How to Winterize for Off Grid Living
By Robyn Dolan
Winterizing is fine if you have electricity. Heat lamps, heat tapes, heaters, these all work great plugged in. But what if you are off grid? How does one keep warm, and keep the water running (fresh in, gray and black out)? Good question.
At the Homestead, we heat with wood. This keeps the house warm and the indoor water pipes clear. Once in awhile, we need to turn a heater on underneath the house to keep those pipes thawed, but usually not until it gets close to zero. The water pump and pipes in the pumphouse are heat-taped, with heat lamps on them connected to a thermostat so that they come on when it gets down to about 38 degrees. They are also covered with thick insulation. The problem area is right where the water comes into the shed. This is where it usually freezes and breaks. When the temps get close to zero, we’ll let a couple faucets drip all night, to prevent that from happening. We really need to come up with a better solution, but that ‘s where we are with that for now.
As far as other winterizing at the Homestead, we have heavy blankets or quilts hung over most of the windows and place rolled up towels or bolsters on the sills and at the bottoms of doors to keep out the drafts. Other than that, the woodstove is pretty efficient.
In the Tiny Trailer, we had no running water. We used 2 gallon water jugs with spigots at the kitchen sink and a half gallon water bottle at the bathroom sink. We dumped the waste tank once a week. We used a sawdust toilet. We had to be plugged in because the only heater we had was the radiant oil heater. Of course, heating water for hot beverages also took the chill off. We also used quilted wall hangings for curtains. This all kept the tiny trailer most cozy.
It is the traveling homestead that I’m most concerned about this winter. When we are plugged in, it is fine, heat lamps underneath, skirting all around and a radiant heater to supplement the central heater. When we are moving from place to place and staying off grid is my challenge this year. We have a salt water solution in the waste tanks to prevent them from freezing. So far it has been no problem with the addition of the heat lamps. I suspect that the sloshing, when we are mobile will also keep them thawed. But what if we are stationary for a day or two? With no plug ins? The tanks are enclosed and the forced-air heater seems to circulate under the floor, keeping them warm, but I am not entirely sure. Guess we will find out. We will have 3 days and 3 nights off-grid in cold country before we get to California.
The other issue is that we don’t have a generator, solar panels, or a hookup from the truck alternator to the trailer batteries to keep them charged, yet. The battery lasts a good 3 days right now, but with running the heater, it may not last that long. That is another issue we will have to address. It would be simple enough to charge it up from the truck once a day, if we can get the wiring done.
Other than that, our fresh water will last at least a week. As long as we have the heater on and the cabinet doors (where the water lines are) popped open a little, the lines stay thawed.
For now, we can’t be completely off-grid for very long during the winter, but as we resolve the power issues, I foresee a lot more freedom in where we can park and how long we can stay there.
Thanks for stopping by. Keep up with our adventures in mobile homesteading at Mrs. D’s Travelling Homestead, where we also offer soaps, lotions, books, and pet items to support ourselves.
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