Off Grid Home Forums Technical Discussion Canadian well construction.

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    Bobcabin, could you please explain in better detail what exactly you mean by “canadian well” I live in Canada and have not heard this terminology used. Are you talking about a drinking water well? In most areas of Canada well water pipes enter the building below the frost line to prevent the water from freezing in winter. Hence your description about condensation on the exterior of the pipes makes little sense. If outside air can reach the pipes so can freezing temps and then the water inside the pipe would freeze in winter.



    I wonder if there’s anyone out there who may be able to advise me on the construction of a Canadian well.

    I’m building a small two-bed house on a sloping, south-facing (sunny-side) plot in France. The building will be constructed of cord-wood around a green oak frame and well insulated. I like the idea of a Canadian well as it seems very simple, however, my idea seems to be slightly at odds with the general infomation I’ve so far read.

    The biggest problem to overcome appears to be the removal of condensation from the pipework and this is achieved by sloping the pipe towards the building & then tapping off the collected water via a purging valve under the floor. This then means a ventilator would be required in order to draw the warmed air downhill through the pipe into the building. More added stuff.

    However, if the pipe were sloping the other way & the entrance to the pipe exited the ground horizontally instead of the more usual vertically, then water could never stay in, or enter the pipe. The other advantage would be that the air would enter the building via natural convection, rising uphill as it warms. The ground around the pipe inlet would need to be cut back and a suitable anti-bug net fitted, but this would work, wouldn’t it?

    The plot I have would appear to be perfect for this because as well as having a natural slope, the ground then falls away quite steeply and I thought this would be ideal for the pipe air-entrance.

    I’d really appreciate any members comments, ideas or thoughts on this subject and thank them in advance.


    Hi Elnav,

    Thanks for your interest. A Canadian well is basically a buried plastic pipe that is used to draw ventilation air into the house. The air is “warmed” by natural ground heat. Its a poor man’s version of a ground-source heat pump, without the pump!

    A friend of mine had heard of this system so I Googled it and there are 3 or 4 websites out there that go into details, but not the specifics.

    It is also known as a Provençal well & has been around in one form or another for centuries.



    This would work for a hot summers day But here in Canada it would be useless in Winter. Frost goes down 4 feet and even -10 degrees would require a long run


    Probably a bit late to add to this discussion, but I think the confusion here is in the translation; Canadian or Provençal Well is a direct translation from the French. The English term is Ground-coupled heat exchanger.

    Basically it’s a means of ventilating a building with cool air in the summer and relatively warm air in the winter. If the system is well designed and you go down to 3 or 4 meters in France, you’ll get a year-round temperature of about 10 degrees. That’s good in summer, but will still need to be heated further in the winter, so either you’d have to block it off in winter or have a really well insulated house, with the air inlet as your only ventilation and then heat that air as it comes in, rather than drawing in colder air through a diret inlet.

    In any case, you need to draw the air through the pipes with a fan operated ventilator. In summer the air in the pipes, being cooler than in the building, will stay below. In winter, I’m not sure that your heating would be enough to draw without a ventilator. My interest here is to install this system to keep my cheese stores at a constant temperature of 10 – 12 degrees year round.

    You can download a pretty good guide (in French) here:

    or have a look at this link:

    Hope this helps


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