Hot Water without electricity

Hot Water Without Electricity

Most everyone knows the importance of clean potable water. But what about the luxury of hot water? What various ways / methods to get hot water when the power is out – the grid is down – without electricity… Or when there is no electric grid…

Hot Water – Without The Electric Grid

I’ll throw out a few thoughts how to have a source of hot water without electricity. There are a number of solutions. Some are more costly and permanent installations. Others, quite portable.

In no particular order,

Pot Of Water Over A Fire

Well, the most primitive method of getting some hot water without electricity is heating it over a fire. This could simply be a pot over an outdoor fire. It could be set in the coals, or maybe a kettle hung from a tripod stand over a fire.

You might build your own fire pit. Configure it to hold a grill/grate (for cooking too!). Or, again, configure a tripod to hang a dutch oven (or whatever). I’ve done this. It can be fun to cook up a pot of ‘fill_in_the_blank’ over a fire. This is the one I have:

Dutch Oven Tripod Stand
(amzn)

Hot Water From A Pot Of Water On A Portable Stove

I have a “Solo Stove”. It’s a rocket stove design. Very efficient with the small pieces of wood / twigs. Way less fuel 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). There you go… hot water without electricity.

[ Read: Solo Stove Review ]

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 (butane being a bit safer for cooking indoors).

Coleman Dual Burner Classic Propane Stove
(view on amzn)

[ Read: Butane Stove For Indoor Use – Single Gas Burner ]

LP Gas For Your Home Appliances

My primary fuel source for my rural home is a buried 1,000 gallon liquid propane tank. So, I have a propane stove/oven in the kitchen. No problem for me to heat up water on the stove! My furnace and hot water heater runs off propane. 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.

[ Read: Off-Grid Living – Propane Gas ]

Hot Water Solar Shower Bag

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

Solar Shower Bag
(amzn)

Hot Water From Roof Mounted System

You could even install a permanent hot water system. It’s basically a series of black pipe that heats up from the sun. It could be integrated as a pre-heater 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!

However, this wouldn’t work during the winter in cold climates. It would have to be drained due to freezing temperatures.

Length Of Garden Hose Heats Water From The Sun

I’m sure you’ve all experienced this. The surprising heat of standing water inside of a garden hose that’s laying out in the sun. You turn it on and wow – it’s hot! (at least until the standing water squirts all the way through).

How much water in a 100 foot garden hose…

For every 100 feet of assembled garden hose,

Using mathematical conversions, the volume of water inside a 3/4-inch hose is about 1 gallon. A 5/8-inch hose is about half a gallon. Inside a 1/2-inch hose, there’s about 0.25 gallons of water.

Solar Oven Heats Up Water – Even To A Boil

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

Not so good during cold weather. However, other times of the year it’s great. I’ve built a few over the years. And I’ve purchased one that actually gets up to 375 degrees!

[ Read: All American Sun Oven – 10 Years Later ]

Any Black Bucket or Container

Any BLACK container. No electricity required! Fill with water, set in sun. Preferably on a insulated surface rather than directly on the ground (heat sink).

Paint a 5-gallon bucket black. Preferably flat black. Set in sun. Later, enjoy nice hot water. You could even get ‘fancy’ and rig up a valve and/or shower hose/head. Place bucket up high and enjoy a warm shower. WhooHoo – Almost like ‘The Ritz’!

Wood Stove During Winter Months

Those who heat their home with a wood stove do this anyway. But I’ll mention it nonetheless. Place a pot of water on the stove. Not only will it steam some humidity into the room (winter’s are always dry inside), but you’ve got hot water too.

Humidifying Cast Iron Kettle,Stove Humidifier
(amzn)

Okay, lets hear your thoughts on this subject. What would you do for hot water without electricity?

45 Comments

  1. Lots of options, as I see it. Post shtf, I’ll likely do a black plastic pipe under glass contraption. Doesn’t look too difficult and I’ve got lots of pipe and fittings. Like you mentioned Ken, winter time would make it much less usable. Probably go old school with hot water on the woodstove in the winter. Kind of figuring an outside shower for 1/2 of the year. Less stress on the septic. There will be no more pump trucks.

    Unless there is something unforeseen, I’ve got the water part figured, low volume dc deep well submersible. Solar powered. Probably be popular with friends/neighbors, so should have some help with setting something up. Even with that, I don’t foresee any long hot steamy showers. Definitely a change in lifestyle.

    1. I have done this before in a few ways. Once when I built a plastic line under glass with an insulated tin backing then went off to work, someone shut off the water supply so when I returned I found the plastic line melted in a puddle. They work well enough otherwise.

    2. We hired a metal fabricator to build a 23 gallon aluminum tank that fits on top of our woodstove and around the chimney. We fill it from the top with a hose and have a spigot and short hose to the side for hot water to wash dishes and clothes in winter.

  2. Indoor wood burner, it’s how we do maple syrup.
    A rocket stove thing may be fun, next house demolition I see that has bricks I’m going to swipe 15 or 20.
    The coleman white gas camp burners – need work, new gaskets but there are a single and three doubles.
    The single lp burner with 11 grill tanks.
    A small gas grill, dunno how good for boiling but efficient for food, about 1.5 square foot cooking surface.
    The lp house stove-top inside? with no electricity it takes a match and just had the tank refilled two weeks ago. they only filled to 80% yes, I know.

    What else.. the huge cannibal hanging pot on a tripod? I want one of those.

  3. During Katrina we got a hot (warm really) bath by heating water in a turkey fryer pot on a propane burner. Mixed with cold in a tub. Wife and I shared the water. A warm bath after working all day before sleep helps a lot.

    In a $h!t situation warm water bathing may be out of a basin, a spit bath in other words.

  4. We got a Wiseway pellet stove at the cabin that’s gravity feed, no power required.
    Was thinking of wrapping the copper tubing around the chimney to heat water.

    1. Prepared
      Lehman’s Hardware used to have a pamphlet on heating water with woodstove. Don’t know if they still publish it?

      1. I mean really where I am, we got the cheapo wood stove in the sauna for bathing year round.
        And for now the pellet stove just keeps the pot water hot for soup or noodles.
        But maybe someday a bathtub in the cabin could be heated with the coils on the stove pipe :-)
        So how Far North Are ya?

        1. Prepared
          We’re in the land of the midnight sun, around 64 degrees North Latitude. Maybe 150 miles South of the Arctic Circle.
          There are plenty of folks who are farther North still..
          If, probably a big if, if you could find a cast iron bathtub, from what I hear, you could apply direct heat to such a tub? Where to put such a set up though, other than outside or outbuilding?

          1. I passed on one a couple months ago on craigslist. Wish I wouldn’t have. I’m about 150 mile south of you by a pretty popular Tessoro station.

          2. Prepared
            Howdy neighbor!
            150 miles South on the Parks or the Rich?

          3. Far North
            Parks. near the Talkeetna spur
            and that 150 is straight line, not highway miles :-)

          4. Prepared
            When we first came up here, we were in Trapper Creek.
            Last time we were down the Parks, Cabella’s had just opened.
            There was a place just North of the spur on the right — general store, (gas station?) and showers. Can’t remember its name.

          5. Far North
            Its H&H Lakeview Bar and Grill now. They still have the store but its not so General anymore, mainly weed stuff. Really good burgers though. So as not to go too far off the topic of this thread, they do also have an RV camp ground where you can heat your hot water over a camp fire or use your new Solo Lite camp stove :-D

  5. As Plainsmedic said,
    an outdoor shower.
    Been using them for more than 30 years — in season.
    The heart of the shower is a 5 gallon bucket with a shower head, and on / off valve attached to the bottom of the bucket. Will need to drill out the shower head holes — it is gravity feed. I can give more detail of how it is all put together if needed.
    Fill the bucket part way with cold/lukewarm water… Then add a little hot water. Test the temp with your hand. Add hot water until the temp is just right (comfortable) — not too hot not too cold.
    We have a tripod set up over an enclosure. Clothesline wheel attached to the tripod. Ran an anchor rope thru the wheel to the winch hook. Then raise the bucket overhead with the 4-wheeler’s winch.

  6. Ken, can I add one more that can also be used to cook, fire heated stones, add to water to heat, strain thur cloth to use for drinking (coffee,tea) and as I said cooking…add stone then food stuffs. Japanese onsen speciallity.

  7. My Son-in-law used to have a pressure washing business. His pressure washer could heat a large volume of water. One year he took it out to the farm, cleaned out a cow tank and refilled it with steamy hot water. He set it up to pull water from the cow tank, run it through the heater and back into the tank. It was the BEST red-neck hot tub.
    I have often used the interior of a car to raise bread dough. I suppose a couple gallons of water could be nicely warmed by sitting on a sunny seat or on the dash. Even in the winter, a vehicle in the sun can be quite cozy warm inside and could be used as a portable, positionable sunroom/greenhouse.

  8. Black plastic hose in an enclosure with a solar powered circulation pump to circulate water thru and into water tank.
    In winter copper tubing formed and attached to outside of woodstove with a 12-volt circulation pump to circulate water thru and into water tank. Or, OR copper tubing formed into a grid and placed in fireplace with a 12-volt pump, will do the same thing.

  9. Actually, im pretty sure if you place a long loop of hose somewhere it will heat, then place one end at top of a big barrel and the other at the bottom it will automatically circulate,

    1. It works for heating a hot tub,,,
      Growing up we had a cabin, wood stove, big steel tank for hot water, there was an inlet from the main water supply, then a loop of heavy pipe run through the fire box on the stove, an hour or so and we had hot water, like 50 gallons of it and usually the pressure relief valve would go off if you didnt choke down the circulating valve

  10. – Kula,

    Just playing around a couple of year ago, had a 30-gallon barrel that wasn’t doing anything important. Had a hose bib at the bottom, and a hundred or so feet of garden hose not in use. Put the hose on the bib, brought the other end up and put it in the bung, filled the barrel and hose with another hose, and left the arrangement laying in the sun just to show the boys. In about an hour, had 30+ gallons of water that was really too hot for washing hands, had to mix it with some cold from the other hose for that. Worked for clean-up for boys and myself working in the dirt.

    – Papa S.

    1. Papa S,
      Very smart setup. In years past they called it a “solar siphon “. Whatever you call it, it works simply and well. Have heard of people that have done similar thing to keep remote cattle tanks ice free in winter.

    2. Papa Smurf
      We have a 15 gallon poly drum sitting around largely unused, that is fitted with garden hose faucet. It now will have a new job. Yes, thanks for the tip!

      1. – Far North, that was on an 80F day in west Texas, about 32 Deg. Lat. and half a mile elevation. Bet we get better sun here than you do. Maybe add a sheet of clear plastic over your garden hose!
        – Papa

        1. Papa Smurf
          I would almost guarantee you have better sun. Ours comes in at a really acute angle — low on the horizon.
          Visqueen over the hose and or mylar survival blanket(s) under it. What do you think?

          1. – Visqueen yes. Mylar, maybe not. Won’t know until you try it. Maybe a second sheet of visqueen about an inch above the first?
            – Papa

          2. Thanks for the ideas. We’ll keep trying until it works. Maybe Styrofoam under the hose.
            We had placed some of those 2 1/2 gallon square spring water o

          3. Try again. Grrrr!
            2 1/2 gallon containers on styro reached 93 degrees
            Same containers on styro and space blanket 98 degrees. See how it will all work with hose and drum…

          4. Far North – On youtube: Engineer 775. If there is a simple and effective way for your needs…..this guy has found it. Use his search bar for your topic.

  11. Coleman portable Hot H2O On-demand unit is nice. Mine can operate off my 12v solar with the supplied cigarette style plug, and charges internal batteries the same way. Uses the 1lb propane cylinders. Using room temp water in a water container, it provides steaming hot water. Nice unit, but pricey.

  12. Good ideas. I’d strongly suggest having a 12 vdc pump. Lots of uses for it. Last one I bought was approx. 35 dollars. That’s for the cheap garden hose variety. Very handy.

  13. The Zodi Extreme Shower. Basically, a pump-up sprayer. Only know what I’ve seen on the internet. Anyone have any experience with it?

    1. Far North – No…..I made my own using a pump-up garden sprayer (2 gal. and 3 gal.). Increase the diameter of the inside draw hose, and outside hose. Put garden hose nozzle on it. Works great inside the house shower stall and at base camp. Just add a small pot of hot water into the 2 gal. tank. Also use it for washing my dogs. Surfers use them for washing the salt water off their boards and bodies. I don’t know what the Zodi Extreme would cost but I paid $18.99 for my Chapin 3 gallon garden sprayer. Already had the tubing and nozzle.

      1. SoulSurvivor
        With this Zodi, you add water and then heat, it has temp gauge.
        Wasn’t sure about adding hot water to a regular sprayer. But now I see that you can. Thanks!
        Yes the zodi is pricey, $140 something base price! Which is why we don’t have one.
        This sprayer would be just the thing for our new shower house.

  14. I have built a off-grid water heater based on one I saw at a youth camp many years ago. It is based on a clean food grade 50 gallon heavy steel barrel. With safety a consideration use PPE as I am not responsible if you use a barrel that stored hydrocarbons etc. and catches fire or worse.

    The barrel is cut off just above the topmost bulge ring. The top cutoff potion is set on the floor bung side down. The larger portion is placed on top of the base or fire box portion and spot welded or braze in several locations being careful not to burn a hole in the top potion of barrel. As high as practically possible cut a 6″ diameter hole in the side of the firebox and mount a 6″ diameter 90 degree elbow using L brackets and sheet metal screws. On the opposite side of firebox from stove pipe hole as low as possible cut a wood charging opening keeping the rectangular opening top not higher than bottom of stovepipe hole. The reason for this is you want the smoke to go up the stovepipe not out the wood charging door. A door can be added or just leave open for adding wood and full air available for the fire. A section of stovepipe is added to the elbow about 6 feet high and add a top cap so rain will not put out the fire. This unit will heat about 30 gallons of water quite quickly. It may look like overkill and of coarse a good wood supply is required but it is surprising how much hot water is required to wash clothes, dishes etc. for a family and to just keep everything clean. I put in quantity of water required and fire up. I do this in the morning and once water is hot I just keep a small fire to maintain hot water. If no door is installed be careful if it’s windy as hot coals can roll out the opening and go where not intended. I am currently experimenting to build a similar unit from a 5 gallon steel pail. We”ll see how that works.

    1. Cliffhanger
      We made something somewhat similar.
      Start with 55 gal. oil drum. Cut off bung end a few inches up.
      Cut off opposite end of barrel on the rib. You now have the barrel in 3 pieces.
      With the bung end facing down, press the other end of the barrel over the bung end. Attach the two pieces with stove bolts.
      Make a door from the third (middle) piece.
      Stove pipe as you described.
      This is now described as an “air tight stove, and can be used as you would any other wood stove.
      However, what I did was cut a hole in the top surface of the stove so a large blue porcelain water bath canning pot would fit snuggly down into the firebox.
      At one time we used it to make maple syrup. Also cooked fish for the sled dogs, as well as heat water.
      The directions and drawings of how to make it are in the book — “Alaskan’s How-to Handbook” by Joe Dart.
      Either Inter-Library Loan, or can purchase a copy from the Alaska Trappers Association. Type Internet search — Alaska Trappers Association. Click on ATA store. Then click on publications, and scroll down to the book listing. This handbook contains info on trapping, building sleds, making a fish net, a fish wheel, snowshoes, building a platform for a wall tent, etc. Joe went to experts in each field as to how to do and make these items. Along with illustrations.
      And no, I don’t have a connection to this book other than Joe and a number of the contributors are friends.

  15. – Ken, you mentioned any black bucket as a potential water heater. At least into the sixties, Robber’s Roost near NRP’s stomping grounds sported the remains of a black water bucket among the ruins.
    -Papa S.

  16. Water is very good at storing heat. If it’s possible to have warm water to start with, one is already half-way to hot water. Here near the PNW coast we don’t get many days that stay below freezing no matter how cold the night. Ocean and cloud modulate the temperature. My water storage tank sits on the west rise of the house and gets the afternoon sunshine from the west and southwest. In the summer it’s pretty hot. In winter it’s usually warm. If one had water stored inside in drums in a south-facing window, or in a greenhouse or sunroom, then actively heating that water would take less fuel.

  17. I acquired discarded gas water heaters from a plumber. My grandson and I removed the gas burners and controls. We built rocket stove style setups to replace the gas burner rings. Gas water heaters already have an exhaust flue built in. They also have the safety pressure release valve setup. Just have to make sure the valve is operational. Don’t need a whole lot of wood sticks to heat water.
    You just need some mechanical expertise to build the rocket stove setup.once heated the water stays hot in the tank. We installed a temperature valve on the hot water line on top of tank so we knew when the water was hot enough. Obviously you do this with safety and risk assessment for your situation. I would not do it inside a home. We have ours in an open area with a roof over them. We have 5 connected water heaters that feed a “family” shower area and a laundry area. Each one has its own setup. My grandson suggested a recirculation pump so one fire could eventually heat the water in all 5 tanks. Definitely takes longer but doable…
    An electric water heater can be used for a passive solar tank. Plenty of plans on the internet. You just have to strip the outer shell off and remove the insulation off the water tank. It’s a little harder to do since they started using the expandable foam…

  18. almost always when a water heater is discarded is because it is leaking. don’t pay money for a used one until you check it out. a gas water heater will most often leak in the flue area.

  19. Scout,these were warranty returns. Problems with the electronics.cheaper to discard then repair under warranty. Most were not even a year old. Got them for free. No leaks,no flue problems. Crap electronics most likely from China or Mexico did them in. The plumber told me it was cheaper for the manufacturer to just put a new one in than pay for parts/labor…

    1. Scour,Water heater set up has been in use for a couple years now with no issues…
      But like OH I’m an engineer so…

  20. I have been thinking of running water only, but after reading the comments I think it might work for hot water. I have a basement bath. I was thinking of having a55 gal. barrel outside and attaching it to the outside water spigot. It is on the south side of the house so gets sun. Since the shower and so on are lower I was thinking I should have running water. A box with a window should heat nicely.

    1. Country,
      i don’t see why in the world that wouldn’t work. a good idea. you just have to get the water out of the basement without elect. a solar powered sump pump maybe? sponge baths and a wash tub work well also and wouldn’t be that much water to carry out.
      good luck!

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