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Your Thoughts on the Most Sustainable 8x15 Trailer for Cold Climates

  1. Nov 13, 2014 #1
    I am trying to design an extremely efficient and sustainable, roadworthy, mobile house(on a trailer) for use in Canada's North. The climate this house will be located in is -50 degrees Celsius lows in the winter, and +30 Celsius highs in the summer. Very high wind all year round. 24 hr daylight in the summer, and 2-4 hrs of dim sunlight in the winter. Semi-arid, bedrock/tundra-eske.

    If I am willing to handwash laundry and dishes in the bathtub, use a composting toilet, and purchase a non-electric, gravity-fed pellet stove, how little can we reduce utility and heating costs to, while maximizing function?

    My idea is a layout similar to this (http://tinyhouseswoon.com/tiny-studio/) with a pellet stove in the place of the cupboard in front of the door. Increase spray insulation to near 1ft on all outdoor walls, floor, and ceiling. Exchange that water toilet for a composting toilet, and the shower to a sit in tub. Maintain the structure/loft above the bathroom, and use as storage for batteries and a gravity fed rainwater collection, but get rid of the wall between these two areas, as it only takes up space, does not allow heat to transfer efficiently from the pellet stove to bathing/washing area, and is not necessary for a single person/couple. I personally love to cook for friends at their places, and don't need an oven or fridge at home. That's just me, I'm not picky about big meals, raw foods are good with me most of the time, with the exception of special occasions.

    Energy sources would include the Wiseways pellet stove (http://www.wisewaypelletstoves.com/). This stove, with the added water jacket, heats water without electricity, gas, or propane. It can also distill clean drinking water without electricity. 1 bag of pellets can run the stove for 36 hours, but this would be too hot for my space. I need to figure out a way to dial this stove back, and make it burn colder/longer! :) Not a normal problem. It also includes wheels, so that I can remove the stove and clean it/use it outdoors in the summer. The only electronic needs in the house include two lightbulbs, a built in stereo, and the ability to charge/run two laptops and cell phones, off of a battery charged during the day. I was thinking that the extra heat produced by the stove could be used through the hot hater jackets. These would be switched over from hot water for the bath, to actually radiant heat for the roof where the solar panels are located in the winter, keeping them clear, and helping to a supply rainwater collection system through the winter.

    What do you think? :) Tear it apart!
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 14, 2014 #2


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    Think long and hard about this before you plunge in. I lived in a small trailer for 9 months (a school year) many years ago in a much more temperate climate than what you are talking about. It was cold, lonely, and absolutely miserable!! You had better be extremely busy all the time so that you have no time to think about how miserable you are and asking yourself, "why am I doing this?"
  4. Nov 14, 2014 #3
    Thanks for the advice! I'm a pretty big hermit other than having my boyfriend over now and again, I don't get too lonely. I am also planning on living in/near a community of individuals with similar lifestyles. I understand though, none of my family cd live this lifestyle. The reason I'm on this forum is for ideas on making this more of a pleasent and effectivd home design.
  5. Nov 14, 2014 #4


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    I recall many nights when it was cold (about 25 deg F) and raining, with the wind blowing and the trailer rocking and the skylight leaking on the bed, when I really thought I had lost my mind. Oh, and my only water supply was corrupted with sulfur compounds to the point that it stank to high heaven.
  6. Nov 14, 2014 #5
    I've done quite a bit of winter camping in the North. I hunt and I grew up in an Aboriginal community where I gained a lot of bare bones survival techniques. I'm a survivor- I'll be alright, don't worry. ;)
  7. Nov 15, 2014 #6


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    Means nothing... my ex-wife is Cree, and she'd die without a microwave and credit card. :p
  8. Nov 15, 2014 #7
    I use the term as cultural more than racial, all I mean is I am fiiiiine with bare bones in terms of housing.
    Last edited: Nov 15, 2014
  9. Nov 15, 2014 #8


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    Hi Bhreaghl. Welcome to the board. The stove looks like you need propane to start it. I wonder if you could modify the stove with a permenantly installed propane burner. Could you add a propane line and burner in the bottom of this thing to get it started?

    I saw the short video where the guy uses a hand held propane torch to get it started. The idea would be to replace that torch with a small, permenantly installed, propane burner. When you need just a little heat, run the propane burner without any pellets. When you need more heat, throw the pellets in and once started, you can turn off the propane.

    In that video, the guy also shows a trap door in the bottom of the hopper. I wonder if that can be shut when you don't want to burn any more pellets? Or do you have to burn everything out of it before it will go out? What do you know about how the stove works?
  10. Nov 17, 2014 #9
    the trailer you posted would be a disaster in -50 cold. the windows would obliterate the heat you produced with a small stove.Temperatures under -40 need to be taken seriously. uninsulated surfaces become a major factor in heat loss. a container with double insulated walls and no windows would be far better for extreme cold and if you could bury it under snow would be even better. you need to be 100% sure of your exhaust while using the stove. also use the stove to heat the fresh air intake to increase efficiency. why a container? its solid and heavy both needed to survive heavy winds. solid insulation on each side of the shaped metal adds an airspace which helps as well for noise suppression. but one question where will you clean your clothes during the winter if the average temp is -30 -35 ? the washing may be contained in a tub but how do you intend to dry it? its a small space hanging it up inside will be a problem. another factor is how long do you plan to be there. at 36 hrs per bag of pellets you'll need to lug X's as many days worth of bags with you and make a dry accessible storage space for them once there. buying or getting anything shipped up north is expensive. snow gives you water during the winter but you may want to make the roof of the trailer/container into a water collector for the summer and bring a few empty 45gal containers to store it in. the other big reason for a container over a fairly light duty trailer is wildlife which will want to get at any food you have in it.

    my advice is before you do this make sure you have all your T's crossed and your I's dotted allow for at least 1 month of impossible weather IE: you are stuck inside with ZERO chance of getting out (yes the container does need a top hatch with a mechanical aide to force through any snow load) at least 2 months of emergency food beyond your normal groceries. first aid kit up to and including splints for broken bones/ superglue to quick close a gash ...etc.... be prepared for the worst because what you dismiss as unlikely can kill you when your soloing in the north.
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