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LadySeaFoam 09-03-2017 11:26 PM

Keeping warm in a harsh, snowy winter
Hi there Yurt people,

I know that there are winter/snow/wind packages that come with yurts, and that many people live in cold places in them. . . I was just wanting to know your experiences with this. . . how has your yurt done in a harsh winter? What did you do to make it work? Any specific yurt companies that are particularly solid in this department?? We are in northern NM near the CO border, in the Sangre do Cristo Mountains and it is seriously cold in the winter. I will have a wood stove of course, and possibly propane, but would love to hear others' experiences and recommendations. . . thanks so much!!

Jafo 09-04-2017 07:04 AM

Re: Keeping warm in a harsh, snowy winter
I have a part time yurt up in the Adirondacks about an hour from Canada. The default insulation package from Pacific Yurts works well, but nowhere near what you get in your average standard home because it is not designed that way. People do insulate the heck out of them with standard insulation but generally come to find out that their house is creeping with mold, mildew in response. Yurts (and all structures for that matter) need to breathe. That is why you see eaves and vents on standard homes.

So BY DESIGN, yurts are not as well insulated. However, that should be qualified a bit. With reflective insulation, the yurt will heat up well with a radiant heat source such as a wood stove. Mine does quite well even at -30F. You should take some steps to button some things up, like making sure your deck/foundation is as insulated as you can afford. I also recommend using an outdoor air kit with your stove so you are pulling combustion air directly from outside. This will minimize your drafts.

Some of this of course, will be dependent on the configuration of your yurt. Are you going to wall in some rooms? Well you will have to figure out how to heat each room. Radiant floor heating is probably the best (though maybe more expensive) way to do this.

Wintergreen282 09-08-2017 04:48 PM

Re: Keeping warm in a harsh, snowy winter
I think the most important things are low expectations and gratitude. Gratitude you are out of the wind and snow, gratitude for the hot drink, warm blanket, woodstove. Yurts do get toasty and you can always sit closer to the fire until that happens. But they also cool down fast with less mass to hold the heat. If/when it's not warm (which will happen often), you need to just dress like you are outside until it's back up to "toasty". It's super common for me to wear head-to-toe outdoor gear - and shorts, t-shirt, and bare feet - at different times of the same day. It's a wooden framed tent (and responds as such) with a thin reflective insulating blanket - as Jafo says "by design". I'm a huge fan of hot water bottles to bridge the gap between the toasty times.

I'm also a huge fan of blue foam camping pads and use it as a buffer when need be. When the yurt is 22 degrees, the couch will suck heat from you without some sort of extra insulation. I cut a toilet seat "ring" that is invaluable for winter. Blue foam is a miracle. Yurt living, though mostly very comfortable, take some flexibility. Westerners are pretty spoiled in the comfort department.

Bob Rowlands 09-08-2017 06:37 PM

Re: Keeping warm in a harsh, snowy winter
Good post. I agree 100%.

HawaiiYurts 09-09-2017 10:04 AM

Re: Keeping warm in a harsh, snowy winter
Colorado Yurt's Alpine Stout kit is the absolute best I have seen yet for uneven snow loads, it has better better insulation, a metal ring with brackets, blocking between rafters... For cold climates they are hard to beat.

crasmussen 03-01-2018 12:14 PM

Re: Keeping warm in a harsh, snowy winter
This is our first Winter with our yurt living in it full time. Our yurt is attached to our house via a mudroom. We had our carpenter divide our 800 square foot yurt into 4 rooms, a playroom and three bedrooms. The rooms all have open ceilings. We are off the grid and our main source of heat is by fire in the wood stoves. We have a small one in the house that heats 1500 square feet no problem and a large stove in the yurt. We too were having problems heating the yurt. The floor is well insulated and we do have the winter insulation package with that NASA foil insulation. We are having a pretty long and cold winter. We recently bought a cord of kiln dried hard wood. Yesterday I made a big fire in the yurt with the new wood and wow it definitely makes a difference using super dry hard wood. The yurt heated up twice as fast and we were able to maintain 72c which was pretty comfortable. At bedtime I threw in a few logs plus an applewood log. When I got up in the morning the fire was still going and the yurt was still warm! I did close the vinyl exterior flaps over our large glass windows, install heat retaining drapes, turned the ceiling fan on spinning the right way to push the heat down and hung blankets on the walls. I'm relieved that our three children are now warm in their rooms.
So it definitely makes a difference what type and quality of wood you burn. Before the hardwood we were burning damp hemlock and some cedar which burned fast and did not give off as much heat. A friend also recommended building a stone or brick wall just behind the wood stove to hold and radiate heat.

I think this will work from now on. Thank goodness I was so fed up we were going to add insulation and panel over the beautiful wood beams that give yurts their character and charm. Another expensive option was building a winter bunk house with a ton of insulation and propane wall heaters.
Any ideas on anything else we could do?

crasmussen 03-01-2018 12:21 PM

Re: Keeping warm in a harsh, snowy winter
I like the blue foam idea for the walls between the posts. It could be it in strips. A more neutral colour might be nice not to be too picky. Do hardware stores sell that by the roll or where can I pick some up?

PS I love your positive attitude! You are right!

crasmussen 03-01-2018 12:25 PM

Re: Keeping warm in a harsh, snowy winter
We tried a propane fireplace at first and it was SO expensive that we swapped it out for a wood stove.

HawaiiYurts 03-01-2018 03:03 PM

Re: Keeping warm in a harsh, snowy winter
The Nasa developed insulation isn't ideal for R-value (meaning keeping the heat in long-term). It's great at reflecting heat, but without a heat source, it will quickly cool down. In the Alpine Yurt I mentioned above, they provide a totally different insulation made out of recycled blue jean material. Still trimmed out nice, but it's much thicker and gives a higher R-value insulation. You could double up and keep the astrofoil insulation but back it with the other kind...

Glad you figured out some kind of fix though! Brrr... I may live in Hawaii but my roots are from Maine :)

Wintergreen282 03-02-2018 10:15 AM

Re: Keeping warm in a harsh, snowy winter
Hi Crasmussen. I'm not sure if blue foam (or any other foam) on the walls, would be a good idea - and/or even more importantly - work. Maybe! Personally I use the blue foam for insulating *me* from the cold yurt. When need be. When not, it lives under the couch. Maybe if you didn't have high humidity. Or took the foam pieces out and gave them a good hot sunshine "bath" every few months to kill the mold - but what a pain/job that would be.

However. It may work for your situation. I really believe every yurt set-up is unique. We can learn from each other, but mostly you have to see what works best for you. (Hence the critical-for-happiness yurtitude of ...experimenting ... and making do... and understanding we are all just tiny, unimportant specks here for a short time so (as a bumper sticker I saw yesterday said). "Plant Seeds and Sing Songs". And model for your kids, the kind of person who adjusts to nature, not attempts the (often destructive) vise versa. Hopefully your kids will learn to problem solve, that although they may be specks*, they are not snowflakes, and be better for it. (IMHO). (But you are a sweet parent for caring so much about your kids. They are lucky. :)

*actually, that we are just specks is not something one should learn from a parent, I guess. Lol

Yurt living (at least from what I've seen, read, and experienced) is never the "set it and forget it" living Westerners think is normal and entitled to.

Agree 200% dry wood is critical. Glad you figured it out so quickly. You can stick in a green piece to slow down a burn, which is also sometimes helpful.

Other best tip: Circle the yurt on a windy day, find the drafts, and plug them. Do that a few times, your yurt may be shifting a bit in the wind. The windows and doors are problem areas for me. I plan on adding a strip of foam this summer - between the bottom canvas layer and wooden base - like others have suggested.

Tip 2: HOT WATER BOTTLES! ($5 @ Walmart). Few off grid things are nicer than a pre-warmed bed.

Tip #3: Thrift stores for extra, gently used slippers, down jackets, warm blankets, etc.

I'd also be nervous about adding a stone wall (by the already heavy stove) without a REALLY good, secure foundation under that part of the yurt. Of course then the yurt would be even more tied to the ground, which could be a good thing. Or a bad thing - should that foundation shift in winter. (Yikes. Guys? Thoughts?)

See - this is exactly the thing. We move towards Western solutions and away from what makes a yurt, a yurt. Often doesn't work and just creates other problems.

Very appreciative to Jaffo for giving us this platform for sharing thoughts. :)

Bob Rowlands 03-02-2018 11:31 AM

Re: Keeping warm in a harsh, snowy winter
Good post as usual.

albalmuth 03-26-2018 09:36 PM

Re: Keeping warm in a harsh, snowy winter
I have been happy with the Co Yurt Co Stout Alpine package. Some other thoughts...I use a pellet stove that was fairly inexpensive from Pleasant Hearth, and the blower/thermostat and ability to run all night without restocking is a delight. Propane causes a lot of consensation inside; it was dripping down my door windows and freezing on my thresholds. I am delighted that I installed the stove on the south facing side so that the snow in front of the vent is mostly burned off by the sun and I don't have to shovel it out much relative to the crusty, icy, never melting north facing side. We made a stovepipe support from steel pipe and a deflector from more pipes and a metal sheet. My builder designed a free-standing metal-roofed entryway, to go over the front door, deck, and front steps/concrete slab. He specified dimensions of a roof panel extension that Co Yurt Co fabricated to be welded onto the roof of the same material. Then the builder joined the roof panel extension to the metal roof. In this manner, my entryway has remained completely snow free. But I don't have wind. I am also happy that on my north side, the deck is the narrowest, so the snow sliding from the roof tends to fall away off the sides of the deck. The south side snow is easier to remove when I want to roll up the windows. I would be bummed if I put my main roll up windows on the north side. But with the two door lights, dome, and permanent window, I don't really bother to roll up the exterior windows in the winter. I have light colored walls/roof and it is all very light and bright. Compared to other yurts I have stayed in, my floor is nice and warm, with 2 inches of foam insulation fitted under the platform. You could put in 4 inches if you want, but I have been happy with the 2 inches and the indoor/outdoor inexpensive carpet tiles also feel warm underfoot.

Bob Rowlands 03-27-2018 08:52 AM

Re: Keeping warm in a harsh, snowy winter
albalmuth, thanks for the nicely detailed post.

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