Living off-grid in a tiny house is fun, exciting, but also a challenge. You have to figure out how to fulfill your energy needs without the convenience of the electric grid powering your home. While many tiny house homeowners want to use as much reusable energy such as solar power as possible, it just isn’t practical to expect that you can power all your energy needs with solar alone. Which is why you need to turn to propane.
Propane is one of the most efficient, cleanest, and most flexible energy sources available to tiny house off-grid homeowners, and there are a number of crucial tiny house appliances that you can power with propane to make your life so much easier.
In this article, we discuss exactly what makes propane the off-gridder’s “dirty little secret”, and the tiny house appliances you might want to start powering with propane today.
Why Tiny House Owners Love Propane
Propane can be the bread and butter of your energy needs in tiny house living (or any kind of off-grid living). For many tiny house homeowners, propane is almost always a constant in powering at least a few of their appliances.
Whether you are powering a boiler, a stove, a water heater, or anything else that might need power, if you have the propane available, you can find an applicable appliance that can use it.
Off-grid communities like to think of propane as their “dirty little secret” – no matter how much you might try to be energy self-sufficient, running only on green power, propane is there to help push you over the edge.
There are a number of reasons why propane is an off-gridder’s best friend:
- Flexibility: There are propane appliances for all the daily tasks you might need to do. Cooking, clothes drying, back-up generators, water heating, refrigeration, and more: if you need an easy solution for a new problem, propane is a simple and straightforward answer. You can use propane as an affordable “today” answer for a problem while you save up money or plan for a more efficient energy lifestyle.
- Efficiency: Propane is an incredibly energy-efficient source of energy. One cubic foot of natural gas contains roughly 1030 BTUs (British Thermal Unit, the unit that measures thermal energy), while a single cubic foot of propane contains 2516 BTUs. This means propane almost has three times as much energy as natural gas. A 100,000 BTU furnace will burn roughly 97 cubic feet of natural gas in an hour, while the equivalent propane device will burn just 40 cubic feet over the same time.
- Affordability: For all its flexibility, propane is a pretty affordable source of energy. At just a US average of $2.78 per gallon of propane as of 2019, you won’t find yourself spending big on your propane bills. You can save thousands of dollars per year in energy costs by replacing certain appliances with high-efficiency propane alternatives.
- The “Green Fuel”: Propane is widely considered the “green fuel” due to its eco-friendliness, in that it creates significantly less greenhouse gas byproducts than other kinds of fossil fuels, such as natural gas. Studies have found that vehicles powered on propane produce up to 90% less carbon monoxide than regular vehicles. Propane is also non-toxic, meaning it isn’t dangerous to dispose in water or soil.
- Portable: And finally, propane is super easy to move around and store. You can refill your own propane tanks and keep it in your tiny house, only refilling it whenever it becomes empty.
While some off-gridders might argue that propane is still a fossil fuel and you should avoid using it, the truth is that we are still pretty limited with our practical choices. Extra solar panels, batteries, and reusable energy sources can cost a pretty penny, and if you move around a lot, you don’t always have a guarantee that your sources of reusable energy will function as much as you need.
While wood heaters can be used to cook and solar cookers can work great when the sun is out, you can’t rely on these devices exclusively to get you through year-round. Propane is the greatest back-up answer any tiny house homeowner can have – easy to store, easy to take out and use whenever needed, and incredibly flexible with appliances.
Tip: For tiny houses that use a lot of propane, you will want to store your propane tanks in an exterior compartment or closet that is separated from the interior of your home. This area should be well-vented with doors or walls that can open wide, ensuring that the fumes can be released rather than building up inside of the tiny house.
Another tip is keeping a back-up propane tank full at all times. There’s nothing worse than running out of propane in the middle of a cold winter night.
Tiny House Appliances That Work Great with Propane
Propane Hot Water Heater
Regardless of your preference, propane is perhaps the best energy source for any tiny house water heater system. Less expensive, greater device lifespan, and faster water heating capabilities, propane hot water heaters take the cake in both convenience and functionality. Enjoy your hot showers with less waiting time and for much longer.
- Takagi T-KJr2-IN-LP Indoor
- Rinnai RL94iP Propane
- Rheem RTG-95XLP Outdoor
Propane Clothes Dryer
We understand that not all tiny houses will have clothes dryers, but for those that do wish to have a clothes dryer in their home, a propane-fueled dryer is your perfect choice. A full load in an electric dryer will cost the energy-equivalent of around 40 cents; if powered by propane, a single load will cost roughly half that.
For larger families living in tiny homes, saving half your laundry cost with every load can help you save a small fortune.
- Maytag Bravos MGDB
- GE Aluminized Alloy Drum Gas Dryer
- Samsung 7.5 Gas Dryer
Propane Stove / Cooktop
Propane stoves and cooktops allow for even heat distribution, making it much more efficient to cook with propane than it is with electric alternatives. There’s no wait time as the burner heats up (as there is with electric appliances), as burners can heat up instantly and cool down almost immediately, maximizing both safety and ease on your tiny house kitchen counter.
When cooking with a compact propane stove or cooktop instead of an electric device for your counter, you will end up saving about half of your energy consumption.
- Marine ranges Seaward 2-Burner
- Ramblewood GC2-43P
- Koblenz PFK-400 Victoria stainless steel 4-Burner
Propane-fueled refrigerators are the refrigerators of choice for many tiny house homeowners. There are some refrigerators on the market that can now run on both electricity and propane, giving you even extra flexibility (propane when you find yourself off-grid).
Refrigerators are pretty energy-heavy, meaning they can be difficult to run with solar energy, so using propane for your refrigerator can save any solar power you might have for smaller appliances.
One tip we can give you with propane-fueled refrigerators is to insulate the refrigerator vents, particularly if your tiny house will find itself in a colder environment. Insulating the vents is necessary if you want to avoid your refrigerator freezing up from the outside vents.
- Avanti RA7316PST
- Midea WHD-113FB1
If you're in a process of choosing a fridge for your tiny home, check out our top 6 picks for tiny house refrigerators.
Propane Space Heater
Furnaces, space heaters, boilers – whatever appliance you choose to heat up your tiny house, propane is the perfect fuel to power it. You can really feel the energy efficiency of propane in the air around you when you power up your propane space heater.
What’s more, you won’t have to worry about overworking your heater; propane-powered devices tend to last longer than electric or oil devices, due to the cleaner and more efficient energy output (99.9% efficiency rating).
- Mr. Heater Big Buddy Indoor Propane Heater
- Camco 57331 Portable Propane Heater
- Dyna Glo RA18LPDF Propane Cabinet Heater
If you want to learn more about propane heaters, check out this post: Best Vented Propane Heaters for Tiny House
Is Propane Right For Your Tiny Home?
No true off-grid experience can be done without a bit of propane. So start planning the propane use in your tiny house today, and figure out which appliances you want to power with this clean and efficient fuel. Good luck!
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.