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How to Prevent Common Problems in a THOW due to Cold Temperatures

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Any sized house deals with temperature fluctuations throughout the day as temperature rises and falls, with each passing season, and during extreme changes in temperatures or storms. Tiny houses are no exception and although built like a house on a foundation and far more durable and insulated than recreational vehicles or van/bus conversions, they still face their own challenges as the cold sets in for winter. 

Check out this blog post Going into Fall. Tiny House Preparation for Winter about winterizing your tiny home as a perfect “part 1” to this post.

Subfloor/Basement

Let’s begin from the bottom up. A tiny house on wheels (THOW) is the distinguishing factor from a little house on a foundation and needs to be addressed when the tiny house is parked in colder climates. Often the floor of a THOW is the coldest part of the home, and a great deal of heat can be lost through the subfloor. It also means cold toes, which isn’t the most fun. 

Since a tiny house is secured to a trailer it sits up off the ground and therefore cannot benefit from the thermal mass of the ground itself insulating the underside of the home. The space under the trailer can range roughly from about 15”-24” inches depending on the style of trailer and whether it’s lifted off the wheels and axles. This creates a cold space under the home, right where the house connects to the large steel beams of the trailer. Metal is a fantastic conductor of temperature and therefore moves that cold temperature right into the floor and up the walls of the tiny home.

In the planning and building stage it’s important to address that temperature transfer through the subfloor by building the home up off the steel with wood and insulation. This is known in building science as breaking the thermal bridge. Or, attempting to do so. It can be challenging with tiny houses because they must adhere to height restrictions, so we do the most we can. Tiny houses without lofts can build this way more effectively because they aren’t eliminating interior headspace. 

Additionally, applying an insulative skirt around the tiny house trailer and up partially to cover where the walls meet the trailer can make a huge difference. This is because it keeps cold wind from entering the area below the tiny house, while also maintaining a slightly warmer temperature at all times. 

And of course, slippers will be your favorite item of warmth!

Danielle L Gilbert via Facebook/Tiny House Talk

Windows and Doors 

Making sure that the seals on windows and doors are fully intact, which will insure that they don’t leak any cold air into the home. This can be a main factor for condensation on the inside when it’s cold outside. Often these seals can be easy to replace before the temperature drops. 

Condensation 

Condensation can be an issue in tiny houses during the winter especially, and for a variety of reasons. When the house is sealed up and we cook, bath, and breath inside a tiny space, a great deal of moisture is produced. When this moisture has nowhere to escape, it collects on the cold surfaces within the home. These are typically on the windows and doors, on the floor, or in cabinets and under built-in furniture where air flow and heat has trouble reaching. Once the moisture condenses, it will be absorbed by whatever will take it on. If it doesn’t have the opportunity to dry out then it will begin to grow mildew and mold. 

Addressing moisture management during the building stage is ideal, and installing an air exchange ventilation unit can help as well. Choosing to heat with a dry heat source like wood will help to consistently dry out the space, and adding a dehumidifier preemptively can make a huge difference. 

Written by Isabelle Nagel-Brice of A Tiny Good Thing

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