The tiny home movement originated in warmer climates, which means, when Canadian builders started designing them, they couldn’t just use the existing techniques.

However, Canadian builders are no strangers to bone-chilling weather – or having to innovate on the fly! They’ve shared some of their methods for keeping their homes and customers cozy.

How do tiny homes stay warm?

Photo: Kukoon Microhomes

For tiny home builders, there isn’t just one answer, but rather a combination of different factors working as a system.

For example, Kukoon Microhomes, located near Elora, Ontario, keeps its beautiful cabins warm year-round by including “a Mitsubishi FH Series – 12K BTU Minisplit, heated floors, a bioethylene fireplace, R24 wall spray foam insulation, R36 roof and floor spray foam insulation, as well as heat tracing of pipes”.

Photo: Kukoon Microhomes

It’s all about the building envelope – and R-values

Instead, an Ontario-based builder of tiny homes on wheels and foundations, says, “When it comes to insulation, the default focus is often on the amount (measured in R value) of insulation. However, you would see a diminishing return in insulating qualities past a certain point where adding more insulation doesn’t necessarily result in a one to one efficiency gain when calculating heat loss.”

To ensure the insulation is doing its work, Instead pays close attention to making sure the insulation is uninterrupted. “How much of the overall insulation is continuous, meaning uninterrupted with minimal thermal bridging? We use building product systems that help us ensure a continuous exterior insulation layer. In the image below, you can see all the layers that form our tiny home floor assembly as an example. Some of layers are to ensure insulation value, some of the layers are designed to provide continuity in the insulation layer and some of the layers are intended as vapour/moisture permeable barriers.”

Photo: Instead

To make sure all that insulation is doing its job, it’s important to properly seal the building envelope as well. Instead comments that “air leaks in the building envelope deserve as much attention as insulation amount (R-value). We use ZIP system R-sheathing with exterior insulation to complete our building envelope, minimize thermal bridging as well as creating an air and moisture sealed structure.”

Photo: Instead

When deciding what R-value is needed, it’s important to know where the tiny home will be situated. In fact, there are specific regulations for different areas even inside a single province.

WhiteRock Tiny Home Solutions, based out of Cambridge, Ontario, builds tiny homes on foundations for delivery elsewhere in the province. While the home is inspected by a Cambridge-based building inspector, the R-values are dictated by the home’s final destination. WhiteRock explains, “You have to build assuming it’s going to be located wherever it’s going to be. If we don’t have a client for a model at time of building, we will build to the geographical region that is the broadest. We have the whole thing mapped out in terms of the different parts of Ontario and what they require.”

Photo: Whiterock Tiny Home Solutions Inc.

Insulation types for tiny homes

Tiny homes use all of the same insulation types as conventional homes, plus a few more innovative options.

For example, Sunshine Tiny Homes swears by their spray foam approach. “We use maximum spray foam and fill the walls to the max.”

Photo: Sunshine Tiny Homes Photographer: Damon Berryman

Tiny Healthy Homes, a BC-based builder that specializes in homes for clients with chemical and EMF sensitivities has developed a process of using mineral wool or “straight sheep’s wool.”


Photo: Tiny Healthy Homes

North 49 Homes, also in BC, actually uses air as the insulation material. They explain, “our thermal break technology involves an exterior wall and a separated interior wall for a complete gap between the studding. This stops thermal bridging and allows for major energy savings. Very little heat is lost from the home in winter and very little cold escapes in summer.”

“We have been utilizing this specialized framing process, called Thermal Break Technology, for 35 years.  It removes the thermal transfer that occurs with solid studding present in the vast majority of homes and tiny homes in North America. When applied to all 6 sides of the building (whereas a standard home would be just the 4 walls) this technology gives the illusion of heated floors in the winter time. Thermal Break Technology vastly reduces winter heating, and summer cooling costs due to this thermal isolation of the structural wood.”

Photo: North 49 Homes

Windows and floors

Heated floors are a must for all-season tiny homes according to Teacup Tiny Homes, an Alberta-based builder of tiny homes on wheels. In fact, they will never omit this feature, even if requested to do so. “We have built [tiny homes] before with no heat in the floor (2 times) and we won’t do it again. Our owners without heated floors were not happy. It is our ONLY job as tiny home experts to have our clients’ back.”

“With our unique in-floor heat design, the chassis of the tiny stays warm. Feet stay warm, mechanicals stay warmer, waterlines and plumbing function properly, and it increases the air flow and air movement through the home to help mitigate condensation build-up.”

Photo: Teacup Tiny Homes

Windows are an important consideration as well. Instead adds, “We all love a good view, natural light and the biggest windows in our tiny homes. However, big windows typically result in heat loss (or heat gain in summer). We encourage our clients who are in the budgeting and planning phase to consider triple/paned glazing and window frames which are designed with performance in mind.”

Likewise, when Sunshine Tiny Homes needs to fight against a particularly cold climate, they “increase the double pane windows to triple pane and adjust the E-value accordingly”.

Photo: Sunshine Tiny Homes Photographer: Damon Berryman

Do you need skirting to keep a tiny home warm?

Fritz Tiny Homes says, “Skirting your tiny home in a cold climate is paramount. Our client Vince has put this to the test in rural Alberta. He started the winter without skirting and then put skirting on mid-winter.  He has been tracking the daily energy consumption of his home. What he found so far is that with insulated skirting, he saves up to 30% on his energy consumption. This is based on a tiny home with an IBC combi boiler running in-floor heating.”

Photo: Fritz Tiny Homes

“We appreciate Vince putting this to the test in our harsh Alberta climate where this winter we have had cold temps in the -40 and below range.  The data speaks to the importance of skirting!” Fritz Tiny Homes offers clients insulated and non-insulated skirting custom made in their shop to complete the tiny home’s look and function.

Stay warm in your tiny home

Having your tiny home stay reliably warm through the winters comes down to a few factors. Your builder’s experience, compliance with building codes of your region, and not cutting corners for short-term savings.

However, rest assured, that Canadians do live in tiny homes year-round and it’s very possible to stay warm even through the coldest of winters. For inspiration, we leave you with this photo of a completely snow-covered Halcyon model from Fritz Tiny Homes.

Photo: Fritz Tiny Homes



1 Comment

  1. I am thinking on buying land in northern ontario which i would power by solar. What kind of tiny home would fit my needs running a starlink internet connection?

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