Tiny homes may be small and easy to cool, but don’t think for a second that you don’t need a reliable air conditioning system. Just like with traditional housing, a good AC system can either make your summer nights a breeze or a sweltering nightmare.
So what are the best air conditioning systems for tiny houses? Listed below are the top AC options for tiny houses, as well as some awesome tips on how to pick the right one. Read on to learn everything you need to know about choosing an AC for your tiny house.
What Are Your Options?
1. Mini Split Air Conditioner
Probably the most common type of conditioner you’ll see in tiny homes. Mini split air conditioners have two parts: a mounted indoor unit and an outdoor compressor. Compared to window air conditioners, mini split types don’t require big holes. They’re quite inconspicuous in that you only need a small hole to accommodate the wiring.
The cost of installing a mini split AC can go upwards to five figures, but it’s pretty easy to do it yourself. Tiny home owner Derek shows the simplicity of installing a mini split AC in a tiny house:
2. Window Air Conditioner
For those looking for a low-cost unit, window air conditioners will be your best option. A unit can cost anywhere from $150 to $500 compared to the $300+ cost of mini split ACs.
The downside is that they can be a tad unattractive. Unlike mini split ACs, you can’t tuck the compressor behind your tiny house. You’ll have to make a hole the size of the unit on your tiny house where half of it is inside while the other half is outside.
Like mini split ACs, window air conditioners are easy to install. No wire work is involved. After installing the AC and sealing the sides, all you have to do is plug it in to get it working.
Portable air coolers belong to an entirely different category. Unlike air conditioners, they cool the air by sucking in the air, cooling it internally, and releasing it into the space. As such, air coolers rely on the ambient temperature and humidity to work well.
Locations with humidity levels higher than 50% won’t find much comfort with air coolers. While they may be beneficial in spot cooling (cooling just one area of your home), it’s not a viable alternative to air conditioners, unless you live in climates where cooling isn’t really a concern.
In this case, tiny house owners usually opt to install a ceiling fan to facilitate better air circulation. A ceiling fan has a lower purchase, installation, and utility cost compared to a portable evaporative AC and will provide the same cooling necessary in colder conditions.
Choosing the Right Air Conditioner For Your Tiny House
Like any other appliance in your tiny home, the air conditioner is a pretty permanent option. What you choose will remain with you through many summers and winters, so you better make sure you’re making the right choice.
Not sure how to choose the right tiny house AC? We break down some things to consider when it comes to AC shopping:
A reliable cooling system is just as important as a dependable heating system. Let’s face it: on the hottest days, opening your doors and windows won’t cut it. Choose an insufficient air conditioner and you’ll live to see many sweaty summers in your tiny house.
Avoid that altogether by understanding your state’s weather conditions. Or, if you’re planning to travel from one location to another, try and find out the average highest temperature of those locations. If you’re living in mostly cold climates, you might be able to get away with just a ceiling fan. If you’re living in Arizona or Florida, you might want to consider getting something with more cooling power.
2. British Thermal Unit (BTUs) and Square Footage
BTU is a unit that explains the amount of energy needed to convert 1 pound of water 1°F. In practical application, the BTU is used to approximate how much energy is needed to cool (or heat, if your AC comes with a heating function) the room.
Every AC unit has an indicated BTU and square footage recommendation. Units will give a specific range of the square footage they can optimally cool. Choosing a unit with lower BTU compared to your square footage will result in a hot and uncomfortable space.
On the other hand, going overboard the recommended BTUs for a small room isn’t good either. Disproportion between your unit’s BTU and room size leads to faster cooling, which will cause the unit to cycle on and off frequently. As a result, the AC overworks itself and has a shorter lifespan.
To find out the optimal BTU/sq.ft. for your home, you can use an online calculator to get an approximation of what you need.
The general BTU in accordance to room size are as follows:
3. Energy Efficiency
Just like your tiny house refrigerator, your AC will also have an energy-efficiency rating. What you want to focus on is the EER rating (energy efficiency ratio) or SEER (seasonal energy efficiency ratio) which describe how efficiently a unit can cool a home in relation to its power usage.
Two AC units can be recommended for a 5,000 space but have different power needs. Units with higher EERs are more energy efficient, but will also cost more.
Energy efficient ratios are also useful when looking for a low-power, high-performing AC in case you’re going off-grid. It’s especially useful for comparing units and seeing how much money you’ll save on utilities every month.
Aside from EER ratings, also look into the unit’s energy-saving settings. Modern AC units have this feature that allows the unit’s compressor to run based on the temperature. This means your air conditioner won’t be running 24/7 and will actually power down when it reaches peak cooling. As a result, it uses less power and you’ll be able to save some on your electricity bill.
Luckily modern air conditioners are sleek and inconspicuous. The same may not be true if you’re going for window-type air conditioners. If you want something that blends with the rest of your home (both inside and outside), a portable evaporative air cooler or a mini split AC will be the best fit for you.
Mini split ACs are great if you want something that blends with the rest of your home. You just have to mount it ideally above the door where energy is lost, or any other area of your choosing.
Best Tiny House Heating and Cooling Systems
Listed below are some of the top tiny house heating and cooling systems available on the market. Some of them have been vetted by tiny house builders and owners, while others have specs that were seemingly built for tiny homes.
|Dimensions||31.5 x 7.4 x 11.6 inches|
|Good For||Larger tiny homes, 450 to 500 square feet|
|Special Features||LCD remote control|
|Warranty||5 years on the compressor|
This Pioneer unit is featured in tiny house owner Derek’s how-to install video and is a popular choice among tiny house owners. The unit comes with a complete installation kit which is very useful for DIYers. Not to mention that the cost is extremely competitive compared to other mini split ACs with the same performance.
The indoor air conditioning unit features the standard white panel and a dimmable LED display. Despite its high capacity, it boasts quiet operation, allowing you to enjoy both cool and peaceful summer nights. At 12,000 BTU, the Pioneer WYS012-17 is a great option for tiny homes that are a bit on the larger side. This Pioneer unit has a 17 SEER rating and 9 HSPF efficiency.
If you’re looking for other options, Pioneer has several other models with different capacities. The WYS012-17 model also has a 12,000 BTU, 208/230 V equivalent. Other models include a 9,000 BTU model, an 18,000 BTU model, a 24,000 BTU model, even up to 36,000 BTU.
|BTU||Cooling 14,000 BTU; Heating 18,000 BTU|
|Dimensions||32 x 9.13 x 11.6 inches|
|Good For||Larger tiny homes, 450 to 500 square feet|
|Special Features||Auto restart from a power outage|
|Warranty||10 years on the compressor and parts|
Another great option featured on the tiny house video by Home Performance, this Mitsubishi AC is an inverter-driven ductless indoor unit. It’s a great option for those who are looking for an eco-conscious AC. The machine automatically adjusts the power consumption based on the ambient temperature, allowing you to save money and energy in the long-run.
As a ductless AC, you don’t have to worry about creating a duct system through your walls. This hassle-free AC boasts a SEER rating of 21.6 and 11.7 HSPF efficiency, making it one of the best rated mini splits available in the market.
This Mitsubishi unit offers five fan speeds to suit your comfort levels. You can easily control the temperature using the wireless remote controller. As an inverter-type unit, this AC is designed to last for decades in your tiny house. The auto restart protocol is just one of the precautions in place that will extend the longevity of this unit.
It’s the perfect option for families looking for a reliable cooling and heating system in one. Its no-frills design should keep any tiny house family happy throughout the seasons.
|BTU||Cooling 12,000 BTU; Heating 14,000 BTU|
|Dimensions||31 x 8 x 11 inches|
|Good For||150 to 550 square feet tiny homes|
|Special Features||Easy DIY set-up in under 30 minutes|
|Warranty||7 years on compressor; 5 years on all parts|
The ClimateRight CR12000SACH is another popular air conditioner and is the choice unit of Andrew from Tiny Revolution. What makes the ClimateRight a truly DIY-friendly option is its quick connect system. The wiring and refrigerant lines are already sealed and protected. All you have to do is drill a hole and connect the line from the indoor unit to the condenser. The entire set-up can be done in as little as 30 minutes.
Easy installation isn’t the only reason why this ClimateRight unit is a great option for tiny houses. With seamless cool to heating settings, this impressive unit can cool and warm spaces up to 550 square feet. Whether you’re a couple living in a 150 square foot home or a bigger family living in a bigger space, this tiny house AC can provide the comfort you’re looking for.
This engine has been tried, tested, and loved by customers who have installed it in barns, garages, and basements. Even in 100% outdoor humidity, the ClimateRight works effortlessly and without fail. It’s a fantastic all-around option for tiny houses of all sizes and locations.
|BTU||Cooling 9,000 BTU; Heating 10,000 BTU|
|Dimensions||28.43 x 7.36 x 11.42 inches|
|Good For||Smaller tiny homes of up to 350 to 400 square feet|
|Special Features||Impressive 19 SEER rating for a small and affordable unit|
|Warranty||5 years on the compresor; 2 year for the parts|
The Senville SENL-09CD is proof that you don’t need to break the bank for a great air conditioning unit. This ultra affordable air conditioning unit will provide the best cooling money can buy, and then some more.
At $619, you’re getting an inverter-driven AC that’s both tough and efficient. With cooling and heating features, the Senville can last through many seasons whether it’s summer or winter. Even at temperatures of 5F, this heat pump can warm your tiny house and keep it cozy throughout the cold nights.
It comes in an easy-to-install kit that you can install without the help of an HVAC professional. With a tough to beat price and sufficient performance, this Senville unit is really one of the most tiny house-friendly AC units out there.
|Dimensions||18.1 x 21.2 x 12.4 inches|
|Good For||Standard tiny homes|
|Special Features||Barely-audible humming and energy-saving feature|
|Warranty||1 year parts and service|
Intrusive noise is a concern for window ACs, but this Haier unit defies all expectations and is hailed as one of the quietest window ACs of all time. The unit features a compressor blanket that reduces operation noise to only 44 decibels at the lowest setting.
At 6,000 BTU, this window AC is compatible with your standard tiny house and will provide comfortable cooling year-round. The unit comes with a wireless remote so you can set your comfort levels with ease. With a built-in 24 timer, you can optimize cooling sessions for when you leave and arrive home.
This Haier unit also features an energy-saver mode, allowing you to manage the temperature of your home with little intervention needed. Order the unit for self-installation or with professional help for an additional $106.84.
|Dimensions||19 x 21.2 x 13.4 inches|
|Good For||Standard to medium-sized tiny homes|
|Extra Features||Built-in timer and impressive cooling features.`|
|Warranty||1 year full / 5 year sealed system|
The Frigidaire features a modern design that will seamless blend with any tiny house. With the cooling power of 8,000 BTU, this powerful unit can easily cool tiny homes of up to 350 square feet and performs even better in standard-sized homes.
This AC unit offers three different fan speeds set to your preference. A built-in timer allows you to schedule the unit cycles in half-hour increments. A smart built-in temperature indicator allows the unit to self-monitor the temperature, saving you consumption costs without even knowing it.
As a window AC, it can’t get any quieter than this. Running at just 41 decibels, the Frigidaire is designed to deliver comfortable temperatures with minimal noise. All in all, it’s a powerful, affordable AC that’s built for everything a tiny house needs.
Keeping Things Cool: Which Tiny House AC Is Right for You?
Like any other appliance in your tiny home, your AC choice depends on your location, budget, and needs. Most tiny home owners go with split type ACs because of their inconspicuous design, energy efficiency, and unparalleled performance, but that doesn’t mean you can’t go with reliable window units.
At the end of the day, the secret to buying the right tiny house AC is knowing exactly what you need, and getting the best deal for it.
Hey, there! We're Ivan and Manuela from Croatia, and we're crazy about tiny houses. We don't own one (yet).
This website is a result of our passion to share all the knowledge, photos, tips and tricks that we were able to learn while studying everything possible about the tiny house movement.