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From Texas-sized 2 Tiny House For Three

Ahh, another (sorta) wasted day…. + A hot topic: heating & insulation

So much for cleaning out the garage today or the preceding day. We decided Brandy’s truck was going to have to be sold back to the dealership after too much uncertainty with the brakes and the transmission, and that just sapped the day away. I’ll spare you the particulars, but the short and skinny is that the brakes went out several miles from home a few weeks ago with RAD in the passenger seat. We found out along the way that the transmission is about to crap out and wouldn’t be covered by the extended warranty most likely, so with the blessing (and $5k loan to pay off the negative equity) from my father we sold it back after just less than two years ownership. Lame.

What should have taken a couple hours ended up taking seven (banking snafus galore as well), and poor RAD never got a nap in all day. The tough kiddo never griped once, so we stopped at one of our fave restaurants and even got a brownie a la mode for dessert as a treat for the excellent behavior despite mama’s visible (and vocal) frustrations with the day. I also made a mad dash into IKEA for both a fox and panda stuffed animal since RAD’s current obsessions are watching his Little Pim (the panda) Spanish lessons and requesting to see the Ylvis video for “The Fox” (aka “What does the fox say?”) by repeating, “Fox say! Ding ding ding!” over and over while doing bilateral fist pumps. We’ll tackle the impending behavior problems that come from rewarding children with sweets and toys another day. I for one was just glad we all muscled through and no longer have to deal with that truck. Hooray!

So, on to specific tiny house biz. I’ve been thinking hard about heating choices and insulation options. Since we are going to Colorado first and will then be traveling into Canada sometime in the future, it’ll be extra important that the house heating is up to snuff. The likely simplest route to achieve both the heating and insulation goals fit for genuinely cold climes would be to have spray foam insulation installed by a pro and to get a propane heater like the Dickinson Marine Propane Heaters, and really both of those choices are more than sufficient and likely affordable options for us. The only hang up is that I really don’t want to haul a propane tank around with us or deal with the hazards of using it, and if there’s a more environmentally friendly way of insulating the house with comparable R-values I would pick that over petroleum products any day. Of course, we’ll be hauling this house around with a giant Diesel engine truck eking out around 10-12mi per gallon, so I am not unaware of the irony of wanting a green house drug behind a rolling smog machine. But hey, until Elon Musk invents a Tesla Electric Truck that can haul 15k-lbs we’ll just have to do our best to make the best decisions we can where we can and as often as we can to try to help offset the diesel fuel expenditure.

Another option for heat would be a tiny pellet stove, a larger model of which we plan to eventually use in our site built home in Washington state once we settle on a location. I’m not sure what options are really out there as far as models that would be suitable for a tiny mobile application just yet, but you can definitely consider them set the top of my list of options to investigate. The main things we would need to consider would be the clearance needed for safety, which might be too much for a tiny house, and how much space would be needed for storing fuel. Plus, just what kind and size of a vent would we need?

Similarly, as homey as a wood-burning stove would feel, their size/weight and space clearance restrictions make them an automatic rule out for us without even taking the time to consider the fact we would need a true chimney and heavy cords of wood for fuel. Too much space, weight, and structural complication for our taste. Some of the stoves I’ve seen are quite beautiful to be sure, but I can already imagine what a royal pain in the rear cleaning out the ashes would be. Ugh.

Since we do hope to make our house “dual fuel” in that we could use RV rated power hookups when available as well as be able to go off-grid at least for some reasonable period of time if need/desire be, it does make sense to consider adding something as simple as a small space heater or even a floorboard/toe kick heater like I’ve seen in a few RVs. Neither would function without a power supply, however, so we would be limited to using them when we have shore power at our disposal. We are contemplating some degree of solar power collection, but that is definitely a deep topic that will require tons of research and completely separate posts for weighing the choices against one another. Still, knowing that might be a power option for some remote locations leaves traditional heating options on the table.

I’ve also been researching alcohol stoves for cooking, like the Origo models used in boats, and I’ve also seen decorative wall-mount fireplaces for traditional homes that run on what equates to chafing dish fuel cans. I don’t know how viable they would be for true heating of a tiny house, particularly when considering BTUs and burn-time, but the relatively clean-burning fuel does appeal to me greatly for many reasons that mostly have to do with ventilation. The ones I’ve seen advertised for in-home use claim no special venting is necessary, but then most homes have central HVAC that can filter what little emissions there might be. If they truly do burn clean, though I imagine that depends on the specific fuel used, some version of alcohol or chafing fuel (same thing??) fireplace might be a suitable choice, particularly if we choose to get an alcohol stove that can share a fuel supply. I definitely like the idea of only having to purchase one variety of fuel to both cook and stay warm, so perhaps this idea will supplant the pellet stove altogether.

As far as insulation goes, Tumbleweed discusses denim insulation on their site, and I’ve started looking into it more. I definitely like its recycled nature and lack of off-gassing , but I am a little concerned about the lower R-value when it comes to long stays in lower temperature climes. One thing we are discussing is potentially framing the house with 2×6 lumber to make room for additional insulation in the outer walls and finding out if sealing the joints with a spray foam but still using denim for the primary insulation (perhaps two layers) might achieve better protection while limiting the amount of actual foam needed. I’m not totally sure that’s the correct thinking, but it makes sense in my mind that sealing the cracks with foam to prevent leaks of heat/cold and doubling up the batt insulation would make a dramatic improvement much like putting gloves on your hands and both a sweater and a coat will do. I’m just not certain that it works like the simple math of adding R-13 + R-13 = R-26. Inquiring minds want to know!

That’s another big topic on my list: what kinds of spray foam exist, which work best, which are least harmful, and what are the alternatives. My father is both a chemical engineer and chemist and can tell me all about the ingredients in the various foams with ease, but that doesn’t tell me completely how safe or not safe they really are or how well they really insulate. We know we don’t want fiberglass of any kind, and the genuinely natural insulators like wool and blown paper seem to be insufficient or too complicated for tiny house use. I also see rigid foam being used in the trailer bed before the subfloor is applied, and I haven’t even taken a glance at those options yet. I’m thinking a trip to a home improvement store and a day researching product videos online is in my near future to try to sort some of these questions out!

So, off to bed. I received news today that I will shortly be receiving and additional promotion at my primary job that will require a bit of local travel and one less clinical day, but hopefully the additional workload won’t further detract from our primary objective, which at the moment is getting the house ready to sell. That in itself will take an act of Congress, and considering the way those fools bicker and delay progress I’m thinking we are in for an uphill battle.

Goodnight! 🙂

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