The Tiny house Blog

Tiny and Toasty: Our Complete Guide to Tiny House Heating

Updated on:
June 9, 2023
wood burning fire stove

Tiny houses are more popular than ever. According to one survey, more than half of Americans would consider living in a tiny home.

While it can be fun to look at pictures on Pinterest or Instagram of adorable tiny living spaces, creating a tiny house design that is practical takes a lot of planning and consideration.

If you're going to live in a tiny house, one big question will soon be on your mind: tiny house heating.

Are you wondering what your options are in order to keep your little home not too cold, not too hot, but just right? Stick with us and we'll explore the options.

Electric Heater Options

One option for heating a tiny house is going electric. This might be one of the cheapest, easiest, and more efficient options depending on your situation.

Some of the pros of using an electric heater include:

  • You can buy electric heaters easily
  • They're inexpensive to buy
  • You can just plug them in, there's no installation
  • You can find the BTU size that works for you

On the flip side, some of the cons are:

  • They aren't aesthetically pleasing
  • They can take up floor space
  • They can draw a lot of power and be expensive to run
  • They aren't practical if you're off the grid

This is an option that primarily works if you are on-grid. They had such large electrical loads that your solar array would have to be very expensive in order to handle powering electric heaters in the winter off-grid.

There are two options when it comes to electric heat: forced-air or radiant heat.

Forced air is best if you are looking to heat a space quickly. They typically have loud fans but it can be a good option if you use the small home periodically and want the house to heat up fast after being gone.

Radiant heat is better for when you have the time to let a space fully heat up. They heat the air around them gently by radiating heat through itself into the material of the home. For example, radiant floor heat will heat your floor and radiate that heat up through the home consistently.

If you spend a lot of time at home inside and are on the grid, a radiant heater might be a good choice.

We've had good success using the Cadet electric wall heaters as a primary and back up heat source. Wondering what else you should do to prepare for winter? Check out this article.

Wood or Pellet Stove Options

Some people love the process of using wood heat, others aren't that into it. Let's take a look at some of the pros and cons of using a wood or pellet stove.

Some of the benefits of this type of heat are:

  • The fuel is generally cheap
  • It's nice to have a cozy fire
  • It's less impactful on the environment
  • It can be used for cooking as well

Some of the drawbacks of wood or pellet stoves are:

  • The initial costs are medium to high
  • It can be hard to find a stove small enough
  • It needs large clearances
  • It requires work and can make a mess

There's nothing quite like the feeling of having a wood-stove. It creates a pleasant atmosphere and smell as a tiny house heater that can't easily be replicated with other types of heat.

One thing you have to do is find a wood stove that is small enough. If you have a wood stove that is too big, it will use up valuable floor space and you will likely make the tiny house too warm when using the stove properly.

Woodstoves require quite a bit of clearance in order to operate safely. They also take quite a bit of attention. Not only does it take time to chop and stack firewood, but you also have to tend to a fire to keep it going.

Kerosene Heater Options

Kerosene is another option for small house heating. Interestingly, kerosene heaters are the primary source of heat in the majority of Japanese homes.

Some of the pros of using kerosene heat include:

  • They're thermostat controlled
  • It burns very clean
  • You can get it vented or unvented

As far as cons go, kerosene heat:

  • Has a medium to high initial cost
  • Requires fuel that can be hard to find sometimes
  • Uses fossil fuels

There are a number of people who feel that kerosene is worth the cost of the fuel and the set up costs. This type of heat burns really hot and creates higher BTU output than propane. However, it doesn't burn as clean as propane and is more polluting to the environment.

Kerosene is cheaper than propane, but depending on where you live it isn't always easy to find. In a small space, you would want a vented heater to avoid the risk of carbon monoxide exposure.

Propane Heater Options

Another option that's popular for small house heating is propane. Some of the pros of propane are:

  • It's thermostat controlled
  • It can be vented or unvented
  • It burns very clean

Some of the cons of propane are:

  • It requires fossil fuels
  • It might be hard to find depending on your location
  • The initial cost is medium to high

Propane is efficient, clean-burning, and relatively inexpensive. In many locations, it is also easy to find.

Heating a Tiny House With Mini-Split Heat Pumps

If you live on grid, a good option for you might be a mini-split heat pump. Some of the pros of this method of heating a tiny house are:

  • They are thermostat controls
  • They can achieve tiny house heating and cooling
  • They are very efficient
  • They don't take up any floor space
  • They can usually provide A/C capabilities as well
  • Help maintain proper humidity levels

As far as cons go, heat pumps:

  • Have a high initial cost
  • Don't work and incredibly cold climates
  • May require the help of an expert to set up depending on how handy you are

You should generally avoid heat pumps in very cold climates because of the way the system functions. Most units to have electric heating coils in order to boost the system once it gets to around 30°, but then you are just using electric heat.

One of the great things about heat pumps is that they can provide tiny house heating and cooling.

Tiny House Heating: How to Decide?

There are a number of things that you will want to consider when you are choosing a heater. One of the most important questions is whether or not you are on the grid. Your options will be narrowed if you live off-grid, but there still are very accessible options.

Next, you will want to think about your lifestyle. What is your life going to look like day-to-day?

It is easy to romanticize the idea of a woodstove. However, many people don't think about what it will be like when they wake up in the morning and the house is cold and I have to get the fire running again. While wood stoves can be a wonderful way to heat a tiny house, you'll want to understand that this entails more work than other more modern methods.

Another thing you will want to consider is the size of your heating system. You'll want to make sure that you can make the house comfortable and warm but that the system is also not too big. A large system in a tiny house can create a scenario where the house is always too hot.

Lastly, you also want to think about the price. Some heating systems cost more to set up but then cost less over time. Others might cost less to start and then have higher costs in the long-term.

Overall, one of our favorite is a mini-split heat and A/C option with back up electric in wall or radiant floor heat.

A Few More Considerations

There are a few more things you'll want to think about when creating your tiny house design and incorporating your heating system. You'll want to think about indoor air quality, safety, and insulation.

Safety is very important, as you definitely don't want any of these flame-based heaters to lead to a fire. If you have young children, you might choose to avoid having a heater on the floor.

You also want to think about indoor air quality. Gases like carbon monoxide can build up in small spaces, so you will want to seriously consider venting your heating system.

Lastly, you'll want to make sure that your home is well insulated and well sealed. Paying more upfront can save you money on heating costs in the future.

Are You Ready to Go Tiny?

There are countless aspects of the tiny house lifestyle that are appealing to modern Americans. Returning to a simpler way of being, cutting costs, and living a more minimalistic are some of the big attractions of this way of being.

Are you thinking about living in a tiny house? If so, check out these tiny houses for sale today!

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