As the name might suggest, tiny houses are relatively small structures, which is their biggest strength and weakness. Most tiny houses usually consist of one living room/dining area and kitchen, as well as a single bedroom and an optional bathroom, which basically makes them log cabins that you can live in.
Because tiny homes are compact, they don’t require as many raw materials as traditional houses during the construction process, and they can be finished more quickly. In turn, that means fewer hours spent working and less money spent on construction workers.
Additionally, small spaces require less electricity overall, and you can easily get by relying on solar power for most of your power needs.
On the other hand, tiny spaces are a lot more restrictive regarding exactly how many items you can put inside of your home before it gets extremely cluttered.
In other words, those same spatial restrictions apply when choosing a heating system as well.
The benefits and disadvantages that tiny houses come with are perfectly mirrored in the sort of heating options they have.
In simple terms, certain heaters are too big or cumbersome to fit into your small living space and might even be a bit too powerful for most tiny house dwellers. But, on the bright side, this also means that a small heater can probably heat your entire house while not taking up any floor space to speak of.
The question that we’re trying to answer with this article isn’t if you can heat a tiny house with a single heater, but rather which type of heater would be the best choice for you.
There are a few different tiny home heaters to choose from, and different homeowners have different standards and requirements. We’ll go over the most popular types of heaters and outline their strengths and weaknesses so that you can choose the most ideal option for your home.
We’ll also pick out our top picks for the best models for each heater type.
Radiant heaters are a pretty well-known heating solution, and they can make your home as toasty as the inside of an oven, but we believe that they aren’t compatible with tiny homes.
However, the specific type of radiator that we’re talking about is the radiant floor heater that’s placed under the floorboards of your home and warms your living space by heating your floor. This sounds incredibly attractive since you’ll be able to walk barefoot even during the winter months and still feel like you’re walking on sunshine.
The downside is that not only are these types of heaters hard to install, but they’re difficult to maintain as well. Setting up pipes for the hot water to travel through under your floor is difficult enough, but any issue that you might have with the system will result in you having to dig up parts of your floor to fix the problem.
The electrical type of floor heaters are a bit simpler to install since you don’t need to worry about the functionality or the placement of a water heater for the pipes. However, it still isn’t particularly cheap, with the more economical models coming in at around $10-$15 per square foot.
On the other hand, radiant heaters are less expensive to install in tiny homes than standard ones since there are fewer square feet to cover, so we understand if you disagree with our assertions and would like to give this heating method a shot.
Our Choice: XBUTY Electric Space Heater 1500W
Electric heaters don’t need any additional equipment aside from the main body of the device itself, so some models can be compact and can fit just about anywhere. Of course, the tradeoff here is that the smaller models usually can’t heat as much space as the bigger models, but they can still achieve decent temperatures.
Electric heaters also vary in price, and you can easily find a small heater that can produce quite a lot of warmth for as little as $100 or $200. Of course, you can also get a bigger model that’s around twice the price or get two small electric heaters so that you can cover more space. Since these devices can be placed virtually anywhere, you have an open power socket; this means that you can buy as many as you need.
Additionally, unlike many other heating options that we have on our list, these devices don’t require any installation, and they can easily be found at a store near you.
The biggest downside of these devices is the amount of power that they draw. While the smaller models might have a cheap upfront cost, this doesn’t apply to the running costs, and running more than one of them at a time can really impact the electrical bill.
Another issue that these devices have is that they get in the way a lot of the time. The same mobility that makes them perfect for any area of the house also means that they’ll take up floor space. Again, considering their tanks isn’t a huge issue, but it can get annoying to keep moving the heater out of the way if you want to get to another room in your house.
Our Choice: Dickinson Newport Direct Vent Propane Heater
Propane heaters are a bit tricky to price since they can range anywhere between $100 and $1000, and that’s not even taking their tanks into consideration. The main reason for this wild variation in the price range are differences like BTU ratings, propane economy ratings, and the size of the heaters themselves.
These types of heaters can come vent-free or with mandatory venting installation; they can be so large that they can essentially be called a propane fireplace or be so small that they’d put a few electrical heaters to shame.
This flexibility allows you free range to either get a mounted wall heater or a heat source installed right in the middle of your living room.
Additionally, these devices are thermostat-controlled and allow you to simply set a specific temperature and leave the rest to the heater. They’re also a tremendous off-grid option for homes that aren’t hooked up to any power lines and can’t use standard electrical heating methods.
The biggest issue that propane heaters have is serious dangers associated with them not being hooked up correctly or developing a tear for the gas to seep through. This is usually pretty easily noticeable since you can feel a significant drop in the air quality in the room and might feel like you need some fresh air, but in the worst possible cases, this could pose a carbon monoxide hazard.
This is very unlikely to happen, especially in a room with adequate ventilation or windows that can be opened, but the possibility is still there. More worryingly, though, despite these dangers, propane heaters are also usually less powerful and can’t achieve the sort of heat that electrical heaters or small wood stoves can.
Our Choice: Mr. Heater PS20W-CIW Mini Pellet Stove
Nothing makes a home feel homier than a wood-burning stove. Not only can it add to the vibe, but it can also reliably heat up your home by using a relatively cheap and plentiful fuel source, which can either be pellets or wood, depending on which sort of stove you buy.
Both types of materials are environmentally friendly, and they have their own strengths, but in general, pallets are a bit cheaper than wood, while the pellet stoves are usually a bit more expensive than the standard wood stove. The price point on both doesn’t vary all that much, and you can get a good stove of both types for around $800, so the difference is largely down to personal preference.
If you get a flat-top stove, you can also use it to do everything from making yourself a hot cup of coffee to a traditional English breakfast in the morning. Additionally, these are the best option for off-grid living by quite a large margin, and they’re much safer than the previously mentioned energy-free option.
The downside of these types of tiny house heaters is that they’re always on the large side, and they take up quite a bit of floor space regardless of where they’re installed. This might not be much of a problem for a standard-sized house, but tiny homes don’t really have a surplus of extra room, so that can be quite the issue.
Additionally, while it seems like a small point to bring up, these heaters also require the most manual maintenance. You’re going to need to light the fire, then you’re going to need to make sure that it doesn’t go out, and you’re also going to need to clean out the ashtray at the end of the day.
A mini-split, also known as a heat pump or an inverter, is essentially an air conditioning unit with a few special features.
The biggest difference between these units and a standard air conditioner is that these devices don’t turn off but rather accelerate or slow down to maintain a constant temperature. This means that there’s less power waste and that these devices are much more energy-efficient as a result.
A mini-split consists of an outdoor and an indoor unit, the same as a standard ac unit, and the indoor unit is mounted high on a wall, which results in a lot more free space in the home. Additionally, these devices are thermostat controlled, so unlike the other heaters on our list, all you need to do to maintain a specific temperature in the home is press a button and let the device do the rest.
One of the biggest downsides of these devices is the high upfront cost, since most decent mini-splits start at around $2,000 and go up from there, which makes them the least cost-effective heaters on our list, in terms of upfront costs at least.
Additionally, while they’re more reliable than air conditioners during the winter months, they still can’t handle drastic temperature drops, and at a certain point, the cold air from outside may become a bit too much for them to handle, and the blower will freeze.
We’ve outlined our best choices for tiny house heaters and the differences between each heat source.
All of the heating options that are available to you have their pros and cons, but all of them can help you get through the coldest months of the year while keeping your home warm and toasty on the inside.
The 4 Best Tiny Home Heaters:
Electric Heater - XBUTY Electric Space Heater 1500W
Propane Heater- Dickinson Newport Direct Vent Propane Heater
Pellet/Wood Stove - Mr. Heater PS20W-CIW Mini Pellet Stove
Mini Split Heater - Blue Series 3 9000 BTU Mini Split Air Conditioner