How to Prevent Freezing Water Lines When Living Off the GridOctober 12, 2020
Living off the grid poses many challenges to those who seek to live a more simple life, free of the encumbrances of the modern world. There is a strange allure in finding out just exactly what you can overcome and how deep your intestinal fortitude is.
Living off-grid is a way of pushing the envelope to find what lies beneath the surface of what it truly means to be human.
Our forefathers, men and women alike, faced challenges that we’ve long become removed from in our modern life.
This brings us to the thought, technology can arguably be both a blessing and a curse.
Heat is a modernized necessity that most humans take for granted. When the heat isn’t working, we call the HVAC technician
and pay the bill.
But it doesn’t work that way when you live off the grid.
This remedy is not possible when you are living in a cabin without such a modern convenience.
You must let go of what you currently know.
When winter winds begin to blow and the night temperatures dip below twenty-degrees, this begs a very important question.
How do you prevent your water lines from freezing?
When there is no heat, no power to utilize heat tape, and no technician to call, it is on you to take matters into your own hands.
Fortunately for you, I’ve been there and done that.
I have some unique solutions for you below that will help you regardless of your primitive lifestyle.
Thinking outside of the box is a skill that you learn. Practice makes perfect. Living off-grid provides daily opportunities to use your ingenuity and take it to new levels.
Necessity is indeed the harbinger of change.
Putting it more simply, when you fear being without water or heat, you’ll find a way to ensure that your worst fears don’t come to fruition.
Here are some methods that will help you keep water running in your home, no matter how cold it is outside.
Compost is the Best Way to Prevent Freezing Water Lines
Composting manure, with straw and other organic matter, will create natural heat. Compost piles can reach an internal temperature of 135 degrees to 160 degrees.
Not utilizing this organic stew that you likely have all the necessary ingredients to prepare, would genuinely be like flushing money down a toilet. (Which you should also be composting, FYI.)
Wherever you have outside water lines, insulate them and cover them with fresh cow manure and straw. Bury them in trenches of cow manure, pin black plastic over the top to help the manure cook. When spring comes, you can remove this composted soil and use it in your spring garden. In the autumn, repeat the process, ensuring that your outside lines always stay well above the point of freezing.
There are additional benefits to doing this as well.
Fresh manure is too hot for utilizing directly in your garden. Plants will die when their roots cook from the heat. This method of heating your water lines will also ensure that your compost is used at the right time in your garden as well.
It is a win-win and requires zero electricity.
**Any manure will do. Goat, chicken, horse, rabbit manure will work. If you do not have enough to go around, purchase more cow manure locally.
If you utilize elevated water collection tanks, consider using the space below them for compost piles. Kitchen scraps can be added to livestock manure to create a natural heater beneath the tank. Wrap it in black plastic or enclose it with cement blocks so that it remains toasty warm all winter long.
Other Basics About Water Lines
Wrap all water lines, especially where they are exposed, above ground, with waterproof insulation. This work is necessary, especially if you live in a Northern climate.
Shut-off extra water lines and disconnect hoses before winter so that they don’t freeze. If the line is not necessary, turn it off. If one water line freezes, this ice can spread to other lines.
Enclose well-pumps with insulated housing. Pile compost around this housing so that it remains too warm to freeze.
Consider having an insulated tank that you can fill to hold water. Large bodies of water are less likely to freeze than water lines. The bigger the tank of water, the less likely that it may freeze.
For example, I once knew people who filled a 1200-gallon tank inside of a shed and kept a small wood stove burning in the shed during the coldest winter months.
They shut off the water line from their well to the house during the winter. This method of winter water storage prevented any exterior line freeze if this line remained empty.
Keeping water lines from freezing requires thinking outside of the box to fool the elements. Nothing is impossible when you are determined to succeed. Mother Nature is sometimes cruel; survival can be difficult.
Using Solar Power to Prevent Freezing Water Lines
Solar panels allow for more opportunities. With enough generated power from the sun, keeping water lines from freezing is also possible. Plugging in heat lamps under your crawl space will prevent water line freezing.
Consider the solar water heaters for showering in summer. Using solar water heaters to circulate water and warm it with passive solar heating is possible, depending on how cold your climate is. These heaters will only heat water approximately twenty-degrees above the ambient temperature. If you live in Canada, this will not help you during January.
Living in a climate where temperatures only dip below freezing at night is less challenging than living where the temperature remains below freezing for many weeks.
The deeper you bury water lines, the less concern with them freezing in winter. In other words, waterlines may be buried eighteen inches deep in Florida but may require a depth of several feet in Maine.
Understand basic ways to create heat will save you and your water lines, no matter how cold it gets. Use common sense. Shut-off water lines not in use. Cover and insulate water lines that are necessary and protect them from cold winds and freezing ground.