quite ready to be self-reliant throughout those cold days. This year, winter wins the race. Thus, it’s time to winterize the tiny house.

What does it mean to Winterize?

In general, to winterize means to protect a home from the cold. Not only can cold damage the home, it can cost more by using extra energy to maintain a comfortable temperature. Here are some helpful tips to winterize a home.

  1. Clean or replace filters. Dirty filters restrict airflow and require more energy. Clean and replace filters once a month during the heating season.
  2. Run Ceiling Fans in reverse. When a ceiling fan runs clockwise, it pulls warmer air from the ceiling and pushes it down toward the floor.
  3. Drain pipes and water lines. If temperatures drop below freezing inside the home, drain all water from any plumbing. Ice will expand and likely break pipes.
  4. Turn down the water heater’s temperature. 120F (or roughly 50C) is hot enough for use in the sinks and showers. During colder months, the typical 140F (or 60C) setting uses more energy to maintain.
  5. Plug drafts along doors and windows. The Department Of Energy says that drafts can waste from 5% to 30% of energy. Using a draft snake at the base of a door or window can help prevent cool area from passing through. Replacing older windows with Storm Windows, or using a window installation kit can save money and energy.
  6. Monitoring electrical use. Using a real-time electrical monitor can save energy by simply being aware of what’s in use at any given time. The Neurio in this tiny house makes me think twice about what I power on.
  7. Caulking and Weatherstripping. Replacing or adding additional caulking and weatherstripping around doors and windows reduces the energy use to maintain a comfortable temperature.
  8. Replace thin or spare insulation. Replace poor or missing insulation around window frames, attics, and basement floors.

What about a Tiny House?

Many of these tips make sense and apply to both traditional homes and tiny houses. However, a tiny house does create unique challenges that may increase the likelihood of certain issues due to an airtight and well winterized home.

  1. Propane Tanks. Many tiny houses use propane for cooking and heating. As propane tanks get colder, the pressure inside the tank decreases. This can affect the pressure of propane to appliances. Wrapping the tanks in a propane tank blanket can help maintain the ideal temperature for optimal pressure.
  2. Humidity. Since tiny houses are much smaller than traditional homes, humidity can become a problem. A dehumidifier can help remove excess moisture and help maintain a healthier balance of humidity in the air.
  3. Air Quality. An airtight home does reduce energy use and overall costs. However, it traps air. Check batteries in any carbon monoxide and smoke detectors. Also, consider installing a HRV or ERV to keep fresh air moving throughout the tiny house.

Although there are many tips discussed, every situation is unique. Take some time and look at what’s in your home and think about how the cold may affect or damage it. Is there anything that can be done to winterize it? Proper planning and research can save time, money, and energy.

Let’s Winterize this Tiny House

This doesn’t mean that work on this tiny house will stall until spring. There is still a portable propane heater to provide the necessary warmth to make further progress. However, the heat isn’t on when there is no one inside. Therefore most of the time, the temperatures will be below freezing.

First, all the water has been drained from the tiny house plumbing. If water freezes within the pipes, it would likely break the pipes and damage the appliances. At this point, that would be horrible since all the pipes are behind finished walls.

winterize the tiny house plumbing
(left) The air compressor helps push excess water out of the pipes. (right) Removing the trap cap drains the outside trap.

Next, all appliances in the tiny house are off and unplugged. This includes the refrigerator, convection oven, and hot water heater on the kitchen wall. Most electronics have a operating range. As a precaution, this prevents these electronics from running in temperatures below the recommended specifications.

Tiny House Kitchen - Cooking Station

Lastly, the ceiling fan in the great room now spins clockwise. This will push warmer air near the ceiling toward the floor. Consequently, it will require less propane for the portable heater to heat the entire tiny house while working inside during the winter.

Conclusion

Whether it’s a car, tiny home, or traditional dwelling, money and energy can be saved by taking the time to winterize. Although a tiny house doesn’t use as much energy as a typical home, it’s still important to conserve energy wherever you can. Not only does it help the wallet, it helps the environment too.