As cold weather approaches us (or is already here) many yurt dwellers worry about staying warm. Here are a few things you can do to help retain the heat. Most of these are things you can do after you have erected your yurt and after winter has already come.
Yurts are full of gaps where warm air can escape out into the cold. While, you will probably never be able to completely seal up your yurt, you can reduce the amount of drafting. Most holes occur at the top and bottom of the wall and around windows. By using ratcheting buckles and long straps, you can cinch up the gaps around the walls. Here is a picture of a ratcheting buckle with a 100 foot length of 1 inch wide strap.
Buckles can be bought at most hardware stores and the strap had to be special ordered from a sporting goods store. Most buckles come with a pre-attached strap that will have to be removed or tied into.
The straps are simply put around the perimeter of the yurt at the base of the wall and the bottom of the roof. You can see those straps in place above and below the door of our yurt.
Tightening the buckles sandwiches the wall fabric between the yurt frame and the strap. This closes off any gaps between the yurt frame and the wall fabric.
Another ratcheting buckle can be used on the rope that is attached to the bottom of the roof fabric that the wall is hung off of. This rope can often sag over time or be stretched during high winds or as the yurt expands in the sun. Sagging can create gaps between the wall and the roof. By adding a ratcheting buckle to this rope you can easily take up any slack that might occur. You can see the buckle in the upper left of this photo.
On the inside of the yurt adding more insulation and weather stripping can decrease the amount of heat loss you experience. Weather stripping around the door frame and door is a great idea.
A more ambitious project is to add foamboard insulation to the ceiling. Pie shaped wedges can be cut from foamboard and wedged into the space between the rafters. Here is a picture of one of the wedges half way removed from it's place in the ceiling.
I used in inch R-tech foamboard. R-tech has a reflective side that I painted over with latex primer to keep the inside of the yurt from looking like a solar oven. While this paint works it ended up being very fragile and flakes off easily if it is bumped into. I cut the pieces with a hacksaw blade with out the hack saw. I taped the cut edges with white duct tape to keep the foam pieces from crumbling and getting every where while installing it. If you have a yurt whose rafters are not anchored to vertical supports, you can get away with cutting all the wedges uniformly and push the rafters into place around the foam. If, however, you have those vertical supports to increase your snow load, like we do, you will need to measure each space between the rafters and cut the foam to match. If done correctly the foam wedges will stay up with friction. It is hard to quantify how much the foamboard helps, but as I was putting the foamboard up snow fell on the yurt. The snow on the roof above the foamboard took a lot longer to melt than the parts of the roof with no foamboard. If you have another questions about this process, just let me know.
And, finally another use for the ratcheting buckle. We have fairly high winds during the winter, and that wind can cause the wall fabric to flap quite a bit. The flapping can cause sagging in the wall fabric and a lot of noise on the inside of the yurt. This buckle and strap is simply put around the perimeter of the yurt at the center of the wall. Here is a video we posted earlier in the year of that strap at work.
Make sure you talk to your yurt manufacturer about all of their insulation ideas and acessories. We have a full wind and snow load kit from Pacific Yurts. We also have their insulated window inserts for all our windows and use them all winter long.
Good luck this winter if you own a yurt and if you are a prospective yurter, winters in a yurt can be cozy and warm with the right preparation.