Choosing tiny house appliances requires a lot of careful consideration. Unlike shopping for a traditional house, tiny house dwellers cannot simply buy an appliance and assume its power requirements will match with what the tiny house can supply.
Each square foot in a tiny home counts for a lot, so buying a lot of normal-sized appliances will crowd the small space you have. These are just a few reasons why you should plan before buying household appliances for your tiny house.
So how can you pick out the right appliances for your tiny home? Here are five questions you should ask yourself before you start shopping so you can begin tiny living in style:
Shop For Your Tiny House: Five Questions to Ask Yourself
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1) What Appliances Do I Need For My Tiny House?
Picking tiny house appliances can be overwhelming. You won’t have as much space as you would in an ordinary house, your budget may be limited because of the move, or you’re not sure which are the best appliances you’re looking for.
Homeowners also use a variety of appliances that help make tedious tasks easier, but figuring out maintenance and storage for every single device can be taxing. This is why planning and research will guide you in choosing what you need so you’re sure to only bring (or buy) whatever you need for your tiny house.
A good way to start would be to think about the appliances you use in each area of your tiny house. Ask yourself what appliances you see as you go from room to room, then work from there:
Kitchen appliances make up the majority of what you have to get for your tiny house. Daily tasks such as cooking and eating, on top of hosting dinners and cleaning up cookware, are dependent on what your kitchen is capable of.
Some of the basic things you’ll need in your kitchen to make it feel like it can do anything are:
- A refrigerator
- A freezer
- An oven
- A stovetop, cooktop, or cooking range
- A toaster oven
- A dishwasher
- A microwave oven
- A kitchen sink
If you’re constantly travelling with your home on wheels, chances are you won’t have regular access to a laundromat. This means having the equipment to do laundry at home is essential.
You can find a full size clothes washer and dryer, or a combo unit of the two. Some tiny home owners prefer miniature washing and drying machines, while others favor portable, manual units for energy conservation.
A bathroom in any home sees a lot of use, so it’s important to make enough space to fit all the bathroom essentials, such as:
- A toilet
- A shower (or a bath, which some tiny house dwellers insist on)
- A sink
- A water heater
- A mechanism for ventilation
Many tiny home dwellers have loft bedrooms, so there isn’t much space for cramming this area with appliances. The major concern here will be lighting, an air conditioner or an electric fan, and sometimes a dehumidifier.
The living area in a tiny house is the space where working, studying, relaxing, and any other activity can be done. It’s important to keep this part of the house clean, well-ventilated, and well-lit. These are some appliances most tiny home dwellers have:
- LED lights
- A heater
- An air conditioner
- Electric fans
- A dehumidifier
- A vacuum or hand-vacuum
- A television
- A sound system
- A computer system (with an Internet connection)
A lot of tiny home owners decide to turn their outdoor area into an extension of their homes. Some of them have outdoor kitchens, while others prefer to use their outdoor space to collect solar energy or build sustainable gardens.
2) What Size Should My Tiny House Appliances Be?
Finding the right sizes for your tiny house appliances will depend on how much available space there is in your tiny house, your usage habits, and what you are willing to compromise on.
For example, a large family that prefers to save money and time by cooking at home instead of eating out would definitely need a larger refrigerator and a standard-sized range.
On the other hand, a couple that dines out regularly can get by with a toaster oven and a portable cooktop.
Ultimately, the appliances have to match what you need rather than what you want. Keep in mind that you might begin adopting new habits when you move into a tiny house, so you should pick equally tiny devices to use.
When trying to find tiny house appliances, here are a few things to consider:
- Full sized: Full size appliances are what we see in traditional houses. These are not conventionally chosen for tiny homes since they are much heavier and take up a lot of space. However, you should still think about buying something larger if you think it will benefit you in the long run. Try to find something full size, but can fit into a narrow space such as a tall, skinny refrigerator.
- Miniature: Miniature appliances are also referred to as RV, marine, apartment, or dorm-sized appliances. These products are manufactured to fit into much smaller spaces which make them the perfect options for tiny homes. From a mini-fridge to a tiny oven, it’s become easy to find a mini-version of your favorite appliance that doesn’t take up additional space.
- Compact: Compact appliances were specifically created for tiny houses, and they’re slowly gaining popularity even outside the tiny house nation for their sleek designs and affordability. Compact pieces have more unique shapes and sizes so they can fit perfectly on your countertop, like this cube microwave oven.
- Collapsible: Collapsible or foldable tools will save you time organizing everything to fit into your storage area. Since these gadgets can be folded up, you can stack them flat or squeeze them into a small space easily. By replacing your kitchen essentials with collapsible versions like this tea kettle, you won’t waste extra storage space.
- Multi-purpose: Technology has improved so much that products now have multifunctional features. You can find devices that can serve more than one purpose and save you lots of space. Some appliances can work as an air fryer, slow cook pot, and pressure cooker all-in-one, allowing you to prepare complicated dishes without needing multiple appliances. The same is true when shopping for furniture.
3) Power, Water, Ventilation: Which Appliances Will Best Suit My Tiny Home?
Household appliances are an investment; they require a lot of research and preparation to make sure you’re getting the best bang for your buck. This is especially true when shopping for tiny house appliances since traditional appliances may not be compatible with a tiny home. Your choice of appliance will heavily depend on whether you decide to live off-grid or want something eco-friendly.
Ideally, the products you choose should also be designed to operate efficiently with the power, water, and ventilation capabilities of your tiny home.
Powering Your Tiny Home
Be careful not to overlook power capacity when choosing appliances. For starters, most tiny house kitchen appliances would still require 240v power connections and cause significant drains on your power.
Here are some things you have to take into consideration:
Many appliances for tiny houses rely on electricity, but they’re not always the best choice if you’re using alternative energy sources or planning to go-off grid. Gas or propane-fueled appliances such as instant water heaters and portable cooktops would be best. You can also try out natural gas appliances if you can install a natural gas conversion kit.
Going off-grid is an option that requires an extensive power system. Ideally you would have a reliable solar collection system to fuel electrical appliances when living off-grid. You can design one from scratch or buy solar kit panels for quick installation.
You can also opt for gas-fueled appliances if you plan to go off-grid. A hybrid on-grid/off-grid system will offer you more flexibility with the appliances since you can just consider the size and functionality. At the end of the day, you’d still need to think about the limitations of your power system.
Learn more: How to Wire a Tiny House for Solar Power
DC vs AC Appliances
People often argue about buying DC or AC appliances. DC stands for direct current, which means energy only flows in one direction. The AC refers to alternate current, which means energy flows back and forth.
While DC users claim AC is more inefficient, DC appliances tend to be more expensive with only limited sizes and colors available. It’s also more difficult to find electricians to install DC appliances.
Water Supply and Drainage For a Tiny House
Although some tiny house appliances may not need much power, almost every kind will require some sort of water supply and drainage system, specifically dishwashers and washer-dryer combos.
If your tiny house has a foundation, you can easily hook it up to your city’s water and sewer lines. Otherwise, you can use an RV-style hose to fill up your tanks for the water supply. For drainage, there are several approaches:
- For greywater, or the water used in washing machines, sinks, or showers, you can throw the water to the ground.
- You can connect waste pipes around your tiny house to a sewer or septic tank. Other people prefer to collect waste in large containers and dispose of them in an RV “dump station” or “waste receiving station”.
- You can choose to use a composting toilet, where the liquid urine can be disposed separately while the solid waste is converted to compost. Check out our guide in choosing between composting or incinerating toilets.
Want to learn how to design your tiny house’s plumbing system from scratch? We wrote an extensive article discussing everything you need to know about plumbing for tiny houses, whether your house is on wheels or built on a foundation.
Ventilation For Tiny Houses
Proper ventilation in a tiny house is important to maintain air quality and prevent humidity. Bad air easily accumulates in a small space, especially if you are using gas or wood-fueled appliances. This is why it’s essential to plan around bulky ventilation tubing.
To prevent excess moisture and humidity, you can also install fans and dehumidifiers. This will keep mold and musty odors from damaging your tiny house and negatively affecting your health.
Learn more: Tiny House Air Exchange Systems
4) How Do I Find the Right Appliances For Off-Grid Use?
The term “off-grid” is frequently used in tiny living circles, but what does it actually mean?
Going off-grid refers to living autonomously, without relying on utilities. This means your tiny house isn’t hooked up to the grid that supplies traditional houses with electricity and water. Living off the grid allows you the freedom to travel even to the most remote locations because you don't need to access these utilities.
Tiny houses are often best suited to the off-grid lifestyle, because these homes have much lower energy demands and are built for moving around. Most off-grid energy sources include wind, solar, and other renewables.
Living off-grid successfully requires a slightly different set of appliances than a tiny house connected to the grid. Many tiny homes are built to be a smaller replica of a traditional house, but off-grid housing would require leaner appliances.
If you’re considering going off-grid, here are some of our best tips for choosing off-grid appliances:
Temperature and Air-Conditioning
Using electricity to heat up your off-grid tiny house is not a great idea because it takes up too much energy. A direct-vent propane heater is more ideal since you can save fuel by installing a heater and thermostat for each room. You can find our top recommendations for vent-free space heaters here.
On the other hand, air-conditioning may be too energy intensive for an off-grid tiny house. Energy efficient electric fans that can keep the air circulating are the preferred option. Luckily, there are plenty of tiny house-friendly AC systems that you can choose from. Select an Energy Star rated AC so you’re sure it will run efficiently.
Tankless or instant water heaters are a much better option for off-grid than electric heaters. These “demand-type” heaters will only heat up water and utilize energy when needed, allowing you to save up on energy costs. You can have a natural gas or propane burner to heat your water up, and you won’t need to wait to fill a storage tank with water.
Clothing Washers and Dryers
Thanks to washer-dryer combos you can have both appliances in your tiny house. Some washing machines are more efficient with electricity, while others are specifically designed for off-grid use.
Tiny, ultrasonic washing machines consume 40% less energy than other washers, or you can even buy an unconventional, manually-operated washer. There are portable washing machines designed with a hand crank or foot crank, so you won’t need any energy at all.
Freezers and Refrigerators
Standard refrigerators and freezers will deplete your battery charge quickly so try and look for off-grid solar fridges and freezers. Here are our top picks. These are more insulated and energy-efficient.
If you have limited space or budget, it might be better to choose a freezer. Freezers can extend the shelf life of your food, drinks, and perishables - which is much more preferable if you plan on living in an off-grid tiny house for a long time.
Stoves, Ovens, and Cooktops
There are so many cooking surface options available for tiny houses but think twice before committing to an electric appliance. Propane or natural gas stoves wouldn’t need any power, and propane canisters can easily be brought around when traveling.
Choosing an appliance for cooking boils down to how regularly you cook. If you enjoy baking, you definitely need a nice oven. A powerful toaster oven can also help you prepare a number of simple dishes, so don’t rule out a toaster oven either.
If you have a larger family to feed, you may want a freestanding range and oven combination, while a portable cooktop and small oven can work well if you don’t plan on cooking a lot in your tiny kitchen. To learn more about tiny house kitchen appliances, read our article on the best cooktops for tiny living.
Of course, the ideal situation is washing all the dishes by hand. But if you find yourself needing one, look for an Energy Star model. Thankfully, finding the right tiny house-friendly dishwasher isn’t so difficult since there are so many options to shop from.
Note that dishwashers mostly have two power heaters: one for drying the dishes and one for heating the water to clean with. Disconnect the heaters when you’re not using the dishwasher to save more energy.
5) How Do I Organize All My Tiny House Appliances?
One of the best ways to decide on appliances for tiny homes is to imagine which item goes where. This is when you plan out the “areas” or “zones” in your house and how they’ll look.
Since you wouldn’t have formal rooms, you should organize the available space into different zones to avoid piling your appliances into one corner. Not only will this keep your house from getting cluttered with tiny house appliances, but you also create an illusion that there’s more space to move around in.
Here are our tips on creating zones in your house and how to make extra room for the appliances you need:
Tiny living often requires converting the tiny space you have into a multipurpose area. Your recreational living zone would most likely double as a workspace, so you have to factor that in when organizing this space. Our favorite tiny living tricks include:
- Mount your television on the wall or behind the door of a cabinet. If you’re concerned about keeping the screen at eye level, you’ll need to find a wall mount that can be adjusted for multiple angles.
- Purchase shelves that incorporate a desktop into the design or install a pull-down desk on the wall. This will also make it easier for you to switch from work mode to relaxing mode, since it doesn’t take that much work to convert any space into a dedicated desk.
A bulk of your gadgets, appliances, and tools will most likely belong in the kitchen area.
When living in a tiny house, you would have to give up the more useless items such as ice-cream makers, juicers, physical cookbooks and even a full set of knives. These take up a lot of space, but aren’t all that necessary in your kitchen. You can cook well even with simple tools. Other tips for organizing your tiny house kitchen are:
- Remove all the non-essential items from your kitchen. If you haven’t used it in six weeks, it’s best to let it go.
- Downsize your refrigerator. Many fridges being sold in the US are larger, more hi-tech, and definitely more expensive - but you don’t need a giant fridge if you’re only using it to stock milk and leftovers.
- Pick a deep sink and a retractable faucet so you can have more space on your counter for meal prep.
- If you really want a freestanding oven, look for a miniature oven suited for a tiny house or buy one that also serves as a stovetop.
Visiting a laundromat can really take up a lot of time and energy, so having a laundry area can definitely help you.
Instead of buying a washing machine and dryer separately, you can invest in a washer dryer combo machine. Thankfully finding one that's fit for small spaces isn’t that difficult because of the options available on the market.
Here are other tips for maximizing your laundry area:
- Install a pull-out or pull-down ironing board on the wall. Once you put in the mechanism and attach the board, you won’t have any problems storing it.
- Push your laundry machines to one side and create a narrow space for a bookshelf. Here, you can store detergent and softener bottles.
- If you have cabinet shelves in your designated laundry area, you can install a rod underneath for drying clothes on.
- If you have high ceilings, loft your washing machine and dryer a foot or two above the ground. This will allow you to create a cubby to slide baskets of dirty laundry underneath.
While planning the bathroom usually comes as an afterthought to most people, some tiny home builders actually tend to prioritize this space.
One reason is because your bathroom determines the plumbing and energy requirements of your house, so everything else is created around your bathroom preferences.
Our favorite downsizing tips include:
- Standard-sized showers are too small for most tiny houses, so your best option is to install a shower fixture and tile the surrounding area.
- Go for a multi-purpose toilet. Composting toilets are popular with the tiny house nation because these allow you to go off-grid and don't need water to flush. Or if you’re uncomfortable with this idea, there are available toilet-sink combinations that can save you a lot of space.
When it comes to your tiny house appliances, the best way is really to understand your own preferences and what your tiny home can accommodate. Don’t think too much on trendy appliances - it’s best to stick with basics that are functional and comfortable for your home. With adequate planning and creativity, you can design your tiny house into something that you love.
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.