Design a Tiny House RV for extreme cold weather

One of the wonderful advantages that separates Tiny House RVs from regular RVs is that you can design them to withstand an extreme cold climate. At Tumbleweed, we’ve even designed tinies for wintering in Alaska! Below are FIVE techniques that will keep your Tumbleweed toasty, even in freezing temperatures.

cold climate

Ariel’s Tumbleweed in Wyoming winter. Photo credit: http://fynyth.blogspot.com/

1). Start with a high R-value

Let’s begin with the obvious: the more insulation you pack into your Tiny House RV, the more efficient the space will be to heat and cool. For an extreme cold climate, we suggest using spray foam insulation in your 2X4 framing. On top of that, we advise that you add an extra inch of foam insulation (rigid foam works) to the exterior of your tiny (see diagram below).

spray-foam

Photo credit: buildingscience.com

Extreme weather

*after adding exterior insulation, be sure to recalculate the overall width of your trailer.

SIPs are another high R-value option for DIYers. These panels are more expensive than traditional framing, but they are extremely energy efficient and save you hours of build time.

2). Splurge for triple pane windows

If you know you will be spending a lot of time in cold weather, it’s a good idea to splurge for triple pane windows. You may also want to consider having fewer windows in your overall design. We met one Alaska Tiny House RVer who decided to only have windows on the south facing side of his tiny (because the south side recieved the most hours of sunlight). It’s good to think ahead about your parking space as well.

3). Design your roof for snow and ice

If your future location receives a lot of snowfall, make sure you design your tiny roof to withstand the load. You may also want to reconsider skylights, as they can leak if not properly installed. You should also read this article on preventing ice dams through your roof design.

4). Prepare your appliances

A few extra cold weather purchases will save your appliances from freezing. Propane heat blankets and fresh water heated hoses are worth the money. Wood stoves will sometimes preform better with a longer chimney pipe that you can install after travel.

Heated Hose

You should also develop an insulated fresh, grey and black water system if your parking spot is not already set up for cold climates. This may involve heated hoses, french drains, insulating your water spigot, etc.

5). Heat/Insulate your floors

The coldest part of your Tiny House RV is always going to be the floor. With the Tumbleweed trailer, you will have three inches of insulation in your trailer. You should also plan on skirting your trailer for more efficiency during winter. Another idea is to install electric radiant floor heating.

About the Author:

Jenna Spesard
Jenna Spesard built a Tumbleweed in 2014 and traveled with it for one year. She clocked over 25,000 miles, and now parks in a Tiny House Village. She writes about the Tiny House Movement on her blog Tiny House Giant Journey.

4 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Kathie November 10, 2016 at 11:02 pm - Reply

    The Step Warm Floor company has much easier and better radiant floor matting that doesn’t use water and can be bought solar ready.. That’s what I’m going to use..

  2. Avatar
    Dave November 13, 2016 at 10:29 am - Reply

    All good things.

    The RV industry is a good thing to turn to if tank or pipe warmers are needed, they’re available in 12V or 110V. Also, it seems like it would be a good idea to insulate the heated fresh water hose as things approach 0.

    I don’t know where you would get the idea that normal RVs can’t get equivalent insulation to a tiny house. It’s true that the normal recreational RV is 3 season, but in particular, there are 5th wheels that have better insulation than many houses. Couple that with the same things you’re talking about doing for a Timy House, and they could survive very cold temperatures. We have a 4 Season Motorhome that made it through -15degrees F and prolonged sub zero.

    Another thing to note for a RV or Tiny House, higher R values help in hot climates, as hot weather can be problem as well, there’s just no worry about freezing

  3. Avatar
    Joshua Woodsman December 14, 2016 at 10:27 am - Reply

    Very good points indeed! It is true that south facing facade of the house always gets the more sunshine, while on the north it is the darkest and coldest. Also regarding the roof – for example gable roofs, or generally some sort of pitched or sloped roofs, are definitely better than a flat one, because the snow will just slide down from there and not stay on. That is good because it means less load on your roof, but also less chance to leak through. Oh and floor heating is a paradise, no matter where you are, so will definitely help! I would also add, thing about the main heating system in your tiny as well, as there is many options with various pros and cons and some might be more suitable for proper winters than other. I actually wrote an article about ways of heating your tiny house http://www.pinuphouses.com/tiny-houses-heating/ – if anyone may find it interesting (I’m an architect designing tiny houses)

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