Off Grid Hot Water: Is It Possible?

Jacob Moore

Last updated May 17, 2021

Everyone is talking about taking off the grid nowadays.

We even have had off-the-grid houses, RVs, and other types of vehicles for quite a while. Of course, it is also one of the best things in the past decade.

When the rest of the world was just concerned about consuming the available fuel, some wanted to try living off the grid. After all, you do not always have a power supply.

Now, even if you cannot take your whole house off-grid or start living in an off-grid RV, there are a few things you can do. Off-grid hot water is one of those things.

Would it not be great if you can heat water off the grid — without relying on the power supply? If you know someone who lives in Texas, they will tell you how important it is. So will anyone who has had to survive several cold days without power.

We must also note that a typical electric water heater consumes a massive amount of electricity. If you love too many hot showers a day, the monthly electricity bills can take a toll on you. Therefore, taking your water heater off the grid is not just about enhanced reliability; it is also about savings.

In this guide, we have answered some of the essential questions you may have about off-grid hot water. We have also talked about the multiple options, their advantages, and disadvantages.

How Do You Heat Water Off the Grid?

Let us understand what off-grid hot water means to be on the clear side.

It means you should be able to heat regular water without relying on the electric grid. That is, even if there is no power supply for days, you would not have trouble taking a hot shower or getting some hot water for other domestic purposes.

As you probably know, people have used hot water without grid support for centuries. I mean, we have had the so-called grid for more than a century only, correct?

But, when we talk about off-grid hot water today, we are talking about convenient options. We are talking about off-grid systems that you can attach to your home or an RV.

Fortunately, you have a few options to choose from when you need hot water off the grid. Some of those methods are:

A Solar Hot Water System

solar heater for water on the roof

A Solar Hot Water System is a water heating system that absorbs solar energy and uses it to heat water. Since you rely upon the sun for power supply, you do not depend on the grid.

Based on the solar water heater model, you may use a battery in-between. Some models may convert solar power into electricity in the first place and then use the electric energy to heat water.

On the other hand, some models use something called the solar evacuated tube system, which transfers normal water through specially designed tubes to heat it. Once heated, the water is stored in a tank and continually heated.

A Gas Hot Water System

gas water heater

A gas-based hot water system will use combustible gas like propane to generate energy and heat the water. Because you have to refill the gas whenever you are out of fuel, there is no dependence on the power grid.

Unlike solar hot water systems, however, there is no mediation. The gas will be burnt whenever heating is required. Nevertheless, some of these hot water systems may have a tank, where it will store hot water, continually heating it and preserving a specific temperature.

Gas-based hot water systems are seen commonly in RVs and motorhomes, where grid connectivity is not often possible. In addition to these, you can find hot water heating systems that use good-old combustion techniques.

They may use wood, charcoal, or other elements to create energy and heat the water. According to the current standards, though, they are not convenient or environment friendly.

Now, we will answer the larger question in this scheme.

Can You Get Hot Water Without Electricity?

Yes, you can get hot water without electricity. We already mentioned two significant ways to do that.

So, if you want to set up an off-grid hot water system in your home or an RV, you will have to choose between solar and gas water heaters. As we mentioned in the beginning, both have their advantages and disadvantages.

Solar Water Heater Pros and Cons

roof with solar heater

We will look at the significant reasons why you may want to consider getting a solar water heater — or not.

Pros of Solar Water Heater

  • Solar water heaters are 100% environmentally friendly. In addition to staying away from the grid, it uses one of the limitless resources you can find on the earth. Therefore, you do not have to think about global warming, climate change, or other issues that most fossil fuels cause.
  • As it goes without saying, a solar water heater does not consume energy from the grid. It means you can save a massive amount of money in the long run. Considering that electric water heaters make a noticeable part of a typical electricity bill, it is incredibly beneficial.
  • Flexibility is another advantage of going for a solar water heater. You can choose between tankless and tank-based solar water heaters from the market. There are also many options in terms of water storage capacity.
  • Unlike electric water heaters, an off-grid solar water heater does not require much maintenance. In the case of an evacuated tube system, the hardware is designed to last for decades. So, you do not have to worry about replacing the system anytime soon.
  • You can also choose a more compact solar water heater from the market. You will find it easy to get these products installed in your home or an RV. There are multiple instances when portability boosts the off-grid water system.

Cons of Solar Water Heater

  • If you live in an area that does not get enough sunlight, solar water heaters are not the most suitable option. The lack of sunlight means you cannot have heated water. If you want to avoid this situation, you may have to convert solar energy into power and store it in a battery.
  • Even though the heater could be compact, installing the solar roof is a space-consuming thing. If your house has limited roofing space, you may have better luck with another option. If you have an old system, the installation could be a little complicated.

Gas Water Heater Pros and Cons

gas heater pros and cons

Are you wondering why people check twice before getting gas water heaters for off-grid hot water?

Pros of Gas Water Heater

  • Compared to solar water heaters and on-grid electric water heaters, gas water heaters are faster. It happens because the heater can use more propane (or other gas) to speed up the heating process. In the end, you will have quick access to hot water even without a grid.
  • Considering that you can use propane and other natural gases, you can make some savings. Depending on where you live, the cost of electricity is higher than natural gas. So, annually, we are talking about massive savings.
  • The best part is that you can use a gas water heater even when cloudy or snowing outside. Unlike a solar water heater, a gas water heater has this extra edge. It is one of the reasons why most RVs, as well as motorhomes, choose gas water heaters over electric/solar water heaters.
  • Gas water heaters have been in the active industry for decades. It means you can find several options in the market. Depending on the size and consumption patterns, you can choose a small or large water heater with ease.
  • Because these water heaters use propane or other natural gases, the machines come in the tankless model. It means you can get instant hot water at your home or in a vehicle without having to wait for minutes.

Cons of Gas Water Heater

  • Because these water heaters use combustion for the heating process, gas water heaters do not offer the same durability as solar water heaters. You may have to do routine maintenance checks and do a few replacements once in a while.
  • Even though you can choose between multiple sizes of gas water heaters, they are bulky. It could be a problem when installing the water heater in off-grid situations. So, if you were expecting a lightweight off-grid hot water system, gas-based ones are not for you.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Will a gas tankless water heater work without electricity?

tankless water heater

No, a gas tankless water heater will not work without electricity. As we mentioned, gas water heaters can heat water on demand.

But, to do that, you need some power to control the electronic side of things. But, you can solve this limitation by hooking up the water heater system with a backup power slot.

In this way, you can keep using the tankless water heater even when there is no electricity. Sure, the solution is a bit of DIY, but it works. And, you would not have trouble finding a battery backup system in the market.

Which One Is Cheaper?

We have to look at the affordability of both methods from two points of view.

First, we have to consider the task of installation. In this case, setting up a gas water heater is the cheaper option among off-grid hot water systems. As we mentioned, you may need a considerable amount of money to set up a solar-powered water heating system.

Second, we have to consider the long-term spending needs. In this case, the solar water heater will be the best option. Because these heaters rely on sunlight, you do not have to worry about buying propane tanks or other fuel refilling options.

Which One Is More Efficient?

This aspect is not so confusing.

Solar water heaters are way more efficient than gas water heaters. If you are taking a solar water heating system off the grid, you can expect it to run for decades.

With the help of routine maintenance, you can get a suitable temperature. The problem is that you need constant sunlight to make all this possible.

Nevertheless, we do not mean that gas heaters are inefficient. Recently, we have seen the rise of gas water heaters that offer high-efficiency rates. By the way, your determination of efficiency may vary depending on the type of device you buy.

Conclusion

As you may have noticed, you have so many options when you need an off-grid hot water system.

It means you can make an informed decision based on the factors you need. Some people may be able to compromise the heating speed for the sake of long-term savings, for instance.

Similarly, you can prioritize the element you want in an off-grid water heating system.

Jacob Moore

Jacob Moore is the founder of BasicFoodPrepper.com, and he has spent more time surviving in the wilderness than an average human being. A familiar face from the rural United States, Jacob has always wanted to live close to nature. Even after spending a few years in the buzzing world of cities and 9 to 5 jobs, he managed to get out to the outer world when he got a chance. Jacob would say that hiking is his passion, and he has spent up to several weeks in the wild.