What about water in -40? An update

Click here to see our current water tank structure (November 2016)

Following up on our last article seen HERE , I’m going to start off with a brief overview of what’s been happening with our water heater..

On demand water heater update:

After reading the portable eccotempt L5 horror stories, we decided to shy away from using the one we had. After days/weeks/ months of reading mixed reviews for the other models, we decided to invest in a good one. We ordered the Takagi T-KJr2-IN-LP Indoor Tankless water heater ($843.41 on Amazon) because of the wonderful feedback. Unfortunately it came damaged in the mail. After our refund we ordered another one and not realizing it was natural gas. Then we were told that we have to wait 1-4 months for Takagi to restock.

Takagi damage Takagi damage

We finally surrendered and landed a refurbished Eccotemp FVI-12-LP model from Amazon for pretty cheap ($291.35). It was our best option if we want to get our water running any time soon. Thank goodness it comes with a venting kit (see below)! Right now I am in the process of cutting the vent hole which is no easy task with the tools we have on hand.

eccotemp FVI eccotemp FVI eccotemp FVI

Water in Canada

Here is a brief rundown of our setup. We couldn’t find any Canadian winter water solutions online so we created our own design. Stay tuned as we post our trial and error updates.

We have a 250 gallon water tank outside that’s surrounded in straw bales and draped with insulated tarps. The tank sits on an pallet that is packed with straw to keep it from absorbing the cold from the frozen earth. We have formed a structure that retains heat similar to a sweat. It takes a small amount of heat to keep the temperature above 0C. We have constructed a basic tin can rocket stove that we will be venting outside, but for now we are using a propane heater. The tank is pressed up against the house to benefit from the radiant heat. I watched a helpful youtube video that demonstrated how well radiant heat from a house contributes to keeping water tanks warm. We purchased electrical heat tape to keep the water hose that leads into the house from freezing. The electrical output on the tape is impressively low so our solar should handle it no problem. Even better, the hose we have is easy to remove if it does freeze. All it needs is an hour inside by the fire and it’s good to go.

Insulated tarps Spout for water   Hose opening

*note the water pipe that runs into the house is removed in these pictures.

Our water was running smoothly all summer and since it has been cold and our on demand heater was unsafe we have resorted to manually collecting water and showering elsewhere. We expected our outdoor water tank was frozen solid  after months of neglect, but once we put a space heater inside the enclosure we realized that it was just the outside walls of the tank that were iced over *phew*. In a week or so hopefully things will be running smoothly with the new on demand water heater.

What was your experience like? What did you do about water in the extreme cold? Any new idea’s that you are exploring? Knowledge is power. Let’s fuel this movement!

I look forward to hearing from you. 🙂

All the best,

-The Copper House


8 thoughts on “What about water in -40? An update

  1. Nicole Reply

    Wow you have a whole lot of extra challenges living tiny in a climate like that! Here I am wondering if a wood heater will be enough to warm our tiny house when it gets to 10 degrees on cold melbourne mornings! I love your water tank insulation solution.

    1. livingtinycanada Reply

      Thanks Nicole! Hopefully everything pans out like we want it to. And a wood heater should be good! It warms our entire house up pretty fast when it’s freezing outside. I wouldn’t worry. 🙂

  2. Martin Bisson Reply

    Have you considered burying the tank. If you bury under the frost line, it wont freeze.

    1. livingtinycanada Reply

      Yea we did consider it. There seems to be a lot of risk factors, but we may have to do it next year if things don’t pan out…
      Our compost is buried 1.5 Meters and still frozen. We also need access to the tank to refill it and a pipe that leads up into our home. Two risks of it freezing and not enough access to thaw it out. To my understanding we would also need a higher quality tank which isn’t in our budget.

      Is this something you have experience with in extreme cold? I couldn’t find any promising reviews online.

      Thank you!

  3. chris baker Reply

    You developed a good short term solution to a vexing problem. I have lived in |Alberta, and the other Prairie provinces and am very familiar with the extreme cold. I operated a lodge with a buried 1000 gallon tank and it was not without its problems.Burying your tank would lead to requiring a pump…another freezing problem. Use gravity, an elegant solution which would also provide raw material for gardening ( I assume you do this) would be to create a small greenhouse adjacent to your intake line. Use the old manure sub floor design, build up with straw bales, site your tank on top of the composting manure sub floor and create an attractive gable ( preferable to the tarps in the breeze approach I dare say).

    1. livingtinycanada Reply

      Yes, we worried about burying it because of the freezing problem. How did your keep your gravity water tank from freezing?
      That is a really good idea. We have not gotten our garden started yet but we will be doing it this summer.
      Do your have any advice on how to keep a warm compost during the winter? Our pit is dug way down and still frozen. :S
      It’s interesting that you brought the greenhouse up. I have been looking into winter greenhouses and it looks like it is very expensive to set up and have one perform in this climate.
      Is this something you have done or do you have any resources? There seems to be very little out there and I’m stumped.

  4. […] I came across this blog of a couple that is tiny housing in Alberta, another great resource for Cana... https://naturalintention.wordpress.com/2016/01/26/were-back-house-wrap-windows-roof

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