If you're tired of a consumption-centric lifestyle and wish to do more than work, eat, and sleep, you may be considering joining the "tiny house movement" -- trading in your current home for a much smaller one with less storage space and a minimal ecological footprint. While tiny house living can provide a number of advantages, it can also be quite an adjustment, particularly when it comes to making this space livable and climate-controlled. Read on to learn more about the cooling systems ideal for smaller homes.
How are tiny homes different to heat and cool?
Most of the homes considered "tiny" by modern standards are less than 600 square feet -- similar to a studio or efficiency apartment. But unlike an apartment, which can often benefit from the shared-wall structure to keep hot and cold air retained inside individual units, a small house has all four walls exposed to the elements. Because these homes have a proportionally larger surface area exposed to the outside air as compared to larger houses, proper insulation is key to ensuring successful climate control.
It's also more difficult to ensure good air circulation in a small home -- if there are no central heating or cooling ducts and no way to circulate hot or cool air, you could find that portions of your tiny home become uncomfortably stagnant.
The condensing equipment used in many air conditioners (like window units or large exterior central air conditioners) can be large, loud and unwieldy. While this may not present a problem in a larger home, in a house where every inch of space must fulfill its maximum use, you may be reluctant to give up precious inches to an air conditioning device.
Fortunately, there are now a number of smaller, more energy-efficient options to help cool even the tiniest of homes.
What are your best cooling options for a small space?
A ceiling fan or several strategically-placed tower fans may not be enough to keep your home cool year-round (unless you live in a very temperate area or have many windows), but fans are a necessity to circulate the air and lower the amount of energy you'll use to heat and cool your home. If you're worried about space, there are a number of flush-mount ceiling fans with short but powerful blades that can effectively reach every nook and cranny of your home.
Your next step will be to select an air conditioner that will take up little space while still providing sufficient cooling power.
A ductless mini-split is often used to heat or cool single rooms -- perfect for a tiny house with an open floor plan. These air conditioners are about the size and shape of an oven hood and include an internal fan to circulate air (although you may want to invest in a larger or higher-powered fan to ensure your entire house is cooled). You're generally able to install a mini-split on a wall or ceiling, and should be able to find an out-of-the-way location for it even in a house where space is at a premium. Because of their size and limited cooling power, these mini-splits are extremely efficient and shouldn't add much to your utility bill.
If you don't need year-round air conditioning, or if your floor plan is a bit less open, another good option is a portable air conditioner. Like a window unit, these air conditioners use a condenser to remove the cool air from hotter outside air. However, a portable air conditioner's condensation vent is much smaller than that of a window air conditioner, and can be easily vented through a small hole in the wall or by placing the exhaust tube in a window. Depending upon the length of the exhaust tube, you may be able to place the air conditioner anywhere in your home -- keeping it by your bed at night and in your kitchen or living area during the day.