Water Heater Options

I have a few more building days to post but I thought I’d take a break and write about the current water heater situation that had me utterly stressed out.  I am still set on making this wee house off-grid ready, so figuring out how to get an acceptable hot water source going has been rather tough.  Here are the options I found and considered:

Electric

There are so many electric water heaters to choose from.  The one pictured above is just an example that I found online that would work pretty well in a tiny house.  Electric water heaters will probably run you anywhere from $150 – $700 depending on capacity, power, point-of-use versus whole-house, etc.  Under no circumstances will I install one of these! Yes, you could install some crazy solar panel system that could supply enough electricity to power it, but Virginia isn’t a great solar state and it would need a TON of energy.

  • Environment: 
  • Economy: ? just depends on which one you’d go with
  • Society: I’m going to use myself as “society” here and my desire for off-grid systems

Propane

Now that I have eliminated electric water heaters, it’s time to look at liquid propane (LP).  For those unfamiliar with this, these are usually able to operate on propane tanks that you see hooked up to grills.  There are natural gas heaters as well, but this house won’t be hooked up to that.  Here’s where the stress came in – most LP tankless water heaters still need electricity!  Being tankless, something needs to ignite the heater and this means electricity of some sort.  There are some models that use batteries instead of plug-in electricity but they are outdoor only models:

A few folks have rigged these for indoor use, but they really need to be outside or in a large enough area that there’s no fire or gas hazard.  They are a good way to save money, but I’m more interested in safety for whoever ends up living in it.

  • Environment:  (LP isn’t renewable, but better than electric models I say)
  • Economy: 
  • Society:  (the safety issue kills it here, and it’d be annoying to alter for my needs)

So what to do?  I went on a rant to my dad about how we could fly to the moon but couldn’t make a 100% non-electric , small, indoor, tankless water heater.  I was irked.  Luckily Bosch saved my sanity by making a hydro-powered model.  DUH!  It’s a water heater, so what better source of power for the ignition than the water that runs through it.  Genius.  They also have a push-button ignition model which is my alternate choice if for some reason I can’t get my hands on the hydro one.

  • Environment:  (again, LP isn’t renewable, but these use ZERO electricity or batteries)
  • Economy:  (way over my original budget for water heaters)
  • Society:(safe and reliable)

Other

A quick thought on some other options: solar heaters are amazing.  They are also thousands of dollars and Virginia just doesn’t have enough sun all the time.  I saw on a forum somewhere about just putting a black hose up on the roof and letting the water get hot that way.  Personally, I think that’s a great option for the sunny, warm months.  For the winter, I could run coils from the wood stove but it’s “far” away from the bathroom and not really something I want to make someone deal with.  It’s all about willingness-to-pay and I’m WTP for a more reliable system like the hydro one.

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One thought on “Water Heater Options

  1. I could hardly agree more with you recommending propane for tiny houses. Three reasons make it a winner: Size, cost and reliability. Electric would be almost impossible to maintain and solar is too big and too expensive. Propane is economic, suitable for off-grid and there are some quite small prone water heaters to choose from that will handle a shower or a faucet.

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