Wood Stove Water Heater

Preheat your water on a wood stove to save on your electric bill.


| November/December 1983


Two years ago, my wife and I opened our November electric bill . . . and nearly fell over when we read the amount due: $80.78! Worse yet, the next month, despite our determined efforts to use as little current as possible, the tab still topped $70.

We had to do something to cut our utility costs . . . but what? 

A Radiant Idea is Born

Well, I came up with one fairly obvious answer to the question later that winter, when — as I was working in the basement — I noticed that our water heater was giving off (and therefore wasting) a surprising amount of warmth. While patching that heat leak by wrapping the tank in a blanket of leftover building insulation, I kept thinking that there must be more I could do to reduce the gadget's constant — and costly — appetite for electricity. Then I pictured our wood stove upstairs, quietly producing plenty of comfortable, economical heat . . . and that's when it occurred to me that perhaps those low-cost calories could preheat our water: Maybe the incoming liquid could be piped to a storage tank set beside the log burner, and then channeled to the basement appliance. I figured that by lowering the number of degrees the water had to be heated (at the time, the temperature difference between our cold and hot water was a considerable 68 degree Fahrenheit), I'd also reduce the amount of time the unit was actually on . . . and thus our electricity costs.

The following spring, I scavenged around for a suitable used storage container . . . but eventually gave up when the best I could find was a tank that had rusted inside. So, splurging a bit, I bought a 40-gallon, glass-lined model from Sears, Roebuck and Co. for about $90. I gave the vessel a coat o high heat-tolerant black paint, before wrestling it into place — upright — beside my wood burner.

To my dismay, the addition stood much higher than our stove and looked very cumbersome and unattractive. The solution, obviously, was to lay the tank on its side . . . but I knew that, in order to do so, I'd have to support the vessel somehow, or 

[1] the tank would tend to roll, and 





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