January 25, 2011

Project Next: Water Heater

More and more things are getting crossed off the bathroom project list:
  • paint moulding
  • toilet seat
  • hang door
  • paint door
  • sink
  • faucet
  • window treatment
  • towel hooks
  • wall cabinet
  • toilet paper holder
  • insulate floor in crawlspace
  • hand towel hanger

With the end of that project in sight, Dan took some time to catch up on one of our 2010 goals, install a new water heater. The old one had started to leak and hadn't been very consistent heating water, so replacing it was moved up to "next" on our house project list.

Old water heater in crawl space

The old water heater was a lowboy model which resided in the crawl space. Not only did it make it difficult to access the rest of the crawl space, but it's location made it impossible to maintain. When we turned the back room of the addition into the new pantry, we also decided that the old pantry would become a utility room. That's where we put the new water heater.

New water heater
in utility room
Tankless water heaters are all the rage, and originally that's what we planned to install too. After some research though, we ended up with a plain, old fashioned, non-digital, non-computerized,  conventional storage tank water heater. Why? For several reasons.

The real plus of the tankless heaters is that once warmed up, they give an endless supply of hot water. Considering that the only things we use hot water for are dishes (done by hand), showers for just two of us, and an occasional bath (which the old water heater couldn't supply), having unlimited hot water really wasn't a necessity.

Energy savings is another selling point and I did some research on that. The chart on this page, was helpful. As you can see, the best savings are for the gas tankless models. We don't have gas, and the savings on the electric models wasn't as enticing. Add to that the cost of the water heater itself (double or more the cost of conventional water heaters), the cost of increased water down the drain while waiting for it to heat up, plus the fact that they require increased maintenance if one has hard water, and it really didn't seem like a wise choice for us. Two articles were useful in this decision making process:

There are other ways we can save on our water heating bill. One is to make a solar water heater to augment the electric one, and we plan to do that. The second is that our wood cookstove has a 5 gallon water reservoir, which will help.

Installing the new one was a relative piece of cake. The real fun began when we tried to remove the old one.

At first we thought we could tie a strap around it and pull it out of the crawlspace with the pickup truck. It soon became apparent that this wasn't going to work.

Dan managed to squeeze by it to see if guiding and pushing helped. It didn't.

We hooked up a garden hose to drain it, removed the insulation, and with a hacksaw, he cut off all the pipes sticking up out of the top. No joy, and by that time he was wondering if I'd be trying to push dinner and a sleeping bag back into the crawlspace for him that night. We could imagine the headlines, "Water Heater Traps Man in Crawl Space!"

In the end he had to kick out the crawlspace door sill. Fortunately it was easily repaired, but the old water heater was out!!!

Now there is more room to maneuver in the crawlspace and the new water heater is in a more accessible location.

With this project under our belts, we can start looking ahead to doing the kitchen! We've already been doing some brainstorming, scanning magazines and kitchen books, plus doing a lot of discussing. We still have to finish up the last few bathroom project details, but it looks as though the kitchen remodel will be commencing soon.

Project Next: Water Heater © January 2011 by 


Michelle said...

You two are some of the most can-do, self-sufficient people I "know," and I am always inspired and humbled by all you tackle. The research you do and then so generously share is much appreciated. And I'm excited for you to have enough hot water for a bath! Sometimes there is no substitute. :-)

Anonymous said...

Congratulations! What a job getting that out and a great reward in beginning the kitchen.

-Heidi said...

What a job! I love the energy and practicality on your place! I'm glad to see you go with what works for *you*! I thought my greenhouse cleaning today was a great effort until I saw this... now I feel just plain lazy! ~grin~

Lynda said...

I'm impressed! It took me 6 years after my kitchen remodel to even think about the bathroom remodel! Both were too traumatic for me! You two work very well together. I admire the amount of research you do before taking on a project. I just jump in, make a mess and then pay someone to *fix* it! ;)

Doyu Shonin said...

Hilarious! Read him this one: http://risashome.blogspot.com/2008/02/standing-sideways.html

We took out our old heater and did the same research and put in a fiberglass-hulled double-insulated one that the utility sells for half price as a rebate scheme. The inlet line comes from a solar hot water heater that we built ourselves, which pre-heats the water half the year. It helps a lot. In winter the wood stove also pitches in; we heat our dishwater there.

Leigh said...

Michelle, aw, your kind words are humbling. If it wasn't for Dan, almost none of this stuff would get done around here. He's a project person. And to think he complains because middle age has slowed him down!

Evelyn, I didn't think we'd ever get to the kitchen. I'm guessing that project will go a whole lot slower than anything else we've done so far.

Heidi, well, once the hot water was disconnected, there was a definite sense of "better get 'er done!" LOL

Lynda, I do the research and he does the grunt work! Our funds largely determine what we do, and what we hire someone else to do. Since the bank account is kinda low these days, we're getting plenty of hands on around the place. :)

Risa, let's hear it for research! In the end I was so glad we did, and not simply go with the trend. I'm interested that you have a solar hookup to your water heater. Did you blog about that? I need to search your blog to see.

I read the post about your leak and had to chuckle, what an adventure! These old houses really do have their quirks.

Jane @ Hard Work Homestead said...

Thanks for the links on the water heaters. I am going to need to do something with ours for the summer. We heat our domestic hot water with our wood boiler in the winter, but I wasn't sure weather tankless or solar for summer. We have gas, but I hate to pay the gas company any more than necessary.

Mr. H. said...

I'm glad you shared this as we have considered a tankless water heater in the past. Now I have much to consider.

That really does look like a terrible place for a water heater, glad you were able to find a new location.

Mama Pea said...

We've never built a new home from the ground up but have lived in and remodeled our share of "older" places. Not to say it can't be done (and let's face it, finances do dictate what we can or can't do) but so many times we've looked at each other and said, "Sure would be easier if we were building and could do it right the first time." Sure do admire the energy and effort you two are willing to put into the project.

Renee Nefe said...

we considered tankless when we replaced our water heater and then ended up with a regular one also. Pretty much for the same reasons...the price didn't justify the "savings". I didn't even know about the warm up time.

I'm so happy that you're getting all these projects done. You sure keep busy. And keep us in awe.

Laura said...

Wow, you are adventurous. I, personally, hate plumbing, and have had more than my share of issues with an electric water heater. The problem wasn't the water heater, it was the breaker, which I found out AFTER I had replaced the water heater...

Leigh said...

Jane, we have a gas line at the street, but decided against having it run to the house. One thing that concerns me is that with all the talk of oil and peak oil, I can only imagine that natural gas prices will rise as oil prices do. And once up, prices never seem to come down.

Mr. H, it truly does pay to research,doesn't it? And we still scratch our heads over why in the world the previous owners put it under there.

Mama Pea, I wish I had $10 for every time we've said that!!!! Of course, if we'd done that we'd have sunk all our savings in to the land, and two years later still trying to save up enough to get started building!

Renee, it almost makes you wonder who those tankless H2O heaters are made for???

Oh Laura, that would have made me mad! One of those kick self in seat of pants kind of experiences.

Theresa said...

Bravo! Doesn't it always amaze how hard getting something out can be. Makes you wonder if the water heater was plopped there so they decided to build the house around it. ;) We had an old furnace like that, a coal burner turned over to an oil boiler. We had to sledge hammer it to get it out of the basement.
We too researched the tankless heaters. They have come down quite a bit since we priced them over 10 years ago and ended up just were you are, with the standard electric WH.
Kitchen forward ho!

Woolly Bits said...

I had a good giggle reading about this - sometimes you wonder how people got the stuff in there in the first place. maybe there was a heater first and they built the house around it?:)) we had an immersion heater in our boiler, but even though it heated up the water quite quickly, it used up a lot of electricity. when it broke we decided not to replace it and have managed with normal back boilers ever since. of course this means that you only have hot water when the oven runs - but this is the case most nights anyway! and one can adjust habits if needed to match the hot water supply. I only do dishes once in the evening (normally at least), but if I need more very hot water for the kitchen, it's cheaper to boil a pot on the gas cooker! visitors are usually a bit dismayed, when they can't just shower whenever they feel like it, but given the choice, I'd rather pay less for electricity! we might go for solar panels eventually, at least to help out a bit....

Anonymous said...

Congrats on your new water heater. We have a tankless water heater, with water pre-heated by solar panels. The water circulates in the system and is kept heated by an in-line device similar to that which hotels use to provide instant hot water to their guests. The fluid that circulates through the solar panels is within a system of pipes that wrap around a tank that looks like a very large water heater, and they warm the water that is in a reservoir within that tank, probably about 50 gallons or so. That warmed water and the water that's in the loop are the first water that's used. FYI for others than Leigh, most dishwashers now heat the water to the temperature needed, so the hot water needn't be set so high. We use heating oil to heat the house, although I considered moving to a propane system when we replaced the boiler. I, like Leigh, am dubious of switching to gas for the same reasons, but this does mean that we are dependent on electricity for all our utilities, including the well. -Sue in MA

luckybunny said...

Congrats! That's a tremendous amount of hard work. And thank heavens now you'll be able to have a full hot bath when you'd like! I couldn't manage without that in the winter :) Great pictures too.

Leigh said...

Theresa, LOL. I can only imagine how they got it in. It's fortunate they never had any problems with it. It was an off brand I've never heard of before. Kitchen update soon!

Bettina, good point. It really isn't that difficult to adjust usage to availability, if one is willing! Our electric bill was so high last month, that we are definitely willing to make some changes in our habits.

I think the tankless heaters best serve folks with large families, or whose business requires lots of hot water, such as a restaurant or laundry.

Sue, I hadn't read anything about that and it certainly seems like an excellent adjunct to a tankless water heater. Hurray for solar. I'll be glad when we are finally able to do at least a little of that.

I agree it's unfortunate to be a completely electric household, but for the time being, won't worry about changing unless it's some form of alternative.

Luckybunny, thanks! It's definitely a relief!

The Apple Pie Gal said...

We looked into the tankless ones when we moved in here also. At the time they were a relative novelty and hubby didn't want to risk it. So we went with a ventless gas one.

Ain't fixin' up a home just grand!? Sorry you had such a jolly ole time getting the old one out! Pain in the patoot!

At least you are set for a long time now, that's the brightest (and warmest) part :)

Leigh said...

Diana, Dan was a little suspicious of them at first too. I understand they are used extensively in Japan and Europe though. If we had a lot of people living in our household, and used lots of hot water, I think a tankless water heater would be the most economical option. For us though, it didn't make sense.

Benita said...

Don't tell him I laughed, but the idea of getting trapped in your own crawl space by an old water heater in the door cracked me up. How on earth did they get that thing down there in the first place?!?

We did the same thing as you when we replaced our water heater. We do have gas (propane) but we have obnoxiously hard water here. So, we went with an old-fashioned one as well. Our hot water needs are a little different than yours, dishwasher is included (I work too many hours to add hand washing the dishes to my list) and I use hot, HOT water to wash my fleeces, which is a necessity to get all the lanolin and oils out.

Now, I am looking forward to seeing what you do with the kitchen. Can I give you a piece of advice - don't scrimp on the counter top. I did and I HATE mine and cannot wait to replace them. They are formica and they show every stain and get knicked so easily.

Phoebe said...

I know that feeling of being stuck in a tight space! Not fun when it's happening but it always makes a funny story later.

I wonder if your old water heater was keeping your pipes warm? I know our old water heater warms up the room it is in even though we have it wrapped.

It's a really nice feeling making such a big improvement in the infrastructure- and now as a reward you can have a nice hot bath!

Leigh said...

Benita, thank you for that about the kitchen counter tops. We've sat down and written done our preliminary brainstorming, but have yet to get down to the details. I'm working on that post and will get it up soon.

I thought the water heater incident humorous too. Fortunately Dan has a great sense of humor. :)

Phoebe, no warmth from the old one. If we had, maybe Dan would have put the new one in the same spot. It was under the kitchen, but that floor (ceramic tile) is stone cold in winter, even though the temp isn't too bad in the crawlspace!

katrien said...

I love reading your reports on your home improvements. It reminds me of how DH and I work together. We always make it a fun adventure.

Selene McGraw said...

I think it's safe to assume that you're done with the rest of the remodeling by now. Good job! But I hope you didn't forget to double check the plumbing. A good bathroom can go haywire because of a bad water system.

Leigh said...

Katrien, thanks! It's true, home improvements never fail to be an adventure, LOL.

Selene, he ended up re-doing all the bathroom plumbing. It was a job of work, but as you say well worth it. The bathroom came out really well! Before and after photos in this post, Project Complete: Bathroom.

Jasmin Shakespeare said...

Moving that old water heater of your must've been frustrating. But your choice is understandable, if you weigh in the benefits. And yes, I agree that home improvement is really an adventure.

Dwane Zelinsky said...

In addition to what Jasmine said, home improvement is an adventure because a person or a group of people gets to discover stuff that would make a house look better!
Btw, do you have a new project for this year?