We came up with a combination of ways to stay cool that work pretty well for us!
When planning our tiny house build, we really wanted to do everything we could to minimize our utility bills, especially when it comes to cooling down a house in summer heat.
Choose your insulation carefully.
We looked at a variety of insulation types, thicknesses, thermal properties, R Values, etc. when researching for our house. Spray foam insulation was our top choice due to it’s high R-Value, but because of our building location, the only option available to use was a DIY version of Spray Foam, and after reading several horror stories about what could go wrong, I was too scared to try it!
After that, our second choice was Roxul Comfortbatt Insulation. It has an R-15 rating, it’s pest, rodent, water, and fire resistant, and it’s safe to install for a DIYer. At around $50 a bundle, it’s certainly more than fiberglass insulation, but at the end of the day to benefits outweighed the costs.
We ended up using the Roxul insulation in our subfloor, walls, and ceiling, and are just thrilled with how easy it was to use and install, and how great it is at keeping in the cool air!
Consider a secondary reflective foil to work with your insulation as one of the ways to stay cool.
We did significant research on ways we could increase the R-value of the Roxul inside our walls, and one product we came across is a radiant barrier, reflective foil called Ecofoil. At $69 for 500 sq ft a roll, it’s pretty affordable! As a general synopsis, it works by trapping air and keeping warm air on one side and cool air on the other. There’s a ton of techy articles on their website if you want to learn more about how it works.
We ended up installing this on the inside of our walls, after the insulation was installed. We more or less rolled it onto the walls, stapled it into place, and then used a foil tap to close off all gaps. Easy peasy!
Choose Low-E, double pane windows where ever possible.
Next to insulation, the windows you choose can have a significant impact on keeping the cool air inside your house in the summer. Double pan windows with Low-E goes a long way in ensuring you keep your cooling costs low. The great thing is this is fairly standard, so even if sourcing materials from say a Habitat Restore facility, you should be able to find this without a problem.
Passive cooling is your friend!
Passive cooling is using nature to help keep your house cool. Basically, open your windows in the evening to allow the cool air inside, and in the morning close the windows and shades to keep the hot air out. If your windows don’t have screens, there are kits you can purchase from home improvement stores that you can fit to your windows.
We also installed an ODL retractable screen door at our front door. This allows us to open up the door and keep the bugs out!
If you can, parking your tiny house in some shade will help as well.
Sun screen shades on the outside of the house.
I did research and found that once the sun rays hit your windows, pretty much that means the heat is inside your house. I heard from some RV friends that they utilized sun shade screens on their outside of their RV to reduce the rays that actually hit the windows, and I thought, I can do that, too!
We purchased a roll of Suntex 80 screen material, and I cut it to fit our windows. I sewed the edges and added grommets so that I could attach and remove it from the outside of our house. We used hanger bolts, nuts, and washers to secure these to the outside of the house. These screens block 80% of the sun rays from hitting our windows, but we can still see out of them just fine, and it still allows any breeze to come through an open window. In winter, we’ll take them down so that we can allow the sun rays to come inside. It’s perfect!
Fans make a world of difference.
A well placed overhead fan or window fans that you can move around the house help significantly when trying to stay cool. We personally have 1 small window fan and 1 box fan that we move around depending on where we are in the house. It helps keep us cool and the electric draw is pretty low! It’s especially helpful in the evenings when trying to pull some of that cool air in quickly.
Last but not least, choose an energy efficient Air Conditioner unit.
When designing our home, we thought we would be spending most of the day outside of the house, being either at work or out hiking. We also thought we were going to be living on the West Coast, but now we’re on the East Coast! Needless to say, our needs changed when we changed jobs and locations, so we had to adapt!
We discovered that though all the measures above were working well, it just wasn’t quite enough (especially with the humidity we’re enduring). I read some other reviews from tiny housers, and found a small window air conditioner unit that’s fairly energy efficient, a low cost, and smaller than the average unit. We chose to purchase the Frigidaire FFRA0511R1 5, 000 BTU 115V Window-Mounted Mini-Compact Air Conditioner. It’s $129, 15 x 16 x 12 inches, 115V, and recommended for spaces 150 sq ft or smaller. Our house is about 250 sq ft if you include the loft, and about 170 sq ft on the first floor. Since we have the other cooling measures in place and we’re looking to make our house comfortable (not frigid) we decided this was perfect for us.
We’ve only been using the Frigidaire for a few weeks now, but based on my preliminary calculations, we think that by running it at a low or medium cooling rate for maybe 8 hours a day is going to cost about $.50 a day, or about $15 a month. That’s pretty cheap!!
So as you can see, there isn’t exactly a one-size-fits-all solution, and there are even a combination of things you can do to stay cool and keep your utility bills low. We’re very happy with our solutions and just love staying cool in our tiny house?
Comment below and let us know what other ways to stay cool you think of during the hot summer months! Keep on keeping cool my friends!