Though you may not realize it, one of the biggest energy wasters in your home is something that's probably taken for granted: your hot water heater. In fact, tests conducted by independent research groups indicate that this inconspicuous appliance accounts for from 1/4 to a whopping 2/3 of an average home's energy use simply because it's constantly "brewing" a large quantity of H2O.
Luckily, there are alternatives, and the Dual Magamex wood-burning water heater—recently given a "trial by fire" at MOTHER EARTH NEWS' research facilities—is one of the best. Now, right from the start we'd like to point out that the Dual Magamex isn't a massive boiler that requires half a cord of wood to get the job done ... but it's no teakettle, either. The tank has a capacity of just over 14 gallons, which means that it can readily supply the hot water needs of most households especially if the taps and shower are equipped with "water saving" fixtures. As an added advantage, this limited amount of liquid can be brought up to comfortable temperatures with just a few scraps of kindling (4.5 pounds, to be exact).
Mind you, though, the Magamex isn't unique merely because it uses wood as a fuel source. This ingenious gadget is also equipped to burn oil or kerosene if necessary, thus allowing you to heat the initial tankful of water rapidly with tinder, then switch over to an oil fuel to keep the incoming supply warm for extended periods at minimum cost.
Frankly, our research crew was a bit skeptical when they first set up the test. After all, how could such a meager amount of fuel be expected to warm more than 14 gallons of liquid in less than an hour? Once we fired it up, though, the heater performed like a champ, raising the temperature of the water from 52°F to 152°F in less than 45 minutes—better even than some conventional units! Of course, as cool liquid is introduced into the system to replace the hot water drawn out, it too heats rapidly. The workmanship on the Dual Magamex is topnotch as well. The heater is made of 18 gauge, heavy galvanized steel and can withstand pressure of up to 85 PSI (which is far more than should ever develop in the tank).
Surprisingly enough, the wood burner can serve as more than just a source of hot water. If it's installed in a kitchen or bathroom, for instance, the device will act as a small space heater as well.
The only possible drawback we can see to this unit is that it'll require a flue stack vented to the outdoors. But an oil- or gas-fired heater would need a chimney too, so all in all it seems that the cards are stacked in the Magamex's favor. The system is completely compatible with your existing plumbing (all you have to do is install a temperature and pressure relief valve, which is available in any hardware store or plumbing supply house). If you're looking for an easy, inexpensive way to make a noticeable dent in your utility bill, check out the Dual Magamex. Your budget will be glad you did!