It’s tough to maintain your off grid water system in the winter. Pipes freeze, then burst. Then you don’t have any water at all! So… what can you do to keep your off grid water system running in winter? This article will walk you through just what you can do!
Want to learn more about winter living off grid? We’ve got a ton of resources that are made for you!
When Do Pipes Freeze?
At 32 degrees Fahrenheit, water freezes. Thus, if the temperature drops that low, any water in pipes will theoretically begin to freeze. However, you shouldn’t worry if the weather is just at 32 F.
Since most pipelines aren’t exposed to the elements, the temperature needs to be lower for the water to actually freeze. Experience has shown us that the pipes will freeze if the temperature falls below 20 degrees Fahrenheit (especially for multiple days).
Therefore, if you want to keep your water flowing, you should prevent the pipes or any stored water from reaching these low temperates.
To achieve this, you can:
- Bury tanks and pipelines underground
- Protect your tanks and pipes with insulation
- Heat the pipes
- Construct a system to drain your pipes of water
- Maintain a temperature-controlled environment for a reservoir tank
Bury Your Water Underground
One of the easiest ways to insulate your pipes is to bury them. However, this doesn’t always work. If you live somewhere like Alaska, the ground will freeze as well. This works best in areas with moderate winters.
When you bury your pipes underground, it protects them from frost and extreme temperatures. It should give you some peace of mind as well!
According to the Department of the Environment, two feet should be sufficient to shield the pipe from the cold in areas without severe winters.
Insults Pipes and Tanks
This applies to pipes or tanks that require protection but cannot be buried. If you cannot place them in hot spaces, buy some isolation material and wrap it around them (this is my preferred method).
You’ll have to spend money on the insulation, which might not be as effective as a deep hole (if you live somewhere with mild winters).
The following pipes and tanks could benefit from insulation:
- Exterior pipes
- Attic pipes
- Unheated buildings with pipes (sheds)
- Basement pipes
Plumbing insulation purchases can be pricey. If possible, plan your system so that most of your home’s exterior plumbing is underground and enters through the basement. That way, you shouldn’t have to insulate your pipes.
This Frost King pipe insulation is cheap and works great. I highly recommend using this stuff if you’re insulating your pipes for the winter!
Heat Up The Pipes
You might consider heating your exposed pipes if the winters often dip below 20 degrees Fahrenheit to keep the water liquid.
You can do this by connecting a secondary pipe that provides warm water. You should be able to remove this pipe when the heating is turned off.
I recommend this method if you get your water from a lake or pond. If this isn’t the case, I think that insulating or buying your pipes is probably easier. This method requires a bit of work and some basic plumbing skills.
Empty The Pipes
If your pipes are empty of water, they won’t freeze. However, this only works if you don’t need to use your pipes during the winter.
To do this, you should use a system that blows water out of each pipe before the winter shutdown. I recommend using a few valves and pressured air to get all the water out of the pipes.
In a gravity-fed system, another option is to let all the water flow until the faucets run out of water. If you have no mechanism to keep the pipes hot, this method could be the least expensive!
Keep A Resavoir In A Controlled Temp
One approach to prevent frozen reservoir tanks is to keep a tank indoors or in a heated hut. If you don’t have a lot of space, this might not be for you.
Given that most attics receives some heat from the house below, they rarely gets below freezing. Knowing this, you can keep a water reservoir in an attic! This is usually a simple option that does the trick!
Nevertheless, having an underground storage tank is still quite convenient, especially if you don’t have access to a deep lake or pond that doesn’t freeze during winter.
Winter Water Systems Are Expensive
A genuine winter-proof system could involve more work and cost more money than anticipated. If you take the time to bury and insulate your pipes, you will have little to no difficulty (other than digging).
However, some compact homes or RVs do not have the luxury of spending money on complex winterizing systems. So, in this situation, how do you acquire running water?
How To Create a Cheap Water System
Suppose you can’t install any of the insulating methods mentioned above. In that case, you can still get running water on a budget in tiny homes, RVs, and other compact cabins. Sometimes, it just calls for a bit of creativity!
Indoors Tanks and Filtration System
The best thing to do is get a tank indoors to get indoor water. For this, you will need the means to fit your entire water filtration system indoors. It should be in a heated, protected space. Usually, this is considered while designing the majority of RVs, tiny homes on wheels, and even cabins.
After getting that out of the way, you can start thinking about how to constantly replenish your filtration system with fresh water. To replenish you water, try doing these things:
Run a Temporary Water Line
When the water levels get low, you can install a temporary pump and some hose lines to feed your indoor tank. This works best if you have access to a lake or a river that is still flowing during the winter.
When you’re through, drain the hosepipes and bring them inside to keep them warm. You won’t have to worry about the cold weather because the pipes will only be out briefly. The water will run through them the entire time, preventing any freezing.
Carry in Water
If you don’t have a pump, you can manually fill your indoor tank by carrying water jugs back and forth from the source. Even though it takes some effort and time, you should be able to accomplish this if you build your water storage with this option in mind.
This is a versatile 5-gallon jug that’s super easy to transport. It’s also great for outdoor events!
Perhaps the simplest and most practical way to obtain water in the winter is through melting snow or ice. Snow, after all, is just frozen water.
You can purchase a boiler system that uses heat from your wood stove or other heating source and diverts it to a crude heat exchanger or sizable metal container where it melts any snow you may have.
- Gather snow from your roof, which is typically cleaner than snow on the ground.
- Icicles are OK.
- Before using the water, it must be filtered; make sure you use a filtering system.
- Avoid yellow snow or anything that has a faint hue.
Look for a system with a bottom exit that allows any water that develops to run out before it boils, so you don’t have to boil the water (unless that’s your purifying option). As a result, you won’t need to use as much heat to achieve that priceless liquid water.
Does Well Water Freeze?
Well water won’t freeze throughout the winter. Since it is far below the frost line, the water will remain liquid all year.
However, if exposed to the elements, the well’s plumbing, the pump, and even the pressure tank will freeze, resulting in a decline in water pressure or no water.
All you have to worry about if you utilize a submersible well pump is insulating the lines that go from the well to your house. To achieve this, bury the pipes below the frost line and insulate the wellhead by surrounding it with a thermally regulated structure or piling insulation on top of it.
By placing your jet pump indoors, you may stay warm when using one. All these problems can be easily avoided by constructing a good house. Even old manual wells had well houses, which you can utilize for your contemporary narrow well.