Bringing Hot Water to the Cabin – Part III

By JohnyMac

Part III

If this is your first time reading about the three-part series of bringing water to, then into our cabin at the redoubt, take a minute to read them so there is some continuity to the last installment of setting up hot water for the cabin. To read click Part I and Part II.

Before we had hot water at the cabin available via opening a faucet, we warmed the water we needed for dishes, showers, et cetera via our propane range top or the wood stove. When taking a shower, we would heat water in a 6-quart pot to boiling take it upstairs to a 5-gallon Home Depot bucket then add cold water till it was filled.  Go downstairs to the installed walk-in shower and take a shower via a hose attached to the bottom of the bucket to a kitchen sink sprayer. We could get two showers out of a 5-gallon bucket. For MrsMac and I, Wednesday and Saturday’s were shower days. Fun huh?

By now, you can see that hot water was the icing on the cake of having water available at the turn of a faucet in our cabin.

Taking a second look at my schematic, I started to put together the pieces of the finale puzzle.

Water System Schematic

The next mise en place list:

> Propane Rinnai on demand water heater,
> Rinnai vent, Webstone Tankless water heater service valve kit,
> One 8 nipple manifold with ball valves,
> 100’ of red 1/2” PEX pipe
> GFI Electrical socket, and
> Assorted PEX fitting’s and clamps.

My plan was to do all the plumping work myself however I was going to hire someone to do the propane hook-up. There is a lot of things I will do like, brain or appendix surgery, rebuild and maintain an 8N tractor, manufacture an AR lower but play with propane is NOT one of them.

I contacted two different propane guys who gave me estimates. I vetted the men with the locals and they recommended only one of the guys I received estimates from, so he got the job. We set up a date to do the work and I ordered the aforementioned items from local and internet vendors.

The contractor showed up a few days before the job was scheduled to see what I had gathered for the job. I guess he had been screwed before when owners claim to have ordered all what was needed. This to me was a good sign of who I hired for the job.

The morning of the job the contractor showed up on time. Mapped out what he was going to do on the Water System Control Panel and jumped into the project. He first drilled a 6” hole through our poured cement basement walls with the coolest drill and bit I have ever seen. Because of my interest he let me drill till my heart’s content. Once I was done, he asked me if I had ever read “Tom Sawyer”. I broke out laughing thinking of old Tom talking someone into painting his fence for him.

Once the vent hole was drilled, the Rinnai was hung, and pipe installed. Then he back filled in the vent gap with some foam installation.

With the venting completed, he hooked up the tankless water heater service valve kit and PEX piping to the hot water manifold. He then installed a four-valve propane manifold. One of the valves was used for the water heater, one for the oven/stove and one will be used for a furnace to be installed at a later date. The last one was just because. Last he hooked up the propane manifold to a feed line to the existing outside propane bottle. While he did that, I installed the GFI socket and hooked up the electrical line to the main electrical box.

The propane manifold received the new line to our propane bottle which he tested for leaks. This took a half hour as he was VERY thorough. While he was doing the testing, I ran hot water PEX pipe to the kitchen sink.

Six hours after the start of this project I hollered up to MrsMac to turn on the kitchen sink water to hot. VIOLA! We had hot water. Thank you, GOD!

Later that week, my brother arrived at the cabin for three days of R&R. I never said anything until it was time to wash the dishes. Once he realized I wasn’t heating water on the stove he freaked out. Freaked out positively (The pre-administered copious amounts of alcohol may have helped) and rushed over to do the dishes – Tom Sawyer comes to mind.

Once the dishes were done, we went down to the cellar to inspect the job.

Rinnai heater and hot water hose installed

Later the following week I ran the hot & cold water PEX pipe to our walk-in shower. Installed the new shower hardware and for the first time living at the cabin we had a real shower. No more bucket, hose, gravity, and kitchen sink sprayer for us!

The last thing other than run PEX hose to the other appliances I installed a 12 to 120-volt inverter. The Rinnai accepted the electrical sine wave the inverter put out which was great. Whenever the electric quits on top of the mountain, we unplug the Rinnai 120-volt plug and re-plug it into the inverter which is ran off our bank of batteries and we have hot water. The Rinni only needs juice to run the exhaust fan and for spark to start the propane heater part of the unit.

Looking at the setup and before you say, “hey JohnyMac the manifolds are not level.” Ask yourself why that may be?

The final cost for Part Three came in at $1,862-. Total cost (Part II & part III) with propane install labor, was $2,449-.

In 2017 before the snow started to fall, I added two additional plastic food grade 55-gallon drums. All three drums are linked so our capacity rose from 55-gallons to 165-gallons of water. If we have no visitors, Wednesdays and Sundays I fill the barrels. Not unlike filling the water tanks twice a week when we lived on the sailboat. Obviously with visitors I check the water daily to make sure we do not run out.

In retrospect, I would only have done one thing differently with the whole project. I would have started the poly pipe at the well with 1 1/4-inch pipe. About a third of the way down from the well I would have switched to 1-inch poly pipe and then the last third had gone to 3/4″ pipe. This would have increased the water pressure dramatically.

In closing, remember….

Freedom Through Self-Reliance©…

Is where it’s at!


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