Thursday, July 14, 2011

Water Storage For Winter Warmth

My new favorite book, Solviva: How to grow $500,000 on one acre, and Peace on Earth has kept me quite busy this Spring/early Summer. One experiment we want to do this winter is using large plastic barrel full of water to help heat our house over night.

We placed three 15 gallon barrels near south facing windows, behind our couch. We placed a board on top of the barrels to act as a table area to hold plants.

Water Storage for Winter Warmth

We filled the barrels with rain water (while we had plenty of rain) to get ready for winter.

The idea is that during the day the sun will heat up the barrels and at night the heat will be released into the room, thus making the living space warmer with only using the sun.

We are not sure how it will work, but if it means we have to chop a little less fire wood, then it will be well worth it to me!

I will keep you posted this winter on how it works out!


  1. Hi Nancy, This concept makes sense so I hope it works great for you. I look forward to hearing about it this winter. Emily

  2. Thanks, Emily. I also have two 55 gallon black barrels in here as well (with nasturtiums growing on top to help hide the barrel). Not sure if my husband likes my "new" decorating theme!
    ~ Nancy

  3. I once worked out the amount of heating you get from solar-warmed water. I wanted to heat a greenhouse, none too big). As I recall I needed some 1,000 liters of water. That is a ton of water, literally. I don't do crazy american units, butI think a gallon of water masses somewhere around 8 lbs per gallon. So I'd need somewhere around 250 gallons of water to heat up the greenbhouse, or small room. And you have to figure an absorption coefficient (this is techspeak for the percentage of sunlight actually absorbed by the water.) It is not 100%. I have no idea what it is for a blue plastic barrel.

    In view of all this, my first suggestion is: paint the barrels black. It is not esthetic but it will raise the absorption coefficient. The second suggestion is to rig a thermometer so you can see how much sunlight is actually getting into the water. Your system works if the thermometer in the water reads higher than the temperature in the house. Otherwise you are burning firewood to heat the water. Counterproductive.

    A lot of this stuff can be calculated, but at one time in my life I worked on solar heating systems installations. There is lots of room for "try it and see." I love your blog, keep posting.

  4. That's neat. I love how "do-able" all of the ideas on your blog are.

  5. I have often wondered about doing something like this. JRC has a good suggestion with painting them black to increase the heat absorption. Keep us posted with your results!


  6. JRC, We talked about painting the barrels black, but I think I got lazy... I am sure it would work better, but I am hoping that the blue will be dark enough. I also have the two 55 gallon black barrels filled, so we will see! I do like your idea about the thermometer and will try that.

    Thank you, Amy! I am glad you are enjoying our blog!

    Kristina, I will post this winter on how it works out : )

  7. Very interesting - I'm curious how it will work out!

  8. I think it will work out well...I hope. It is hard to get good information.

  9. Update.....we didn't get enough sun on the barrels, or else they needed to be enclosed better. They got a bit warm during the day, but not enough to let much heat out at night.

  10. hello all, i just started to blog 2 days ago .. i this one..because the word homestead.i am new to the intent world .. i am 65..i live on a small 10 acre homestead..right now i am thinking on ways to water my chickens,3 goats and horse and 4 lambs. i have made the small light bulb in a a water heated for the winter.. it does my chicken house.b this winter i am going to get the large cookie tin and put a 40 watt bulb in it.then use a 5 gal. bucket with lid..i will put it over the tin. i will put some bricks under it will save me from carry hot water out to them on snow and ice. i hope to read some good tips from you girls

  11. Welcome Pat! So glad you found us. I like your idea for keeping your water from freezing in the winter, best of luck : )