The Top Three Heating and Cooling Questions for Tiny Houses in Sacramento

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Our neighbors to the north, Yuba County, are making an inspiring move by creating a tiny house neighborhood, dubbed 14 Forward, which will become home to some of the county’s homeless population. This highlights the growing trend we’ve all started to notice—that tiny homes have a big appeal. Here in Sacramento, we’ve seen the movement gain traction with everyone from young professionals to older urbanites looking to downsize.

These dwellings usually have a tiny carbon footprint, or may be off-the-grid entirely—we’ve even seen a few built on top of trailers so they can be moved from place to place. They’re more attractive than your standard camper-trailers, and they’re cheaper than traditional houses. Of course, these homes come with some unique challenges, besides the lack of storage. Heating and cooling a tiny house is tricky—but we have answers to your top three tiny home HVAC and insulation inquiries.

#1 Do I Need to Insulate My Tiny Home?

Answer: Yes. Whatever the climate you build your tiny home in, from the river valley of Sacramento to the tundras of Antarctica, insulation is a must. We’ve talked in the past about the importance of insulating your home; in a tiny house, due to the small structure, it’s even more important. Here are three factors to consider when it comes to insulation:

  • Tiny Home Windows: You should never skimp on windows for any structure, but a tiny home will have four windows, at most—so this is a good chance to save yourself some money down the road by buying double-paned windows with good r-values right up front. These windows are energy efficient, and will cut down on your energy costs by as much as 40%.
  • Insulation for a Tiny House: If you were insulating an entire house, we’d recommend you look at the serious price difference between spray insulation and other types. But, with tiny homes, spray may be affordable, even if it costs twice what batting does. And it has a tiny house advantage over other types of insulation—it’s lighter and lasts longer.
  • Tiny Home Roof Options: We’re always talking about the importance of an insulated attic. If you’ve ever been inside an attic in the heat of summer, you know how hot it gets under those uninsulated rafters. With a tiny house, the whole dwelling could be that hot—unless you insulate the ceiling and pick a roofing material that doesn’t soak up the heat. Whether that’s an elastomeric coating or just a lighter shingle color, you’ll want to do what you can. Sacramento gets hot, as we are all well aware this time of year.

#2 Can I Use a Portable Air Conditioner In a Tiny Home?

Answer: Technically, yes. But, one thing to consider—a portable system is not a permanent solution. And a tiny home is a permanent structure. If you’re going to spend any real time in yours, you’ll at least want to go with a window unit, which most people are already familiar with—we’ve talked about the window-vs-portable debate in the past. In general, though,  a window unit is more appropriate for a tiny house because it’s more permanent and can cool more air—we’ve seen a number of tiny houses in Sacramento cooled this way.

Many people just buy an AC unit from a big-box store, but if you want the best result, and some piece of mind, you’ll have someone who does AC for a living do the work and back it up with their warranty. Have a professional contractor install your window unit.

#3 Is a Mini-Split System HVAC Appropriate for a Tiny House?

Answer: Yes. Don’t discount the venerable mini-split system solution. It’s a little more pricey than a window unit—and you definitely need a pro to install one—but you get a lot more for a little extra. Mini-split systems are easier to “hide away” than an obtrusive window unit. And, they’re more energy-efficient when compared to ducted systems, which can lose up to 30% of their energy through ducts. And that’s better for the environment. In our opinion, a mini-split is the best system for heating and cooling a tiny house.

That’s right, we said heating. A mini-split HVAC heats as well as cools, all without ducts. That means that you don’t need a separate heater as well, which you can’t say with a window AC unit. We just installed such a system for a Sacramento homeowner who downsized to a tiny home, and they love the flexibility the system offers.

Are you a tiny home aficionado? We know there are a lot of you out there, and these little buildings are trending like crazy. We think they’re pretty cool—and if you build yours right, it will also be cool in the hot Sacramento summer.

If you have more questions on how to make your tiny home dreams come true, get in touch with Bell Brothers, your local HVAC, window and insulation specialists.