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Which Climates Are Suitable For Shipping Container Homes?

Posted in Guides

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We have received emails from people all around the world making comments and asking questions. One of the most popular questions we receive is about which climates are suitable for shipping container homes.

Most people do consider their local climate before deciding whether to build a shipping container home.

If they live in the tropics they are concerned that their container home will be sweltering. If they live in colder climates they are concerned that their home will be cold all year round.

Shipping container homes are suitable for nearly all climates providing you thoroughly prepare your containers. Today we are going to look at how to prepare your containers to be suitable in both hot and cold climates.

Shipping Container Homes in Hot Climates

We’ve previously written in detail about how to keep your shipping container home cool during the warmer months.

Here we will focus on how to design your shipping container to be suitable in hot climates.

Shade

The best way to keep your shipping container home cool is to not let the heat into your home in the first place.

One of the most effective ways to do this is to keep the majority of your house in the shade. This stops sunlight shining directly onto your containers which would increase the temperature inside your home via solar radiation.

To keep your containers in the shade, plant trees or bushes if you have the space.

Two of the fastest growing trees are the Northern Catalpa and the Hybrid Poplar. Both of these trees grow at around 8 feet each year. Within a year or so they will be much taller than your container home and provide shade.

The Northern Catalpa grows an incredibly thick canopy of leaves. This really helps to block the sunlight from your containers.

Using Shade To Cool A Shipping Container Home

If you are going to use trees as sun shades, it’s also important to consider the orientation of your building. Remember that the sun will be at its hottest during the afternoon. Where is your building located? Remember that the major sunshine could be from the west in one location, but from the south in a different location. Plant most of your shading plants in such a way as to block the afternoon sun in your location.

Roof

If the sunlight gets through your shade-blocking plants, the next best thing you can do is make sure your roof is reflecting and not absorbing heat.

An easy step is painting your roof white if it is currently a darker color. White does a better job at reflecting light and heat energy away from your shipping containers.

Ventilating Shipping Container for Hot Climates

Unfortunately, it’s inevitable that at some point the ambient heat will enter your containers. When it does, your containers need to be prepared to expel the heat and keep you cool.

Make sure your home is exceptionally good at letting heat out. Otherwise, it will feel like you’re living in a sauna 24/7.

Both your insulation and ventilation should be properly designed and installed.

In terms of your insulation, most people use spray-foam insulation and we talk about this in much more detail later on in this article.

Ventilation can either be passive or mechanical.

Passive ventilation uses nature (wind) to cool down your house and is most commonly done with a vent or a whirlybird.

Mechanical ventilation is powered by electricity and is most commonly done with an extractor fan.

Read how to ventilate your shipping container home for more help on ventilation.

Shipping Container Homes in Cold Climates

In hot climates, we are trying to keep the heat out, while in colder climates it’s the exact opposite. We want the heat to stay inside our containers to keep us warm.

We’ve previously written in detail about how to keep your shipping container warm during the colder months.

This section is going to focus on how to design your shipping container to be suitable for cold climates.

Insulating Shipping Container for Cold Climates

If you don’t have adequate or appropriate insulation for your location, you’ll have a very hard time keeping your container home warm, and you’re spending on heating will be exorbitant.

You have three main insulation choices for your containers: spray-foam, panels or blanket insulation.

When we’ve spoken with other shipping container homeowners, the most often recommended is spray foam insulation.

Spray foam insulation provides a seamless vapor barrier, which is something the other two insulation choices don’t provide.  This is very important for controlling condensation.

Spray foam insulation is normally applied internally to the containers; however, it can also be sprayed on the external shell of the containers if you prefer to have the metal walls on the interior.

Shipping Container Home- Spray Foam Insulation

Image courtesy of Larry Wade

When you’re living in a cold climate, you want high R rated insulation (the R rating is the measure of how effective your insulating material is; the higher the number, the better the material will resist the transfer of heat).

One of the other benefits of spray foam is that it’s quite flexible and can be used to seal small gaps to stop warm air escaping from the container.

Roof

Losing heat via your roof is one of the most common ways a home loses heat.

The best way to prevent this and prepare your containers for a cold climate is to thoroughly insulate your roof space.

Shipping Container Roof Ventilation

Again, for insulating your loft, you can use either spray foam, panels, or blanket insulation.

If cost is a concern, blanket insulation would be an ok pick, but you need to seriously consider how you’ll deal with the potential for condensation. However, if cost isn’t a concern, spray foam insulation is the best choice.

Windows

When constructing a shipping container home in a cold climate, the last key thing you need to be aware of is window sizes and placement.

In addition to roofs, windows cause your container home to lose a lot of heat.

The Victorian Government of Australia states that “A single pane of glass can lose almost 10 times as much heat as the same area of an insulated wall”. You can see that it’s very important to bear this in mind while you’re designing your container home.

Given that windows lose so much heat, you probably don’t want to design a container home with large floor to ceiling glass panes in a cold climate like Alaska. While insulated window with double and triple panes do exist, they are more expensive and still lose quite a bit of heat.  If you must have windows, consider adding insulating shades or drapes to minimize the heat lost through the window.

Now that you know that shipping container are suitable in pretty much all climates, let us know whether climate went into your decision on where to locate your building.