We Built a DIY Woodstove Hot Water System for Indoor Wood-Heated Water

The drain valve and cold-water outlet to the stove

For years, we’ve been experimenting with different ways of heating water using our wood-burning stove. Initially, we had a small woodstove into which I plumbed a copper pipe from an old metal mortar box I bought at an army surplus store. It held about 8 gallons of water and was great as a standalone system for baths for our little children and a container to pour over ourselves for a shower.

After we built our mini masonry heater (see my article for MOTHER EARTH NEWS here) we just switched to heating water in big pots on the very large cooktop, which we then put into a watering can mounted in our shower. For about 1.5 gallons, we had a nice shower. But, like so many things that change as your children become teenagers, we needed an upgrade to keep hygiene and morale up in our wacky urban homestead.

Enter the plumbed woodstove water heating thermosiphon system.

While visiting some older friends of ours who’ve been living off-grid for decades, I noticed their woodstove hot water system. It was something I’d learned about several years ago but had never seen one firsthand. For me, being able to see a system and talk about its functionality with its users makes a huge difference in whether or not I’ll tackle a project. Especially one that involves plumbing and heat.

The Water Heating Design

Like our outdoor solar shower (read another MOTHER EARTH NEWS article I wrote for this project here), this system takes advantage of the thermosiphon effect, whereby cold water starts lower, gets heated, and rises, creating a circular flow without any pumps or pressurized water.

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