Win a copy of Herbal Medicine From the Heart of the Earth this week in the Medicinal Herbs forum!
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
permaculture forums growies critters building homesteading energy monies kitchen purity ungarbage community wilderness fiber arts art permaculture artisans regional education skip experiences global resources the cider press projects digital market permies.com private forums all forums
this forum made possible by our volunteer staff, including ...
master stewards:
  • Nicole Alderman
  • r ranson
  • Anne Miller
  • Pearl Sutton
  • James Freyr
  • Mike Haasl
stewards:
  • Burra Maluca
  • Joylynn Hardesty
  • paul wheaton
garden masters:
  • Greg Martin
  • Steve Thorn
gardeners:
  • Carla Burke
  • Jay Angler
  • Mike Barkley

DIY on-demand water heater

 
Posts: 17
9
  • Likes 4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Concerning the high cost and complexity of the instant hot water heaters...
About 20 years ago I made one out of parts that can be pretty
easily bought for around fifty dollars and it is still going strong...
Essentially it is made out of 1 inch galvanized pipe and T-fittings..
The T fittings allow you to screw in the 1" threaded screw-in type heating
elements into the heater...  On mine I put in a flow switch (that I
got from a surplus place but that could be bought from a plumbing
supplier)  I wired that to a 240 volt contactor large enough to handle
the flow of electricity...  (I got mine out of a junked large air
compressor)...  and I screwed in two heating elements in series into
the one inch pipe... (that added up to give me the wattage that I needed)..
All sort of hard to explain...  but you get the picture I hope..  It doesn't take
up much room and remarkably it is still working well years later..  I had
commercial bought ones before and got tired of replacing expensive little parts
in them (like their heating elements that would burn up if some air got in the line) or
their electronics which seemed to be damaged easily by power surges...  etc..
This thing I have now just won't quit and when it does I can just get
the parts to repair it easily and cheaply...  I don't have the luxury of a really
steaming shower (especially in the winter when the incoming water is
colder) but my power bills for a 3 person household are under
$25/month so I can live with it..
 
gardener
Posts: 2623
Location: latitude 47 N.W. montana zone 6A
432
cat pig rocket stoves
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Sounds interesting David;  
I'm not a fan of electric heating but if it works well for you than its a winner!
I have lived with on demand Propane hot water for over 40 years.
Paloma hot water heaters are outstanding! My first lasted 20 years before I replaced it with a larger Paloma (Got Married)
I sold my old smaller one to a fellow in Hawaii for almost what it cost me! He was ecstatic, as the smaller model was no longer made.
That larger Paloma model ph-12 is still on the job. No electricity needed, only maintenance is blowing the dust off the burners once a year and because I have gravity water , a quick clean of the water inlet screen is it!  They just don't have many parts to fail.  
Now the new on demand heaters are a nightmare!  Noisy , need electric power, and have all sorts of electronic parts to fail.  
 
master pollinator
Posts: 4941
1114
transportation duck trees rabbit tiny house chicken earthworks building woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I thought that was pretty neat too David.

I heard too the new On Demand Electric systems are a nightmare because they draw so much electricity. Some people have older homes only too find out they are drawing 80 amps of their 100 amp service which does not exactly work.

If I am reading it right, you got around that by using regular hot water heater elements, which would have some sacrifice, in that your system would not have super hot, on-demand hot water. The only concerns I would have is it failing provide hot enough water for proper hygiene on washing dishes. If a person hand-washes dishes then they would want it pretty hot to kill bacteria, but a dish washer requires pretty hot water too. In my tiny house I ran into this problem. At first I thought it was because my run from my hot water heater, to my dish washer was too far, but then I tried bumping the heat up on the hot water heater, and it worked as it was supposed too.

I need to make a homemade version of a BoilerMate on my main house, but I was not sure how to wire it in to the PLC of my heating system. I have a Relay Control with Priority so I know it should come out of that of course, but how would that work? Do I need an aquastat, or is a temp sensor enough to get the relay to fire the boiler and circulator? I was never sure, so I never bought a BoilerMate, nor built a homemade version either.

 
pollinator
Posts: 567
Location: Penticton, Canada
110
building solar woodworking rocket stoves wood heat greening the desert
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
David,  Any chance you could give us a diagram or picture of your system? It sounds quite interesting that I may want to implement. I maintain like 10 electric hot water heater tanks and each time one gets replaced, I scrounge all the working components before recycling the tank. Needless to say over the years, I have lots of used parts that are just collecting dust and would be nice to use them. Thanks!
 
David Fraleigh
Posts: 17
9
  • Likes 6
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Here hopefully is a picture of the materials that I bought to make another of my water heaters.  Unfortunately I haven't wired it up yet but here are the parts in the picture to give you a better idea.  The paddle type flow switch will go into another T that I will plumb into the water line and then it will be wired to the contactor which in turn will send power to the two 1" screw-in type heating elements (I will wire them in in parallel instead of in series)...  To my surprise the galvanized 1" pipe and fittings were bought at Rural King for virtually half of what Lowes wanted for them.    The elements are regular screw in type water heater elements.  In my case I use 4500/3380W ones...  As with all on-demand systems the less the flow throught them the hotter the water gets,.. Also the temperature of the water going into them greatly affects the resulting water temperature coming out.  During winter time my showers are not full blast but they are adequate for me.   The long and the short of it is that I have hot water in my bathroom and kitchen and my monthly electric bill is $35 and $20 of it is a "customer charge"...  My water heater has been working fine for over 20 years now.  The parts I bought were to make one for a friend...
waterheater.jpg
[Thumbnail for waterheater.jpg]
 
Gerry Parent
pollinator
Posts: 567
Location: Penticton, Canada
110
building solar woodworking rocket stoves wood heat greening the desert
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hi David, Thank you again for the description and picture. It looks like a very easy setup. Would also like to see a follow up photo(s) of it installed if you can. 🤩
 
gardener
Posts: 1454
Location: Cascades of Oregon
47
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I don't see a  pressure relief valve any where in the set up? Is one being used? I have an oil fired Toyo instant household hot water heater and have been impressed with its performance.
 
gardener
Posts: 664
Location: SoCal USA
130
cat dog trees wofati composting toilet bike solar
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hi Travis, I wanted to point out on your comment about water being hot enough to kill bacteria- years ago I was involved in a study for anti-bacterial soap testing, and the research at that time stated that bacteria needed exposure to 120F+ water for 20+ minutes to properly kill. It's why the dishwasher sanitize option heats the hot water even more. So in most cases it seems the only benefit of warm/hot water when washing is to help dissolve grease so it comes off. So I personally wouldn't be too concerned about the water being hot enough for cleaning, just hot enough to dissolve grease or for bathing/shower comfort.
 
pollinator
Posts: 1417
Location: RRV of da Nort
177
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
David,  unless I'm calculating incorrectly, two elements at 4800W using 240V would be using 20A each element, yes?  When wiring in parallel, do you just use a single 50A breaker?  Would it work to wire each element separately using 2 circuits each with a 30A breaker?  All of this assuming the correct sizing of the wiring, etc.  

Wow...just...COOL!....(or 'hot', which ever way you want to look at it.).

Edited with the picture below added---it seems like one could mix and match pipe size and elements.  The element below is 24" long and 6000W.  Don't know if a longer element would provide any advantage in this water heating configuration..?
LongWaterHeatElement.JPG
[Thumbnail for LongWaterHeatElement.JPG]
 
pollinator
Posts: 186
Location: Western central Illinois, Zone 6a
73
hunting trees solar wood heat rocket stoves ungarbage
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator


I'm gonna need to build one.

One thought on getting hotter water is to increase the size of the pipe around the heater elements slightly to provide more "dwell" time of the water as it passes the elements. I wish I had time to test that theory. Also, do you insulate the pipes at all? I wonder if you lose much heat that way.
 
David Fraleigh
Posts: 17
9
  • Likes 4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I never put a temperature and pressure relief valve into this setup but agree that in the interest of safety perhaps I should have.  With that in mind it could probably be added easily into the bottom of the system by replacing that 90 degree elbow with a 1" TEE and putting it there.  I have however wired an indicator light into my system so that a light in a receptacle in my bathroom turns on and shines when the heater is on.  This is sort of superfluous in that I can sort of hear the heater's contactor hum (beneath the countertop in the adjoining kitchen) when it is on.  As for a breaker in the system I use a double pole 40 amp 240 volt one and some heavy duty (I think #8 wire to put it all together...
    And to change the subject to perhaps another topic...  My next attempt to simplify my water heating system is to try those on-demand shower heads that are much in use in South America. (go to Ebay and search for "instant, heater, shower head") for examples...   I am considering trying one in a motor home I am fixing for someone...  Should be even cheaper and simpler than the water heater I have described making above.
 
Gerry Parent
pollinator
Posts: 567
Location: Penticton, Canada
110
building solar woodworking rocket stoves wood heat greening the desert
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Thank you for the update David. The place where I'm thinking of trying it first is under the sink in our kitchen that usually takes over a minute to even start to get warm water out of the tap. So instead of it replacing our electric hot water heater, it would supplement it to save on water waste into the septic system.
I've drawn a picture of what you've shown in your photo but also added where a possible second element and flow switch would be located. Is this correct?

Earlier you said " The paddle type flow switch will go into another T that I will plumb into the water line and then it will be wired to the contactor which in turn will send power to the two 1" screw-in type heating elements (I will wire them in in parallel instead of in series)"
Not sure what the "contactor" is? Do you mean the flow switch? Wondering if you could elaborate with a simple wiring schematic. Thanks!

EDIT: Thanks Robert...forgot to add that on. Updated picture.
on-demand-hot-water-heater.JPG
[Thumbnail for on-demand-hot-water-heater.JPG]
 
Robert Ray
gardener
Posts: 1454
Location: Cascades of Oregon
47
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
If it were just me perfect and simple. The addition of a pressure relief valve and heat shield/screen for safety of others would be inexpensive additions in version 2.0.
 
David Fraleigh
Posts: 17
9
  • Likes 5
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Gerry,..  Your picture is perfect except that the contactor is missing in it and is a very necessary part of this device. It makes the high amperage current available to the heating elements.  The flow switch is relatively delicate and can only switch a minimal amount of electricity (probably just a few amps)....  It would instantly burn up if you tried to put 40 amps through it...  Instead the flow switch sends its current to the contactor which in turn activates an electromagnet inside of it which makes the actual high amperage connection.  These contactors are used commonly in almost every high amperage situation..., AC, compressors, heaters,.. etc., etc.,  and are inexpensive and easily available.  You have to match it to the voltage and amperage you need,..  In this case it probably should be 240 volts and 40 amps,  Contactors and flow switches are available on the internet.  My latest one (in the picture) is a higher quality one than the one that I have used for these many years,...  (I think that I got it from the Surplus Center for $5 back then0...    An important note here regarding flow switches is that they rate them to switch at different  Gallons per Minute.   You want to be sure to get one that activates at very little flow...  probably at 1 GPM or so,..  Otherwise it won't switch on at the low flow rate going through the pipes...
 
Gerry Parent
pollinator
Posts: 567
Location: Penticton, Canada
110
building solar woodworking rocket stoves wood heat greening the desert
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Thank you for the information David. Juggling quite a few things right now but I think I have enough info to order the parts and pick the rest up at the store.
 
I like tacos! And this tiny ad:
Clean With Cleaners You Can Eat by Raven Ranson
https://permies.com/t/edible-clean
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
Boost this thread!