Solar Hot Water For A Tiny House

Solar Hot Water Install

We want our Tiny House to be a house of the future. I do not personally believe there is a future in fossil fuels, and so gas was ruled out as a water heating option in our home’s design. Electricity is the next most common, however when operating on a small photovoltaic system, we simply do not generate enough energy to be able to heat water. Even heating just 50 litres (13gal) of water to 60°C (140°F) will easily consume more than 3kw of electricity every day. So with those two options ruled out, we looked to solar water heating.

I have not seen too many examples of solar hot water being successfully integrated into the design of a Tiny House. There are many complications that can be involved with it. Perhaps one of the biggest issues is that all the commercially produced units are much too large to fit the scale of a Tiny House. The smallest off-the-shelf unit we found in NZ was a 180 litre (47.5 gallon) system. Because the systems are (mostly) manufactured overseas, they cannot be easily downscaled.

Thankfully, there is one company in New Zealand who actually manufactures the panels themselves. Solar Group have been fantastic to deal with, and have helped us find a custom, downsized solar water heating solution for our Tiny House.

Solar Hot Water Cylinder

Storage of water can be very difficult in a Tiny House as it does take up a lot of space. Our custom built, 90 litre (23gal) hot water cylinder will give us more than enough hot water and fits snugly on the roof. The water system is designed to be boosted by wetback in the colder months (more detail to come).  Solar Group have specially designed the straps to ensure that it will be safe to travel with. The tank will of course be drained when the house is transported.

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The Solar Group team were brilliant when it came to attaching the cylinder and panel to the roof. With the help of ropes secured to the steel structure above our build site, they were able to skilfully move about on the roof during the install.

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After a hard afternoons work, our solar panel and cylinder were safely secured to the roof of the Tiny House. After a lot of planning and design, it’s wonderful to see it sitting up there!

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To find out more about the installation of our solar system, check out the video here.

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Posted on by Bryce Posted in Tiny House Build

About Bryce

I'm a film-maker with a passion for small space design, permaculture, and downsized, eco-friendly living. Join me on my travels as I meet people from all over the globe who are living big lives in wonderful tiny houses!

13 Responses to Solar Hot Water For A Tiny House

  1. Drew Cuddy

    Hi Bryce,
    Just wondering how you actually get the water up to the tank. Also, I assume the downward system is gravity fed? It looks like a terrific system, looking forward to seeing more of the water buildout in particular.

    Thanks!

  2. lilyb4

    Hi Bryce thank you for all the information and vids you guys have been posting, such a wealth of information. I live in California, my neighbor did this for his swimming pool http://solar-trac.com/index.html – trying to wrap my idea of total off grid while having options for rv connections, as I want to be mobile most of the time.

  3. Patrick

    Hi Kylie & Bryce,

    Back in 1980 I worked a Mine project in the desert in Nevada and lived off grid in a 30′ 5th wheeler.
    The 2 of us worked everyday and hauled water and found that we could live comfortably on 15 gallons per day which gave us a shower flushed toilets and did dishes we carried 3 each 5 gallon jugs in our little VW Golf and got along fine on that

  4. Jonathan

    Hi,
    Greetings from Denmark. I love your amazing website. It is wonderful that you share your amazing experiences and vast knowledge with us. many thanks dfor that!
    I have noticed that your tiny home framework is build of metal (or other material?) rather than wood. What material is it? What are the advantages? Is it lighter and stronger than wood?
    Thanks
    Jonathan

  5. Megan

    Does the tank need to sit directly above the spots where it will be used? I’m building a house-for-one. I was thinking I’d only need 50 litres or so – but not really sure. I also can’t wrap my head around how wetbacks work – I presume it is all connected to this tank so no cylinder is needed inside?

  6. helenbeee

    Hi
    thanks for documenting your progress with your tiny house I am planning my own for a build in the not too distance future. The more info that is surfacing the better my research is. I hope to document my own when the time comes to add to the resources that are out there.

    One question I have is how much extra height is added to the overall height of the tiny house by the water tank?
    I can see that it sits higher than the roofline in one of the images.

    Helen 🙂

    • Bryce

      Hey there. Nope, no extra height is added. We still need to put the ridge cap on the roof, so when that is on, the roof line will sit just a bit higher than the top of the tank. 🙂

  7. Sue Urquhart

    I am glad to see you are installing solar water heating. When we built our home 30 years ago we installed solar, and were ahead of the times. It is well worth it. Is 90 ltr enough

    • Bryce

      Hey Sue. Yup, we’re sure that 90 litres will be more than enough to easily accommodate both of our needs. Remember it’s always mixed with cold water, and the hot water ratio is normally much lower in the mix in this kind of system as the water is generally at a much higher temperature than an electric heater. 🙂

  8. Michael

    Hej Bryce!
    I look forward towards to that of being finished with tiny house. Will there be an opportunity to get hold of your drawings on the house?

    Regards Michael

    • Bryce

      Hey Michael. Yup – we will (hopefully rather soon) be posting up our house plans. There are still some adjustments here and there to the plans at this stage but once it’s all set, we will put up the file for download. 🙂

  9. kylie

    Hey thanks for posting this. I am an absolute newbie but i was trying to find info on this last night…to no avail. How much did this cost please? And also (forgive the newbie green-ness) how do people who are trying to be living off the grid go about getting their water? I cant stop thinking about it! Thanks heaps in advance
    kylie

    • Bryce

      Hey Kylie! No problem. We are still working out some of the elements, but once it’s compiled the cost of our solar system will be posted up. It’s certainly not the cheapest option up front, but when you think that you will get a life-time of free hot water, it’s certainly the best solution out there. When you are off-the-grid there are many ways of collecting water. Some obtain water from springs or bores, but perhaps the most common is to collect rain water. That is what we are doing for our tiny house and we will have articles and videos on this in the future. Hope that helps!

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