If you’re like me, you enjoy having good water pressure. You might take it for granted, but having lived in a place where the water pressure was really low, I have come to appreciate the value of good water pressure.
There are really only two practical ways to pressurize water at your cabin. You can either pump the water up to pressure, or you can elevate the water source and let gravity provide the pressure. In fact, these two methods are the ones used in homes all around the world to provide good water pressure to residents.
The fact that you can take a shower on the second floor of your home is due to the water pressure provided either by the city or county where you live, or due to a pump you have on the water system at your house. Let’s talk about how you can use these methods at your cabin whether it’s off the grid or not.
Pumping Water to Get Good Water Pressure for your Cabin
Most cabins and houses that get water from a well use a pump to get their water pressure. Since the water comes from deep in the ground, it takes pumping just to get the water out of the ground and up to your cabin. But getting water to your cabin isn’t enough.
For water to flow, it takes energy. Something has to be driving the water in order for it to go from one place to another. Imagine a puddle of water on the ground. Unless there’s a path to a lower elevation, the water will just sit there until it evaporates.
Likewise, just because you can get water to your cabin from a well or a spring doesn’t mean that you’ll be able to really use it. You can install all the plumbing you want but when you open a faucet in your kitchen, nothing will happen.
What a pump does is add energy to the water. It’s just a device that pushes and pulls water. And as it pushes the water, it ends up increasing the pressure of the water.
So installing a system with a pump is one way to get water pressure at your cabin. That said, these systems do require more than just a pump. You’ll have some check valves that allow water to flow one way but not the other. You’ll also need a pressure tank. What the tank does is allow you to store water at a certain pressure.
Without a pressure tank, you could use the pump to get water up to the pressure you want, but as soon as you started to use it, the pressure would drop a bunch. In order to be able to use water at a consistent pressure for more than a few seconds, you need a pressure tank.
What I’m getting at is that pump and pressure tank systems are a bit more complicated than the typical DIYer is ready for. Unless you’re familiar with these systems or have done a bunch of research, it’s best to have this type of system installed by a professional. But, since you’ll need a pro to dig your well for you, you might as well have them install the whole system.
How to use Elevation to Get Good Water Pressure for your Cabin
The other option for getting great water pressure at your cabin is to use elevation to help you.
You know that streams and rivers all flow downstream until they either evaporate or eventually reach a low point where they form a lake or join the ocean. Elevation is a form of energy. The more downhill that the water has to travel, the more pressure that gets added to the water.
What that means is that you can get great water pressure for your cabin by having water storage at an elevation that’s higher than your cabin.
This is actually how a lot of cities maintain water pressure for their residents.
You’ve probably noticed that a lot of towns have a water tower. You may have thought that this was just for storing extra water. But if that were the case, we probably wouldn’t put them up in tall towers. We’d just have big water tanks on the ground, or even below ground.
We store water up high because it allows the city to have consistent water pressure. In fact, 100 feet of elevation gives water a little over 40 psi of pressure at the outlet. What that means is that if you store water at an elevation 100 feet above the point where you’ll use it, the water will come out at about 40 psi or pounds per square inch. That’s actually really good water pressure for a cabin to have and would give you great water flow.
100 feet isn’t feasible for everyone. In fact, elevating your water supply isn’t even feasible for a lot of people. But if your cabin happens to be in a hilly area and part of your property is a ways uphill from your cabin, then you can actually use elevation to help you get great water pressure.
Here’s how you can make it work. Either have your well dug at the high elevation, or else have the water from the well pumped uphill to a storage tank at the higher elevation. For year-round use, this tank would need to be heated or else buried below the frost depth.
Now, this storage tank replaces the pressure tank you would have needed with the well. It’s not necessarily less expensive to install, but it can be more reliable for providing great water pressure than a pressure tank. Plus, pressure tanks require more maintenance than basic storage tanks. In the end, it’s a simpler system to own and maintain and it’s likely to provide better water pressure more reliably than a pressure tank.
Cascading Water Storage
We’ve been talking about full-blown well systems for cabins. But what if you’re in the early stages of building, or you have a really off-grid cabin with no well? How can you get water pressure?
If you have any elevation, then I recommend you use it.
Depending on how you get water to your cabin, you may need to pump the water uphill to a storage tank. Whether you’re getting water from a stream or spring on your property, or you’re hauling it in water tanks, you’ll want to pump it up to your uphill water tank.
You can use a 1/2 hp water transfer pump like this one on Amazon. In fact, this is a really good little pump that will transfer water to your uphill tank really quickly for the price. If you have a ways to go uphill, you might need to transfer more than once. What we do is we actually have 4 water tanks, each positioned about 50 feet farther uphill.
Then we can fill the first tank from the stream. Once it’s full, we pump water from that one up to the second tank, and so on. Once the top tank is filled, we go back and do the same process again until all the tanks are full. That gives us lots of water storage and makes it quicker to refill the top tank when needed.
To learn about what sort of water tanks we use and where to get them inexpensively, you can read my article about them here.
Safe water handling
If you’re going to be using any of this water for potable water, it’s important that you handle it safely.
Running drinking water through a regular garden hose isn’t safe. You should actually get a hose that’s made for transferring drinking water like this one on Amazon. It’s 50 feet long and about the best price I’ve seen on a hose like this.
As you store water, there are some important considerations to keep the algae down. As water sits exposed to sunlight, algae grow. To prevent that from happening, I recommend that you cover your tanks with something opaque, meaning something that lets as little sunlight through as possible. I also recommend that you treat your water, at least sometimes, with chlorine bleach.
I actually wrote all about how to safely treat your water with bleach in my article about water tanks. You can find that here.
If you’re going to be drinking water from a stream or spring on your property, I also recommend you filter it. I would filter it at a point after your water storage tanks, to eliminate any algae, sediment, and even chlorine from the water. That way you get fresh water. My favorite filter for drinking water is the Berkey that you can get here on Amazon. It’s not like your regular pitcher filter. This one can safely filter lake water and is really convenient for drinking water.
It’s Best to Hire a Pro
If you’re going to be installing a well and either a high-elevation cistern or water tank or a pressure tank at your cabin, the best way forward is to talk to the pros. Get someone out to your property that can assess the location and give you recommendations on which options is best for you.
But, if your cabin is simpler and isn’t plumbed, then a DIY elevation system like the one I described above is extremely simple to set up and can work great for you.