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The Best Hot Water Heating Systems for Off-grid Living!


One of the challenges to living off-grid is getting hot water. There are several ways of getting hot water that do not require connecting to the grid system. Each method has it's pros and cons and choosing a method will depend on where you live and your natural surroundings.

In the past people would simply heat their water on wood burning stoves and take a sponge baths or use it to wash dishes. Thankfully that method is no longer necessary, as water is heavy and carrying hot water can be treacherous. There are several inventions that enable you to have hot water in your shower or bath just like you have now only without the heating bills!

The first invention is the solar water heater: The solar water heater can be used if you have a decent amount of sun and while there are many solar water heaters that you can buy you can also build one yourself and save a lot of money. A basic solar water heater can be formed from an empty used gas water heater. Paint it black and put it into a glass case (sort of like a greenhouse) to capture the sun. The sun will heat up the water and depending on where you live you may never have to pay for hot water again. There is a video available below that explains exactly how to do this. You will still have the task of getting the water into your home. You will have to use a solar pump, a hand pump or some form of off-grid electrical system but that is another article.

Another approach for an off-grid hot water heating system that will work in areas that aren't as sunny is to hook up a hot water tank to your wood stove. The wood stove will not only heat up your house and can be used to cook on but it will also heat up the water tank. This is a good solution for those with plenty of wood but not very much sun as you have to have some kind of fuel to run the wood stove. Also, it will add humidity inside your home..something that can really come in handy if you are depending upon wood to heat your home as wood heat can be very drying.

Of course one can always use propane. While most people use propane as a temporary method some people use propane as a way of life. The best off-grid water heater using propane is the Eccotemp L5 Portable Tankless water heater. It runs on propane and can be used anywhere as it is portable. This system is very affordable and works well in interim situations although many people have used this as their main hot water system quite successfully. The downside is that you do have to buy propane.

Other methods include generating electricity through either solar panels, micro-hydrators (water electricity) or wind turbines. All of these methods will generate electricity and the electricity will heat up your hot water tank, however heating water is energy intensive so I would turn to these as methods of last resort. Not only that but they can be very expensive.

Finally, in a pinch you can use a solar hot water shower box. To use this you simply fill the container with water and set it in the sun for awhile. After it has heated up position it above yourself and enjoy a hot water shower. Many people use these containers while camping but they can also be used on a regular basis if you have enough sun. They are very affordable and have received very good reviews. This would be a nice thing to have hot weather and can build an outdoor shower.

Whatever off-grid hot water heating system you choose it is very important to have a source of hot water. There is nothing worse than taking a cold shower in the winter and as far as I'm concerned hot water is not a luxury but a necessity. Luckily, with the innovations and inventions that we have today there is no reason one should go without hot water and just as important without heating bills!

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Nalon T on October 19, 2019:

Check out rocket mass heaters. They can potentially use a tenth of the wood used by conventional wood burning stoves & can be built at the fraction of the cost. There are tons of applications including a water heating system. Youtube Paul Wheaton RMH & find a simplified video of the superior design. Any homesteader won’t be disappointed!

Dale Anderson from The High Seas on June 18, 2018:

The fresnel lens heater is particularly interesting to me. I have a friend who, like me) lives aboard a boat and he uses a similar lens to cook food in a small, insulated box that he has lined with aluminum foil.

Brie Hoffman (author) from Manhattan on February 21, 2015:

Thanks for sharing Ron.

Ron M on February 21, 2015:

Half my roof is solar, the other half is 500' of black plastic pipe for hot water. It holds roughly 10 gallons of hot water. The average person uses 3-5 gallons for a shower. The pipe is used for well systems and is readily available at any building supply. I use a 12v on demand pump with it.

I learned this from a friend who has a copper pipe hot water system on his roof but it's rather expensive. That's why I went with the black plastic pipe. Works great when the sun is shining. In the winter I drain it and revert back to my 6 gallon propane water heater I got off an RV.

Brie Hoffman (author) from Manhattan on October 19, 2014:

I'm so glad I could be of some help Heather.

Heather Smith on October 19, 2014:

Great info! We are living completely off-grid in rural AZ, currently in a small RV while we build our cabin. One of the biggest concerns was hot water going into winter. After reading this and checking out the videos we will definitely be using a potbelly stove with an old heater tank, wood is plentiful and free luckily. Thanks again!

Brie Hoffman (author) from Manhattan on February 15, 2013:

I'm so glad that my obsession has benefited someone! Good luck with your plans. Here is another link that I think you'll find useful:

Melissa on February 15, 2013:

Thank you so much for this article! My hubs and I are planning to build a small homestead ourselves in the next 5 years. We want it off grid and 2 of our biggest concerns have been hot water and refrigeration. I read another post of yours about off grid refridgeration and between that and this one you have solved our issues!

Brie Hoffman (author) from Manhattan on July 03, 2012:

Thanks for the tip Donna Dean.

Donna Dean on July 03, 2012:

You can also try the site to find these parts. People are always trying to give away water heaters that no longer work.

Brie Hoffman (author) from Manhattan on November 08, 2011:

There are many good things to have but cost is usually an issue. I haven't studied solar generators..sorry.

suz on November 08, 2011:

what is the best solar generator? do you think that would be a good thing to have? thanks

Brie Hoffman (author) from Manhattan on January 24, 2011:

Thanks whitton I hope you rated it UP!

whitton on January 24, 2011:

Well written Hub. Very useful and informative information.

Brie Hoffman (author) from Manhattan on January 21, 2011:

Thanks JL Li, glad you like it!

Jl Li on January 21, 2011:

Awesome information.

Brie Hoffman (author) from Manhattan on January 20, 2011:

You're welcome, come back again Skylark35!

skylark35 on January 20, 2011:

Thinks for this grate hub I plan to use some of your ideas in the future.

Brie Hoffman (author) from Manhattan on January 19, 2011:

You have to watch the videos on this hub...most of the parts were acquired either by scavenging old water heater tanks that were thrown out or acquired at garage doesn't cost very much at all.

Brie Hoffman (author) from Manhattan on January 19, 2011:

You have to watch the videos on this hub...most of the parts were acquired either by scavenging old water heater tanks that were thrown out or acquired at garage doesn't cost very much at all.

Wesman Todd Shaw from Kaufman, Texas on January 19, 2011:

Not yet, but because I haven't got to that stage yet; I'm a penniless hub artist. . .I do air conditioning repairs all Spring and Summer, and I'm broke all Fall and Winter.

I absolutely am going to do solar panels though.

Brie Hoffman (author) from Manhattan on January 18, 2011:

:) Well you should have plenty of sun then! Did you watch the vid for the solar powered water heater? You should be able to do that.

Wesman Todd Shaw from Kaufman, Texas on January 18, 2011:

You're favourite! The Lone Star State!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Brie Hoffman (author) from Manhattan on January 18, 2011:

What state?

Wesman Todd Shaw from Kaufman, Texas on January 18, 2011:

I live in a little RV. I've not investigated how to do it yet, but I intend to make this thing solar powered.

Brie Hoffman (author) from Manhattan on January 17, 2011:

THANK YOU Frank for commenting, I love hearing about other people's experiences...that's how we all learn. I hope you are a fan and rated the article up! Not only is the fuel free but you are free when you do things this way...I love it!

Next one will be about what to do with waste..I'm waiting on a couple of books that I ordered for that one.

Frank on January 17, 2011:

A friend of mine took a castaway 60 gallon hot water heater, stripped off the heating element and all the insulation, and mounted it on a Franklin wood stove almost identical to the one in the video. Of course, it came with a cold water in pipe, a hot water out pipe to his shower and the safety pressure switch. I'd start the fire in the wood stove and an hour later enjoy a very lengthy, very hot shower. It worked just great and, since we live in the "sticks", the fuel is free for a little labor, and the cost of the parts from a junk yard and scrounged from friends, is next to nothing. Maybe a few pieces of pipe from the local hardware store. Brie, thanks for your excellent articles.

Brie Hoffman (author) from Manhattan on January 17, 2011:

Boy, if that's one thing AZ has it's SUN! Definitely look into that first video with the solar water heater, it would work out very well in AZ. Let me know when you get one!

Elderyoungman from Worldwide on January 17, 2011:

Nice. We'll be looking into this for sure, since we live in AZ... No shortage of sunlight year round.

Brie Hoffman (author) from Manhattan on January 17, 2011:

Thanks, I hope people find it useful. Thanks for commenting rdcast.

rdcast from God's Green Earth on January 17, 2011:

Excellent, and so apropos for preparing our siege against an ever broadening and invasive government.

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