If you are looking to heat your tiny home with an off-grid heater, the two big power players are 1). PROPANE and 2). WOOD BURNING, but there are advantages and disadvantages to both. Let's compare the most popular off-grid heaters for tiny house RVs: the Dickinson Marine P9000 and the Kimberly Wood Stove.
Fuel Expense: This stove burns 1 pound of propane every 5-7 hours. A 20 pound propane tank will cost about $15-20 to refill. Depending on your climate, this can be a huge expense.
Running Constantly Not Possible: This stove needs to be used under supervision. Which means turning it off while you sleep or when you leave the house may cause your home to return to a frigid temperature, depending on your choice of insulation.
Fan Requires 12v: Wiring needed for the fan to spin and heat to circulate.
Lower BTUs: Depending on where you are located, this heater may not be enough. On HIGH the heat output is 4,500 BTUs.
Doesn't Dehumidify: Propane stove tops produce excessive moisture, which can be difficult to maintain in a tiny space. If you already have a propane stove planned for your tiny home RV, you might want to purchase a dehumidifier or use a heat source that acts as a dehumidifier. Wood stoves will dehumidify as well as heat, where as the Dickinson will not act as a dehumidifier. *As a note, the Dickinson will not produce extra moisture because it is a vented appliance.
Space Requirement: Although the Kimberly takes up far less space than most wood stoves and allows the use of a 3-inch pellet stove pipe, it will still require more space and clearance than the Dickinson and cannot be installed into the wall.
Cost: At $4,495 for the stove, pipe and floor pad, the Kimberly is an investment.
Too Much Heat: Depending on your location and climate, this stove might be too much for your tiny space, even when on low.
Weight: The Kimberly weighs 56 pounds, which isn't very heavy for a wood stove but heavier than the Dickinson.
For our tiny home, we went back and forth between the Dickinson and the Kimberly. Eventually we decided on the Kimberly. We plan on taking our tiny home to ski resorts, so an efficient high BTU heat source was necessary. We also have a three burner propane cooktop, so moisture control was a factor in our wood stove decision. The extra money and space requirement was worth it to us.
A dormer is a structural element in architecture that protrudes from a sloped roof and allows for additional space. If you're a tiny house enthusiast, the words "additional space" in a tiny house article might seem oxymoronic. Yes, owning a tiny home means that you are "okay" with small spaces, but there is no reason that you should have to sacrifice comfort in your tiny house RV.
So let's learn a little more about dormers and what they could do for your loft.
A Tumbleweed Elm or Cypress loft WITHOUT dormers (keeping the gable roof line throughout) and a skylight.
Some tiny housers love the coziness and lightweight option of the un-dormered loft (keeping the triangular gable roof line throughout), but most prefer to have a little more headroom. Dormers provide extra space for comfort and additional windows, while keeping the lovely visual aesthetic.
Tumbleweed Elm WITH Dormers. Space is gained. The visual aesthetic is not sacrificed.
How much space do you really gain by having dormers? In order to visualize how much space is actually gained by adding dormers, you will need to have a basic understanding of roof pitch.
Roof pitch is described as the vertical rise divided by the horizontal span of a roof. The gable roof in our Elm and Cypress models have a 12:12 pitch, while our lofts with dormers have a 3:12 pitch. It is important to maintain some roof pitch for weather runoff.
An older Tumbleweed model, where the 3:12 pitch returns to 12:12 for the last few inches of the loft.
If you peer into the back of this older Tumbleweed's loft, you can see where the 3:12 pitch returns to the triangular gable roof line (12:12 pitch). This is a great way to visualize the difference between these two roof pitches.
If the above loft DID NOT have dormers:
The roof pitch would be that triangular slope throughout
The four windows that line the sides of the bed would be lost
The space on either side of this queen bed would be lost
A king bed would not be possible (only possible with dormers)
The use of a staircase would be rather difficult (a ladder would most likely be used instead)
Due to costumer feedback, in all of our current models and plans, the dormers extend all the way to the back of the loft. By doing this, the above Tumbleweed loft has gained even more space. Starting this year, we will also include dormer plans with our Elm and Cypress plans, free of charge.
Steve Weissmann (President of Tumbleweed) is 6'2" and can comfortably sit up in bed in this Cypress loft with dormers.
By adding dormers to your loft, you will also gain valuable wall space, not only on the sides of your loft, but also in the front and back. Consider the cheek walls: the walls that are formed between your dormers and gable roof. Below is a photo of my loft and, as you can see, we've chosen to add an outlet to our cheek wall. My future plan is to mount a television there one day. I could also add a cabinet, shelving, additional lighting or hang decorations / plants / photographs in this additional space.
My Tumbleweed Cypress has rolled all the way from Los Angeles to Nova Scotia to the Florida Keys, where I’m currently writing this blog post. In the four months and 8,000 miles I’ve traveled with a tiny home, I’ve learned a lot through trial and error. Below is a short list I’ve compiled in hopes that it will be helpful to future tiny house travelers.
*Note: A few of the below are also applicable to RVing. That’s intentional. I’ve learned a lot from RVers and many of the same rules are relevant.
5 Tips for Tiny House Travel
1). You can weigh your tiny home at any truck scale. The best way is to weigh the tiny house with your truck attached, then park, detach, weigh your truck alone and subtract that weight from the total. It’s important to know your weight and to have a tow vehicle that can handle the load. It is especially important to be aware of your tongue weight, which can be found by purchasing a tongue scale. Many tiny homes have a heavy tongue weight because of the loft. You can counter balance your tongue weight by placing some of your heavier items in the back of the trailer (like water tanks or solar batteries). You can also use a weight distribution system, like I do.
2). Call campgrounds ahead of time. I call ahead and tell the campground that I have a 24 foot travel trailer that requires 30 amp electrical, water and (if I know my 15 gallon water tank will not be sufficient) a sewage drain for grey water. If they ask for the brand of the travel trailer, I tell them it’s a “Tumbleweed tiny house, you know… like on Tiny House Nation?” And that usually rings a bell. No campground has EVER turned me down. In fact, click here for a list of campgrounds that I’ve stayed at.
3). Attach bubble levels to your tiny house. I have one on the back center of my house (for left/right leveling) and one on the side (for front/back leveling). I use Anderson levelers for left/right leveling and I LOVE them. With these levelers, I can raise one side of my house up to four inches simply by driving onto them! If I need more than that, I pull one side of my tiny house up onto planks of wood, and then use the levelers. For front/back leveling, I use the tongue jack. Never use the scissor jacks for leveling; They are for stability only.
Tiny House GJ's Anderson Levelers
4). Get an RV GPS. I use a Rand McNally RV GPS to navigate around low clearances, weight restrictions, propane restrictions, etc. It’s excellent and it is worth its weight in gold for my peace of mind.
5). Secure Loose Items. Add a lip to your shelves and hook & eyes to your drawers. Using a bungie cord works as well, but if every shelf and drawer requires a bungie, you’ll die of tedium. The less “lock and loading” the better. It takes me about 20 minutes to secure everything inside my house and another 20 minutes to pack up the outside. I’ve got it down to a science, but I’m also always improving.
Any travelers out there want to share some of your own tips? Comment below!
Meet Mario MD Soto, a California resident and soon to be tiny house RV owner. He’s building a Cypress 20 Equator and has little to no experience with construction. Although he mentions he did build a bird house... once, in the fourth grade. And, it lasted about a week before it broke. So let’s just say he's challenging himself!
Mario says he has always been interested in tiny things - cars, cabins, etc. After some research, he came upon Tumbleweed and decided to visit our headquarters to tour a tiny house RV.
“Love at first sight." Mario describes what it was like when he saw a Tumbleweed tiny house for the first time. "I had butterflies in my stomach and it was in that moment when I truly realized that this is what I been looking for.” Mario purchased plans and a trailer that very same day, and his tiny house journey had truly begun.
Fast forward to today: Mario’s Tumbleweed has been framed, sheathed and the roofing is being put in place.
“I would say the physical part hasn’t been as hard as i thought, but the mental part is what would get me some days,” Mario admitted.” That fear of never doing something like this is the biggest mental block to overcome, but the help from the tiny house community has honestly made all this possible.”
Mario's Unique Metal Roof
Mario has a few unique add-ons to his Tumbleweed that really set it apart, including a solar skylight that opens and closes depending on the weather. He also has a metal roof with a copper patina look. Finally, he plans to wire the electricity in his house to be controlled by his iPhone. To see all of Mario's plans come to fruition, make sure you follow him on his blog and on Instagram!
As usual, we asked Mario to give three pieces of advice for future DIY tiny house builders.
Mario’s Three Pieces of Advice:
1). Safety first. Make sure you understand your tools and wear protective gear, goggles, ear plugs, gloves etc.
2). Sometimes you need to just jump in. You can only research so much. Just jump in and get your hands dirty!
3). Have fun. This will be a rewarding experience: building a tiny home with your own hands, watching it come life and making it into your vision. Knowing it’s a reality, not a dream anymore.