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Building a Tiny Home | Winter Water


Early on in the process of building our tiny home, we needed to create systems for catching and using water.  We purchased these 50 gallon, food grade barrels for $10 apiece from the local Pepsi distributor, hooked them up to the gutter of our metal-roofed home, and proceeded to catch rainwater for drinking, cooking, and dishwashing.  We use a Berkey filter to make the rainwater potable, and relied on water from our pond for irrigating the garden and for bathing. With flexible pvc pipes moving the water into the outdoor kitchen, we even had running water in our sink!
This system worked really well, at least until we had an almost two month drought in July and August.  Then we had to rely on our community network and fill our barrels with water from their hose.  Ultimately, we will need a much larger storage system, such as an underground cistern.
As cold weather set in, we needed to make some changes. Knowing that freezing temperatures and exposed outdoor plumbing do not mix, we decided to bury our water storage underground to insulate the barrels with the heat of the earth.
A small group of friends and neighbors came over to help dig this shallow grave-like hole. You can see the previous system set up in the upper right of the photo.
Empty barrels were then placed on their sides into the hole.  Brian cut a hole into the top of one of the barrels for the downspout, another hole to extract the water with a pump, and linked the three barrels with a bit of black flexible pvc pipe.
We ended up buying this antique-style, made in China pump from Lehman’s, and it works beautifully.  With just a few pumps, the water flows easily into our stainless steel bucket, and when we’re done pumping, the excess flows back into the barrels, thus preventing any frozen or exploded pipes.  When we first tried it out, it felt like yet another “Little House on the Prairie” moment.  I could just imagine Laura being sent out to the well by Ma to gather a bucket of water.
 *** Read more about how our water system survived freezing cold temps with this update.

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