Water Setup Recommendations?

GoneSquatchinGoneSquatchin Registered Users Posts: 16 ✭✭
Hello all,

I currently have an off-grid vacation cabin with a conventional water setup (see attached pic):

Deep Well (220v pump), Pressure Tank, and propane hot water heater (no electric). We have it all plumbed so that it is easy to drain everything down via gravity. (No worries about having to blow the lines out)

Hindsight being 20-20, I think I would have done things differently. But, at the time, we wanted to prepare for the chance that we might get electric utility run up the mountain...

Obviously, since I have a 220 pump, I need to run the generator to take showers and otherwise keep water in the Pressure Tank. I've been running this way for 2 years. However, it is getting increasingly annoying to have to walk out and start the generator every 4-5 toilet flushes just to pump the pressure tank back up.

I've been thinking about ways to make this easier and/or more efficient:

One option was to just upgrade to a remote start genny. However, I feel like if I do that, I should also go to a Honda EU7000is so I can reap the benefits of a much quieter and more fuel efficient generator. (Part of the annoyance factor is the noise). Unfortunately, that is dang expensive!!! (I also worry about theft)

Another option, is to get a plastic storage tank to keep inside (have to deal with freezing temps). If I did this, I would change the deep well pump to pump into the storage (hopefully with a float switch) and then use something like a shurflo (12v or 120v) to pump into the pressure tank. Question: Is the shurflo powerful enough to pump up the existing pressure tank?

This second option would allow me to use more water before having to fire up the deep well pump. I could also run the smaller Shurflo on either a small battery setup, my existing solar setup, or even just a smaller generator (like the EU2000). My only issue with this is that I don't have much room in my utility room for anything larger than about a 50 gallon container. 50 Gallons will get me quite a bit more flushes and hand washing. But, depending on what's left, probably only 1 quick shower. This leaves me wondering if the added complexity is worth it? I suppose I could eliminate the large hot water heater and replace with an on demand unit to free up a bunch of space. But, that also adds more cost and more complexity (especially for draining down)

Just looking for opinions or other ideas I haven't thought about?

Thanks,

Jeff

Comments

  • EstragonEstragon Registered Users Posts: 1,416 ✭✭✭✭
    So a few questions

    - do you use the cabin in the winter?
    - if so, just occasionally for a day or two, or for a couple of weeks at a time?
    - what is your "existing solar setup"?
    - do you have much mountain above you?

    I also have to deal with freezing etc, but there are a number of solutions, depending.
    Off-grid.  
    Main daytime system ~4kw panels into 2xMNClassic150 370ah 48v bank 2xOutback 3548 inverter 120v + 240v autotransformer
    Night system ~1kw panels into 1xMNClassic150 700ah 12v bank morningstar 300w inverter
  • GoneSquatchinGoneSquatchin Registered Users Posts: 16 ✭✭
    edited September 12 #3
    Estragon,

    Yes, I use the cabin through hunting season.  Just weekends though.  February and March it generally stays closed up.

    Existing solar is just (2) 220 AH golf cart batteries in series that I run all the lights and occasional fan and/or TV off of.  I use a 600W ProSine Inverter. Charged by (1) 12v 100W Panel (using PWM Controller) and (1) 24v 280W panel (using MPPT Controller).  I keep the 280w panel disconnected when not there.  So just the 100W panel keeps the batteries topped off while I'm away.  I've never had the batteries go below 80%.  (according to my Trimetric)

    Not sure what you mean by mountain above me...  I'm on the top of the mountain in a very rural subdivision.  Hoping some day there is a reason to run electric up.  But, probably not.  We already have good cellular coverage and those towers are powered by natural gas now.
  • HorseflyHorsefly Registered Users Posts: 250 ✭✭✭
    Sounds like you have a very similar set-up to what we had in our cabin for over 40 years. We just put in solar (see my thread http://forum.solar-electric.com/discussion/351167/mountain-cabin-off-grid/p1) so the generator hasn't run (except to make sure it still did run) since we commissioned the solar early in July.

    I can't tell for sure, but it looks as though your pressure tank is quite a bit smaller than ours. It seems like I should know how big ours is, but I can't remember. I would think at least the annoyance factor would go down if you had a larger pressure tank. Ours allows us to do at least several flushes of the toilet, washing dishes, one shower, and most of a second shower before the pump has to run.  Even if you are short on space there, it looks like you could swap in a larger pressure tank without any problem.

    steve
    Off-grid cabin: 6 x Canadian Solar CSK-280M PV panels, Schneider XW-MPPT60-150 Charge Controller, Schneider CSW4024 Inverter/Charger, Schneider SCP, 4 x Vmax XTR12-155 12V, 155AH batteries in a 2x2 24V 310AH bank.
  • jonrjonr Solar Expert Posts: 844 ✭✭✭✭
    There are some low cost 24V DC submersible well pumps that should work.   But it might need a larger pressure tank  - low flow toilets and shower heads help.
  • GoneSquatchinGoneSquatchin Registered Users Posts: 16 ✭✭
    Steve,  I'd be curious how big your pressure tank is?  That's quite a bit of usage before the pump kicks on.  I think I'd be happy with that as a start.  And here I thought I was getting a big pressure tank when I got it  (was sold to me pretty cheap by my brother)
  • EstragonEstragon Registered Users Posts: 1,416 ✭✭✭✭
    @GoneSquatchin - I was asking about mountain above you because if you have elevation, there's a possibiliy of pumping up to a tank, maybe 20-30' above point of use, that would give you enough pressure for toilets, and maybe showers, to avoid running the generator. A few feet of elevation is enough to fill a toilet without pressurization, which saves a lot on genshed runs. I use a gravity tank in summer for toilets and lawn service taps for that reason. 10' or so is enough for a decent shower, but not really enough for an on-demand water heater.

    In your situation though, it probably isn't a good solution. You should definitely be able to get a 12v pump that can supply water from a static tank filled by the 220v pump to a pressure tank. The pressure tank is likely 30-50psi, which is quite adequate, and getting a 12v 50psi pump from a marine or rv place shouldn't be a problem. I have on on my boat, and one in the cabin - both self-prime and work well.

    50gal is pretty small though. It's hard to tell from the pic, but it looks like you should be able to find space for a bigger holding tank. A typical pressure tank might be 30gal or so, of which maybe 10 is usable. Yours looks smaller. A 100 gal holding tank looks like it might fit under the pressure/water heater stand, and would make a big difference in genshed runs. The pressure pump would draw from the bottom of the holding tank, and that's likely where you would want to drain to winterize.

    I like my on demand water heater because I don't need to heat up 40-50 gals of water just to do dishes. If just out for a weekend , I tended to not bother. With the on-demand though, it's just a matter of turning on the propane. I also use it for supplemental radiant hydronic heat (woodstove leaves the floors chilly). Draining is simple. Not cheap, but I like it.
    Off-grid.  
    Main daytime system ~4kw panels into 2xMNClassic150 370ah 48v bank 2xOutback 3548 inverter 120v + 240v autotransformer
    Night system ~1kw panels into 1xMNClassic150 700ah 12v bank morningstar 300w inverter
  • HorseflyHorsefly Registered Users Posts: 250 ✭✭✭
    Steve,  I'd be curious how big your pressure tank is?  That's quite a bit of usage before the pump kicks on.  I think I'd be happy with that as a start.  And here I thought I was getting a big pressure tank when I got it  (was sold to me pretty cheap by my brother)
    I've sent a note off to my siblings to see how big the tank is. If none of us remember, it may be a couple of weeks before I can report back.

    Regardless, it seems like a bigger (taller) one would fit in your same space, no?
    Off-grid cabin: 6 x Canadian Solar CSK-280M PV panels, Schneider XW-MPPT60-150 Charge Controller, Schneider CSW4024 Inverter/Charger, Schneider SCP, 4 x Vmax XTR12-155 12V, 155AH batteries in a 2x2 24V 310AH bank.
  • ramlouiramloui Solar Expert Posts: 102 ✭✭
    edited September 12 #9

    About your question if the Shur-Flo is powerful enough, I say Yes. This is how I am set up. I do not have a well but I pump (gasoline) from the lake to a tank at about 20' vertical. Then gravity to 12V Shur-Flo pump which pressurizes a 20 G tank to 60 psig. Works very well with my on-demand propane water heater.

    Cheers!

    Louis.

    Off-grid cabin in northern Quebec: 6 x 250 W Conergy panels, FM80, 4 x 6V CR430 in series (24V nominal), Magnum MS4024-PAE
  • GoneSquatchinGoneSquatchin Registered Users Posts: 16 ✭✭
    edited September 13 #10
    Steve,

    Yes, a bigger one would fit in the same space.  I just didn't think it would gain me that much... But, maybe the amount of usable water is not proportional?? IDK

    Estragon,

    You're right.  I get about 5 flushes.  So probably around 6 gallons of usable water. 

    The measurements on my available space are like 1-2" too small to fit a larger than 50 gal. tank completely under the shelf.  (at least the ones I found).  Unfortunately, the space under the water heater is where my plumber plumbed up the manifold for the multiple propane runs.  So that is kind of unusable now.  I only have the square to the right under the pressure tank that I can use.

    Once again, in hindsight, I would have built that shelf differently.  To do it now, would require bribing my plumber to come up again and spend a day changing everything over :-)  He already thinks I'm crazy for wanting to change things... He says keep things simple and use standard stuff that I can easily run down to the hardware store to get replacement parts for...

    I've even thought about rigging up a 10 gallon storage somehow mounted above the toilet that I could flush direct from (while also being able to use the house plumbing when necessary).  Just haven't figured that one out yet.

    Edit:  Just thought about something else... I wonder if I could build a second shelf over top of the pressure tank and fit a larger storage container on top.  Or could I even use 2... One up top and one on bottom that are tied together???
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