Today’s lifestyle is pretty intense for a great number of people, and as a result, we can hear quite often how they need a break from it. That break almost always implies being closer to nature, and what better solution if you decide to live in a natural environment than having a yurt as your home?
There is a permanent yurt you can count on for a long period of time, given it’s usually made of wood, but a temporary yurt also comes with benefits even though you cannot use it as a steady home. This second yurt type is the more frequent one. It’s portable in most cases and built from different types of fabric and canvas.
There are several huge advantages that come with having yurt as your residency - they are very affordable, easy to make, quite durable, and environmentally friendly, and they will be ready for you to move in in a very short time frame. But what about insulation? I mean, it tends to be cold, or extremely hot wherever in nature your yurt is positioned, so yurt insulation has to be the thing you think about before you make the decision to change the address and move in the middle of nowhere for a while.
In the lines that follow there will be more about how to insulate a yurt and what to pay extra attention to when investing in yurt insulation, but for starters let’s see what exactly a yurt is by definition.
What is a Yurt?
A yurt is a round-shaped house that cannot be described as a building since it never comes with a foundation. As we mentioned, it can come with a portable or more permanent construction, and in most cases, it has a collapsible wood frame on top of which goes some kind of fabric covering.
Yurts are a lot like tents because they work on the same principle, but yurts do provide more comfort and are a better solution when living in nature for a longer period of time. These cylindrical objects have conic roofs and represent an adventurous home choice.
Now, even though yurts won’t be usually recommended for extreme climates, with proper wall insulation and some other specific preparations, they can provide a decent residence in both hot and cold climates.
Traditional vs modern yurt
When we say traditional yurts we immediately think of those tent-like objects placed in deserted fields in Central Asia. And that’s exactly where they come from. Fort thousands of years yurts were home to people who lived in this part of the world, and even though there are many shapes and variations of yurts that were being used as shelters for hundreds of years, there are two main types of traditional yurts - the bentwood yurts and ger.
The ger is a Mongolian yurt that has an old structure that implies a heavy central ring and lattice yurt walls connected with straight rafters. And that design right there will be an inspiration for modern-looking yurts that are nowadays in usage. The ger is lightweight, easy to assemble, and has great aerodynamics which was of extreme importance for the people in the Central Asia steppe where it is super windy.
Modern yurt doesn’t look that much different than the traditional one, but its structure is more sturdy and resilient, and usually, it is a well insulated yurt. It is based on that round-shaped look with straight rafters and lattice walls, but modernization took its course and now you can see a yurt with a skylight dome that can open and close. Also, modern yurts come with windows that can be heavily insulated, and with high-class yurt fabric that can last for decades.
Besides that, modern yurts can have a central column that should add to snow load capacity, and gutters, which is important in heavy rain locations. The additional comfort inside the yurt comes from having fan support and improved air circulation, but the fact is modern yurts are not as portable as traditional ones were. That’s because there’s usually a wood floor under which is placed electricity, plumbing, and heating installation.
How to insulate a yurt
Most yurts you can purchase these days come with a pretty basic level of insulation. And that’s fine if you plan to use this yurt in mild climate locations. But heavier conditions demand a heavier insulation approach, so here is what you need to know.
First, you need to make sure the biggest section of a yurt, and those are the walls, is properly insulated. You need to add some extra insulation layers to make sure the temperature from the outside isn’t taking over the interior of the yurt, and another way around. These yurt covers need to have a high R-value in order for them to be energy efficient.
Reflective foil can be a great solution for the inside of the yurt wall insulation given it has a beautiful white finish so the insulating surfaces will look attractive, but the truth is there are many other insulation options that can be effective in this matter.
The second most important aspect of yurt insulation is the ceiling or the roof of the construction. It’s because this is the second largest surface of the yurt, but also the roof of this round-shaped building is directly exposed to the sun, so a lot of heat will come through it inside the yurt.
One of the ways to insulate the roof is to place mineral wool or foam boards between the roof rafters. That should do the job, and if you think the ceiling looks ugly now and you care about the aesthetics, you can use some fabric to cover it or make it less visible. The other solution is to cover the top of the yurt with a reflective bubble foil that can be the thermal blocker and the shield that can ward off the radiant energy from the sun.
Regarding this aspect of insulation, you need to know some modern yurts come with heated floors, so the insulation at these homes can be pretty advanced. And that’s okay for yurts that really serve as home and not just permanent residency for a couple of days.
If we are talking about those types of yurts then floors can be effectively insulated in two ways. If the yurt has a wooden platform underneath it you can always place some hay bales right below the floor itself. In that case, it is important to protect the hay from decomposing by placing hay bales into plastic bags. Also, you can add a yurt skirt so the air circulation below the platform stops completely.
And in case the yurt doesn't have a wooden platform but it’s positioned directly on the ground, then your options are quite limited. You can use some carpets that will make some insulation progress but a small one, and you will have to make heating a non-stop cycle in case you are in a colder climate.
The best materials for yurt insulation
Believe it or not, there are so many materials you can choose from when insulating a yurt. There’s cotton, wool, a Prodex, foam, fiberglass, reflective materials, and several more that are rarely used if any of these options are available.
Cotton - extremely popular for temporarily insulated walls of a yurt because besides cotton covers being good insulation they are very breathable as well.
Wool - equally effective as cotton but much more affordable. Wool blankets can be easily shaped to fit all the cavities and dents inside the yurt but they do stay exposed like that so this isn’t one of those “pretty” insulation options.
Prodex - this insulation material has great tearing resistance and is easy to install, but it is a good solution for more permanent yurts. Prodex can be attached to any surface only with a hot air gun and it works in both cold and hot climates well.
Reflective foil - by far the most effective and green insulation option, especially in hot climates. It works well placed on the outside, but also on the inside of the yurt because it will stop the further heat transfer and keep the warmth in during winter, or bounce it back during summer time.
Difference between tent and yurt
You may think a yurt is some sort of a tent if you don’t know better or if you haven’t even heard about yurts, but the truth is these two are not the same. Yes, there are some similarities, besides the visual part, given the yurt can be removable, just like a tent, or built from fabric, just like a tent, but they are different in many aspects.
Yurt is much more structural and steady than a tent. It contains a round central formation, a lattice wall, always a lattice wall, and rafters that hold the structure of the wall and roof together. Then, there is the matter of size. The yurt is much larger than big tents, and it can accommodate more people.
Also, yurts can provide much more comfort, which is essential for people who plan on staying in this temporary home for quite some time. Now, tents are more portable and lighter, so when a person doesn't need to move their residency from one place to another quickly or pretty often, the tent is a slightly better option. But in that case, make sure to read more about tent insulation.