Want to reduce your heating bill to $260 for the winter? Prairie couple tries a tiny home

His house may only be 380 square feet and nine feet wide, but Kenton Zerbin said the size and design are what have enabled him and his wife to come through winter with a heating bill of just $260.

Kenton Zerbin, teacher of sustainable living, offers tips to prospective tiny home owners in Saskatoon

After about a year of living in a tiny home, Kenton Zerbin said he and his wife have had a pretty smooth run of things, partly due to good planning in the design and building process. (Kenton Zerbin/Supplied)

His house may only be 380 square feet and nine feet wide, but Kenton Zerbin said the size and design are what have enabled him and his wife to come through a Prairie winter with a heating bill of just $260.

"It totally can be done, to make a very efficient Canadian tiny house," said Zerbin, who lives just outside of Edmonton. And while some people may not be able to see themselves downsizing to the extent he has, Zerbin said he and his wife were used to small-scale living, having moved from an apartment to the specially designed home. 

"It was not a sacrifice. We had both lived off our backs before, so we were used to the idea of living with less."

This weekend, Zerbin gave a talk in Saskatoon about how people can employ the tiny home model for themselves.

Kenton Zerbin's 380-square foot home is high-efficiency and off the grid. (Kenton Zerbin/Supplied)

He explained as a teacher of sustainable living, he wanted to find a way to practise what he was teaching. He was attracted to the tiny house model, which would not only require less of a footprint for the materials, but would also allow him to build without accumulating massive amounts of debt.

"For me, it was a way to walk the talk and it also made me feel comfortable in my financial decision," he told CBC Saskatchewan Weekend host Shauna Powers.

Rungs on a door lead to the tiny home's loft space. (Kenton Zerbin/Supplied photo)

Part of the key to making the tiny home work was good planning. For Zerbin, sustainability was important, with thicker walls, triple-glazed windows, solar panels, and a tiny but effective wood stove all part of the model.

But multi-functional furniture was also important — his tiny house has a sliding door with rungs leading up to a loft space, a couch with storage space, and a table that can seat up to seven people, or that can be lifted to the wall to make a breakfast bar for two. 

On Zerbin's wife's insistence, they also planned for spaces for the couple's cat to play.

And if nothing else, the cat is giving the design her seal of approval.

"She has a riot in there; it's really funny," chuckled Zerbin, noting the cat's spaces to run and her tendency to perch in window seats.

A table converts to a breakfast bar for two, or pulls out into a table that can seat seven. (Kenton Zerbin/Supplied photo)

Tiny houses can be practical when people really take the time to think and plan them out, he said, and can be part and parcel of sustainable living, just like gardening.

"I believe firmly that humans can be a beneficial force on this planet," said Zerbin. "But if we're going to do it, we've got some skilling up to do."

With files from CBC Saskatchewan Weekend