Robert J. Kobet
January 2, 2017
Remaining comfortable in a tiny house in the face of weather extremes presents the same challenges as in conventional housing, and many weatherization products and procedures can be applied to each. Investing in staying cool in summer and warm in winter also pays dividends in
- Reduced energy costs,
- Extending the life of the unit,
- Less strategic maintenance,
- Minimizing in the intrusion of exterior sources of pollution, and
- A quieter interior.
Tiny houses delivered to the site on wheels that are not installed on a conventional foundation may also have the added concern of freeze-proofing connection to water and waste disposal services, especially if the tiny house is located in a microclimate characterized by extended periods of below freezing temperatures. This blog will focus on winter weatherization strategies used in quality new construction, DIY new tiny home construction, and existing homeowner weatherization projects.
Generally, a tiny house loses energy and experiences drops in interior temperatures due to two primary factors – conduction losses and losses due to infiltration. Conduction losses are those that occur through the walls, floor and roof when the exterior weather temperature is lower than the interior temperature the heating equipment is set to maintain. Conduction losses are limited primarily by properly installed insulation and high performance windows and doors. Most home weatherization efforts do not include adding insulation unless it is absent to begin with, or where additional insulation can be added to the very important attic space, which tiny houses typically do not have.
Using a hand held infrared thermography tool can reveal the effectiveness of the insulation package and show where insulation upgrades or repairs may be necessary. iPhone apps exist for this function. Utilities or non-profit organizations dedicated to energy conservation may lend these tools or perform the scan at low or no cost. They can also be rented. If the tiny house is deficient in any way, there are many information sources, websites and manufacturers who can help a homeowner add the proper type of insulation correctly. 84 Lumber has expert staff and insulation products that can assist you in that task.
Infiltration can account for 50% or more of the heat lost in a home. Cold drafts, condensation on the inside of the windows, and the presence of spider webs all indicate potential infiltration sources. Weatherization tasks can be done any time, but they should always be considered after a tiny house is moved as transporting the unit may cause things to loosen. The same infrared thermography tool that “sees” the thermal performance of a building surface can also identify where infiltration is occurring. A professional weatherization service often uses a fandoor, sometimes called a blower door, to deliberately induce infiltration and identify the path of unwanted outside air. Professionals then use nontoxic smoke pencils to pinpoint the target area to be sealed, and apply the proper products to accomplish the task. Typically infiltration targets include:
- Cracks around windows and doors and construction joints in walls and floors and ceilings – A good grade of caulking can be used to seal these.
- Loose fitting windows and doors – First make any adjustments that can be made to correct alignments and proper fit, then apply the weather stripping product designed for the task.
- Surface preparations – Electrical outlets, light switches, recessed light, exhaust fans, et. If the opening around these items is large they may need to be foamed shut with one part urethane foam or similar product made for the application. If they are relatively snug in the wall, a gasket designed specifically for each may be used.
- Utility and building service penetrations – Electric service, water and sewer lines, cable television, etc. These are most effectively sealed with foam.
Any home improvement project should always be done carefully. Turn off electricity to anything being weatherized, and always use proper protective gear.
84 Lumber and GreenEdge Supply share your interest in tiny houses, visit us at www.84tinyliving.com. We have the in house expertise and a wide variety of weatherization products to help you with all of your weatherization projects. Visit us online at www.greenedgesupply.com and let us help you live greener, healthier, more energy efficient and comfortably.