Those aspiring to tiny house living often have the picture of endless summer in their minds: free parking on the beach, hikes through national parks and lazy afternoons in the desert. But for most North Americans, winter is coming—in fact, it’s already here. So what about that dream of tiny house living? We caught up with a couple of tiny home owners to see how they beat the winter chills.
Move to a Warmer Climate
Antoinette Franklin, otherwise known as Antoinette Yvonne, is a solo van-lifer from Indiana. She’s been traveling across the country in her 2019 RAM Promaster, 136 WB, high roof for over a year.
“It gets too cold and snowy [in Indiana] for my liking,” she says. “I travel where the sun shines and the temperature is warm.” Her favorite spots are Baja, Mexico, Southern California and central or southern Arizona.
“Being from the midwest, one gets tired of the cold. I don't even want to see snow,” she says. “So those western states work for me.”
She likes the desert during the winter because of the scenery. It doesn't have many trees that might block the sun. It also doesn’t get much rain during the winter season.
“Rain plus mud plus a van equals a mess,” she remarks.
Jennifer Fuist can relate to ditching cold climates for friendlier weather. She lives in a 224-square-foot tiny house, named Tiny Dreamer. She used to live in Illinois, where temperatures fell below 20 degrees at times. Eventually, she escaped the harsh winters and moved south to Georgia and settled in Tennessee, where winters aren’t as harsh.
Winterize Your Tiny Home
Fuist didn’t bother winterizing her home while she was in Illinois, because she knew she was going to move to a warmer climate. Now that she’s spent enough winters in the south, she’s made some upgrades to keep it warm during the cold months.
She keeps her pipes on a thin drip and purchased a 25-foot and a 50-foot heat-taped hose to keep her pipes from freezing.
While many people who live in mobile homes choose to skirt the building, she opted not to. Skirting involves adding a panel around the base of the home to prevent cold air or drafts from freezing pipes or cooling the floors.
“I felt skirting would have been more of a hassle since I wont be staying long in this location,” she explains.
Instead, she is going the old-fashioned route: If there are drafts under the house she can simply put on a warm pair of socks. However, she recommends skirting their tiny house to anyone planning to live in cold temperatures full-time.
Use Air Conditioning, Heaters and Electric Blankets
Heaters and air conditioners are important for most tiny home owners, especially in cold weather.
In the colder months, Fuist stays warm by using her mini split air conditioner, which produces both cold and warm air.
“I set it to a comfortable temperature,” she says. “I used to use space heaters but they used a lot of electricity so I purchased two electric heating blankets. I keep one on my bed and one on my chair in my business office. If I'm cold after using those things then I grab a hoodie or more clothes.”
Franklin uses similar methods to stay warm in chilly weather. “What I've done the past eight months on the road was to use a 12-volt electric blanket,'' she explains. “It saved my life.”
She also got an upgrade to her van over the summer and now has a heater installed.
“So if the electric heating blanket doesn't settle my bones, then the heater does,” Franklin says.
Challenges of Staying Warm in the Winter
Living in a tiny house in the winter months comes with challenges besides staying warm, like preventing condensation and mold from developing in the building.
"Since it gets cold and the heat is on, people usually don't open windows, since it would make the heat escape,” Fuist says. “Not opening windows has been a problem for me before because mold has grown in the windows when they are closed due to rain getting trapped in there.”
Another challenge Fuist has faced is trying to balance the indoor and outdoor weather to prevent condensation inside the tiny house. The colder it is outside and the warmer it is on the inside, condensation will form on all the windows in the house. She has a dehumidifier to help keep moisture away.
Beating the Winter Chills
Whether you love or hate winter weather, you’ll have to consider what to do with your tiny house when it gets cold. These tiny home dwellers have adapted their winter strategy to suit their lifestyle. From energy-efficient electric blankets to completely leaving cold climates behind, there are lots of options to live your tiny-house dream, even during the winter months.