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Old 07/24/13, 07:19 AM
Join Date: Jul 2013
Location: New Zealand, Far North, North Island
Posts: 31
Wood stove/burner Water Heating?

I've asked this in another post but I am curious to know how common it is in the US to use a wood stove/burner to heat your hot water cylinder?
Here in New Zealand it has been common place in many homes since back in the 1930's.

The system was called 'The w.e.t.back system' because the hot water cylinder sat behind or beside a wood burner in a cupboard at a higher level (hot water rises) and the copper tubing from the cylinder would go down into the back of the fire box and snake back and forth, then back up to the cylinder again. This system was used even in on-grid homes as a cheaper way to heat water and home.

Growing up I remember always seeing these in ours and other homes.

Come winter or when you wanted, you could switch off your electric hot water cylinder and use the wood stove/burner,or as we knew the little compact ones as 'chippies'.

Now with my own family living on a off-grid property, I had a wood stove installed with this system.

We are lucky to have 60 acres of mostly bush land with a endless supply of wood for our needs.

I have the stove burning most days in winter and maybe every second - third day in warmer months to heat water and cook.

With our wood stove and the right wood, it only takes me around one hour to get my water boiling. We love it.

I have lived with this type of water heating since birth and just wanted to know how common it is in the US?

Is it mainly used over there in a off-grid setup?

I hope these pics work. The first one is our cylinder setup which sits behind the wood stove in its own cupboard located in the hallway.

Wood stove/burner Water Heating?-imageuploadedbytapatalk-21374664523.695256.jpg

Wood stove/burner Water Heating?-imageuploadedbytapatalk-21374664580.833310.jpg
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Old 07/24/13, 10:05 AM
Join Date: Oct 2010
Posts: 852
In the US, the term we use is "Thermosyphon Hot Water". Here's a link to an American company that sells thermosyphon kits to add to your woodstove

I myself have an antique Monarch wood cookstove that is already ported for a thermosyphon coil. I was going to purchase their 18 inch model to install into the Monarch.

It's a low priority right now because I have a battery operated propane on-demand water heater hooked to 5 gallon tanks. I do however see it as an oportunity to dramatically reduce propane consumption in the winter months.

In the very long term, what I envision for my own homestead is a passive solar water heater for the summer months, with woodstove hot water in th winter. I could still turn on the propane any time inbetween when one or the other just doesn't meet my needs.
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Old 07/24/13, 10:39 AM
Join Date: Jun 2010
Location: W. Oregon
Posts: 10,057
We have a small wood cook stove, a trash burner really, with a coil, up to a small tank. We have a gravity spring for pressure. The hot water also goes through a poly line on the roof to pre warm. The coil on the roof is the hot water from April to October. This little heater has been around since I started on my own, at 12, in an old chicken coop. I found it at the old town dump and drug it home when I was 8. 50 years ago. Never used the coil until I built the off grid cabin. I knew I would find a use for it someday. The old couple that lived near us at the farm when I was growing up had running water at the back porch. A galv tub was the wash basin for everything. No kitchen sink or bathroom. She would dip a pan in the tub to heat water. Dishes were left to soak, AND they brushed their false teeth there. Never saw it dumped out, sometimes the faucet was left on for it to overflow for a bit....James

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Old 07/25/13, 09:39 PM
Join Date: Sep 2009
Location: Northeast
Posts: 89
Nearly every tugboat and oil barge that was built in the Northeastern US from the 1920's thru the 1970's used these types of Themosyphon Hot Water tank systems.. The upright vertical tanks were always placed in the galley next to the large cast steel/iron cooking stoves.... The galley stove was always left on if a crew was onboard the vessel... The stoves were usually fuel oil fed which provided heat for cooking, warmth for the galley area, hot water for cleaning dishes, showers, and hand cleaning for the crew members.... Alot of these water tanks were made of solid copper or brass... Won't that be a collectors item today !!!!!

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Old 07/26/13, 04:34 AM
Join Date: Jul 2013
Location: New Zealand, Far North, North Island
Posts: 31
Wow that is cool. Yes, the copper tanks and wire/tubing are very sort after here. Actually, anything copper is likely to be stolen if not tied down.
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Old 07/26/13, 06:53 AM
Join Date: Sep 2009
Location: Northeast
Posts: 89
Yes,, unfortunately, the same problem here in the states concerning unsecured copper building materials.... When tugboats were still being built in the Northeast in the 50's and 60's often times the heavy steel galley stoves and the copper tanks were transferred from vessels that were taken out of service.... These very simple and durable hot water/ cooking systems were built to last a life time...

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Old 07/26/13, 07:00 PM
Join Date: Jul 2013
Location: New Zealand, Far North, North Island
Posts: 31
I am comfortable with this way of heating our water. I guess because I've known it all my life. We have the wood and its not a hassle for me to do. I think it's brilliant if you can do it.

We have some old copper lines in our property up in the bush. I'd say it would take a couple of hours to track in from the road to where they are. But still someone tried to get those lines. They didn't succeed but yea, shows the lengths they will go to.
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