water nuker setup
Sunday, October 29 2006
The solar panels on the roof, which collect heat and not electricity, have made it possible to turn off the boiler during the warm months. With only two brief exceptions, the boiler has remained off since early April. But this hasn't meant that we've had free and abundant supplies of hot water. There have been occasions when the skies have remained cloudy for days on end and the last of the hot water is used up. There are only 53 gallons, and when they're gone the well water is about 51 degrees Fahrenheit. That makes for a rather brisk shower.
We've been reluctant to turn on the boiler, choosing to do so only when there is no hot water and we have guests. For our part, we can abstain from showers for as long as nature dictates. In my youth, baths and showers were always luxuries, and I can happily do without. I've found that cleaning yourself with just a sink and room-temperature water is a tolerable misery. I've done it hundreds of times.
Nevertheless, we live in a modern world and, for the time being at least, we still have easy access to abundant sources of energy. I'd like to take advantage of this energy and use it to heat water on occasions when we need hot water but don't have any. But I want to do this without resorting to the oil-fired boiler, which is grossly inefficient for small heating tasks. So the other day I ordered a small Titan tankless electric water heater. I would have considered a tankless natural gas heater, but I didn't want to have to worry about how to vent the gases (you're not supposed to vent to a chimney shared with an oil burner). I know that heating water with electricity costs twice what it does to heat water with natural gas, but this is a stop-gap method to be used rarely, and so it doesn't have to be the most cost-effective one.
Today I installed the bypass system for the new heater. This was an interconnected system of three ball valves allowing hot water to either flow directly from the hot water tank into the household hot water network or to be bypassed through another system first. That other system will be the new tankless heater. I'll be able to choose to use it or not, depending on the setting of valves and its huge 60 amp circuit breaker. Past experience has taught me to always make upgrades to systems allow for an instant reversion to the old way.
In conversations with Gretchen, I've been referring to the tankless heater as a "Zapper" or "electric chair for water." I've been using a brand new verb, "Nyrrrrrrr!" to refer to how the heating takes place. I'll probably end up calling the device a "water nuker," as it has always been common in my family to refer to electric devices with the adjective "nuke." This was a reference to the nuclear source of much of our electricity. In those days the electricity came from the North Anna Nuclear Generating Station. Up here we depend on Indian Point's 5 gigawatts of safe, clean, and terroristically tempting nuclear power.
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