I knew I would find myself with snow and cold winters when I built the tiny house. I have now had 2 winters living in the the tiny. With some lessons learned, and I’m sure more to be learned, I have a pretty good list started that I run through as the temperatures start to drop.
Propane tanks/ Heat
It’s important for my water heater, wall heater, oven and stove top that I always have propane to keep them running. I have 3 tanks, 2 - 20 pound tanks and 1 - 30 pound tank that I try to keep filled on a regular bases in the winter. Getting to Durango and finding a refill station was essential as swapping tanks at grocery stores can cost $20 a pop. The place I found (Basin Co-Op) refills all 3 for $25. In terms of frequency, I would estimate that I get all 3 refilled once every month and a half. The wall heater definitely takes a lot of propane to keep the house at a nice 55 - 60 degrees. In the summer I need to refill the tanks only twice throughout the whole summer. When I leave the house for a few days I always put on a new tank so that the wall heater remains running as I am away. See post from last winter when the inside of my house froze and broke my water heater. Having a backup electric space heater I found has been great as well. If I ever find myself without propane as I’m headed to bed, the space heater keeps the house nice and toasty.
I am looking into a propane tank blanket. I’ve heard horror stories of propane pipes breaking in the winter but I’m not sure that with the temperatures in Durango I will need it.
This is a big one and it is important to consider your whole system as the temperatures start to drop.
Heated hose - Very important to have an electric heated hose bringing the water into your house. Your hose will freeze when the temperatures drop and this keeps things warm enough to continue running.
Heat tape - Putting heat tape around the connection to your house and the connection to the water source is a good idea. Those 2 seemingly small sections will most certainly become ice blockades in the winter. This has happened to many times, and though the solution is to stand outside with a hairdryer for 20 min for the the ice to melt, heat tape eliminates this problem. Countless mornings I stood outside at 7 am in 10 degree weather with a hair dryer, just wanting hot coffee but having no water coming to the house. Figuring out those extra cold spots and wrapping them with heat tape solves this problem easily. It’s a good idea to have heat tape also run along your drain pipes. I recommend running heat tape on the bottom of the drain pipes, then wrapping the pipes with insulation. This keeps everything nice and warm so that you won’t get backup in the drain line.
Drain line slope - I didn’t do this last year, but found out this year that’s it’s pretty important. You want to make sure your drain line has a slight downward slope. Your whole drain line can freeze if the water doesn’t continues to flow downwards. Easy enough to do, just attach the line to a long piece of wood that’s sloped down.
3. Exterior + Insulation
Knowing that I’d be moving to Colorado when we were building the house, we were able to build for the Colorado climate.
Roof - I remember the discussion we had on the roof and how it would look. My dad came up with the idea of the flat roof with a slight downward slope. This has been great to keep snow from piling up, as the slope helps snow move it’s way off the roof on its own as the temperature gets warmer. Also, the roof is metal, which helps any snow buildup from happening.
Insulation - It’s proving to be very beneficial that we gave the whole house a high R - Value. It stays super warm and it’s not drafty no matter the temperature outside.
I haven’t had a huge problem with this just yet… I don’t know if it’d because the days are generally pretty warm and we open windows. Occasionally I will get moisture on the bottom of my windows. I am considering an electric humidifier like this one.
5. Ceiling fan
This has been the best! I was worried that I’d have a hard time regulating the heat in the loft but with the fan, it circulates the heat pretty evenly. In the winter, you run it in reverse which helps to distribute the heat around the house. The fan draws air up and pushes the hot air off of the ceiling.