In standard hot-water tank operations, cold water entering the tank is needed to push hot water to faucets. It's a great-simple system except that it adds cold water to the water tank. Assuming that the cold water is 50 degrees, a water tank starting with water at 130 degrees will drop to 90 degrees after only half of the tank water is used. Soon after that, the water gets uncomfortable for showers. This wouldn't be a problem with one or two people needing showers. Or, aside from the high cost in energy, it wouldn't be a practical problem if tanks are heated by conventional propane/electrical (i.e. quick) methods. However, it will be a problem for families using SLOW solar-heating methods who haven't any propane or electric heating.
Although solar-heating systems are minimized by clouds, whatever warm water is obtained can be passed into the regular household water heater to save heating costs. In other words, if you know you're going to need a solar heater sooner or later for troubled times or just as insurance against the future-unknown, the sooner you build or purchase one, the sooner you can have it paid off while you can still use a propane heater. Be smart, do it now.
If you save even half your current heating costs, it's hundreds of dollars saved annually, and the fat oil people will make less money, bonus! Just imagine all the water that the sun can heat going into the hot water tank instead of the water from a cold ground / well pipe, and already you're in love with this idea. Even if the average solar-heated waters are 90 degrees, you'll save lots. Where's that tape measure? How long will it take to build a tank to test solar energy at your house?
It is possible to go a long way into the trib with a 250- or 500-gallon tank of propane used solely for water heating. This should be the trib survivors primary line of defense for heating water, but having some solar-heated tanks installed can make that propane go a lot further.
For some aspects of this discussion, it's going to be assumed that the trib survivor has sufficient electricity with solar-powered batteries for running a water pump. A 1/2 HP pump runs on about 1200 watts requiring sufficient battery power to do the job. If there are too few batteries, they will drain too quickly to maintain the 1200 watts, until the pump can no longer lift the well water. My understanding at this time is that a 1/4 HP pump (600 watts) will not lift well water from any significant depths. I know this now, that if one has a battery and solar-panel system sufficient to operate the 1/2 HP pump, they will also, barring any abnormal complications, have plenty of electricity for important trib needs. The specific battery and panel needs for a 1/2 HP water pump is common knowledge at a solar-power store, and depends on a few particulars at your house.
The first problem to be dealt here is the addition of cold water to the end-use hot water. To minimize the problem, provide more than one heater tank and/or larger heater tanks. To extend the benefits of the heater tanks, transfer their waters to a an end-use storage tank(s). No problem, we are still at ape-intelligence level. But as it gets more complicated, you're going to have to be more like an adventurous Tarzan amongst the lower levels who know only to work a thermostat.
If you forego the storage tank, then you like to suffer. Tarzan had the benefit of tropical jungle air; you have nasty northers. Unfortunately, you can't take showers with your warm clothes on. Without a storage tank, you'll be taking your water directly from the heater tanks, which can cool off more quickly than they heat up. The rule for using water exclusively from a single heater tank is not to pump cold water into it while removing the warm water at family shower time. There is more than one way to cancel the entry of pressurized cold water into the tank(s) while it's draining, but you can then not avoid the draining part, which, in other words, means that you get water falling on your head rather than squirting from a shower head. This chapter will show you how to turn the tank's cold water off, while standing in the shower, using a switch that is not an electrical switch for turning pump power off.
To make up for the loss in well-pump pressure to a gravity-fed shower head, drill the holes in the shower head larger, and bring to the shower a large-diameter pipe with shower head directly above the body (as opposed to on the wall). Ahh, sweet, it's getting so nicely nostalgic already.
Some of you living in your fully-finished house at trib time might not be able to re-pipe easily inside the walls. One option is to build a room on a warm side of the house devoted to showering. I'm going to design a hot water system here that makes the shower wall look like the dashboard of a pilot's cockpit. I'll be speaking as though the reader has some basic plumbing skills.
While it's not easy to build your own tanks to withstand normal water pressures, the tanks will yet fill up if you lower the pressure drastically. For well pumps, one can reduce such pressure with a turning of the screws in the pressure-mechanism at the pump, but that will lower the pressure for the entire house. As a solution, there should be automatic shut-off valves somewhere to shut the water supply to the tank when the tank reaches a certain pressure. It would be ideal. But you can also have a fully-open tank too with no pressure, even though your pressurized cold water supplies it.
There should be three water heaters (tanks, really) on the roof side-by side and level with each other. The tanks can be metal or transparent (I'll go with transparent if only to be able to see what might be growing inside). The heating process takes all day, but slow is how we like things in the country. You can take off your tie and suit here. But, here, put on this pilot's uniform and don't ask why. You'll find out soon enough. Later, I'll explain how to build a wood-plexiglas combination tank for your trial-run, and yet the explanation will strive to produce a long-lasting tank for trib purposes.
You should probably get out of pad of paper to begin a simplified drawing, adding to it as I go along. Before you know it, you'll be using up the entire pad in the sort of excitement that grabs an amateur inventor. Don't draw a pipe with two lines or you'll really look like an amateur. And don't waste time drawing shut-off valves like some famous artist, just use a circle to indicate it because scrapping pages and starting over is what happens when you're infected with the inventor bug.
Imagine. The three tanks are slanted on the roof with upper and lower ends. The cold well water enters horizontally into the lower end of Tank 1. Water from Tank 1 is going to be forced into Tank 2 with a pipe connecting the two close to their upper ends. We are still at ape-level intelligence here. Once this short pipe has penetrated into Tank 2, bring it downward with a 90-degree angle, and have the end of that pipe about a foot from the bottom. To minimize temperature transfer from one tank to the other, use a 1" pipe between tanks. The pipes should be rated for hot water [these short pipes can be eliminated by incorporating all three tanks into one; see next chapter for details.]
When the water is used from these tanks at the shower, it's Tank 1 that becomes the coldest, you see, so that Tank 3 doesn't feel it (very much, and not right away either). The bottom of Tank 2 will get cool too, so connect that tank to Tank 3 in the same way (at their tops) as the first two tanks were connected.
There can be an outlet at the top far side of Tank 3 that goes to all taps in the house. Throw me a banana, let's celebrate. But wait. We could use these three tanks as our entire system, as is, but that just wouldn't be complicated enough for our liking. We need a real struggle to prove that we are monumentally higher than the chimps.
It's now 6 pm and the water is very hot from a mainly sunny day. You can't brag about it because the sun has been responsible. You have four people who want showers, and on this night it's no problem; they all use the regular shower / tub faucet to mix cold with hot water the regular way, and water comes out the regular shower head on the wall. By the time the last person is done, the water has gotten less than perfect, but that's okay...because you've got a big heart. Ahh, you're so swell, pops. Everyone warms up to you on this night.
The next day, lovely-white puffy clouds roll in that wouldn't normally spoil your day, but at the end of it, the water in all three tanks is only lukewarm. Who would have though that such attractive clouds with blue beauty all around could create this practical nothing? By the time the cold water pushes the lukewarm water out of Tank 1, Tank 2 will be an ice box. Who gets in the shower first; who gets in there last...as if you didn't know. What to do? I have an idea. The back wall of the shower needs to become like a cockpit dashboard, and we're going to need an insulated storage tank. We can ask the gorilla to build the storage tank, but the dashboard is reserved for us.
The storage tank should be small, and higher than the tops of the roof tanks. It's your choice how big or small, or where to locate it, either in the attic or on the roof. You know that it will get hotter on the roof, but also look ugly there, unless you can shape it to look like your face when everyone enjoys hot waters on puffy-cloud days. Yes, the purpose of this tank is to supply some warm water on lousy days. It will provide scalding water on sunny days, but it's purpose in being small is to produce SOME warm water on other days.
Instead of connecting the top of Tank 3 to the taps, connect it to the underside of the storage tank with a nice fat pipe protected all around with the blubber of some good insulation. Whoever coined "blubber" did a very good job. It even sounds like blubber looks. Heated waters will rise naturally through the fat pipe into the storage tank's water. Perfect, we are getting our hot water without paying taxes, and the tax man can't even charge us for violating the law of gravity as heat rises just where we want it to. It's definitely a conspiracy between you, the tanks and gravity. We have defied the pull of gravity and are yet standing solidly on our own two feet. Excellent.
Can we be completely rid of the tax man? That's what the 666 is for. It'll be divorce time, a separation of Church and State, just the way the pagans always wanted it. Only at that time, they're going to be upset because they didn't want us to separate this far.
Just run a pipe down to the shower from the lower end of the storage tank. It's tax-freeee gravity once again on our side. If you wish, and you can have these wishes, you can add one more storage tank taking the heat from Tank 2 and Tank 1. There are violations all over the place here, and the great thing is, the heat that we get is not from the police. Let's sing the Highwater Five-O theme song, tada-da-da dum dum, tada-da-da dum. Why didn't we think of this before?
We need another tank, this one a water-mixing tank which contrarily needs to go BELOW the bottom levels of the roof tanks so that the latter can drain into it by gravity alone. The very phrase, "water-mixing tank," should be your sign that we are embarking upon some hand-rubbing challenges. Hand rubbing is what Tarzan does before swinging the vine. A little spit in the palms won't hurt to assure a good grip on things. And here's the grip: she scalding waters in the storage tank can be routed into the water-mixing tank by allowing them to drain through Tank 3. Marvelous. All we need to do is open a couple of holes to let the drain begin.
What will you do with that scalding hot water in the storage tank, without a place to mix it with cold water, if your well pump breaks down, or your well goes dry, or your solar-electricity station has an accident? You could run the water into a bucket, add cold, and have a great clean up. Or, you can run it into a water-mixing tank and have it pour on your head from a shower head. Which of the two do you prefer? You should share the choice with the rest of the family. You know what they're going to say: build the water-mixing tank, even if we have to pour cold water into it with the bucket. Your older son pipes up: "never mind the bucket, use a manual pump." You daughters are all in harmony: "yeah, dad, yeah." You can't turn them down.
Draw on paper all the tanks at their proper levels. Leave a large blank area at the bottom half of the page for your cockpit dashboard. The only button you're not going to have there is one for auto-pilot, meaning it's going to take some careful consideration to make this thing fly once it's all done. And before it's all done, you need to lower yourself from pilot to plumber. The definition of a plumber is one who tolerates dark, tight quarters where spiders live, very much unlike the open skies.
First, bring a cold water pipe (i.e. tapped into any cold water pipe in the house) to a wall of your shower. You pick the wall; I prefer the back. This is your dashboard, and it's going to be real busy inside this wall. You can design it later, which is the fun part that asks your intellect to get involved. Put a manual shut-off valve (the kind you turn with your hand) on the pipe, and mount the valve to the framing on the shower wall, then pipe the other end of the valve to a hole at the lower end of Tank 1. This is your cold water input described earlier. You're responsible for details such as pipe size and pipe-size changes.
When the water in the roof tanks is not very warm by evening, shut the cold-water valve so that no cold water enters the tanks. Wonderful. We are ready for gravity to kick in to provide the shower.
You now have a choice for draining the heater tanks. You can save work by inter-connecting with one large diameter pipe (maybe 1 1/4") the bottom ends of all three roof tanks. All tanks will drain into this pipe simultaneously, wherefore you will not be able to choose which tank to drain separately. That's not good enough for my family. (I'm assuming for the time-being that ABS drainage pipe will handle your roof-water temperatures; if not, use what's suitable).
Let's take the extra time and cost for three separate pipes, one from each roof tank. When they are brought down to the cockpit, you may as well turn them horizontal across the wall because they're going to need to go back upward. As the three are coming across horizontally, install a tee on each one with open end upward. Then, after the tee's, install 90-degree elbows turning upward. You now have six open ends for six pipes upward. Anywhere you think best upon the six pipes, add manual shut off valves, six in all, that are accessible to your hand after the wallboard is installed (later) to hide the pipes.
I know it sounds like a manual for how to put a gadget together that you wished was sold pre-made. If you draw this, you'll become intimately involved with it, and it will be your design after a few changes. If you draw it, you will know how to make the changes you think best for your family.
The six pipes are for two destinations for the roof-tank water. It throws you options, like when you're drowning in 30-foot waves and someone throws you a rope, you have the choice of grabbing it or not. In the same way, you have the option of pleasing your mates, or not. Drowning in the middle of a typhoon might be the better way to go than displeasing your mates on water temperature for showers, where they realize you could have avoided wrong water temperatures with just a few extra pipes. Better to do it from the start than when you realize later it could have been done better.
All right, you have two different destinations for the price of one ticket. That is, you brought down pipes from one place but for the cost of the tee's, elbows, and valves, you made the option of channeling them either to the shower head or to the water-mixer tank. Connect the three pipes after the three valves into one pipe (to save costs), taking it alone to the side wall of the water-mixing tank (closer to the bottom of the tank would be best to eliminate the noise of water pouring in). Do the same for the other three pipes so that only one goes to the shower head. The piping for the water-mixer tank can be reduced in size immediately after the tee's, meaning that the three valves there can be smaller = less expensive. It's a good oidea to have the mixer tank directly over the shower. And the shower head should have large pipe that can be made any size with a shut-off valve.
As the short pipe turns down for the shower head, locate a manual shut-off valve on your side of the ceiling. Yes, it would all look so industrial in this shower, but not if you can make your own designer handles for the shut-off valves. As much as I'd like handles like miniature racing-boat steering wheels, I would suggest the lever-type handles that quickly show whether they are in the off or on position.
As you can tell already, you're going to need to tidy up your drawing like an expert draftsman. Where exactly you locate all the valves on the cockpit dash is up to your fancy, something you can figure out later; for now, as I've never claimed to be infallible, just draw it to assure that what I'm saying will actually work. I wouldn't read any further if I were you unless I was looking at a drawing that looked like it could work. After you're sure it will work, you can make changes as you like. The gauges should perhaps be at eye level.
Gauges? That sound neat, John. What in the snappers are you taking about, man?
The only reason that large pipe is needed from roof tanks to cockpit is for providing ample water at the shower head due to the blocking of water pressure as per that single shut-off valve all by itself. Yep, you need to have that single one all by itself somewhere on the cockpit dash, unless you want to go up to the attic to turn it off and on. Just think of how much up and down that one pipe will save you, and then you'll be very happy to put it in, spiders or no spiders in your hair.
The drilled out shower head (you can do that) together with large pipe should cause water to fall out the old-fashioned way, running over the face and back of the neck together like silk rather than spraying out like a pack of needles from an automatic machine-gun. Infants are afraid of the shower-head noise because they know what's right and wrong. As adults, we've lost touch with reality. We think the shower-head noise is normal. No, big bird, it's the perfect-temperature water falling down the face and body, and the perfect volume, that feels good on the goose bumps, not the attack of the shower spray. You've been deceived by that company selling shower massagers at one time that went bankrupt.
If you must have pressure at the shower head, you can use a pressure vessel pump, good for taking waters out of any unsealed container (including rain barrels), and applying pressure for the taps without having a water-pressure tank between the pump and taps. However, an owner of a pump shop that I just called says that these are low-volume pumps good on the order of 1 gallon per minute, which is not much of a shower spray at all. See website below:
Now that you've got your fancy controls at the wheel, it's time to get your pilots cap on, but don't get the uniform yet as there is lots of explaining to do first. This is a good time to get some chips and sauce and make some noise between your teeth, to help you keep awake.
Now, with all of the many pipes, if the water in Tank 1 and Tank 2 is cold and cool respectively, you can leave it there and use only what's in Tank 3. But if there were only one pipe coming down from all three tanks combined, the warm water in Tank 3 would be cooled and spoiled too. It would be serious, equivalent to execution by the firing squad. But if you could at least get some warm water from Tank 3, it would only be as serious as calling ration time. You might still need to watch out for razor blades in your dinner, but to make them all feel better, inform them of the weather report: a cold northerly with a thunderstorm is heading in tomorrow. Tell them they're going to need your expert decision-making for at least one more day, and hope they don't ask what for, because you don't have a good answer. Because, just when you thought it couldn't get worse, its sponge-bath time tomorrow. Oh no, not that.
But wait. I've been though this, and humiliated, and I can tell just how bad to expect it. You can lie a little to your wife now if you want, but that only gets you extra time. A passive heating system as described above is super for some of the warmest months, especially as 80-degree water is acceptable on cloudy 100-degree days, but in the cooler spring and autumn months, with cold drafts in the house, 80-degree water may as well be snow. One consolation: by the time your wife decides on her own to have a sponge baths to avoid the cold wet skin, you'll be out of the deep. If you can make it till then...
As you won't be holding a job in the trib, you can at cooler times of the year skip more than one day from the shower. I'm not speaking for the women, as they don't like anything that sounds like that. You speak to them. I'm scared. Just tell them John has good news: a little-bitty water daily to get the areas between toes, and a wipe of private parts, and you're good to go. Underarms are easy to do with most your clothes on even. It's no big deal if on cloudy days you haven't got sun-heated water. Right?
I had more than enough money to build my house when starting out, but the house ended up only half done after a few years, without a water heater even. My bad luck is good for you. They sent me a gas heater instead of propane, which wasn't realized until after I fully installed it (they look exactly the same). Some time went by before it was taken back, by which time money was running low, causing me to go without a water heater. I wasn't planning on it, I assure you.
Plus, the guy who sold me the water pump didn't bother to tell me that my four solar-batteries couldn't handle its 700 watts continuous for just filling the cold-water tank, or so it appeared to me. I was still solar-illiterate at the time. I was one naive sucker for a guy who just wanted to make a pump sale. When I complained, he wouldn't take it back because it was already used, like for a whole hour over two days. So, I didn't use the running water, which was fine anyway because there no hot water tank, and because I live alone. And something tells me God did this to me. I have thereby experienced a taste of trib life already without my planning to do so. "Shower" water is obtained at a certain tap in town whenever drinking water is needed, and so I've learned to skimp on water, and can tell you I smell as good as anyone else...at least 2 days a week. The other days, I still smell better than rotten meat.
Life with some humiliation and little means is good; keeps us out of the wrong circles. Having both may make the world go by rather than making the world turn, but if money makes the world go round, maybe God would rather have the world go by on us. Yes, I think that's what Jesus meant. It can be extremely hard not being a valued part of this world, and some commit suicide for lack of manufacturing some fame for themselves within their circles. But we know that trib-humiliation is good for bringing out our real selves, and developing them rather than our developing a false image of ourselves for the sake of acceptance by the crowds. This defines Jesus versus the dirty world.
The luxury of my propane at a stove burner heated a casserole container of water, and that's all that's been needed for one "shower." There's usually been an inch or more at the bottom of the container left over for the final great pour over the head. You never knew a few glasses of hot water could be so nice. Except for living in a normal house in winters, I've been doing this water skimping for years, as if maybe God wanted me to be a pioneer for informing you. Why me, Lord, why? I don't mind being different if I could be different in a different way, but I don't like this kind too very much.
Bottom-line message, it's okay to live like this. But maybe I'm to build a solar water heater too.
There was even an argument with the electricity people (regarding their high price of about $12,000 to get it all in) so that they betrayed me at the last moment, after I was moved into the property (no house, no nothing) with only a trailer, forcing me to get solar electricity instead. How did this all happen? Therefore, I've become an informant by now to inform you on that too.
I've learned to do both feet (on the edge of the tub) with about one small margarine container of water, which is what's used to scoop warm water from a cooking pan. Just slip feet into rubber sandals to let air dry; keeps the washable towels going longer. Fold and dip (only once) paper towels into the pan water, do what you've got to do, and you'll feel clean. Hair can miss a day, even two or three before it feels like invisible things are crawling in it. The rest of the body not having folds or dark places doesn't need a wipe; it can wait until the next shower. I'm telling you this to inform that a half pan 2" deep and 12" round of body-temperature water is more than sufficient for a "paper bath," and after a while, when you don't want to bother heating the water, you can do it with room-temperature water. You gotta shake some sense into your wife and tell her, it's OK, it really is.
Should she be saving a small (or big) stack of old newspapers where mice can't get at it? Actually, freshly-wet newspaper is a little rough, good for rubbing underarm's, but wet paper towels are too soft for a good rub.
Where was I? Oh I was talking solar heaters. Did you know that one roof tank alone will do a small happy army by paper bath. They'll be happy for any warm water at all. So that's what we can expect as a worse-case scenario in this regard, providing we have water, and providing that your area does not get clouds six days a week for months. There are rain- and snow-trough areas like that best to be avoided if you want solar energy. There is plenty of sun in the middle United States that is very low on liberals, and very high on Bible-appreciating folks. Do you think this may be by Design as the Time approaches?
When your wood stove is used to heat your home for a burn of at least half a day, you can ask less of the solar heater...because it's not going to give you more even if you beg. My wood stove provides only slow heat for a pot of water because the house is insulated to the max (11" walls, 13" floors, 10" ceilings), meaning the stove operates on low temperature, otherwise it feels too hot in here. I don't recall ever having boiling water off the wood stove for the ginger-root tea I make on it all morning long. Providing that people are willing to take "showers" at any time of the day, as the water on the stove is heated, it'll work. For those days when the air is cold outside while it's not yet warm enough for the wood stove, a pan of water or pail sitting inside a sunny window will be warm enough for the dastardly "sponge bath."
You might like to stock up on lots of sponges if that's what you think you'll prefer. But maybe think again. A large roll of paper towels lasts weeks for this purpose, and is my choice by far rather than re-using sponges. Maybe I'm a clean freak or something, but I'd rather not use a used sponge, even if it was used on myself. I use four or five sheets of paper towels per event, so even one roll is worth it's weight in gold as compared to having none at all.
I can't stress this need for paper towels enough; if you end up in a situation where showers must be severely rationed / canceled for long periods, your crotch could develop some nasty things that may like to live there forever. Like one of the dozens of kinds of fungi. You'll be known as the crotch scratcher of the family; they'll know what you're doing when you suddenly leave the lunch table for a shorter time in the bathroom than it takes to use the toilet. They're not going to ask whether you washed your hands, but they won't ask you to pass the bread either. They'll happily go hungry instead. Besides, you won't want to live that way for hours in your bed. Fungus-killing pastes and such are highly recommended for trib survival, but you can get ten rolls of paper towels for the price of one tube of fungus fighter. If you said tank you, John, then your very welcome.
A mouse-free attic would be a great place to stock large-volume items like paper towels. Creating a larger opening into the attic to make the trips more comfortable is an option. You can purchase fold-down ladders made specifically for climbing into attic holes, or just do the old-fashioned ladder.
I was talking about draining water from roof tanks in ways that absolves us from the blame we're susceptible to for every sunless day. If you want to see your wife floor-sweeping mad, what could be worse than being unable to get water out of the sealed roof tanks by gravity feed because we forgot to provide air holes in the tanks? It's like building the plane and forgetting the wings. There is no absolution for this.
As water is pumped in, there may be more than one way to solve the problem of water exiting the air holes of a sealed tank, and, no, that's not a contradiction. Our cockpit will allow a hole in a sealed tank to be opened and closed from the shower by simply running a pipe from the hole to the cockpit.
However, who really wants a sealed tank if it's not necessary? There will be a method provided below to get you an unsealed tank, and it will even allow you to have that storage tank fed with rising heat from the roof tank(s). Yes, water in this system can be higher than the air holes at the top of the roof tanks because we're going to extend the air holes up with pipes. I mean, pipes are like cheap, invaluable magic, and that's not a contradiction either.
You have two options, maybe three, for using an unsealed tank without water pressure while incorporating a storage tank(s) above the level of the roof tanks. One, bring the well-pump pipe into Tank 1 on an automatic shut-off valve (itself inside the tank), similar to the kind in your toilet tank. Water level can only go so high (i.e. not high enough to get out the air hole), so long as the valve is reliable. Unsealed tanks are my choice so long as the shut-off valve is reliable, otherwise, while everyone's asleep, the pump could be working until draining your solar batteries to zero, a very harmful experience for them.
The problem with having the toilet-type shut-offs is that they are located at the top of the water level, meaning cold water will enter Tank 1 at the top. Very bad. The second option is to use an automatic shut-off valve, if it exists at all, located at the bottom of the water (it would shut off when the weight of water reaches a certain point). The third option is to locate a container higher then the storage tank. Just install within the container the shut-off valve that toilet tanks take. These valves are cheap, maybe $20 for the deluxe model. Get a new one, don't take chances with a used one; your home is under this container.
You'll have the last laugh because it's the cheapest way to accomplish this part of the trick. For safety sake, make sure it shuts the water off when the container is only half way up the tank. As an alternative, you can build or provide another kind of tank and install the shut-off valve in it. Either way, it's easy.
Next, you need to tap the bottom of the container with a regular water-supply pipe going to the bottom of Tank 1. And voila, you have cold water entering the bottom of an UNSEALED Tank 1 that shuts off all by itself. It's like oi-vey, I didn't think this could be done, to fill the storage tank and still have unsealed roof tanks. It is a huge bonus for building cheaper tanks faster, meaning we can have more of them last longer while sleeping easier.
For the moment, imagine the storage tank, the container, and all three roof tanks, empty. We now run one pipe from all three air holes higher than the toilet tank. The storage tank itself has an air-hole pipe running as high as the other, but as the storage tank is merely a continuation of Tank 3, there is no need for an air hole into Tank 3. Let's turn on the water, and stand back, see what happens. Let the tanks all fill up. Then the storage tank is all filled way up there, at which time the air-hole pipes are partially filled. Then, the last thing to acquire water is the container way up highest of all, and guess what? Water does not run out of any air-hole pipe.
So long as lightning doesn't strike the automatic shut-off valve or its float, and if you use some bleach in the container when needed (summers could be a problem) to eat away the grime that might grow on the valve, we could almost, except for one thing, forbid using the phrase, "sealed tank," forever. Just make sure you have an extra brand new shut-off valve for the trib. Count the cost if you should be rendered without one; have a back-up plan if one's affordable to you. Or, take cold sponge baths. It's not very likely that the automatic shut-off valve will fail to shut water, for they last more than ten years in toilet tanks without failing to shut water. Toilets may often over-run, but not due to the failure of the shut-off mechanism. Toilets over-run when the setting of the mechanism isn't set properly. For protection beyond their reliability, you can install a flow sensor (see webpage below) to shut off the water supply automatically should the shut-off valve cause an overflow to the sensor. The company selling these sensors also sell electric actuators for opening water valves from a distance.
If you're worried about the automatic shut-off valve failing, seal the container, give it its own air-hole pipe, but run all air-hole pipes to the cockpit, placing them on their own valves for opening at will from the shower. You need only to open them when water is coming in or going out of the tanks. Before the "invention" just described, which occurred while proof-reading this chapter, the entire explanation below included air-pipe valves operated at the cockpit, but now this shut-off-in-a-container invention completely removes the need for the air-hole valves (unless you're using a sealed-tank system).
By the way, multiple air-hole pipes from multiple roof tanks need only a single hole through the roof. Just connect all air holes into one pipe across the top of the tanks, and go into the attic with one pipe. These pipes can be as small as you think, depending on how fast you want water coming to the shower head. If the pipes are too small, shower-head water could get slowed down. The rule here is, don't slow shower-head water at all; let the showeree decide how slow it should come down. Ask your wife if this is right.
If you choose to have well-pump pressure rather than the automatic shut-off, it is a good choice in that it allows for some pressurized showers. That could be a big deal for some later in the trib, but it's the biggest deal between now and the trib. Totally understandable, totally desirable. You should get your solar-heating system paid off for between now and then by using it. There is no way to get solar-heated water into your regular water heater unless your solar tanks are under pressure. If you can't get water into your regular heater, you can't save the gas or electricity you use to heat water.
In this case, you could build tanks to take water pressures, and run down all air-hole pipes to the cockpit, thus being able to shut air holes at will. However, don't say "no shut-off valve," for you can have both it and water pressure just by having a second cold-water pipe entering the container or the bottom of Tank 1. When water to this pipe is turned on at a valve of its own, the water level over-rides the automatic shut-off in the container (i.e. it fills up the entire container). Eureka, your trib system is already prepared.
Imagine. On a day with lots of cloud or cold air. Step one: take off your clothes, get into the shower, and block the pressurized cold water from entering the solar system. Step two, stop shivering, and open the air holes (these valves would be placed well side-by-side). Step three, pray the water is at least warm, and open the valve from the warmest Tank 3, or, if you're the man of the house, use the coldest Tank 1. Sorry, pops, but you're the man. Be the man. You shouldn't be the first one in there, anyway, but on this occasion, we need you there to teach us how to operate the controls, and to learn what yet needs to be done to perfect them. (For the rest of this explanation, I'm going to ignore the opening and closing of air valves, but you can imagine them to be at the cockpit if you wish.)
Don't forget to sing loud so everyone in the house can hear you. That way, they'll think you're having a great time. You wouldn't want them to find out, until they're committed in the shower too, that the water tonight is like ice. God forbid that you should be the only one to suffer like this. Cold can rob us of warm thoughts.
Solution as best it can be had: don't get in under the shower to wet the entire body yet. Put the stopper in at the drain to retain warm water at the floor. The cold is much from the floor. When heat rises from the floor, it's way better. I know that you'll figure these things out when you get there, but just to give you a heads-up as to what can be expected. Get some hot water to warm up the floor by washing the legs and feet first, as they don't feel nearly as cold as a wet back. Rinse the legs. How? Fill a bucket partially at the shower head, then set it down on a ledge at the front of the tub that was built for this purpose. Yes, I built my tub enclosure with such a ledge, handy for shampoo bottles too. A small container then allows the showeree to scoop water as needed for rinsing legs, and by that time the floor starts to warm up quite a bit. Dump what's left in the bucket over the head and things get better fast. But even at the end of the shower there is always a cool discomfort (unless it's summer), solved only by a quick towel. No problem, seconds later you feel great.
The next day outside is just as bad. "Who took more water than they were supposed to," you bellow out. "There's nothing left for me." Should you, the designer of your system, fight back by going into the attic when no one's watching, to install a small-diameter choke pipe just before water gets to the shower head? You relish the thought because the cold cloudy days have removed your good senses. The pressures of a life like this is abhorrent. You want your cozy life back. Someone has to pay for this, you lament. Even the cat runs out of the room seeing you climb down from the attic in tatters. How bad is this going to be?
Will we really need to choke water at the shower head? The smaller the pipe diameter, the smaller the water volume. A 1-inch pipe might work, but it may not give a glorious shower, depending on the height of the tank above the shower head. A mere ten feet above the shower head won't give you much pressure (about 10 psi). By the way, when building tanks, don't forget that the height of the highest water in the system determines the pressure level at every part of the lowest areas of the tanks.
The larger the pipe diameter from tank to shower stall/tub, the more hot water will be wasted as it cools in the pipe between showers. Is that important? Yes, if the tanks are on the small side. Insulating that pipe to the max is the smart thing to do, and lining everyone up to take back-to-back showers can be arranged, but even on good days, be prepared to be like a police officer directing traffic at an intersection where the lights have gone out. Everyone's eager to go first. You could relegate the task to the female police officer in the house, the same one who can arrange the dog's muddy paws to be wiped by your towel. In can get nasty in a small house when one action has an equal and opposite reaction.
Let's assume that in the trib, your home will be filled to capacity. Although I can personally assure you that two gallons per person is enough for a pleasant "shower" -- albeit it's never pleasant when the room is cold between summer and wood stove season -- can we imagine cheats in our Christian homes not sticking to the two-gallon rule on cloudy days? We have no choice but to let them do what they do where only God can see, and the only way to curb violators is to take some radar in some sneaky way, and then hand out "speeding" violations. How's that going to work itself out with the law of equal reaction? Or, what's more important, having more warm water left for you at the end of the string of showers, or being loved by the family? ...I don't hear an answer, there, bub.
In my opinion, a large-diameter pipe is the best way to go, so that in times of good sun, people can enjoy a decent cascade in appreciation. You can always let the violators go last on really cold days to teach them a lesson, but your radar machine had better be working right. You don't want to be handing out capital punishment to the innocent.
Problem: what if the water is too cold as it cascades on your head and body? You'll live. What if it's scalding hot? Serious problem. Doing the hand test at the shower head won't be good enough. Why not? You'll see.
After the dreadful days have passed, the sun has come back, and the inhumanness of previous evenings evaporates like it never happened. And you're stronger than before, because you're going to need it.
Let's Go a Little More High Tech
Aaaaah-yeeeaaahhh-yeeah-yeeah-yeeeaaaaahhh. That's the word Tarzan invented when he was wildly successful pleasing Jane in her dastardly trials. You can be a problem solver, or you can be a problem. The vine can be used for jungle transportation, or it can be the entanglement.
The chimp says that we should label all the valve handles. For example, we could call one, "Water-Mixer to Shower," or another, "Tank 2 to Water-Mixer." It gets a lot less complicated that way. All valves can be separated into groups; three here, three there, two over here, one there, and two more smack dab right here. It looks like a good problem solver, no entanglements. .
Each valve is like an off/on electrical switch, but more like a dimmer switch because water volume can be chosen anywhere between off and fully on. Cool. Just like the state-of-the-art tub faucets we all use.
There is also the water pipe from the hot-water storage tank. We should do the same for this pipe as was done to the roof tank pipes, allowing two destination options using two valves, one destination to the water-mixing tank and the other to the shower head.
I don't know what would be the best size of the storage tank in comparison to the roof tanks. Perhaps 16 gallons (= small size) in the storage tank receiving waters from 20-gallon roof tanks, but that's just a wild untested guess. The idea is that on a cloudy and cool day, where storage tank waters are 75 degrees at the end of the day, but only 60 in Tank 3, we can forego draining Tank 3 and bring the warmer waters down to a bucket and do paper-towel baths. Whoopee. At least we're going to bed fresh. It takes a lot of paper towels and margarine containers for feet to soak up 16 gallons. And 75 degrees is just fine for a face and hair wash. I have medium hair length for a male requiring about two full margarine containers (pint size) to get the back of the neck, throat, face, ears and hair, all while bent over the tub from standing on the bathroom floor.
But wait, we have more options with the storage tank than the two destinations above. As it's connected to Tank 3, consider a half cloudy day where water of about 95 degrees ends up in the storage tank, and 85 degrees in Tank 3. It's all usable now. As water starts to be drained to the shower head from Tank 3, the hotter water in the storage tank comes tumbling down, mixing into, and raising the temperature of, Tank 3. That's a pretty good deal. The more that the latter drains, the higher its temperature goes. Tank 3 becomes a mixing tank of its own. You can do the same with Tank 1 and 2 if you have the gumption to use another storage tank for them.
The above picture looks promising, but the monkey sees a problem. "John, how'd you know the storage tank was 95 degrees? I didn't see you go up to the attic to find out? Are you just making up a bunch of crock to make the reader think you know what you're talking about? Here's the problem, John, let me tell you. Tank water cools. For example, you pour hot water at the end of a sunny day into the water-mixer tank; the next day sees clouds all day, and so you have the problem of not knowing exactly what's in there. John, is anyone home in there? I'm talking about your skull.
"I got a question for you, John: should you run the hot water from the roof tank(s) into the water-mixing tank if you don't know the temperature of either one? If you do run it in, what temperature will the water in the tank end up at? Should you drain one, two, or three roof tanks today into the water-mixing tank, hey?"
Uhh, mm, er, well, she's got me there. Chimp just scolded me for being a dope. And I hate it when she wears her white coat and talks down to me like that, even if I deserve it. I was just trying to show that we have the potential to mix waters of many kinds, and get them just right sometimes.
"Yes, John, but didn't you ever hear the old saying, the potential's in the pudding? Let me ask you, what good is 'sometimes' if it's just hit and miss? Get temperature sensors in all your tanks, and wire them to gauges at your wall."
Captain, it facilitates the decision on how much hot water to drain into the mixer-tank, and we get to pick which tank to drain according to what the mixer-tank needs in heat. We'll put the gauges for Tank 1, 2 and 3 right above or below the valves for Tank 1, 2 and 3. Not that I'm smart or anything, but does that make sense to you?
Chimp, listen. Let's do something for fun. Let's give the captain a real challenge. For example, look it here now, it's July 15, okay? And after two days of clouds, the tanks are almost boiling, except for the cool waters in the water-mixer. The passengers are clamoring to have their shower, and the pilot's at the cockpit not sure which switch to pull to ride out this emergency? Turbulent flight has given way to dire thoughts of mutiny. Why don't you ask the pilot over there how he's going to handle it, and in the meantime just get off my case.
The captain's looking intently into the dash, and all around. And back around again. No, wait, there, what..he's looking around some more. The monkey screams: "a blue handled shut-off valve!"
"There is no blue-handled shut-off valve," he cries back.
"Get one, get one, and make your roof-tank valves red. Make the 'Tank 1 to Shower' valve a purple one, like about the color of this here my bonnet, and use a blue one at the valve called, 'Water-Mixer to Shower.'"
Captain, with all due respect only because this is your house, it's the monkey that supposed to make lips of an embarrassing shape and scratch the forehead, not you. If it makes you feel better, she told me when you were bringing down the pipes that Tarzan taught her all she knows. She said we should just trust her with anything that looks like a jungle.
I get it, captain, if you don't, because I know plumbers use red and blue for hot and cold. Let me interpret the monkey for you. She's saying that some of the water is often on the cool side in this system by a fact of life, but that we can use it to our advantage because it's not anywhere near as cold as the well water. The warmer the water that's used to cool the too-hot water, the less hot that's wasted. Man, why didn't I think of that? It's like doubling the size of the solar heaters and tanks together. I just knew there was some sanity for all these valves.
I can see right away that the passengers can be using more than one tank at a time now that they can see the temperatures of each one. I mean, they can use cold and hot water together. You can now wear the pilot's uniform with pride...unless there's only two gallons left in the storage tank. I guess you can know for sure that there's no more water in it when the scream comes.
And listen to this: if it's plain to see by the gauge by mid-noon that there's going to be too much hot water, you can drain some, just as it's at about body temperature, into the water-mixing tank, and that makes room in the roof tanks for the heating of more well water; bonus.
Just think, the more complicated this gets, the more time you'll spend training the passengers to do it acceptably on their own, very nice especially if you were single and all the gals were airline stewardesses. But, lets get real, you stand as much chance being bashed on the head by a purse as you do receiving one of them lovely smiles. Make no mistake about it, captain, because the hot water can run out of any tank at any time...which gets a different kind of scream, the cold scream. It's not as high-pitched as the hot-water scream, but it's a doozy too.
"Now John, you shouldn't go thinking that you've got it made with temperature sensors alone. Maybe you really shouldn't thinking at all, or be writing this chapter at all, John. Thinking can be pretty dangerous when you don't know what you're doing.
Captain, I can really see the options expanding wildly, and we can be in firm control of the waters coming down, knowing exactly what's coming down, just like air-flight controllers. Just think of how much ooh-and-awe you'll be getting from very satisfied passengers if you bring everything down just right.
Captain, if you know that the water-mixing tank is empty or very low, well water can be pumped in to heat it a little. I mean, it's like having a heater too.
Chimp's got another word of wisdom: if we're going to swing the vines, we need enough trees, or we'll swing back and hit the one we took off from. She says Tarzan used to do that a lot when he first started. She says we need to know where we're going, and that we're going to be able to get there once we take off. Like, if we don't have the proper instruments, we're gonna come crashing back to square one. There needs to be some instrument telling how much water is in the tanks, just like the kind in your cars that tell how much gas you've got. Like maybe some water pressure sensors on electrical wires to gauges in the cockpit.
A Sample Run at the Controls and Final Considerations
For the exercise below with people in the shower working the controls, there first needs to be addressed a detail not treated above. You would probably have figured it yourself if ever you took this design to task. It concerns sealed tanks versus unsealed tanks, i.e. the ability mentioned earlier to use unsealed tanks with the automatic shut-off valve in a container of some sort. If you recall, the container had a cold pipe to the bottom of Tank 1.
We would like to have the option of draining any amount of any roof tank without cold water entering Tank 1, wherefore the cold water needs to go first to yet another valve at the cockpit, only afterward going to the container. The showeree can now keep the cold water out of Tank 1. This additional valve could be labeled, "Container Cold To Tank 1" to distinguish it from "House Cold To Tank 1" if you decide to use it in a sealed-container system.
The various climatic scenarios are several, but the cockpit options are sufficient for the task at most times. Here's an example. Let's say that the water-mixing tank is a third full (20 gallons) from the previous sunny day with water still at 80 degrees, and all three roof tanks are at 130 degrees (I have doubts that the tanks will reach those temperatures easily, especially if the tanks are not on a hot roof). The co-pilot pulls and closes the valve, Container Cold To Tank 1, then opens the valves for Tank 2 and 3 for transfer into the water-mixer tank, thus deciding to drain a quarter each of Tank 2 and Tank 3 (10 gallons in all) until the water-mixer tank climbs nearly to body temperature. The water can't cause any screams now. A touch more water from Tank 3 can be transferred to the water-mixer if desired. The co-pilot then pulls only the blue handle, and takes her shower.
After some showers have been taken, the next one in, a pilot-in-training, queries the gauges to make some decisions. There's a half left in Tank 3, three-quarters in Tank 2, and Tank 1 is full. The water-mixer tank has only 10 gallons left. He sees the problem that, on this day, there is way too much hot versus cold, so he opens both the Container Cold To Tank 1 and Tank 1 To Water-Mixer, forming a current of cold heading directly toward the drain of Tank 1. After a quarter tank (5 gallons) has been drained, he shuts both valves before any water transfers from Tank 1 to Tank 2.
He waits momentarily to see what the temperature ends up at in the mixer tank, knowing it's going to be too cold, but he's looking to see how much water from Tank 2 he'll need. It turns out that the 15 gallons in the mixer tank end up at 85 degrees, wherefore he does some quick math knowing that 5 more gallons from the 130-degree waters of Tank 2 will bring the mixer tank to about 100 degrees. So he brings in just as much as he needs for his liking. He now has about 20 gallons in the water-mixing tank. He pulls only the blue handle, and away he goes to third heaven.
Afterward, the next pilot-in-training enters the cockpit. She wipes the humid gauges and sees what needs to be done. She unblocks the House Cold To Tank 1. This time, instead of transferring cold water to the mixer tank, she allows Tank 1 -- which she sees to be at 105 degrees due to the cold water allowed in earlier -- to fill up Tank 2, at which point, the House Cold is blocked. She waits a minute, and sees that Tank 2 is still too hot at 115 degrees. Tank 1 has dropped to 80.
She has choices. Choices are good. One obvious one is to use some of Tank 2 together with some of Tank 1 as the hot and cold tap combined and flowing directly (i.e. not to water-mixer) to the shower head. The two tanks could be fully drained over multiple showers using this method, but draining them completely is not a good idea necessarily, as it would leave Tank 3 fully loaded with scalding water. This is not unlike playing cards, keeping track of what has, and has not, been discarded by all the players.
She decides to pull the red handle just a little of Tank 3 together with a little more pull on the purple handle of Tank 1. She instructs the next person in the shower to do the same, until there is only a quarter left of Tank 1. There would only be half of Tank 3 left if not for the storage tank above it coming automatically down into Tank 3 as it's used up.
Last up, the pilot comes in, slips and falls on the wet floor. It's only a minor bump on the head against the tub, it'll be gone by week's end. Monkey screams wildly in glee outside the door as she hears the tumble. He drains nearly the full 20 gallons of Tank 2 at 115 degrees into the mixer-tank having 15 gallons at 85 degrees, and, using every drop of it all, he steers the plane into a loop-de-loop, roaring upside down at the universe, paying tribute to his success with a 20-minute shower. He leaves all the scalding water in Tank 3 for bedtime needs, but instead of leaving it on the roof to cool, he brings it into the water-mixer. As he steps out of the shower, his towel is missing. God knows how to keep us humble in our triumphs.
At the end of this day, there is no hot water left at the roof, and some very hot water in the mixer tank that will be useful as cool waters in the next day or two. It's not fully wasted. The pilot fills the roof tanks with well water, and assures all air valves are turned off afterward. The monkey shuts the bathroom lights off, and closes the door. The roof water, out of the well at say 55-65 degrees, begins to heat in the night air. In this story, all is well that ends; if it doesn't end, it could get badder.
Before explaining how to build your own tanks, which is a segment that you can skip until you're ready for it, here's a few miscellaneous items. First, when one wants to use Tank 1 for cool-water draining from its well pump, a person could scald themselves momentarily using Tank 1 alone until the water at the base of that tank is cooled. Probably, Tank 1 won't be utilized as direct shower water unless well-pump water is blocked.
It is a danger for a person to open a roof tank feeling warm water initially at the shower head, only to be scalded seconds later. This can occur when the scalding water in the pipes between any roof tank and shower head has cooled between showers. Don't be deceived by a hand test of water temperature, read the temperature gauge instead.
Tank 1 would be a good one to use for cooling the water-mixer tank. As cold water comes into Tank 1, it will stay at the bottom of the tank, right where the drain is toward the water-mixer tank. However, in case you need the warm waters of Tank 1, install a regular cold line (e.g. well pipe) to the mixing tank for when it becomes too hot. I means you now need yet another manual shut-off valve at the cockpit, right beside the valve marked, "Cold Water to Tank 1."
There are other options for water too hot, such as waiting until late at night or morning to shower, or routing too-hot waters for quicker cooling in a smaller uninsulated tank. You can have the controls for that tank at the shower wall too.
Unfortunately, plenty of tank waters will be wasted in the pipes unless showers are taken back-to-back. Doing some math in my head just now because I can't locate the calculator, about eight feet of 1 1/2" inside-diameter pipe holds one gallon.
By the way, if any piping has loops that retain some pipe water at all times, the shut-off valves in these lines must be at the lowest level of gravity. Purchase shut-off valves having a small un-screwable cap made to drain pipe water. You'll need this if you're not heating the home for a day or more in below-freezing temperatures. Don't forget. It's a big deal in the trib to end up with burst pipes. Every home-building center has the drain-able valves.
Should You or Shouldn't You Do It Now
If you're paying $50 or more monthly for your present water heater's gas / electricity, you can save hundreds in the first summer alone, and still more in the cooler months. You can disconnect your present cold water line into the hot-water tank with it's shot off valve (located just above the tank). Then, below that shut off valve, connect a water pipe from an insulated storage tank filled with solar-heated waters. At times, the water going in to your water heater will need no heating at all; at other times only minimal heating. At other times, the solar heated waters will be hotter than what's in your water tank. You can't argue with that.
What I'm suggesting is, start small now for a trial run with one or two tanks (they don't need to be on the roof), an insulated tank, and no cockpit or related pipes, valves or sensors. You can add those later if you feel the commercial skincode will make life difficult for you at any imminent time.
With sealed roof and storage tanks, it will be a fully-automatic system, meaning that hot water used at the taps will cause cold water to enter automatically into the first solar heater tank, thus pushing waters through the storage tank into your regular water heater.
Should you start with one roof tank or two? If you're going to the trouble of building one, an identical second one could be less than half the effort. Don't think that solar-heated tanks must obtain 100 F or better to be a success. Regardless of the cooled water in Tank 1 due to cold coming in, it's far better than the cold household water entering direct into your regular hot water tank.
Therefore, don't cry the blues concerning the cold water cooling down Tank 1, because that's exactly what you want...if the object is to save money. Regardless of Tank-1 temperature at any given time, the fact is, for every certain unit of sun energy absorbed, it's a dollar less spent for gas or electricity. As some further benefit, the colder the water, the more quickly it absorbs heat, wherefore the house using the most hot water will save most per gallon of water. Two tanks side-by-side, connected with 1" pipe, seems like a great money saver. I can't see how not. Instead of watching television, make your own tanks. Instead of watching television, install your own tanks.
I'm not sure what the authorities will think if we attempt to weld out own sealed tanks for hot water. I'm not sure whether a sealed tank can be made with a plexiglas top. I'm working on a chapter giving directions for building our own tanks, but it's not quite finished yet. I'll add the chapter soon after this one.