December’s Cold Snap

Most of the United States was hit with colder than normal weather this week and this island was no exception. Winters are generally mild here in the islands of the Pacific Northwest where we may get some days below freezing but not much snow accumulation. Big surprise earlier this week waking up to temperatures in the teens, snowing, and 10″ already on the ground. Last year we had a similar week of snow and temperatures in the teens but I was miserable in the travel trailer looking at a hole in the ground that would become the house foundation. This year is very different.

Inside the House

Folks who live in parts of the world where winters are very cold and snowy know that winter comfort is based on not just the temperature inside the house but also the home’s design. By this I mean, how well the home’s layout supports these criteria:

  • separating spaces exposed to the cold from the living space,
  • corralling gear in a space large enough to suit-up,
  • providing space for gear to dry.

Most tiny homes are not able to allocate space to an enclosed ‘mud room’ and my house is no exception. I did not include a room for hanging coats, hats, and glove or cubbies to store shoes and boots. Mainly because the winter temperatures are mild enough that my coats and shoes are outside the front door in the greenhouse. This leaves all the mud outside the house.

During this cold snap it was much too cold to suit-up outside the house but inside the greenhouse. I do not, yet, have even hooks inside the front door for coats. Even if I did, there isn’t space for all the rain or snow attire at the entry door. I do, however, have a door from the greenhouse directly to the shower and laundry and those rooms have heated floor. This door is here for coming in wet from the pool or dirty from the garden. The water and dirt stop at the shower, the laundry is just past the shower, the floors are heated, and there are doors to close off those rooms from the rest of the house.

It was a very pleasant surprise to realize this space works great as a snow room. I moved my gear from the rack in the greenhouse into the shower area awhile before going out so that it could warm up. After a few hours outside clearing snow off stuff and shooting video, it was so nice to be able to leave my wet gear in the shower instead of tracking through the house. It was warm and dry a couple hours later for ‘take two’ on facing the snow.

Because those rooms are closed off from the rest of the house, going in and out through the shower door didn’t let the home’s warm air out. Inside the house stayed a pleasant temperature and humidity level.

Inside the Greenhouse

It’s important to clarify up-front that my main purpose for the greenhouse is for living space that is sheltered from the elements, not to be able to provide a ‘Mediterranean’ living or growing environment over the winter. There are no propane, diesel, wood, or electric heaters in the greenhouse. The only supplemental heat is from solar gain and from the air-to-ground heat exchange tube systems. This means that I don’t expect the greenhouse to be much warmer than outside when the sun is not shining. This week was a first test of that assumption.

Temperature data is incomplete because I’m still setting up the weather station (including temperature and humidity probes around the greenhouse). That said, I’m so happy I was able to get one of the probes from the fan in the air-to-ground heat exchange tubes recording data just before the start of the cold snap. There are actually 3 separate probes, one for each air-to-ground heat exchange tube – two run under the food garden area and one runs under the pool area. All 3 are displaying their readings on the controller attached to the tube, but I’m still trying to figure out how to log the data from 2 of the 3. I also have two old-fashioned thermometers – one on the east sidewall and one on the south wall, both are about 4′ above ground. I do not have the outside thermometer hooked up yet so I’m using temperatures from a weather station in Anacortes for my “outside” temperature. Anacortes is about 1-2 miles away across the channel. I’d guess margin of error is about +/- 1-2F degree variance.

Reading the red/temperature line it shows the initial steep temperature drop. Then temperatures rose during a day when the sun was shining but plummeted one night when not only did the outside temperature drop into the teens but the greenhouse ‘front’ door was not latched properly and blew open over night. Any stored heat blew out as cold air blew in. We did not have another sunny day to re-warm the greenhouse. The rise in the red line is from the outside temperature restoring to ‘normal.’

Temperature Comparison Table

These readings were taken around mid-day or later so that there was time for the greenhouse to capture solar energy.

NOTE: This page includes affiliate links. If you click and buy, I may receive a small commission without additional cost to you.

Leave a Reply