Hot Water Heater 'off' switch...

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by Maggie, Sep 22, 2005.

  1. Maggie

    Maggie Well-Known Member Supporter

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    We are trying to cut the electric usage in our home. Our hot water heater is down in the crawl space, not easy to get at every day. Is it possible to 'throw' the switch on the circuit breaker off for about 8-10 hours/day? Our son thinks it might be too much wear and tear on the circuit breaker.
    Any ideas? Thanks, Maggie
     
  2. TnAndy

    TnAndy Well-Known Member Supporter

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    He's right.

    Breakers are NOT really meant to be used as switches. Switches have contacts rated for that "make-break" point where there can be a small arc ( and even they burn out eventually )....breakers do not.

    What you need is a water heater timer switch wired in between the breaker and the heater. You can set the number of hours a day the heater will run, most of them can be set to come on-off twice a day. About 30-40 bucks for the timer.

    Also, get a water heater insulation kit.....inch or two of fiberglass with a platic coating on the outside and put over the heater.....or just use regular 3 1/2" batt insulation and duct tape in place.....unless you have a super well insulated heater, they can always use more. I did this to ours back in the mid 70's ( when heater were not as well insulated as today ), wire a watt/hr meter in to watch it, and cut the electric use by more than 1/3.

    Also,insulating the hot water line from the heater is a good idea.....when the heater does run, the heat travels up the pipe, especially if metal, and bleeds off even if water is not being run.....more if water IS being run....

    And last, a check valve on the cold water incoming pipe is idea.....the pressure increase from heating water can actually force hot water back into a cold water line for a ways ( and thus bleed off heat ) when a cold water tap is opened, or a toliet flushed.

    All that may be more than you want to do, or even can do if you can't get to much of the piping to insulate for example, but if anyone builds new, all that ought to be done IMHO.
     

  3. DrippingSprings

    DrippingSprings In Remembrance

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    just like central air and air conditioners in general you will find it is actually cheaper to just change the temp setting and leave it on all the time rather than turn it on and off. Turn the temp down on the hot water heater. Leave it on. If you turn it off it will run alot longer to heat the water. Left on it will cyle on and off based on your setting the temp. You turn it off and let it get cold it will run constantly. Just the reverse of ac. If you let your house get to 100 degrees during the day and turn the ac on at late evening the compressor will work constantly to get the temp down whereas set at a moderate temp it will not engage the compressor as much. Relatively it is like driving. Stop and go uses more fuel than cruising at 65 all the time.
     
  4. TnAndy

    TnAndy Well-Known Member Supporter

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    LOVE that tagline......ahahahahahaaaaaaa "boycott baby oil"....ahahaaaaaa...

    yeah, that's a good one !
     
  5. Ed Norman

    Ed Norman Well-Known Member

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    I take the hottest showers, so we set the thermostat to heat the water just enough for my shower. I take a shower with all hot water, the cold tap is off. Why heat it hotter than we need it?

    And also, why do you have a hot water heater? We heat cold water. Sorry, I just love asking people that question. Same thing when I hear someone say they shot a deer in the front shoulder. I ask them where the rear shoulder is. Ha ha.
     
  6. comfortablynumb

    comfortablynumb Well-Known Member

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    if the tank is well wrapped, and the temp set right, it will be chaper to keep water hot than to have to kick on a few hours a day to heat it back up.
     
  7. Lisa A

    Lisa A Well-Known Member

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    We had a water heater timer installed - nice; but it's 220 volt, so we
    wouldn't do it ourselves, and took the electrican quite a while to install. And
    electicans cost the world! So it turned out to be quite expensive. The
    insulation is probably a lot more cost effective...
     
  8. rambler

    rambler Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Doing the insulation stuff mentioned would be a better bang for your buck, most of the time.

    I'm confused about the check valve tho, as when the water heats, the pressure created must go somewhere, I'd not want a check valve in my system - unless I'm misunderstanding that?

    --->Paul
     
  9. goatlady

    goatlady Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Gee, I flipped my circuit breaker switch for the hot water heater off and on for 15 years with no problems. Hey, Andy, nice to see you again.
     
  10. rambler

    rambler Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Lots of things work out, but they really are not designed for that kind of use. They are mostly there for the protection, & not designed to be used as an on/off switch. Doesn't mean it might work for you, but doesn't mean you should expect it to either.

    I shoulda mentioned, I got a lifetime water heater installed for $120 in my house. A program the local REA has, they will install a large (mine is 80 gallons) fiberglass heater with pretty good insulation and put a controler on it, they generally let it run from 11pm to 7am. They use it for power shaving, controlling power use from peak times.

    Has worked well for me, couldn't find a good water heater for double that price, and supposedly as long as I don't move should be replaced free if it dies.

    So, I guess i'm used to the on/off thing on a aily basis, but from a different angle. And it is a well insulated heater as well as the pipes attached to it, that _really_ counts if you are trying to save energy by turning it off - don't allow any heat loss or you will just spend more $$$ reheating the water when you turn it on.

    --->Paul
     
  11. Don Armstrong

    Don Armstrong In Remembrance

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    Having the timer heat the water for you twice a day - say 5am-8am and 5pm-8pm - or controlling it manually will save money. I like the timer because it will do the job before everyone gets home in the evening, and avoid someone having to get up early to turn it on in the morning.

    You turn the power off before you've finished using the hot water, then run the stored hot water down to just warm as you finish using it. Thing is, the system will lose heat based on the temperature difference of the water versus outside temperature. If you leave the power on, the temperature stays high, loses a lot of heat quickly, then reheats, and repeats this cycle. Turn the power off, run the water temp down to just warm with the last shower of the morning or evening, and you don't lose too much of the heat you put into the water. You don't lose it, because you've already used it.

    Turning the thermostat down will help too, if you've got a system that heats more water than you use. And no question insulating the water tank and the hot water pipes will help as well.

    Or of course you could have a "wet-back system" (nothing to do with illegal immigants) in your wood-burning (heating or cook or both) stove to heat your water, and maybe a solar water heater. That combination gives you hot water from solar whenever possible, even when it's too hot to light the stove. Come winter when the days are shorter and there are more clouds, just in general less solar heating, then you'll be running the wood-burner longer anyway. A solar water-heater isn't a cheap option though.
     
  12. TnAndy

    TnAndy Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Yeah....but you have the circuit breaker gods looking out for you.

    ahahahahaaaaaaaaa....

    How YOU doing ? I seem to follow you around different boards, huh ?
    ( that's FOLLOW, not stalk ! ahahahaaaaaa )

    Get moved in your new digs ??
     
  13. Cindy in PA

    Cindy in PA Well-Known Member

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    We had a timer with an override "on" switch since we built in 1984. It turns off the heater between 9a.m. and 9pm or 8 and 8 depending on the season. The electric company installed it, because we are on a time of day meter where we pay more during the day and less on the off time. We also set our heater to 120 degrees and even right before it goes back on, we still have to use hot and cold for showers. The water never gets cold in those 12 hours. The only time I may have to turn it on late in the day is if a holiday falls on a weekday and we all take alot of showers and I do alot of dishes at the same time. The water will stay hot for a long time.
     
  14. WisJim

    WisJim Well-Known Member Supporter

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    For most households it would make sense to have the water heater on a timer, and run it for peak periods, usually morning and evening. Insulating the tank will help keep the water hot when the timer has the heating elements shut off. We did this for years and found that it saved us money. Then I got a gas water heater with electronic ignition and power venting and have that on a timer, too, and it saves gas over letting it run all day. (I tried it both ways and kept track of gas consumption and running times.)
     
  15. Grandmotherbear

    Grandmotherbear Well-Known Member Supporter

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    What about your weekend cabins? The inlaws used to switch off EVERYTHING but the fridge when they left-at the circuit breakers.. We've been switching off only the stove and hot water heater. Again, using the circuit breakers (but maually shutting off the a/c) I have been worried aboout the hot water heater dying (letting loose a flood) ever since the city house did that to us- and it was 10 years younger!
     
  16. Charleen

    Charleen www.HarperHillFarm.com Supporter

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    We have a timer on our electric water take too. It runs from 4-9pm only. There are only 2 of us, and we're both gone for most of the day. We each take a shower in the evening, and run the dishwasher maybe every other day. Laundry is the luck of the draw for warm water. If the water's warm when I throw a load in-great, if not-that's okay too.

    We still have enough hot water in the morning for each of us to get ready for work or for 1 of us to take another shower if the barn chores got out of hand and we needed another shower. :cow: :1pig:

    We can easily turn on the timer manually if needed.