Tiny Tuesday: Vacuum Panel, King of Insulation

Small-living firm Leaf House designs houses on wheels for very cold climates. Their latest creation, the 97-square-foot Leaf Version.3, withstands temperatures as low as -50°C. And it weighs only 5000 pounds, which makes towing a breeze.


Leaf Version.3 on the road in the Yukon.

What’s the secret? Panasonic Vacuum Insulated Panels (VIPs) built into the house’s shell have an R-value of R60 per inch. For comparison: an inch of dense-packed cellulose or fiberglass batt typically rates R3, while an inch of closed-cell foam might go as high as R7. Most high-efficiency houses enable these conventional insulations with extremely thick walls, but that’s not an option for a lightweight house on wheels. The Version.3 has R68 insulation in the floors and roofs (just over an inch thick), and R38 in the walls (5/8 inch).

Tight VIPs lead to another problem, moisture control… which Leaf House alleviates through the world’s smallest heat recovery ventilator, the Lunos E2 HRV. Inside there’s an open floor plan, a small kitchen, and a murphy bed (the lack of a lofted bed reduces road height and enables a stylish curved roofline). A bathroom with composting toilet might be the only flaw in this house’s extreme-weather plan, since the microbes that enable decomposition can’t survive when temperatures go way below freezing.

Leaf House sells its VIP Version.3 house for $40,000 – a bargain for the portability and cold-weather performance. Laird Herbert, the owner of the company, currently lives in a Version.3 in the Yukon Territory.


Inside the Leaf.

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