It’s winter in the northern hemisphere so let’s talk about off-grid heating solutions. Heating your off-grid build should be part of the plan from the beginning. Depending on the solution you choose could change the design of your build. If you choose the wrong solution it could cost you in the long run. Make sure that you have considered the various aspects of the heating solution including your location, building materials and location.
The fireplace is the obvious first choice for an off-grid heating solution. They have been around forever and are easy to build, buy and install. You can either buy a complete unit or you could build one out of stone/bricks to install in your house. Fireplaces are probably the easiest heating solution as you can make them out of pretty much any fireproof material. If your build is big enough you can also easily install more than one fireplace.
Fireplaces can either be a nice open design or they could be a self-contained unit that might also be a stove. More on those in a moment. The reason why fireplaces have been used for off-grid heating is that they’re easy to build, install, operate and maintain. Almost everyone that has lived in a cold climate knows how to use and maintain one. For those that haven’t the learning curve is not steep.
There is nothing better than relaxing by the fire at night and reading a book or sipping a glass of your favourite single malt. You can roast marshmallows or make smores for the kids. Some fireplaces can double as a cooking area and can be designed to include grills, pot hangers and more. Speaking of cooking, the woodfired stove is another great heating solution.
The woodfired stove has been a staple in homesteads for over a century. They continue to be used and are a great option in your off-grid build. If you have a smaller cabin, a woodfired stove might be the only heating you need. They are the perfect heating and cooking solution in one. When centrally placed this can heat the entire interior of your house. If you’ve got a larger place woodfired stoves are still a great option. As a centrepiece that can heat a common area such as the kitchen or lounge space.
This is as off-grid as you can get, there is no fossil fuel required and you can easily source the wood from your surroundings. If you’ve lived in a very cold climate that relies on fire for heating, then you’ll already know the procedure. Having enough of the right wood ready is part of the appeal to having a fire keep you warm. On top of that, you can also use it to cook your meals.
There is a lot of variety when it comes to woodfired stoves. They can be as simple as a flat cooking surface on the top, all the way up to a multi-chamber oven. Woodfired stoves have other bonuses in that you can also connect up heating pipes and get hot water out of the same system. Woodfired stoves are one of the oldest tried and true heating solutions for on and off-grid houses.
You can find these second hand in various places or you can splash out for a new one. These can range in price from a few hundred to tens of thousands of dollars. The one key thing you will need to think about when a woodfired stove is the sheer weight of it. They are almost always made of cast-iron which makes them a great heat source, but hard to move. Make sure that if you’re in a remote area, you have a plan and the right tools to get your woodfired stove installed.
Heated floors are an awesome off-grid heating solution for your home. Usually, heated floors are partnered with a more traditional heating solution like a fireplace or a woodfired stove. The idea behind heated floors is that while you laying the floor or foundation you install water piping under your floor. Hot or cold water is then circulated through the system that heats the floors. This could be in the slab or in baseboards if you don’t have a slab. You get nice warm feet and the radiant heat will also warm the house.
Heated floor systems come in various sizes and complexities. They need a utility room to house all the required equipment. You could install this system yourself, but it would be advised to consult the professionals first. The systems can either use power, propane or wood to heat the water and if you don’t plan this correctly, you could easily use all your generated off-grid power for the day. There are some really cool newer fireplaces that include systems to pass the heated floor system behind the fireplace to heat the water.
Heated floors aren’t the fastest way to heat your house but once it’s been on for a day or so, you’ll have a toasty warm house. A big advantage to heated floors is because it’s not heating the air like an open fire or woodfired stove, it’s not drying out the air in your home. There are fewer safety concerns to worry about if you have children or pets.
A direct vent propane heater is a nice simple off-grid heating solution. A lot of off-grid builds will include propane as a fuel source either for heating, cooking or generating power. Chances are you already have a propane tank on site. Propane heaters require no electricity to function and can output a lot of heat for their physical size.
A small propane heater on the wall in a common area could provide all the heating you require. They are cheap, pretty much maintenance-free and very easy to install. You can buy these are your local hardware store or heating store. They are powered by propane which is a clean-burning fuel and relatively cheap compared to other non-renewal fuel sources.
Although propane heaters are classed as a safe off-grid heating solution there are a few things to consider. You should check your heaters once a season to make sure all your connections are clean and complete. Gas leaks are not something you want in your home. Propane isn’t something you have onsite so you will need to go off-site and refuel your tanks or get a delivery to your site. This needs to be considered when choosing propane to make sure you can transport the fuel to your off-grid build.
These 4 practical off-grid heating solutions are all tried and true methods for heating your off-grid build. They range in cost, complexity and output. The trusty fireplace or woodfired stove are our favourite, cozy option. For a more long term solution, the heated floor is a great choice. You will need to plan this and will cost significantly more than the other three options. The final option, the good old propane heater is something that is easy to install, maintain and operate.
All the options can provide the heating requirements for any size build from a tiny house up to a huge multi-story house. The option is really up to you, your climate, budget and transportation requirements.