Sunday, May 17, 2009

Trying to get into Hot Water

Last week my hot water heater exploded. It literally sent hot water shooting throughout my bathroom that took a week to dry out.

I had to shut off the water for the night, the next day I managed to get the parts to cap off the cold water going into it only to remember (after the water still on the floor reminded me) I had to cap off the hot water as well since it would still flow into the heater every time I ran the water.

I’ve finally gotten the busted hot water heater out and on to my back yard and sealed off the water so we can resume normal living (without hot water).

While the hot water heater is gone I repaired the floor it was sitting on and put vinyl tile around the area where the hot water heater was.

This disaster coupled with the fact that I need to send my mortgage company my next 2 paychecks made me wonder if I in fact need a hot water heater during the summer months when the temperatures are between 80 to 90 degrees.

A quick hop into the shower and attempting to wash in 50-degree water told me. “Yes I do need to have some hot water.”

I quickly devised a solar hot water heater, it will heat up to four liters of water to a temperature that does not cause me pain and I don’t have to run around the house naked doing jumping-jacks after a shower trying to get my body temperature back up to normal.

I chose a green material to make the solar hot water heater out of, to gather more solar heat, symbolize the fact that it is very good for the environment with zero carbon emissions, and it was the only thing I had laying around.

As you can see from the picture it is cheap but it does have its limitations. This I noticed when the temperature only reached 64 degrees and it was overcast all day.

On a pleasant day with a partially sunny sky, I can get the water up to what I used to consider just a little too cold for showering.

I have since added a few ideas to improve upon this technology. I put the bottles into a box made of foam insulation and put an old window over it.

I of course, had the strictest supervision while making this elaborate devise.

The box you see is the box I that I made this winter to cover my air conditioning unit. I had forgotten about a strange property of that box. It controls the weather.

This winter I put it over my air conditioning unit when the temperatures were below zero, and the next day temperatures jumped into the 60s. With the house buttoned up so no air could get in temperatures inside shot up to the upper 70s and I had to take it down to use the air conditioning to cool off the house.

The next day temperatures plummeted. The rest of the winter followed that pattern I would put the box on, temperatures would get close to record highs. I’d take the box off and we’d get near record lows.

Meteorologists said we were on the edge of a high pressure front that moved back and forth all winter, but I know it was that box controlling the weather.

When I stepped outside this sunny warm morning to build my solar water heater Mark II I had forgotten about the weather controlling effects of that box and used it as the main part of my heater.

Naturally as soon as I had the heater put together the sky immediately became overcast.

After letting the bottles sit out in the heater under mostly overcast skies for 4 hours I was astonished when I grabbed them to bring my contraption in before it rained that they were heated to a pleasant temperature.

I was able to take a nice shower with water heated by the sun on a mostly overcast day.

I had the idea to run a garden hose up to roof to let it sit there full of water and warm up that way, only to find four small problems with this plan as this picture shows.

To make a system that will give me even more hot water next weekend I plan on scrounging around under the house and take apart some of the old iron pipes (I had replaced a few of them with PVC) paint them black and send water up through the old hot water heaters chimney to get some hot water that way.

I expect this will give me just enough hot water to wash my hands. Which is actually a huge plus as my current solar powered hot water system becomes unusable when my hands are soapy.

For a solution that might (big emphasis on the word might) get me through the hottest of the summer months and then save me money when I get a real hot water heater in the fall, I will have to spend some money.

On the back of my house I have a steel roof. The roof faces SSW, not ideal but workable. It is a 14’ by 30’ exposure that gets hot enough in the summer to burn flesh.

My plan is to cover it with iron pipes (copper would be better but I am a horrible solderer) painted black spaced 1’ apart. This will give me a 420 square foot solar receiver. If I did my calculations right, that will require 420 feet of pipe and give me an 11 gallon hot water heater.

Now all I have to do is come up with the money to buy 420 feet pipe.

So I am asking anyone who likes this blog to help me out. I will be setting up a donation button where you can donate to my homemade hot water system. All the proceeds from both donations and what I make from my advertisers on this blog will go towards building a homemade hot water heater and I will keep my readers informed of the progress.

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