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Fri Jan 6, 2012, 08:20 AM

Put a switch on my electric water heater, now I only turn it before I'll need really hot water..

One good tank (mine is only 10 gallons) stays warm for most of the day for purposes like hand washing and rinsing greasy dishes, it takes about 25 minutes for the water to warm all the way so between my shower and the rest of my hot water use I have the switch on about an hour a day on average.

It was really pretty easy, I broke one leg of the circuit going to my water heater, spliced in some Romex (house wiring) with some wire nuts and ran it to the switch I have mounted on the side of my kitchen counter. I happened to have a salvaged high grade wall switch I used but any switch rated for the voltage and amperage would have worked.

Romex...



Wire nut..



I also used a residential junction box for the switch..









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Arrow 21 replies Author Time Post
Reply Put a switch on my electric water heater, now I only turn it before I'll need really hot water.. (Original post)
Fumesucker Jan 2012 OP
FSogol Jan 2012 #1
canoeist52 Jan 2012 #2
FSogol Jan 2012 #4
Fumesucker Jan 2012 #8
Fumesucker Jan 2012 #3
FSogol Jan 2012 #5
Ruby the Liberal Jan 2012 #6
Fumesucker Jan 2012 #7
Ruby the Liberal Jan 2012 #9
Fumesucker Jan 2012 #10
Ruby the Liberal Jan 2012 #16
Kolesar Jan 2012 #17
kristopher Jan 2012 #18
Ruby the Liberal Jan 2012 #19
cbayer Jan 2012 #11
silverweb Jan 2012 #12
dimbear Jan 2012 #20
silverweb Jan 2012 #21
Curmudgeoness Jan 2012 #13
Fumesucker Jan 2012 #14
Curmudgeoness Jan 2012 #15

Response to Fumesucker (Original post)

Fri Jan 6, 2012, 08:50 AM

1. Why not get an instantaneous (tankless) water heater? n/t

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Response to FSogol (Reply #1)

Fri Jan 6, 2012, 09:33 AM

2. This seems a cheaper solution than replacing a perfectly good water heater.

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Response to canoeist52 (Reply #2)

Fri Jan 6, 2012, 09:46 AM

4. Ok, I'll rephrase. When your tank controls/element break from being turned on/off

too many times, why not replace it with a tankless model?

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Response to FSogol (Reply #4)

Fri Jan 6, 2012, 10:46 AM

8. Water heaters routinely cycle on and off anyway..

The temperature cycles between a cold limit and a hot limit with a simple thermostat turning on and off the power to the element, putting a switch will make no difference to the tank's life and will probably extend the life of the heating element considerably.

I've used tankless 120v water heaters for a shower in Puerto Rico, it's just barely adequate for a halfway comfortable shower there, most of mainland USA they are definitely not up to the task.

If you have the power, tankless is great, if you don't they aren't useful for showering.

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Response to FSogol (Reply #1)

Fri Jan 6, 2012, 09:36 AM

3. Two reasons...

The first being that tankless heaters cost money ,what I did cost me nothing, I already had everything that I had salvaged from jobs. Even if I had purchased everything it would have been under $20 and possibly under $10.

Second, my electric supply wouldn't handle the amp draw from a tankless heater, you have to have enough power available to instantaneously heat your water flow..

For instance, a Rheem RTE 13, about the minimum size to supply a single shower, draws 13kW at 240V, I only have 120V and about 3kW available..

http://www.rheem.com/product/tankless-electric-water-heaters-rte-13

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Response to Fumesucker (Reply #3)

Fri Jan 6, 2012, 09:59 AM

5. We use these for remote sinks, lavs

and mop sinks in Postal Facilities. They come in 120 volt.
http://www.eemaxinc.com/

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Response to FSogol (Reply #5)

Fri Jan 6, 2012, 10:34 AM

6. Is there somewhere online where you can do a calculation

to determine if it is worth the cost to switch to tankless?

Your link gave me 4 results for Residential, but am not understanding what the differences are between them.

We are getting to that time of year where the water heater allows for a 4-5 minute shower before starting to cool off, and I like the water to be 'room temp' feeling (not steamy/hot) so it isn't a high temperature use/desire issue.

I've been concerned about how much of my electric bill is being sucked up by the water heater, but tankless seem so expensive - are they that more energy efficient?

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Response to Ruby the Liberal (Reply #6)

Fri Jan 6, 2012, 10:41 AM

7. How many gallons is your water heater?

Mine is only ten gallons and I can get about a five minute shower with it fairly warm if not scorching and six or seven if I go for lukewarm.

There are two reasons a tankless is more efficient, first is you aren't storing hot water with the attendant heat leakage from the tank through the insulation, the second is because the tankless is usually put right where the hot water is used so you don't waste hot water in the pipe getting there, both when you turn the hot water on and when you turn it off.

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Response to Fumesucker (Reply #7)

Fri Jan 6, 2012, 10:55 AM

9. 40 and its not climate controlled.

I have the pipes down there wrapped (as well as the tank), but now that overnight 20 degrees are here, it is really really cold in the storage area.

If you are getting the same results I am with a 10 gallon, it sounds like this is something I shouldn't ignore. Its been on my mind, but my handyman can't help with this. The city I live in requires that all paid plumbing issues be done by a state licensed plumber and he isn't willing to lose his general contractor license if he is caught violating that, so I have been putting off getting it addressed.

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Response to Ruby the Liberal (Reply #9)

Fri Jan 6, 2012, 12:35 PM

10. You might want to check the temperature of the hot water from the closest faucet to your tank..

Something like a meat thermometer will do it.

Some tanks do build up sediment on the bottom, it's hard to image that you could have 30 gallons of sediment though but I suppose if the tank was really old..

Keep in mind your shower may flow more than mine too, mine isn't particularly high flow.

Oh, wait.. I just realized what your problem may be..

Some electric tanks have two heating elements, one low and one high, if the low one burns out you will only have a few gallons of hot water in the tank.

ETA: I meant to say one element physically down low in the tank and one up near the top, if only the top one is working the hot water stays at the top and only from the upper heating element up will get really hot.

Yours is probably a tallish and thinnish sort of tank, look for removable covers, there should be one for each element.






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Response to Fumesucker (Reply #10)

Sat Jan 7, 2012, 03:46 PM

16. Thank you!

Yes, tall (about 4' maybe?) and really skinny, but I only remember one removable plate before it was wrapped.



I went down today to open it up and confirm the temp setting and volume (I think its 40?) and can't get to that plate without taking the blanket off. Just as well - I have no business messing with it. If it gets me through the winter, I am going to look into options when I am working again. I'm limited to electric as I have no natural gas connection and can't put propane anywhere (in a city, 0-lot line), so that should cut down some of the research.

Thanks for your help!!!

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Response to Ruby the Liberal (Reply #16)

Tue Jan 10, 2012, 07:21 AM

17. Tankless makes sense in a climate where one must run the air conditioner for a lot of the year

Because waste heat from the hot water tank and pipes must be removed from the home with air conditioning.

However, where I live, we run the furnace for eight months out of the year. The waste heat from the hot water tank actually helps to heat the house. Installing a tankless heater would never pay itself off for me, especially if I paid to put in the very big natural gas line that the tankless heater needs.

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Response to Ruby the Liberal (Reply #16)

Tue Jan 10, 2012, 01:29 PM

18. Fumesucker is correct

Your tank almost certainly has two elements and something is stopping the bottom element from heating the water.

As said, sediment could be the problem since it can form a blanket over the lower element.

I see from the photo that your drain valve (front and center at bottom) is exposed through the insulation. If you have a garden hose that can reach outside, you might want to try flushing it as a first step.

It isn't difficult - there are a number of instructional videos and websites telling you how.
http://www.google.com/search?client=safari&rls=en&q=how+to+flush+your+hot+water+heater&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8

Routine maintenance calls for flushing your HWH once a year to prevent buildup, btw. I learned the hard way that the build-up is what usually causes the element to burn out. If your heater is 10 years or more old and you haven't been flushing it, you might want to price a new one.

In the present grid, electric water heaters usually have a larger carbon footprint than gas, but electric or gas present day units are well insulated and very efficient at heating and containing the heat of the water. Replacement cost and fuel both favor electric.

FWIW in a distributed renewable grid electric hot water and electric home heat systems are poised to become important energy storage systems helping to make the grid more efficient - but that is a couple of decades away.

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Response to kristopher (Reply #18)

Tue Jan 10, 2012, 01:50 PM

19. I can do that.

Never knew that these things needed maintenance, so good to know - thank you!

You wouldn't by any chance have a link that talks about how to compare between tank and tankless for pricing them as well as overall usage costs?

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Response to Fumesucker (Original post)

Fri Jan 6, 2012, 01:30 PM

11. Good for you. This will save both electricity and most likely reduce your use

of water.

We also have to make a conscience decision to make hot water. We have a very small tank, so heating it up doesn't take much time. Then we can consolidate things like showers, laundry, dishes to use the hot water conservatively.

FWIW, the hot water on demand suits a lot of people, but our research indicated that it would use more resources than our current system.

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Response to Fumesucker (Original post)

Fri Jan 6, 2012, 02:45 PM

12. Creative frugality.

I love it!

I'm a renter, so can't mess with the old propane hot water heater here. My frugal solution was to go solar (200' of hose laid out on the roof). I've been using it for almost a year now, as well as gray water for flushing and some gardening.

The limited hot water means showers are short and at midday (with a longer window in the summer, of course), but the water bill is now half what it used to be and I don't need propane at all anymore.

You're going to have substantial savings, too. Way to go!

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Response to silverweb (Reply #12)

Thu Jan 12, 2012, 05:25 AM

20. Kudos. Used the same system for a year or so. Spartan.

Inevitably you end up taking some damnably cold showers, but they're good for your soul.

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Response to dimbear (Reply #20)

Thu Jan 12, 2012, 06:46 PM

21. Not bad at all.

Because I'm in a southern location, where the sun usually shines and it never actually freezes, the coldest the solar water ever gets on a sunny day is lukewarm. I use a modified Japanese-style shower (minus soaking tub), with a small bucket of kitchen-heated water for lathering and a lukewarm rinse -- very efficient and entirely tolerable.

The trick is in the timing, as I'm sure you remember: high noon on chilly days, but much earlier/later on warm days to avoid getting scalded. I'm lucky to work at home, where I can adjust my schedule according the sun's position.

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Response to Fumesucker (Original post)

Fri Jan 6, 2012, 08:26 PM

13. How long have you been on this system?

Have you got any idea how much it is saving you?

I assume that you have an electric water heater, and since mine is gas, this will not work for me, but it is a great idea.

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Response to Curmudgeoness (Reply #13)

Sat Jan 7, 2012, 06:18 AM

14. I only did it a couple of weeks ago..

When I'm paying attention I can tell when my water heater kicks on, the lights dim slightly and the fan in my space heater slows down slightly, it was happening at least ten times a day even when I wasn't using any hot water and possibly more often than that.

Other than my AC the water heater draws more current than anything else in my home, this was the single biggest energy saving measure I could think of.

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Response to Fumesucker (Reply #14)

Sat Jan 7, 2012, 03:30 PM

15. I will be interested to hear how much savings you have.

I have found that some of my efforts to save electricity have been less than stellar for all the work I put into some of them.

I hope this works for you. It sounds like it might if your water heater was having to go on so often without using the hot water.

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