There is a lot to think about when you’re renovating a home. You need to make many decisions, starting with what contractor to use and how much money you want to spend. It helps if you have a clear vision for how you want your home to look when you’re done. If you’re not sure what it is that you want yet, take some time to look through my blog. I’ll discuss everything from home additions to flooring materials to appliances and fixtures. These articles will help you get a sense of the possibilities for your home renovation, and help you narrow down your options. Eventually, you’ll decide on the renovations that are right for you.
Choosing an off-grid lifestyle is not a decision to be made lightly, but for the hardy individuals who rise to the challenge, the opportunity to live a self-sufficient lifestyle close to the land is worth the sacrifices. Improvements in solar power have made it much easier for homesteading families to handle needs such as pumping water and powering computers and appliances, but most modern solar energy systems are not capable of powering a traditional electric hot water heater.
If you are preparing to move off-grid and would like to have a reliable supply of hot water for cleaning and bathing, consider incorporating one or more of the following non-electric water heating options to your homestead.
A Tankless Gas-Powered Water Heater
On demand water heaters are smart choices for the homestead life. Powered by liquid propane from a tank, these hot water heaters require only enough electricity to ignite the unit. Homesteads located in cold climates are especially suited for this type of tankless design, because there is no risk of rupturing the tank if the interior temperature of the home drops below freezing.
If you do not have solar power at your cabin, your water heater installation specialist can help you order a model that uses a special DC ignition system operated by D cell batteries instead of grid or solar electric power.
Hot Water From Your Wood Cooking or Heating Stove
Another convenient method of providing hot water is to utilize the heat from either a wood cooking or heating stove to heat water that is then delivered into a storage tank where it can be held for use by the occupants of the home. The firebox is outfitted with stainless steel piping, called a heat exchanger, which is plumbed to both the home's water supply and the nearby storage tank. When a fire is burning in the firebox, water in the heat exchanger system heats and then moves into the storage tank.
A wood stove can also be outfitted with a heat exchanger system or with a different one that utilizes a water jacket of copper tubing wrapped around the stove or flue pipe. This jacket of piping circulates water that is heated by its proximity to the hot stove.
Excess water from this type of system can also be stored in an adjacent, traditional water tank. Other tanks could be used in these applications, but the insulation of a standard water heating tank helps to keep the stored water temperature within a comfortable range for a longer period of time than an uninsulated tank could.
If you decide to install a hot water system on your wood heating or cooking stove, consider utilizing a gas hot water heater connected to a small portable propane tank as the storage tank for the system, even if you intend to use wood to heat the majority of your homestead's hot water. Doing this will enable you to quickly bring cooling water back to the proper use temperature with only a minimal amount of propane.
Your local hot water heater installer can help properly plumb these alternative water heating systems or install a traditional tank for storing the pre-heated water.
A Low-Tech Alternate Hot Water Heater
A backup plan is always smart and creating a backup water heating system can be done easily with only a clean plastic or metal drum and flat black paint. To make, simply clean the barrel or drum thoroughly and paint it with the flat black paint to increase its ability to absorb heat from the sun. Situate one or more of these barrels on a deck, porch or platform where they will get full sun. Fill with water and within a few hours you will have gallons of hot water to use as needed.
If you need any repairs, call a water heater repair specialist.