A Broken Hot-Water Tank

| 2/23/2015 10:30:00 AM

Tags: hot water, solar thermal, off the grid, propane, Cam Mather, Ontario, Canada,


One of our hot water tanks broke. I can hear you saying, “One of your hot water tanks? How many do you have?”

We have three hot water tanks. The first tank is part of our Enerworks Solar Domestic Hot Water system. I installed this about 6 years ago. From there the water flows into a second hot water tank with an electric element. I use this as our “dump” or “diversion” load. When the batteries are fully charged by the sun I dump my excess solar electricity into this tank. So now I have a fairly big reservoir of hot water.

From there the water flows to our final hot water tank, which is propane. This tank basically doesn’t come on from about March to October. Since the water flowing into it is already hot from the previous two tanks, it doesn’t need to switch on.

Usually what happens is that one of us will be using hot water, washing the dishes for example, some day in the late autumn and we will hear the big “whoosh” sound that the propane burner makes as it lights. We make a big deal of booing and hissing and screaming and moaning and protesting. (Read more about that on my personal blog.) Somehow it feels like a huge defeat. We can go for so many months heating our water with just the warmth of the sun and then suddenly it seems we have day after day of cloud and there just isn’t enough solar thermal energy to heat our water. The big “whoosh” didn’t happen this fall. It wasn’t a huge problem since we still had lots of hot water. As soon as we begin using the woodstove for heat we load it up with kettles. We do the dishes with zero-carbon hot water from the woodstove. I shave with a kettle-full of water. We have baths filled with water heated on the woodstove.

Eventually we noticed that the water that was coming out of the hot water tap wasn’t very hot. This took a long time because the pilot light was on and the water was still warm. We didn’t need to use hot water from the tap very often.

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