The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Getting in hot water

Sunroom diagram

After some brainstorming (and a lot of good thoughts from your comments on our sunroom and hot water posts), Mark and I have decided that:

Mark tells me we usually see a very slight lull in our workload in late July, so hopefully we'll have time to set up our bathing chamber, hot water heater, and solar hot water system then.  If not, it will definitely be our winter infrastructure-improvement project.  Now I'm off to research whether low-flow faucets and shower heads will work with already very low water pressure....

Our chicken waterer keeps hens happy with clean water.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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If you use an old water heater tank, you need to remove the insulation and outside cover.
Comment by Errol Sun Jun 30 08:54:10 2013

A solar collector won't be of use in the winter. Here at 51°26' N they've been in use for some time now. They tend to gather useful heat from April through to September. I've seen figures ranging from 10 MJ/day on a sunny day in April to 30 MJ/day on a sunny day in July. In these parts they tend to be used on combination with a large (500 L, 130 gallon) buffer tank to capture as much as possible on a sunny day and to account for less sunny days.

An electric boiler would be much more reliable in winter (as long as you have power) than a solar collector. Check with the manufacturer though if it would be suitable for a low-pressure water unfiltered supply like yours. You wouldn't want the tempaterure and pressure sensors to foul up. And especially not the pressure relief valve. Google for "boiler rocket". :-)

But seeing as you have a source of firewood, e.g. a water mantle around the stovepipe might be a goos source of hot water in the winter.

"would the insulation keep the tank from soaking up the sun's rays?"

Yes, definitely. But if you remove the insulation, the tank is more prone to losing heat as the sun goes away. And unlike a solar collector, a tank has a dismal area/volume ratio, meaning that it won't catch a lot of sun to begin with, nor wil it heat up the water quickly.

"the complication of a thermosyphon system"

Huh? A thermosiphon is one of the simplest heating devices there is. A typical solar collector setup we see here is much more complicated.

Comment by Roland_Smith Sun Jun 30 13:51:06 2013

The units in Mexico were smaller than 19 gal. I've searched for a long time and can't find anything.I'm thinking 6 or 10 gallons. And, I am sure they were 110 Volts single element.

If you've done the math, I can't argue with you about what you need though. In Mexico, it was shower only.

In my old hot tub, I find I can barely tolerate 105 degree water. 101 or 102 is most relaxing for a good soak. That's measured with a thermometer, not the indicated setting on the thermostat.

Comment by tom Sun Jun 30 16:04:36 2013
We have solar thermal hot water that was set up to pre-heat the water in an electric tank. We switched out the 50 gallon tank for a 19 gallon tank which runs on 120 instead of 240 volts and we leave the electric shut off.. When we don't have solar hot water, we turn on the electric (usually only a problem in Dec & Jan here in the NC mtns) - 19 gallons is plenty to take a couple of showers but I'm not sure it's enough to take a hot bath. It takes about 45 minutes to heat from around 80 degrees to 120 degrees so you have to plan ahead but it has worked great for us, in conjunction with the solar.
Comment by Katherine Sun Jun 30 22:23:42 2013

I'm not sure how you feel about propane, but the tankless hot water heater works great for us. I think you can also get en electric version. It only comes on when you turn on the water. We use this for an outdoor shower at the farm and it works great. The only issue would be figuring out how to keep it from freezing in the winter.

Comment by Jackie Tue Jul 2 08:13:50 2013

I finally found a link to a picture of the outside of my apartment in Oaxaca, showing the small water heaters.

I tried to past the picture here, but couldn't. Must be text only. the heaters were real small though. The door is the same size as in USA for scale.

Of course, it was for shower only. SO the size in Mexico may be moot.

Comment by Tom Fri Jul 5 17:59:33 2013

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