As winter settles in and the temperature stays below freezing, the realities of building a house on a trailer bed in Montreal make their presence known along with the weather. When I first decided to build a tiny house I searched and searched for tiny houses built for my climate. I was frustrated because I found very few resources for adapting a tiny house for northern climates. I found the story of a tiny house that was riddled with humidity – condensation on all the windows and poor air quality as soon as the house was sealed up against the weather. I found another house built in the Yukon, but couldn’t find much on how it was handling the winter.
I started my build without all of the answers for my questions and fortunately some of those questions are being answered. At the beginning of December I found an HRV unit that will work with both the size of my house and can handle the winters. I am thrilled to know that my house will have a healthy air quality all year round. I fully plan on using passive ventilation during the spring, summer and into the fall, but have no desire to let the heat escape and windows freeze open (and then possibly warp) in the winter.
But air quality isn’t the only thing to worry about. Plumbing also a concern. How to set up the plumbing so that I can have running water year round. I have purchased a 26 gallon fresh water tank so that I don’t have to have a connection via hose to have water in my house. This water tank will live under the sink, and the water pressure will be supplied with the help of a small RV water pump. To fill the water tank, I have bought a marine fresh water deck inlet that I plan on installing in my counter so that I can fill the water tank from inside the tiny house, I will also be able to run my water from a potable hose in the summer through an exterior water inlet. I don’t really relish the idea of having to fill my water tank from outside in the middle of January.
Then what to do with the water once it goes through the tap… I am pretty sure I will only be using my grey water tank when the weather is warm and will live with very simple plumbing in the winter – i.e. having a bucket under the sink to collect grey water and showering at friends or the gym. The direct vent propane tankless water heater that I had really hoped to be able to use, can be susceptible to freezing, and I haven’t been able to find the one vented through the roof that I selected for order in Canada and it would also require some fancy venting through the kitchen and main sleeping loft. I went back to the drawing board and have chosen a 6 gallon electric water heater. As much as I would like a tankless water heater, the propane options don’t work well for my house. The electric tankless water heaters require a lot of power each time they are used, and I’m concerned that it will test my electrical system every time it’s used. The 6 gallon electric water heater will demand more constant but lower demand on the electrical system.
Other considerations I have made for my climate: an insulated door with a smaller window, triple pane windows (only an increases the Rvalue by 2, but every point counts), an additional 1″ of insulation on the exterior of the walls and 2″ on the roof. I am looking into ordering straw bales to go around the bottom of the trailer instead of building a skirt of temporary insulated panels around the base of the tiny house to keep the space underneath the house somewhat insulated. The straw will also serve as composting material during the summer. I am sure other things will be added to the list as I go along.