Plumbing the Sauna

Plumbing the sauna was something of a testbed of ideas.  After the multiple failures of the water system over last winter in delivering us consistent flow (or any flow whatsoever!), I had spent many brain cells trying to come up with an alternative system that was still very energy efficient.

It was Grandpa who suggested that I could store water in the sauna to use in the cabin.  This had the advantage of keeping the water tanks in a building that was designed to handle “wet” situations.  It also meant that I could utilize the loft of the sauna to create some gravity pressure for the water to flow.

I also like to believe that if we take steam on a somewhat regular basis (every second, third or fourth day), we will be able to maintain the water temperature in the tanks above freezing, thus allowing us to keep pumping water throughout the winter.  

The first fixture I set in place was our laundry tub.  I shortened the legs on it by almost a foot to help it to have a bit more head.  I also had the cunning plan to hook up the tank from the sauna reservoir to the hot water tap of the laundry tub, thus giving us the illusion of hot AND cold running water.  

This worked well in some sense.  The pressure generated from the elevated sauna reservoir to the tap only a few inches below it was anemic.  You can put a basin in the sink and turn on the tap, and then take a fair bit of steam before your basin is full.  In fact, just the time taken for the hot water in the reservoir to warm up the basin is pretty lengthy on the first run.  I can accept this though, as running water is pretty special no matter how you slice it.

After the laundry tub came the washing machine.  This seems to work pretty good.  I placed a quick connect connector on the tap from the laundry tub, so we can easily hook up the washing machine when it is time to do laundry.  There is a pretty cool advantage of this.  When you disconnect the washing machine hose, my connector cuts off the entire flow of water.  By having nothing connected, and both hot and cold taps turned on, the sauna reservoir refills from my storage tanks.  I don’t have to shlep buckets!

Sadly, pressure at the laundry tub is a bit disappointing.  It takes a good five minutes or so to fill the washing machine, so that must be taken into account when one is working on that.

At first I felt that perhaps the problem was the narrower PEX hose that I had run to the laundry tub from off of my main poly pipe.

I removed the PEX and replaced it with poly pipe, and the result was even worse.

Note to self – be prepared for water to come gushing from a water line that you cut through with a saw!

My trickle continued to diminish until it became nothing.  My father-in-law examined the situation and felt that perhaps the problem was in my taps.  I puzzled at great length, and decided that instead there must have been a bubble in my water line, at a spot where it rose up from the water tank before dropping back down to the faucet.  I massaged the poly pipe up and down until finally a squirt of bubbles made itself known in the water tank.  The flow to the sink began again, albeit not anything spectacular.

I tried to reroute the line with a more direct route to my auxiliary tank, but this doesn’t seem to have boosted performance notably.  I’m of the mind that right angles in a low pressure water line are death to pressure.  In any case, the water does flow here, and I hope that we can learn to live with it.

 Ahhh, the bliss of a filling wash machine!

 I tried to raise the machine off the floor a bit with some cinder blocks and a nice cedar edge.

 I wish that I had a door on the sauna though, as unexpected guests with cameras are a bit off-putting.

Nothing like two full water tanks!

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