HVAC for Tiny Houses
Tiny homes are increasingly popular across the country and particularly here in California. These small residences are typically less than 700 square feet and built to be portable. While tiny homes support a compact, efficient lifestyle, indoor comfort is as important as it is for those living in a traditional, full-size house.
Staying cool during a typical San Diego summer — or warm in chilly weather — presents particular challenges to owners of tiny homes who need options appropriate to a smaller scale residence. Here are some HVAC design options for maximum indoor comfort in minimal floor space:
1. Window Units
Window AC units offer affordability as well as the option for quick DIY installation with minimal alterations. However, window units may be noisy in an indoor environment of limited square footage. They also occupy a window and thus reduce outdoor light that is usually very critical in a tiny home with limited window area to begin with. Because window A/C units only cool the premises, a separate heating option such as electric space heaters will be required for winter warmth.
2. Ductless Mini-Splits
A ductless mini-split cools and heats the home without taking up window space or requiring the installation of ductwork. Mini-splits are designed for individual rooms or small spaces such as a tiny house. A quiet, low-profile indoor air handler — typically mounted on a wall or ceiling — is connected to a downsized outdoor heat pump that can be hard-mounted to the exterior wall of the house. The two units are linked by a narrow refrigerant conduit that requires only a three-inch opening in an exterior wall. The heat pump cools like a central A/C in summer; during winter, system functions reverse and produce heat to warm the home.
A mini-split system comes with a significantly higher purchase price than a window unit. Also, due to greater technical complexity, the system must be installed by a qualified HVAC contractor. However, the compact design, power, and energy efficiency of a heat pump provide lower operating costs and greater cooling/heating performance over the long run.