There are many different ways you can heat your tiny home in cold climates.
One option you may not have consiered though, is tiny house floor heating.
Alough we have shown options like the best tiny house propane heaters, radiant floor heating in tiny homes has many advantages and can even be quite quick and easy to install.
We’re here to show you exactly what tiny house floor heating is, how it works and what you must consider when choosing the different options.
Can tiny houses have floor heating?
Yes, floor heating can be installed in tiny houses.
Radiant floor heating is an effective option for tiny house heating and winterization.
It is designed to not only heat the floorboards of the home, but pass warmth through the entire structure, making sure you stay warm in every part of the house.
What is tiny house radiant floor heating?
Radiant floor heating in tiny homes is when heat is provided to panels underneath the floorboards or the floor material itself.
It is used as an alternative to gas, wood, propane or electric fireplaces that take up a considerable amount of living space inside tiny houses.
The flooring can be heated either by electrical wiring or hot water.
Heating your tiny home in this way can be more efficient and practical compared to something like a wood-burning stove or a tiny house heat pump.
Tiny house owners have reported that warming their home in this way gradually feels much better, rather than using a device that simply pumps warm air through the house.
Minimaliste Houses uses radiant floor heating to winterize some of their tiny homes.
Their company is based in Canada, so they need to make sure that all of the properties are protected from the extreme cold.
Their tiny homes mostly use a hydronic system to provide radiant floor heat.
Some models heat the water, that is used in the under-floor pipes, differently to others.
For example, their Ebene tiny house model uses a conventional electric water heater to do this, whereas the Laurier tiny house uses a propane water heater instead.
We’ll cover the pros and cons of these two different energy sources a bit later on.
How does tiny house floor heating work?
Radiant floor heating in tiny homes can be done in a variety of different ways.
One of the most common solutions is to firslty add a layer of core insulation, then place an electric heat mat on top which can be hooked up to a thermostat, and lastly fix the floorboards on top.
Electricity will heat the mat which will, in turn, radiate heat up to the tiny house floorboards.
A second option is to use a hydronic system, which uses heated water pipes underneath the floorboards.
What to consider when choosing radiant floor heating
Installation of tiny house floor heating is usually fairly straightforward.
This instructional video from Bob Clarizio shows you how to install heated mats below your floorboards.
You’ll see the different materials used and how the team actually lay it in a tiny house shell.
The floor heating covers two different parts of the tiny house ground floor and connects to a thermostat on the wall.
Installing a hyrdonic floor heating system in your tiny home is more complex than a conventional electric one.
You have to potentially set-up a separate water heater (electric or propane heated), connect this to a thermostat and then run the connected pipes underneath the floor in a loop.
We reccomend asking for this specifically before your tiny house is constructed (if possible), or asking a licensed builder and/or plumber to install it.
Electric vs hydronic floor heating
As we’ve discussed, the two main types of tiny house floor heating are electric and hydronic.
We’ve also talked about how electric heaters are usually easier to install than hyronic systems. This means if you have already built your tiny home it will be simpler to go with an electric system.
However, if you’re commissioning a new tiny house build, this is the perfect time to request a hydronic system.
Generally electric floor heating in tiny homes heats up and cools down quicker, as water takes a longer time to heat up than the underfloor material in an electric system.
There’s also more maintenance required with a hydronic system.
There are some advantages to hyronic floor heating systems, though.
One is the fact that they will generally save you money in the long run in terms of energy cost.
Secondly, you are able to choose the energy source you want to use to heat up your water tank, which we will come on to now.
With electric tiny house floor heating, it is widely considered essential to have an on-grid electric connection if you are to run your floor heating consistently.
The electrical energy you generate from off-grid, renewable sources (like solar panels) is not enough to power your floor heating and all of your other necessities.
This is the case too with hyronic systems that use a conventional electric water heater.
However, hydronic systems do have the option to be powered by propane.
Having a water tank that is heated by burning propane means you can be off-gid and still run your tiny house floor heating.
The Laurier tiny house uses a propane heater connected to the radiant floor heating.
Here’s a clip showing how the heater fits into the tiny home:
There are pros and cons to running a propane heater too, just for the floor heating.
For example, you must make sure there is air intake and a vent for the heater. These are considerations you will have to make when choosing your energy source.