Apr 3, 2012

Free Hot Water

Since before we even moved to the farm I've been kicking around ideas for free hot water. It just seems crazy to me to pay for heat when a country like Australia has it in spades. I think if I was still in the suburbs I'd still be trying something like this.

So this is version 1 of my free hot water system. I tossed up between a solar system or a compost system for a while, but it soon became clear that while the vegie garden and food forest are growing (and will be for some time) the organic matter that might go in to a large compost heap was needed elsewhere, maybe its something I can revisit later, it would probably work better through the winter than what I have here.

So down by our shed there is a large water tank that is not attached to the house water, until I set this up it was used for animal water and the washing machine which is in the shed. Those two things alone hardly make a dent in the water level.

I have an extra hose that runs off the pump down by the shed.
Then the hose runs up the hill towards the house tanks. One of these is an old cement tank that leaks.
Here at the cement take I have a tap.
The tap is connected to 100 metres of black poly pipe that is coiled around on the top of the tank.
Then it runs down to a spray hose fitting.
Then I get involved :)
 The water hits the ground 
 That water runs down a trench.
 And into a garden bed.

In the middle of the day, the water is too hot to stand under, around dusk it is just right. There is plenty of room for improvement though. The water is cold again about 30 mins after sunset (and that time is getting shorter as the evenings cool), I was hoping the thermal mass that is the top of the cement tank would hold the heat a bit longer. It gets very warm though the day, you can't stand on it in bare feet, but it seems to loose the heat pretty quickly once the sun is not on it. I'm thinking of trying some black plastic or paint under the pipe to see if that helps (any other suggestions welcome :).

The garden hose I'm using that runs up the hill drips if left under pressure from the pump, this means that before and after the shower you have to walk down to the hill to turn the whole system off at the tap which is a bit clumsy. If I can replace that with more poly pipe it should hold water under pressure.

The trench down the hill to the garden bed should be lined with plastic so less of the water seeps into the sand on its way.

I hope to extend the hose so there is enough water for Vicki and I (100 metres of 19mm pipe holds just under 40 litres). We have an old bath tub that was here on the property we hope to restore a little and put in place under the shower.

 And here are some picks of this mornings mist just cus they are nice :)


Lisa said...

Qow, awesome Ian! Hows you come up with that idea? Ive seen underground pipe versions like that used in england, on Gtand Designs, but this is awesome! If its too hot, maybe you could - 1. Paint the pipes white, so they dont absorb so much heat? Or 2. Put a thin layer of vlanket over the top to dull the heat a little?

Ian said...

Hey Lisa, thanks.

There are a few similar things on Youtube. they tend to over simplify it, maybe to stay brief. They just say fill the pipe with water and let it run out when you want it. But I found this caused problems with air pockets in the hose and the pressure was not enough to have a shower when it came back out. That's why I ended up with the straight through system, where the water pump is pushing the water in one end and I'm under the other :P The only down side is that if you stay in there too long the water will suddenly go cold.EEEK! :)

Being white would cool it down, but too hot is easy to fix because I could always mix some cold water in somehow. The main issue I have is that I'd like to have my shower at the end of the day or even in the evening when I'm done with all the hot sweaty farm work. But I loose all that built up heat very quickly when the sun goes down. Hanging on to the heat longer is my goal :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Ian, is insulation your answer? hot water pipes in houses are insulated to prevent heat loss, so could you insulate the poly-pipe to do the same? Whether you insulate the pipe itself, or as the day turns cooler, lay a blanket or similar over the pipe to retain the heat. My friends buy pure woollen blankets (cheaply) from Op shops etc.

Ian said...

ooh thanks, I'll look into something like that I think. its like tucking in your hot water at night :P

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