Tiny Home Challenges


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So-called tiny homes are one of the hottest trends in home buying, especially among younger consumers and empty nesters. However the design and construction of tiny homes, present special challenges. Contractors and HVAC specialists especially must deal with cramped quarters and other conditions associated when designing and installing indoor air temperature control and circulation systems in tiny homes.

Nonetheless, tiny homes can accommodate nearly all of the comforts or larger residences – including so-called smart home systems, according to Kyle Murray, Director of Marketing at Bosch Thermotechnology. Murray, who is based in Stratham, New Hampshire, has nearly 30 years of experience in the water heating and HVAC systems industry.

“Yes, it would be possible to install a smart home system because they (tiny homes) are not really dependent on the type or size of the HVAC system you have. If it works in a medium-to-large home it will also work in a tiny home.” Murray explained

Tiny Homes Defined

Tiny homes are generally defined as single family dwellings of 500 square feet or less. In comparison, the average single family home measured more than 2,600 square feet in 2013. At the same time, average household size was decreasing.

In one respect, tiny homes are not really new. Campers and mobile homes have been around for decades. However, tiny homes differ from trailers, which are often viewed as recreational vehicles rather than permanent dwellings. Tiny homes also differ from mobile homes, often viewed as somewhat downscale and associated with low-income or rural residents. By contrast, tiny homes have frequently been embraced by affluent individuals and households that could well afford larger dwellings.

Heating and Cooling Tiny Homes

Tiny homes must use every square foot to maximum efficiency. This is another feature tiny homes share with mobile homes and campers, according to Murray.
“Installing and buying HVAC systems for a tiny home is similar to buying and installing HVAC systems in any other home that have very tight spaces, such as a trailer, town house or garage apartment. Some of the main logistical challenges come down to where you are going to get the equipment, what equipment offers the most efficient use of space and where are you going to put the equipment?” Murray stated.

Climate is another factor that impacts HVAC systems for tiny homes. Tiny homes located in sunny Florida have vastly different HVAC needs than tiny homes in chilly Minnesota or other northern climates according to Murray.

“Depending on size, point of installation and your tiny home’s location there are certain systems that are more appropriate than others. The outdoor installation option is ideal for tiny homes located in warmer climates, such as Texas or Florida. Another appropriate HVAC system (for tiny homes) s a combination unit with space heating and integrated water heating in one highly efficient and compact unit that hangs on the wall,” Murray explained.

Customized Equipment Not Required

Although some tiny homeowners opt for specialized setups for their tiny homes, custom HVAC equipment really isn’t a necessity. Ductless mini split systems and combo wall units like those used for campers work well in tiny homes. The real challenge is to avoid installing an HVAC system that overpowers the space, according to Murray
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“Custom designed systems are certainly not necessary (for tiny homes). These smaller (HVAC) systems exist for the same reason they exist for other smaller living quarters. Regardless of your space, you don’t want to oversize it similar to how you wouldn’t in any other home” Murray insisted.

Smaller Systems, Smaller Expense

Tiny homes often include downsized appliances and minimal furnishings, many of which are built into the structures. One of the most pressing challenges associated with tiny homes is incorporating appliances and HVAC systems into such small spaces. Nonetheless, HVAC systems for tiny homes compare favorably in price to heating and cooling systems in larger homes, according to Murray.

“The average cost (of an HVAC system for a tiny home) depends on where the house is built and whether your fuel system is supplying air conditioning or heating to the home. The price and systems used are going to be totally different if you are installing HVAC systems in a tiny home in Florida or Northern Maine. HVAC systems for tiny homes are definitely going to cost less than your conventional system because of the size,” Murray claimed.

Audrey Henderson
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Posted In: Residential Buildings, Technology

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