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Small Cabin Forum / Off-Grid Living / Winter water solutions for non-winterized cabin
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# Posted: 13 Feb 2021 20:59 - Edited by: Daaaaaaaan

Hi all, long-time reader, but first time poster.

Just wanted to share what we do for dishes, showers and hand-washing at the cabin.

We have running water during the summer months, but not at all during the winter months. So we have drains/fixtures, but nothing running.

As you can imagine, the cabin is much busier over winter this year.

Usually we fill drinkable water from a nearby spring, and melt water for everything else. But the manual hand pump made hand-washing and dishes somewhat annoying.

I came across these two things that have changed our lives during our visits up:

1. USB-rechargeable water-jug pumps. Great for washing hands and cost ~$15 each or less if you buy multiple. Each one is good for about 2x 18L jugs before recharging. We run one off a 5L jug at the bathroom sink, and refill the jug as needed.

Looks to be CAD$14 from Amazon nowadays too: XX7F5

There are others available off Ebay or Amazon for more $$$, but if you're willing to wait, Aliexpress is your best option.

2. USB-rechargeable shower pumps (also good for dishes):

We have a big pot on the woodstove that I'll fill with snow/ice to melt. And keep refilling because packed snow still doesn't make up much water.... I also bought a pool water temperature reader to see when it's warm enough for my liking. It can take a while. Once it's warm enough, I bring the pot onto a chair next to the shower and off I go. The higher you can sit the pot, the more pressure you'll get (less head).

They pump ~2.5L/minute, so you have to be careful even with a big pot of water. It goes fast!

We bought a unit without the 'remote' switch, so you have to hurry up before you run out of water. If I bought another, I'd buy one with that.

They're CAD$40

Looks like CAD$45 (+tax) from Amazon with the remote switch: 3LM

And of course, I either drain the traps or dump RV antifreeze down the drains before we depart.

# Posted: 13 Feb 2021 22:38

We bring in potable year round, we go right past an open to the pubic artesian spring en-route; a 2gal Coleman water cooler and a couple 1 gal. are more than enough for the two of us for a weekend, 2.5 days if we are gentle. Not an issue at all in 3 seasons with the rain barrel for utility water (the biggest water use, and even that is about a gal/day each of us).
Just pouring out of the water jugs works fine, no pumps required. An antique wash stand and basin makes for pers. wash up; no showers in winter.
Too easy.

# Posted: 13 Feb 2021 23:01

My thoughts are you/people change their cooking and eating habits for the trip to the cabin in the winter.
They do not go up and want to wash dishes. Too much trouble. People might bring water in or melt it.
We go to the cabin to relax.

# Posted: 14 Feb 2021 11:24

We just got back from the cabin two weeks ago.... been there since last March. We were able to use our regular water system through the winter until we left. I think we could have used it all winter if we would have stayed. Our temps vary but at 9,500' in the Colorado Rockies, winters are cold and snowy!

Other than water in p-traps that are under the cabin.... I think we have 1 on the shower which I am going to change out for a waterless trap, the waste system all drains out so no freezing worries there. The lone p-trap, actually all of the drain pipes are wrapped in insulation. No problem with any freezing. We monitored the temp under the cabin... on piers with an uninsulated sheet metal skirting, under the floors 4" of foam and never saw the temp drop below 28°F, warmer during the daytime.

Water system is a 550 gallon cistern with spray foam insulation on the outside of it, enclosed in an uninsulated building. We haul all our water from a spring 2 miles away. The tank does get ice on the top but we keep it pretty close to full all the time and everytime we fill I try to remove a lot of the ice so it doesn't get too thick. The pressure pump is in an insulated box attached to the tank house, from there water goes underground and back up just outside the cabin into another insulated box where it then enters the cabin (that will change next year as I'm going to take it further underground then up to connect to the cabin plumbing under the cabin. ) The pipe going into the ground and where it comes back out of the ground at the cabin is encased in 2" foam and 2x6 pt wood down 2' into the ground. The pipe runs about 30' between the boxes and also has 2" foam over it in the ground. That said, because we are on a hillside in very well drained soil the frost really does not penetrate more than a foot or so.

We did experience minor freezing this year at both the pump box and the entry box. Since we have a pretty large solar system we were able to put heat tape on the plumbing in both boxes and eliminate "most" of the freezing issues. The only problem was ice creeping in from the tee'd off line at the pump box that extends outside the box for filling. Even though that was wrapped in insulation it still froze and a couple of times the ice creeped in enough to block the tee not allowing water to the pump. A small heater in the box for a few minutes solved that each time.

We do also have a "winter water system " which consists of a 50 gallon potable water tank and a 55 gallon blue barrel for toilet flushing. Both containers are in the loft. A 1/2" PVC line runs down to a faucet over the sink and a separate line from the barrel runs down to a faucet to refill the toilet tank. Again we haul this water and use a 12v pump to pump it up to the tanks.... but in the past we melted snow for various non potable uses.

Like Daaaan... we have used a rechargeable shower pump using a 5 gallon bucket in the shower with melted snow water heated on the stove.

We are seriously looking at insulating the skirting and installing a 300 gallon "pickup" water tank (we only have 30" of clearance so has to be a short tank) under the cabin for winter. With under cabin temps only reaching 28°F without insulation we think with the parameter insulated it should stay above freezing all winter under there. It was far more convenient to use our regular water system than the winter vessels. Nice to just jump in the shower! We'll see if that gets done this year... many other projects higher on the list?

# Posted: 15 Feb 2021 08:46

We too just bring in potable water for the weekend, before the road closes we leave several 2½ gallon jugs there (in the shower in case they freeze and leak). We have cooked full meals and washed up using water heated on the stove, but more often we keep it simple. If we need more water I can always go down to the stream or the lake with a bucket.

# Posted: 15 Feb 2021 11:34

We plan on plumbing the cabin like a normal house but with one or two modifications. I'm going to build an insulated box under the pier and beam foundation where my well pressure tank, pump and water lines exit the ground. There will also be room for a small air compressor down there to blow the lines out. Then your a dash of RV antifreeze away from closing the door behind you.

# Posted: 15 Feb 2021 11:58

Quoting: Brettny
Then your a dash of RV antifreeze away from closing the door behind you.

We usually remove the Shurflo pump and small accumulator assembly when closing down the cabin. Since I'm never sure if I get all the water out of it I decided to pump a little RV antifreeze through it and the line over to the cabin. I stuck the intake hose into a bucket of RV-AF and turned the pump on until I saw pink stuff draining out under the cabin. Was going to pull it all out and my wife said "why?" I thought about it and yeah, why? So similar to your plan I've now altered my shutdown making it way less hassle... and will be less hassle firing the system back up. Hook 1 hose up to the cistern feed and run a good dose of fresh water through to flush out the AF and turn the drain valves off - pressurize the cabin system. Fortunately the plumber graded all the water lines to a low point accessible through a trap door in the skirting. I can reach in and turn on the valves and drain the whole water system in the cabin... faucets open if course and water heater drained. Our only real issue is the single control shower valve. The cartridge must be removed as it retains just enough water to crack it if left installed... not a big deal but a hassle.

# Posted: 15 Feb 2021 15:38

I believe blowing out with air should get the water out of the shower control valve.

# Posted: 15 Feb 2021 18:37

Quoting: Nobadays
Our only real issue is the single control shower valve. The cartridge must be removed as it retains just enough water to crack it if left installed... not a big deal but a hassle.

Our shower is plumbed with exposed copper pipe with brass valves in the vertical run outside the shower, then up and over the curtain rod to the drop elbow where the shower head is, all exposed. Hey, it's a cabin, it's supposed to be rustic. Lots of slant, everything runs downhill to a single drain point, the only thing I have to blow out is the tankless water heater.

# Posted: 16 Feb 2021 09:34 - Edited by: silverwaterlady

About 35 years ago I bought a antique wash basin with a pitcher. That’s what we use.
After freeze up we heat water on the stove each night and take a sponge bath. Use about one gallon of water each that we get from the lake.

That’s what people did in the old days. To tide them over for their once a week bath.
They had a bath once a week on Saturday (church on Sunday) night in front of the wood stove. And they reused the bath water. Adding a little bit of hot water from the pot on the wood stove between bathers. The youngest went first. A skimmer was used to remove debris before the next person got in the tub.
My Grandfather bathed Monday-Friday because he worked in the coal mines of OH. Living in a coal town. All the men worked in the mines.

Lucky for my Grandmother, the water pump used by everyone on the street was in front of her house.
The same process of bathing for my paternal side of the family from West Virginia. They also lived in a coal town. All the men in my family worked in the mines.

I still have my Grandmother’s wash tub. She also used it to wash laundry before my Grandfather bought her a Maytag washer in 1931. Paid $180.00 (close to 3k in today’s dollars). He made installment payments. I have all the receipts and the washer.

I have a huge pot that we keep full with lake water, it has a spout on it. Depending upon how much water I need, I can use the spout to transfer water to a smaller pot to heat some water. We also have a couple food safe five gallon buckets with lids full of water (sold at Lowe’s) inside the cabin.
We try to use as many paper products for eating. So there are a lot less dishes to wash. I have a slop bucket a HD orange five gallon bucket that I put all the gray water into for disposal outside away from the cabin in the bush.
We use wet wipes followed with hand sanitizer to keep our hands germ free.
This is the easiest way I’ve found to enjoy freeze up at the cabin.

# Posted: 16 Feb 2021 10:52

You pretty much hit all the nails, SWL
We do it much the same and dont even have to much think about it; ie, the diff between our house livin and the cabin livin. Pretty seamless once the 'systems' have been put in place. We get there and 'just do it'.
It 'feels' more like cabin livin that way too, right & proper, part of the change from everyday life otherwise.

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