Allow me to back up to mid April when some of us finally moved out to live at the Dacha. It wasn’t the easiest move since the interior of our home was still very warehouse-like: dusty, bare and full of tools. With a very minimal amount of energy and water, we soon had to get our priorities straight. The basics being: food, water and heat.
For a while, me and my sis literally camped out in front of the wood stove, our tents the only “clean” space to sleep in.
Now we’ve migrated into the straw bale cottage and a yurt-like canvas tent. It was still a bit cold at night for a while and my hot water bottle was my best friend. For months, we used a little propane camp stove for cooking. Now we’re using a conventional gas stove on propane, but this is a temporary idea since the Dacha plans on using zero propane once we figure it all out.
That brings me to water. Cold water we’ve got. Here’s how:
We have a well. An air compressor is turned on which sends air through a buried line to the well.
Inside the well we have a Brumby Pump – thanks to a Sustainable Tompkins Mini Grant. The Brumby is a very simple cylinder-shaped pump with no moving parts that uses air bubbles to push the water up from the well. Nothing electrical or complicated is installed in the well.
The water is pushed up another buried line that runs into a large 550 gallon tank that sits in the berm behind the house.
When we turn on the cold water, a small DC pump gets the water from the tank into the house. This uses very little energy and we only have to refill the tank when it gets pretty low, which is rarely.
So we’re warm, and we’re eating and drinking…but we soon realize that we really need to shower. We have a solar shower, sure…but around here you can get pretty smelly waiting for the sun to come out. Time to get the Dacha hot water.
Our plan: use solar hot water tubes and the Lister engine (our diesel generator) to create hot water. Store the hot water in an insulated tank in our sun room – a hot water battery into which we can throw some coils of copper to heat the house water.
The generator part is relatively easy. It creates hot water by default in its cooling process. A copper coil filled with glycol acts as a thermosyphon heat exchanger by running in a loop from the generator through our hot water storage tank. Using no pumps or motors the generator stays cool while producing domestic hot water.
So run a copper loop (3/4 inch copper coil) into the tank and you have that hot water stored.
We bought a SunMaxx evacuated tube system from Silicon Solar. It’s 30 tubes that will sit up on the roof. We haven’t set them up yet but they sure look pretty.
The difficult step was finding a tank to store the water. There are few tanks that can handle the higher temperatures we are dealing with. Also, the tank has to be able to handle the wear of water storage. There are companies that make exactly what we were looking for, but we couldn’t possibly afford a $2,000 tank at this point. (Who can?) We settled on a galvanized stock tank – the kind generally used for livestock. We coated the interior with waterproof outdoor paint from Tractor Supply.
Then we insulated all sides with Reflectix and rigid foam insulation. At this point there are two copper coils in the tank. One, a closed loop from the generator to the tank. And a second from the tank to the house domestic water. The final system will have a third loop coming from the solar water tubes.
Even with the generator as the only source currently heating the water, the Dacha is able to have really awesome hot showers! However, it is still summer and we’ll have to improve the system for colder weather. We’ll keep you updated, don’t worry. For now, you may be assured that we are clean… well, cleaner anyway.