Nothing beats the feeling of a hot shower on a cold winter day. Unless you left your pipes to freeze from the cold.
Winterizing your tiny house water pipes are an essential part of seasonal maintenance. It’s a one-time effort that will keep your pipes flowing for an entire season.
So, how do you keep your tiny house water pipes from freezing? The answer is insulation. All you have to do is gather up hardware supplies such as insulation foam, heating tape or cable, and duct tape, and use those to warm up your water supply.
Not sure where to begin? Read on to learn everything you need to know when it comes to freeze-proofing your tiny house.
Do I Need to Winterize My Tiny Home?
Winterizing water plumbing is somewhat of a holiday tradition for bigger homes, but does it mean tiny house owners have to do it too? Don’t be fooled: just because you live in a smaller home doesn’t mean your plumbing requires less maintenance.
On the contrary, your plumbing set-up might need additional work especially if you don’t have a skirt or foundation protecting your plumbing from extreme temperatures. The good news is that preventing your tiny house water pipes from freezing is easy and affordable.
Preventing Tiny House Pipes From Freezing
1) Evaluate Your Plumbing System
First things first: let’s understand where things could go wrong. Off-grid tiny house folk usually have indoor fresh water tanks that are refilled manually through a portable jug or through a removable water hose.
For the most part, you only have to worry about the water hose holding excess water, and this one is a pretty easy solve. Just make sure to dump out the excess water before you store your portable hose to prevent the inside from freezing, then store it in a warm area of your home.
Thankfully tiny house plumbing is pretty straightforward. If you’re hooked to the grid, keep your eye out for the following:
- If you’re hooked to a main water supply, chances are you have a water pipe exposed out in the open. For some tiny house owners, they have the option to bury the water supply line underground to prevent it from freezing.
- Most tiny home owners don’t have the option to bury their supply line. Your option is to insulate and heat up the supply line using materials you can buy in any hardware store.
2) Make the Right Decisions During the Build
Make sure you’re making the right decisions for your home before you unleash it in the cold. As much as possible, keep water supply lines inside your tiny home. This means running it under your trailer as opposed to having it on the side of your home.
Bill from Tiny House Prepper illustrated just how important it is to keep your water supply close to home (or in his case, inside the home) to prevent pipes from freezing. His home’s old plumbing design involved a water supply line that ran 15 feet on unprotected ground and up the side of the house, which means complete vulnerability to cold winter nights.
Bill’s complete rehaul of his plumbing system involved running the water line inside the house as opposed to having it on the side, and insulating the skirt with foam spray to keep the pipes from freezing.
Lucky for you, the solution is to ensure that your plumbing system is protected as much as possible by keeping pipes and connectors unexposed. Whether it’s under the trailer bed or inside wooden boards, the important thing is to keep it tucked away from open air.
3) Make a Skirt for Your Tiny Home
Think only homes on foundation can have skirts? Tiny house on wheels can be winter-proofed too! One of the cheapest and fastest ways to do this is by using insulation boards or foams to cover the sides of your tiny house. What this does is protect the underside of your trailer as well as help keep the floors warmer.
Here’s what you need:
|Insulation foams / boards||$100 - $150 in total|
|All-weather duct tape||$5 - $10 per pack - $ 15 for a three-pack|
|Cinder blocks, wood scraps, or any sturdy material||Free|
|Total Cost: $165|
Step 1: Measure your trailer and see how much insulation you need to buy. Insulation boards or foams can cost $100 to $150 depending on the size of your trailer. This should be available in any hardware store.
Step 2: Place cinder blocks, pieces of wood, or just about any sturdy material as support for the insulation. Use these materials to help keep your insulation stable and prevent wind from piercing through it.
Step 3: Use all-weather duct tape to attach the insulation board to your tiny home. We recommend using duct tape so it’s easy to unpack and remove once spring comes around.
Step 4, optional: You can choose to cover up the insulation job by spray painting the foam to make it blend better with the rest of your trailer.
How to Insulate Your Tiny House’s Fresh Water Supply
Water pipes can freeze overnight. It doesn’t matter if you’re using PEX pipes instead of PVC, leftover water can still freeze inside and clog your supply line. Insulating your pipes ensure that you can enjoy consistent water supply through winter.
Here’s what you’ll need:
|Heat tape or cable||$30 - $70 depending on length|
|Foam pipe insulation||$5 - $15 based on size|
|All-weather duct tape||$5 - $10 per pack - $ 15 for a three-pack|
Heat Tape VS Heat Cable: What to Choose?
A heating tape and a heating cable are often interchanged. Although minute, there are some small differences that differ a heating tape from a heating cable.
A heating tape is flexible. You can wrap it around a spigot or pipe with ease and plug it in an energy source. Unlike a heating cable, heating tapes are not self-regulating products. They usually come with a thermostat so you can manually adjust the temperature based on your needs.
A heating cable is a less malleable version of the heating tape. Instead of wrapping it around the shape of the pipe or spigot, most tiny house owners just run it along the side of the pipe and attach it using duct tape.
Heating cables are either self-regulating or constant-wattage. You can buy a heat cable that turns on when it reaches below a certain temperature, or you can choose a heating cable with a thermostat for manual operation.
We found that either option works well for a tiny home. We lean towards using a heating cable since this material is more durable and has the ability to power up on its own, meaning less maintenance as a tiny house owner.
Insulating Tiny House Pipes for Winter
- Measure the length of the water pipe and choose an appropriate heating cable or tape.
- Wrap the water pipe in cable or tape using duct tape. We like to wrap the pipe with aluminum foil beforehand to help distribute the heat along the pipe.
- Wrap insulation around the heated pipe with duct tape. One layer is usually enough but if you’re in areas with extremely cold temperatures, 2-3 layers of insulation should do the trick. Secure everything with duct tape.
Tips for Insulation Success
- Don’t forget to insulate the spigot and other metal connectors
- If you’re using a heating cable/tape with a thermostat, follow the instructions and install it right against the hose. The thermostat should be able to detect the hose’s temperature as accurately as possible
- Use black duct tape and black/gray insulation foam to make your insulation work look seamless
- Wrap cable cords, plugs, and exposed heating cable/tape on the axel or suspend them above the trailer to prevent water/snow/heat damage
- Leave some part of the heating cable/tape exposed so you can check the temperature from time to time
Thawing Frozen Tiny House Water Pipes
If you ever switch on the faucet hoping to have a hot shower and get nothing but a gurgle, it could be a sign that your pipes are frozen. Detach the pipes from the water supply and peek inside. A frozen pipe will have a block of ice lodged inside.
To thaw a frozen tiny house pipe simply detach the pipe and move it to a warm location. You can use a blow dryer or park it next to a space heater to speed up the process.
Hassle-Free Tiny House Living
Freeze-proofing your water pipes once can last you several months. With affordable materials and easy-to-follow instructions, there’s no way you can’t protect your home in the cold and harsh winters.
Follow our tips today and get the most out of your tiny house, come rain, hail, or sunshine.
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.