No matter what the Almanac says about weather or what we can expect from Mother Nature in terms of sun, rain, and everything in between, it is still pretty difficult to know weather or not 74° is cool enough for windows and maybe a box fan or if it is warm enough to turn on a little air conditioning.
Most American homes are designed for a median temperature of 72 degrees. For those who are looking to cut back their carbon footprint and their monthly electricity bill the thermostat hovers around 78. Beyond that though many of us find the air to be thick and the room to be uncomfortable. Interesting considering electrical air conditioning wasn’t introduced until 1902 when Willis Carrier of Syracuse, New York designed a system that controlled not only temperature but also humidity. Later Carrier’s technology was applied to increase productivity in the workplace, and The Carrier Air Conditioning Company of America was formed to meet rising demand. Over time air conditioning came to be used to improve comfort in homes and automobiles. Residential sales didn’t become commonplace until the mid-1950s.
But with tiny houses we aren’t talking about standard residential sales nor are we talking about square footage that requires even a half ton central heat/air unit. In fact, it is rare to find tiny house plans that incorporate a cooling system at all. The climate preferences of tiny house dwellers are so varied and with the square footage of a tiny house being so low, it’s easy to simply install a window A/C unit, which is powerful enough to cool the whole house. Let’s say you did want to install central heat/air in your tiny house. You would be adding thousands of dollars to your construction costs, and it would also make the house more difficult to transport (the original point behind a tiny house on a trailer) because part of the central air system needs to be installed outdoors.
The two most popular ways we have found to cool a tiny house are to install a compact or “low profile” air conditioning unit in one of the windows, or to simply use a portable air conditioner that has casters on the bottom for ease of moving. And while a window unit may do an excellent job in cooling the house, it has two main drawbacks.
- I can’t sleep soundly with the A/C blasting
- Because we have no TV and use our Macbook Pro to watch the occasional iTune movie we often can’t hear over the A/C when we do use it
And did I mention the weight of a window unit? And in a build where every ounce costs a window unit can’t always make much sense.
A pretty cool alternative to the window A/C unit is the portable air conditioner on wheels. With most reliable units costing double the price of a typical compact window unit, a portable has the obvious advantages of easy portability, higher BTU output, and less noise. And even though they weigh about the same as a compact window unit, the portable air conditioner has casters, so it can be moved about the house almost effortlessly. A good thing in a home that won’t exceed 7.5′ across.
As for us? We aren’t sure what we are going to do quite yet. We love the idea of a wall mounted A/C unit like this one by Sanyo. While they are a permanent installation they don’t take up precious window light, they don’t require ductwork or venting, and they have an optional heat pump. The downside is that it would be an energy suck and as we prepare to go “off grid” we want to keep down the use of electricity; not add to it!
If none of the above solutions appeal to you though, there are alternative solutions for cooling your tiny house. One is to make sure that the house has windows on at least two sides in a symmetrical fashion so that you can take advantage of cross-ventilation. Another option is to use a fan, although that just blows the warm air around. Fans are most effective at cooling when you have the windows open. When the air outside is fairly cool, such as in the evening, a window fan or box fan or even ceiling fan (if you have room for it) is great for cooling the interior of a house that has been baking in the sun all day.
It is an increasingly large issue and with summer coming on it has us thinking what we will do to combat severe summertime heat. We are fortunate to have our tiny house site in 90% shade with a great deal of surrounding breeze. What do you think? What would you do in our position? What about budget? Are we end for a larger investment than we think? As always, if you enjoyed reading this post please share it on Facebook or tweet the link out to your followers!