Question on my emergency water storage.

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Jay

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First off, I'm old and not rich. During the time that my well was in need of repair I set up a couple of 55 gallon barrels for catching rain, then run water through my berkey filter. With winter coming on here in Tennessee, and the barrels being outside and covered over with a tarp to keep direct sunlight off them I'm concerned with the freezing weather destroying them. Can I just reduce the water level in them and let them freeze for the winter, or do I need to empty them. How much water needs to be removed to keep them from being destroyed. I have plans to change the system come next spring, but having a broken arm earlier this spring and have receintly threw my back out again, this year is pretty much a no go as far as projects.
 

Pearl

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I have a couple of 55 gal barrels for emergence water use. I'm in N TX and we can have some pretty good freezes but they don't last long. My barrels are a very heavy black plastic with tight lids. We lose power with spring t-storms so I kept them full then. This week I'll fill them before 9/11. During ice storm power outages I keep them about a third low and heat water (from what is stored in house) on the wood stove to add if I need the barrel water for the donkey trough! I keep a lot of water stored inside!! So far so good on the barrels holding up to TX winters!
 

UrbanHunter

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I have rain barrels and last year there was about 8 inches of water in the bottom of one and when it froze it split the bottom (but we have some hard freezes and the barrels are in the shade.) This year I installed fittings in the bottom of the barrels so I will not have to turn them upside down to empty them... It will make things a lot easier.

I would say if you get ice more than 1" thick, I would empty the barrels. If they are exposed to sun light they will heat up in the day time, but if they are in the shade and you get heavy ice, I would empty them......
 

Caribou

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Empty one, move it inside, transfer the remaining water inside, set everything back up in the spring.

option 2- Bury the tanks below the frost level, cover with a layer of rigid closed cell foam. The heat from the ground should keep them thawed. Only fill 3/4 full to allow for expansion. You're working with pretty small tanks and that complicates the problem.
 

Pearl

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Empty one, move it inside, transfer the remaining water inside, set everything back up in the spring.

option 2- Bury the tanks below the frost level, cover with a layer of rigid closed cell foam. The heat from the ground should keep them thawed. Only fill 3/4 full to allow for expansion. You're working with pretty small tanks and that complicates the problem.
Good idea burying them, I siphon the water out of mine if they get low. Could be hard to clean them if buried?! During our crazy TX artic freeze last Feb I wrapped insulated blankets around mine, helped a lot!!
 

Aerindel

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I don't know what your winters are like. So this may not apply, as always, prepping is a hyperlocal activity.

Here, in MT, those barrels would freeze and crack if there was more than a small amount of water to them I've had it happen to me with half filled barrels. The tops of the water freezes first, and then as the rest freezes, it has no where to go and cracks the bottom.

This may not be an issue for you if you don't get real freezes.

In anycase, I would be looking for someonewhere inside to store water. Even if you have to collect it outside, it would not be hard to pump inside.
 

Peanut

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For decades we’ve used light bulbs to prevent water tanks from freezing. Enclosing the barrel in some manner is step one. Low es, home dep o etc have water tank insulation blankets. Something just as good (actually better) (for me its free) is using hay, square bales.

1) Just make a 4 sided wall around the water drums with the hay. Cover them with empty paper feed sacks (insulating property) then cover with something water proof like a small tarp. It helps to use something like an empty milk/water jug placed just underneath the center of the tarp, on top of the barrels. This forms a peak so rain will shed off.

2) Then use an old fashioned 100 watt incandescent light bulb and make a simple drop light. Hang the bulb in the air space around the barrels.

3) In effect you are creating a blanket of warm air around the barrels. The hay insulates and traps the air, the tarp covers the top and traps the air, you don’t want any air flow. The idea is to warm the few cubic feet of air in contact the barrels.

You’d be amazed how warm a single light bulb will keep the air. Even on nights below 20 degrees outside the air inside the enclosure (around the barrels) will stay above 50. After a few weeks the water in the barrels will stabilize to around the same temperature.

The best way I found was use hay bales plus automotive heat control mats. Most auto parts stores have it. I got mine from Summit Racing, back then a 10ftx5ft roll was about $20. These heat insulation mats have a special foil that reflects radiant heat. So any radiant heat coming from the water is reflected back into the water. Any heat from the bulb is reflected back into the water. This insulation keeps the enclosure 10+ degrees warmer, than not using it.

I cover the inside of the hay wall with the heat mat, not the barrels.

https://www.summitracing.com/parts/the-14620

Automotive heat insulation has 101 uses… Through the years I’ve used it for dozens of things which have nothing to do with a car. I still have one unused roll up in the shop.
 

Just Cliff

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First off, I'm old and not rich. During the time that my well was in need of repair I set up a couple of 55 gallon barrels for catching rain, then run water through my berkey filter. With winter coming on here in Tennessee, and the barrels being outside and covered over with a tarp to keep direct sunlight off them I'm concerned with the freezing weather destroying them. Can I just reduce the water level in them and let them freeze for the winter, or do I need to empty them. How much water needs to be removed to keep them from being destroyed. I have plans to change the system come next spring, but having a broken arm earlier this spring and have receintly threw my back out again, this year is pretty much a no go as far as projects.
Have you got electricity?
 

Neb

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For decades we’ve used light bulbs to prevent water tanks from freezing. Enclosing the barrel in some manner is step one. Low es, home dep o etc have water tank insulation blankets. Something just as good (actually better) (for me its free) is using hay, square bales.

1) Just make a 4 sided wall around the water drums with the hay. Cover them with empty paper feed sacks (insulating property) then cover with something water proof like a small tarp. It helps to use something like an empty milk/water jug placed just underneath the center of the tarp, on top of the barrels. This forms a peak so rain will shed off.

2) Then use an old fashioned 100 watt incandescent light bulb and make a simple drop light. Hang the bulb in the air space around the barrels.

3) In effect you are creating a blanket of warm air around the barrels. The hay insulates and traps the air, the tarp covers the top and traps the air, you don’t want any air flow. The idea is to warm the few cubic feet of air in contact the barrels.

You’d be amazed how warm a single light bulb will keep the air. Even on nights below 20 degrees outside the air inside the enclosure (around the barrels) will stay above 50. After a few weeks the water in the barrels will stabilize to around the same temperature.

The best way I found was use hay bales plus automotive heat control mats. Most auto parts stores have it. I got mine from Summit Racing, back then a 10ftx5ft roll was about $20. These heat insulation mats have a special foil that reflects radiant heat. So any radiant heat coming from the water is reflected back into the water. Any heat from the bulb is reflected back into the water. This insulation keeps the enclosure 10+ degrees warmer, than not using it.

I cover the inside of the hay wall with the heat mat, not the barrels.

https://www.summitracing.com/parts/the-14620

Automotive heat insulation has 101 uses… Through the years I’ve used it for dozens of things which have nothing to do with a car. I still have one unused roll up in the shop.
What he says.


😊

Ben
 

Spikedriver

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There's a lot of ways to go with this.

A tank de-icer is one way. Like the ones used to keep a livestock tank from freezing. They're quite effective, and not real expensive. Cutting styrofoam insulation to fit the top of your barrel increases the effectiveness. The barrels could be insulated in a number of ways. Buying a round bale of straw, and unrolling it then re- rolling it around the barrel might be quite effective.

This next idea is old school, but requires no power -

In the old, olden days, farmers would use a can the size of a large coffee can, filled with hot coals. This would be placed in the tank and heat up the water. The coals would be replaced as needed throughout the day. The can had a wooden handle to keep from burning your hands. I see no reason why something similar to this wouldn't work for your needs...
 

SheepDog

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Insulating the barrels is great, as long as you have a heat source inside the insulation. Building a compost pile around them is good too.
The easiest is going to be a stock tank heater.
 

Aerindel

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Okay.....'hol up' as they say.

First. If your water is out....your power is probably out too.

If your water and power are out, its because some kind of poo has hit some kind of fan and your going to be up to your elbows in work.

Emergency solutions that require power you don't have are a no go.

Emergency solutions that have you doing extra work, at the time you can least afford it, are a no go.

Find that good idea fairy and do a Will Smith on it.

Backup systems should be more protected and easier to use than the primary system, not the other way around.

In a sub freezing emergency, you have to heat your house anyway. Presumably you have a plan for that. Since you have to heat your house anyway, figure out how to have your emergency water....in your house.
 

Spikedriver

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Would it be feasible to turn your barrels into a cistern? Long before my time, the farm I grew up on had a cistern just south of the house. Pops said it collected rainwater. There was a hand pump at the kitchen sink. I'm not sure exactly how this worked, because there would have been a lot of horizontal piping to get from the pump to the cistern, but maybe it's an idea you can use...
 

UrbanHunter

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Today in the news was another example as to why one would want to have a little bit of water storage just in case:

UPDATED 6:43 PM PT – Thursday, November 4, 2021
Residents in Benton Harbor, Michigan have been advised to drink and cook with bottled water due to alarming levels of lead found in the city’s water system. For the past three years, the city detected elevated levels of lead in their water system and with a water main rupturing Thursday, the city was forced to temporarily shut off the public water supply altogether.
 

Caribou

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Okay.....'hol up' as they say.

First. If your water is out....your power is probably out too.

If your water and power are out, its because some kind of poo has hit some kind of fan and your going to be up to your elbows in work.

Emergency solutions that require power you don't have are a no go.

Emergency solutions that have you doing extra work, at the time you can least afford it, are a no go.

Find that good idea fairy and do a Will Smith on it.

Backup systems should be more protected and easier to use than the primary system, not the other way around.

In a sub freezing emergency, you have to heat your house anyway. Presumably you have a plan for that. Since you have to heat your house anyway, figure out how to have your emergency water....in your house.
A drum of water weighs well over 400#. A BTU is the amount of heat required to heat one pound of water one degree Farenheit. It requires 960 BTU's to change 32℉ water to 32℉ ice. That is not happening overnight. Ice will first skin over the top and then start freezing from the sides. Knock a hole through the ice and pump your water into buckets and bring inside. If you're using electricity, for example, to keep your water storage from freezing you have some time to save your water from freezing, not forever but some time.
 
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joel

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It never drops to 0 or -1 here in South Carolina, up your way how warm would a small greenhouse keep a drum of water above freezing with no heat other than the sun for entire Winter months? Water holds more heat than rock or concrete, but a floor of ether would be helpful.
 

joel

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For decades we’ve used light bulbs to prevent water tanks from freezing. Enclosing the barrel in some manner is step one. Low es, home dep o etc have water tank insulation blankets. Something just as good (actually better) (for me its free) is using hay, square bales.

1) Just make a 4 sided wall around the water drums with the hay. Cover them with empty paper feed sacks (insulating property) then cover with something water proof like a small tarp. It helps to use something like an empty milk/water jug placed just underneath the center of the tarp, on top of the barrels. This forms a peak so rain will shed off.

2) Then use an old fashioned 100 watt incandescent light bulb and make a simple drop light. Hang the bulb in the air space around the barrels.

3) In effect you are creating a blanket of warm air around the barrels. The hay insulates and traps the air, the tarp covers the top and traps the air, you don’t want any air flow. The idea is to warm the few cubic feet of air in contact the barrels.

You’d be amazed how warm a single light bulb will keep the air. Even on nights below 20 degrees outside the air inside the enclosure (around the barrels) will stay above 50. After a few weeks the water in the barrels will stabilize to around the same temperature.

The best way I found was use hay bales plus automotive heat control mats. Most auto parts stores have it. I got mine from Summit Racing, back then a 10ftx5ft roll was about $20. These heat insulation mats have a special foil that reflects radiant heat. So any radiant heat coming from the water is reflected back into the water. Any heat from the bulb is reflected back into the water. This insulation keeps the enclosure 10+ degrees warmer, than not using it.

I cover the inside of the hay wall with the heat mat, not the barrels.

https://www.summitracing.com/parts/the-14620

Automotive heat insulation has 101 uses… Through the years I’ve used it for dozens of things which have nothing to do with a car. I still have one unused roll up in the shop.
I have a switch that turn the light on when it drops below 40F & off when the temperature move above 40f it turn lamp off, this is on my pump.
 

Aerindel

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If you're using electricity, for example, to keep your water storage from freezing you have some time to save your water from freezing, not forever but some time.

Yes. You do have some time. That time is called 'today'.

Water is a problem that is never going to go away, may as well solve it now, when its easy to get parts etc, than in the first couple days of a disaster with the clock ticking as you water slowly freezes.

This could even be a 'too much, and also not enough' situation for the OP. Its something that seems to come up a lot in prepping.
 

Caribou

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Caribou
It never drops to 0 or -1 here in South Carolina, up your way how warm would a small greenhouse keep a drum of water above freezing with no heat other than the sun for entire Winter months? Water holds more heat than rock or concrete, but a floor of ether would be helpful.
I'm at my mothers house now and a greenhouse would do the job. My house can get to -20℉ so not likely. The commercial greenhouses are heated. My last house got down to -40℉ most years, sometimes for a couple weeks at a time. They use greenhouses there so that it is warm enough for tomatoes in the summer.
 

UrbanHunter

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Caribou
It never drops to 0 or -1 here in South Carolina, up your way how warm would a small greenhouse keep a drum of water above freezing with no heat other than the sun for entire Winter months? Water holds more heat than rock or concrete, but a floor of ether would be helpful.
I used a simple home made green house/tent one winter (using 3.5 Mil clear plastic) and monitored the temperatures. The outdoor temperatures got down into the teens and the temperatures in the plastic tent got down into the high (20s/ low 30s) the cool weather plants survived fine. But in the daytime when the sun hit the plastic the tent warmed up quickly, I was seeing the temperatures inside the tent between 20 and 35 degrees (F) above the ambient. That being said from a plant perspective if the ambient temperature reached 85 degrees the plants were seeing 110F+and had a real case of heat stress...

To get back to relevance, if your overnight lows are in the teens and the daytime highs are in the 40/50s using a clear plastic shelter over your water barrels could allow the barrels to keep a water temperature in the 40s, and with the sun heating them up in the day time they could stay liquid for a long time, assuming that they have a clear south face to provide full access to the sun....
 

Aklogcabin

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I would KISS. I don't think you will have any problems. Our water barrel for our rabbits is freezing. Been warm lately but a few 20 degree weeks already. The white plastic barrels I use have 3" of ice in them. No problems. Black barrels would be better. And building a structure out of clear plastic over it is better.
I keep a barrel of water in our greenhouse as a heat sink. And if you're using it you will be breaking the ice.
My thoughts. Wide mouth, straight sided, glass canning jars are OK to freeze in. A straight sided plastic barrel made from industrial strength plastics should be ok. If there is an issue put a small 25w tank heater in the barrel.
Good luck n stay safe
 

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