HOT WATER From Alternative Energy Without The Grid

Ken, most everyone knows the importance of clean potable water. It might be interesting to find out from the MSB group what people plan to do about the luxury of hot water. Thanks for one of the best sites on the internet.

~ from a MSB commenter

What a great question. And a important consideration for those into higher level preparedness. Where’s your hot water going to come from if the grid goes down? Got that one figured out? Which “alternative energy” source are you going to use?

This conversation presumes that you have a water source! That’s #1 of course. Don’t count on your municipal water flowing when the grid goes down longer than just a temporary outage. Their generators and pumps should function until such time that they don’t…

Hot Water – How to get it without the grid

I’ll throw out a few thoughts. There are a number of solutions. Some are more costly and permanent installations. Others quite portable.

The simplest of course are portable ways to get hot water. What do I mean by that? Well, heating water over a fire. This could simply be a pot over an outdoor fire. It could be set in the coals, or maybe hung from a tripod.

You might get into building a nice little (or bigger) fire pit. Configure it to hold a grill/grate (cooking!). You might get a tripod to hang a dutch oven. There are lots of ways to do this.

[ Dutch Oven Tripod Stand ]

Do you want to know a really fast way to boil water over a fire outside? I have one of these. It’s a “Solo Stove”. A rocket stove design. It is very efficient with the wood. Way less than you would use in a conventional fire pit! All it takes to get it roaring are a handful of twigs. Feed it a few times, and your water will be boiling in less than 10 minutes (depending how much water / size of pot).

[ Solo Stove website ]

Got a camp stove? I have several, including the good old Coleman with the pump tank. It takes “white gas”. Their popular model these days is the dual burner propane. I also have a portable propane camp stove and a butane stove.

[ Coleman Dual Burner Camping Stove ]

My primary fuel source for my rural home is a buried 1,000 gallon propane tank. So I have a propane stove/oven in the kitchen. No problem for me to heat up water on the stove! That much fuel will last a very long time, especially if conserved. Maybe you have propane too. You’re all set – until your tank runs out.

[ Off-Grid Living – Propane Gas ]

You might get one of those black solar shower bags for outdoors. Used for camping.The sun heats it up. It won’t get real hot, but enough to comfortably clean up. Not enough for boiling water for food prep.

[ Solar Shower Bag ]

You could even install a permanent system which basically is a series of black pipe that heats up from the sun. It’s integrated into your existing hot water supply system. Years ago (more than a decade ago) I had a similar system installed on the roof of a previous home. It heated up our swimming pool water. It worked great!

Got a solar oven? That will heat up water quite nicely. (when the sun is shining!)

Any BLACK container. Fill with water, set in sun. Preferably on a insulated surface rather than directly on the ground (heat sink).

Okay, lets hear your thoughts on this subject. What would you do for a hot water source?

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29 Comments

  1. In this Texas heat the water inside an outdoor water hose would be hot enough for a little bit of bathing water.

    1. – 200′ of ordinary water hose on a day with 80-degree Fahrenheit temps will bring the water in the hose up to 120 F for a shower; warm enough, but not hot enough to burn you.
      – Papa S.

  2. Ken, I’m wondering if you or anyone tuning in has any real live documented evidence regarding the safety and efficacy of sand filtering? In some of my reading early in the awaking stage I read a number of articles on filtering barrels that consisted of a number of layers of sand, rock, sometimes charcoal, etc. They all seemed to quite involved. Not something the average person en-masse could do.
    But I remember one article that talked about filtering water, say from a lake through a PVC tube filled with sand. Can’t remember the length. I’m thinking they spoke of a 3″ tube 10′ long. Anybody tried, tested, done this type of thing?

  3. Ughhhh! The topic is HOT water off the grid. My apologies. Disregard that last posting.

  4. I remember as a child, in the summer my brother and I would go to the spring early in the day to bring back a bucket of water and pour it into a big dishpan so we each could have a bath at nighttime. The water was well warmed

  5. Got my backup hot shower… 5 gal. bucket painted black got a shower head with a pull string on the valve.
    Leave on the flat roof section in the South FL Sun for the Afternoon. Pull chain for a few seconds get wet all over.
    Lather up with soap Wash all the vitals Then Use the rest of the 5gal bucket to rinse off.

    Got three more buckets 1 for each family member. just refill the shower head bucket.
    we’re so far south this works in winter too.

  6. I always considered that an electric water preheater is a good load dump when your batteries are topped off on a solar panel system. Selective load prioritization for a solar panel system is fundamental . Number one could be batteries, 2 sump pump, 3 water pumping, 4 refrigeration, then 5 water heater. The good thing about water heaters is that it does not require high quality AC. The solar panels can be directly dumped without the charge controller, or inverter, as raw solar panel output DC into the heater before the MPPT charge controller can properly utilize the panels. Low quality DC can be dumped into the resistive heater load. So in the mornings or evenings the solar output can be utilized for the water preheater when the MPPT charge controller unable to optimize loading.

  7. I have no alternatives, but will agree with the solar shower bag.
    We have a couple that we take camping and work well when the sun is shining.
    Winter months would definitely be a problem.
    I also have a cinder block rocket stove for an additional water boiler.
    Why waste propane when twigs are all you need?

    I’ve also read of coiled copper lines around a wood stove pipe.
    Has anyone done or experimented with this?

    1. Joe c

      Friend of mine back in the 70s tried something like that. Exploded one day as he had included no relief valve and forgot that water expands as it turns to steam.

  8. You could buy a 100′ roll of 1 1/2″ pvc pipe ,add some valves and fittings for around $ 125.00 and put it on a roof top for a small supply of pretty warm water .

  9. A simple system is to mount some solar panels. Hook up a DC Bucket water heater. The wire can go directly into the house. Place the water heater into an insulated bucket. When the sun shines the water will get heated. The insulation will keep it warm.
    This system will work best if your kitchen faces south. It is the kitchen that needs the hot water.

  10. My game plan for summer is two black 5 gallon pails in the sun weather permitting. When it is cold and raining we will use the outdoor sauna with wood stove to warm the water. Winter time will be sauna as well. Also have lots of firewood nicely stacked in sheds. Best of luck to all.

  11. My wood cook stove came with a 20 gallon water reservoir that can be mounted on the back. The water heats as long as the fire is going.

  12. DFM uses inexpensive tankless propane-fired hot water heater at mountain cabin. Bought one last fall, along with several hundred pounds of propane, for use JIC.

  13. Being in Florida hot water is easy. Solar roof panel that preheats water water for solar water tank. It does have a finishing heater element that is powered by ac power. But it is not used very often.
    It also saves us about 30 bucks a month.
    Of course it may not work in the colder climates.

    1. Eli,
      I have used the solar shower bags Ken mentioned for years now – great for camping. The hold 5 gallons of water and all you need is the sun.

      You can get them through Kens Amazon link, or try your local sporting goods/camping supply source.

      It’s not high pressure, but You hang up the bag in your home shower and use the little nozzle… it’s a weak but hot shower at a low price. I think they run about $20 now.

    2. – Just FWIW, I will add a ditto to So Cal Gal’s post. The worst part is getting the thing up in a tree, ’cause they are heavy when they are full. With a little practice, you can get a decent shower with a lot less water than they will hold.
      – Papa S.

  14. A DUTCH OVEN ON A TRIPOD HEATS WATER FAST AND ON A ROCKET STOVE WOULD BE FASTER. I USE ONE TO COOK AND BAKE OUTSIDE IN SUMMER TO KEEP FROM HEATING THE HOUSE UP! AND THERE IS NOTHING LIKE SITTING OUTSIDE ON A COLD GRAY FALL DAY COOKING DOWN A POT ROAST! ONE THAT THE LID SEALS WELL HELPS KEEP THE SMELLS CONTAINED AND THAT WOULD HELP WITH HUNGRY SHEEP ROAMING THE HILLSIDE! AND WITH A LITTLE METAL WORKING KNOW HOW OLD WATER HEATERS COULD BE MADE TO BE WOOD FIRED.

    1. Oddhawk, Can you please take off caps when posting? ( cap lock one time will do that)….It is like… you are screaming at those reading.. I get it! you are excited about that potroast.. and it sure sounds good. All caps make your post hard to read. If your print is too small try going to the three little lines up in the right corner- and on the zoom side hit the + sign a couple of times.. enlarges things beautifully… been there.
      its good to see you post, don’t remember seeing you here before.welcome!

      1. JUST SAYIN:SOME FOlKS ALWAYS NEED SOMETHING TO COMPLAIN
        ABOUT. YOU ARE NOT RELATED TO MY WIFE ARE YOU.?

  15. A friend of mine had a 30 gallon stainless steel tank mounted inside a 55 gallon drum mounted horizontally over an identical 55 gallon drum firebox inside his hunting cabin. He attached the stove pipe from the fire box to the drum with the water tank and then had the stove pipe going up through the roof. The heat from the firebox and stove pipe would heat the water to a very warm temperature. He collected rainwater outside and would hand fill the heated water tank. I was only there in the winter months and it worked fine but would be too hot to use in summer.

  16. When my dad converted a part of my grandparents to an indoor toilet, he picked a nice sunny spot and put up a 55 gal drum which filled with water and solar heated (somewhat) the water for a shower. When in Viet Nam our company took an old dx tanker, painted it black and mounted on a tower. Both give you a source of warm and sometimes hot water.

  17. About 4 years ago we had a hand operated water pump installed at our primary residence and at our bugout location. I think to drill to 265 ft and install pump cost 13,000 each. Expensive I know. The best way to store water is to leave it in the ground icy cold. On a hot day a cold drink sure goes good. Does anybody else rely on a hand pump?

  18. I have a coal stove in my basement that heats my whole house. I took a small beer keg, welded in some pipe fittings, and used pex pipe to use this beer keg (setting on top of my coal stove) as a water pre-heater in the supply line to my electric hot water heater. This arrangement works so well that my electric bill is drastically reduced during the winter months.

  19. During hurricane Sandy we lost power x1 week. It was cold too(actually had snow accumulation during that time)
    We had a huge pot of water boiling on the wood burning stove
    Added hot water to a large Rubbermaid storage tote In bathtub and mixed with the cold water to make warm water to bathe/rinse.

  20. I lived in a dry 11×15 cabin in Montana for 4 years. Shower stall in one corner was a shower pan with drain, sheet metal on 3 sides and a curtain on the fourth. I built a shelf above where a blue 5 gallon water jug with spigot was placed. I cut a 5 inch diameter hole in the top to make it easy to fill. Heated water on woodstove or camp stove depending on the season. 3 gallons is plenty for a shower. For a while I would get water from the stream, heat it, add a little bit of clorox and use that to shower with. I lived in that cabin while building the house. Now it is our quarantine cabin. Used twice this year for that already!

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