isolating insulation

Almost record lows hit the PNW a week ago – temperatures were at -9! While an extra space heater took care of the tiny house insides, the outside pipes quickly froze.  The tiny has no foundation  and foam-insulated pipes aren’t a sufficient buffer for extreme winter conditions – freezing found the house isolated and exposed. But this problem has to come up every winter season for many, many tiny housers. What do tiny friends in colder places DO?  What are your experiences with cold temperatures? How do you care for your pipes and water heaters during cold snaps? If you’re not using running water, how isolated are you from other sources of potable?

Hope you’re keeping warm – and participating fully in a love-filled holiday season.

Blessings, April

12 thoughts on “isolating insulation

  1. April, I live in the Adirondacks in NY where it can get -50 degrees. One trick that we use with mobile homes is to put the waterline in another pipe from just below the frost line to just inside the bldg. and stuff it with insulation near the floor line. i.e. 2″ waterline in a 3″ or 4″ pipe. (pvc) and use whatever insulation you want. Hope this gives you some ideas. Rich 73/88 N2KPR SKYWARN NAQCC #2276 SKCC #4407

    Date: Sat, 14 Dec 2013 00:10:41 +0000 To:

  2. Hi April,
    I have a tiny cabin in Iowa… I have my pipes wrapped with heat tape and then covered with pipe insulation. I plug in the heat tape during the winter months to my pipes warm.
    I hope this helps :)

  3. I’ve dealt with this issue in Colorado in one of two ways: the heat tape with pipe insulation method, and for my personal house which is off grid, all the water and piping is in heated space or insulated walls. I have a 45 gal storage tank in my loft that I have to fill up every so often, and this also requires the use of a pressure pump, but I like the flexibility it affords and never having to worry about frozen pipes.

  4. I am building in Montreal right now and my plan to combat freezing pipes is two fold. My insulation in the walls is R25 and R30 in the ceiling and as my pipes won’t be in the walls, as long as the interior of the house stays above freezing, the interior pipes won’t freeze. My other approach is having a 26 gallon fresh water tank inside the house that I can fill through an access point in the counter. It’s an inlet used on boats to fill up fresh water tanks from the deck. I will bring my water into the house by hand. I also plan on avoiding using my grey water tank in the winter, my sinks and tub will drain into a bucket instead. You have built a beautiful home. Congratulations.

  5. Hey there April,

    As a dairy farmer I really like the gambrel design. :-)

    I’ve only recently begun looking in to tiny homes so I haven’t looked in to any plans and I’m unsure how the water supply hooks in to your home. Commenters above have given many great suggestions.

    As a plumber, I never place water lines in exterior walls.

    In a typical mobile home situation the main water service (private well or municipal) is buried below the frost line and enters the home from beneath the trailer with the pipes being well insulated. Surrounding the base of the trailer is a skirt, typically made of plywood (on the tiny house, a plastic vapour barrier may be easiest around the wheel wells). This acts as a shield and keeps the wind from blowing under the trailer.

    Supplying these tiny homes with water is may main concern over them in areas with cold winters. It’s not as easy as just hooking a garden hose to someones lawn hydrant. Aside from the line freezing in route to the tiny house there’s also risk freezing and splitting the hydrant it’s connected to.

    Anyways, this is a great topic. While I’m not certain yet if I’ll go tiny this does bring to light issues I need to consider if I ever do take the plunge. :-)

    1. Thanks for the advice – I would rather live with the frozen pipes than what seems to me to be a waste of all that water, though I know this works for a lot of people. Thanks again!!!

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