As the cold season approaches, you need to start thinking about your source of hot water. For a tiny house, your options are somewhat limited as far as the size of the hot water heater is concerned. But there are other factors to consider as well, such as your hot water needs, your budget, and whether you are on or off the grid.
Tank vs tankless water heater
Traditional water heaters are an excellent choice if you need a continuous supply of hot water. However, these water heaters also use a lot of energy and take up more space than on-demand tankless units because they need a tank to hold the hot water. If you don’t have the extra space, an on-demand water heater that only heats up the water as you use it may be preferable.
Electric vs propane/gas unit
The fuel that your hot water system runs on largely depends on what fuel you can access. Propane units have a higher cost of installation but are more powerful, use almost no energy compared to their counterparts, and are easier to run. If you already have running propane lines for your stove and heater, then choosing a propane hot water heater would be the obvious choice.
If you don’t have propane lines and want a water heater on a budget, then you should consider getting an electric system. It is inexpensive to purchase and install, though it consumes more electricity. If your house is connected to the grid, an electric hot water heater can be manageable. But if you are off the grid – using solar power, for instance – then using an electric water heater can be quite challenging.
Solar hot water
If your house is in a place that receives plenty of sunshine on most days of the year, then the sun provides an inexhaustible way to heat up your water. Solar hot water systems are designed to heat a non-freezable liquid, that in turn heats water in a tank through a heat exchanger. This ensures that you can enjoy a warm bath even during winter, provided there is some sunshine.
That said, there are different types of solar collectors and heating systems. Discuss the suitability of a solar hot water heater in your area with an expert. These systems are also quite expensive, though they require minimal investment after installation. So do your research before taking the plunge.
Lastly, if you are living in a tiny house because you’re cash-strapped, you could always try living without running hot water. Simply invest in a nice electric kettle or hot plate to heat water for washing, cooking, or bathing, only when you need it. This option offers the most savings as it eliminates costs associated with buying and installing a hot water heater system and running and maintaining it.