If you have followed our journey for a while, you might have learned that I am not a fan of being cold. My friends and I joke that my tombstone will say something along the lines of “Now I’m Really Cold” because I consider the weather cold if the temperature is lower 75 degrees. Winter in the bus hasn’t been terrible here in NM, but I have a feeling this year will be a different story. The past two winters, we’ve had almost no snow.
This year, the temperature has already fallen into the high teens and it’s only November. I’ve had a lot of DM’s on Instagram asking me how we prep the bus for below freezing weather and this post is a response to them. Below I will give a detailed list of ways we prep the bus for winter, along with a few products we have purchased to help aid in keeping us warm.
In October, we brought our Tiny Wood Stove and our wood box back into the bus. We love love this thing and couldn’t live without it. The stove was brought to us by Nick at Tiny Wood Stove back in October of 2017 at the Tiny House Jamboree (you can read about our experience at the Jamboree HERE). It has been the single most important thing used for keeping the bus warm.
We have the the Dwarf 4kw with the 4″/RV Bus Installation Kit – Roof Exit Bundle. Tiny Wood Stove has comprehensive YouTube videos detailing every aspect of installation and will provide you with everything you need for the stove. We did have to call Nick a few times, and he was super gracious with us. He even answered our phone calls on a Sunday night while we were in the process of installation. (hence why I will back this company wholeheartedly)
- It takes up very little space
- It’s beautiful and they make custom door colors to match the design of your build
- The company is hands down one of the best companies I’ve EVER worked with
- It was simple to install. The hardest part was cutting the 4 inch hole into the curve of the bus.
- It allows you to have heating off grid.
- The glass window makes for an amazing ambiance in the evening or on foggy days.
- The heat it puts off is much more cozy than a space heater or propane heater.
- Its easy and quick to clean.
- It’s tiny so the wood has to be tiny. There’s a saying “Chop your own wood and it will warm you twice”. Well, I would say chopping the wood to fit inside this stove will warm you 3-4 times. We typically cut a single log into three pieces with the chainsaw and then chop it with an axe into 3 more pieces from there.
- The chimney pipe is 4 inches wide so we do have to clean the chimney once every month, sometimes once every 3 weeks. It take all of 5 minutes to clean out. It does have to be done more often than a typical large pipe. We bought a simple chimney brush from amazon that has been helpful and cost around $20.
- You won’t get a ton of heat through the night unless you get up and load it. We do load it up before we go to bed with harder woods and choke it way down but even still the warmest the stove has been in the morning without reload is 150 degrees. Better than nothing but not as hot as a typical large wood stove.
We installed our fresh water tanks inside the bus under our bed in the back. Our grey water tank on the other hand is outside and so are our inlets for water. When we are parked at home in Corrales, NM we have a water hook up that was brought down to the bus from our well that is located on the West side of our land (where our traditional home will be built in the next year).
We have a 6 foot hose that reaches from the faucet to the inlet of the bus that provides fresh water. That hose is typically exposed although it is an insulated drinking water hose it will freeze. We wrap heat tape around the hose and faucet and then a foam pipe insulation that looks like a pool noodle around the tape and zip tie it.
The urine from our Natures Head Toilet is also diverted to the grey tank. We DIY’d that job and learned very quickly once winter hit last year that the pee froze and would back up if we didn’t apply heat tape to that pipe also. These details are the not so glamorous side of bus life.
In the middle of the night if we don’t have enough wood cut or its going to be especially cold, we will set our space heater to a temperature of 61 degrees. We don’t like to use the space heater often because its super expensive. We really like to be as off grid as possible and space heaters cannot be run off our battery bank. Convenience-wise, the space heater is the easiest form of heat. When we use it regularly it will bump our electric bill up about $150 a month.
The quickest way to my heart is to feed me and keep me warm. Brandon will go turn my heating blanket to high about 30 minutes before we go to bed and I melt right into his arms every night. We bought heat blankets for the kids beds when we were on the road full time back in 2016. The blankets were a way we could make sure they kept warm while still living completely off grid. Now the kids love them as much as I do. Ive bought three different brands and had to take them back to the store because they didn’t get hot enough, wires were too thick, or the texture was too slippery and it would slide off the bed by morning. Our favorite brand is the Biddeford Comfort Knit Sherpa electric blanket. Trust me I am an expert and this one is the best!
In the front of our bus we chose to keep the original bus windows in order to allow as much natural light in as possible. We also felt it paid tribute to the school bus this home used to be. What we didn’t know was the bus windows provide zero insulation and allow in a lot of cold air. So right away we realized this was going to be a problem in the winter months.
When we had our bumper pull trailer (you can see pictures and read about our trailer HERE), Brandon’s dad suggested we get this product called Reflectix and cut it to insulate the windows of the trailer. It kept light out and also helped with the draftiness of the RV windows. So obviously that advise carried over to the bus. It was quite a bit of work to cut custom window covering for each window in the front and back of the bus. It provides soooo much value though. I highly recommend this for all full timers. It’s such a great way to insulate the terrible RV’s, trailer, and 5th wheel windows.
Keeping the floor of the bus warm is impossible. Drafts of air move back and forth under the bus 24/7 365 days a year. I wear slippers all winter from the minute I get out of bed until I climb into my perfectly heated bed (thanks B!). If you talk to any bus owners they’ll tell you the same, that rugs make the home much more comfortable.
I know there are more things we could do to winterize like install a skirt around the bottom of the bus, shrink wrap the windows, etc. For now these are the things we know work well. If you have any further questions about what we do to winterize feel free to direct message me on Instagram and Ill be sure to respond.
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