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Old 03-05-2015, 06:37 PM   #11
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Thanks, Lorna!
I figured out the "Point of Use" things after some searching. I think my new plan will be a 15-20 gallon tank, with a 24V and 120V heating elements. I will use a small solar panel on top to help heat water up on sunny days and the woodstove I am going to be using has a boiler hookup as well. With all of that, I think I can realistically manage to heat the 15-20 gallons of water every day and only have to use the electricity as a backup, or when I need lots of hot water.

With a 1.75 gpm showerhead, and averaging 10 minute showers, I'm looking at about 18 gallons per shower. My water tank will be roughly 100 gallons. And Im not going to be showering every day. Id say every other day at most (which is what I do now) and really more like every 2-3 days. That gets me easily a week or more on shower water. I'll be full-timing, but that doesn't mean I'll be off-grid. Any place I want to live long-term will need water no matter what--if Im off-grid that means a well, and if I'm not, that means a hook-up. I'm ok with all of this. My greywater tank will be pretty big, but honestly, if I need to 'take a drive and forget to shut the drain valve all the way', i'm fine with that. I only use natural soaps anyway so my grey water is just as clean as anything on the street.
I'll already have right around 1200W of solar PV power, and id like to use the water tank as a diversion load when the batteries are topped off already.
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Old 03-05-2015, 06:38 PM   #12
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As a side-note, I'm trying to limit my LP use as much as possible. So I'm pretty much ruling out LP on demand units categorically. Unless someone can convince me otherwise ;)
I really appreciate all the advice and info I've gotten on this thread. I started with no good ideas, and now im swimming in them!
Thanks busfriends
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Old 03-05-2015, 06:50 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by WinslowtheBluebird View Post
I realize you might not dig propane, but dig this. We have a Girard Instant LP hot water heater and have endless hot water. It takes up very little space and I mounted under floor, so if it did leak it is not pooling up inside a closed space. The only limit is how much fresh water we have available. Also, it has a high/low switch depending on how warm the fresh water is to begin with. It has been running great for 2 years, and doesn't seem to be slowing down any time soon! And the oxygenics shower heads are great. They use less water and have super water pressure. Good luck with your project!
That's the route I wanna go.
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Old 03-05-2015, 09:35 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by charles_m View Post
Thanks, Lorna!
I figured out the "Point of Use" things after some searching. I think my new plan will be a 15-20 gallon tank, with a 24V and 120V heating elements. I will use a small solar panel on top to help heat water up on sunny days and the woodstove I am going to be using has a boiler hookup as well. With all of that, I think I can realistically manage to heat the 15-20 gallons of water every day and only have to use the electricity as a backup, or when I need lots of hot water.

With a 1.75 gpm showerhead, and averaging 10 minute showers, I'm looking at about 18 gallons per shower. My water tank will be roughly 100 gallons. And Im not going to be showering every day. Id say every other day at most (which is what I do now) and really more like every 2-3 days. That gets me easily a week or more on shower water. I'll be full-timing, but that doesn't mean I'll be off-grid. Any place I want to live long-term will need water no matter what--if Im off-grid that means a well, and if I'm not, that means a hook-up. I'm ok with all of this. My greywater tank will be pretty big, but honestly, if I need to 'take a drive and forget to shut the drain valve all the way', i'm fine with that. I only use natural soaps anyway so my grey water is just as clean as anything on the street.
I'll already have right around 1200W of solar PV power, and id like to use the water tank as a diversion load when the batteries are topped off already.
Charles_m,

We have been full-timing for 10 months now. We have 1000W of solar panels (wired 2x2 - series/parallel = 60V) that are mounted flat and a 60 amp mppt charge controller with 645 AH of batteries. Our system averages 3-3.5 kW/h a day in winter and 5.5-6 in the summer in southern california. In the winter, after you calculate the inverter using 20w, the solar charge controller using about 15w, and the fridge pulling around 40w, we barely have surplus power. It's hard to coordinate trying to not "shave off" power. Meaning, It's hard to coordinate all of your power usage at the peak of your solar power production so that your batteries are topped off and in float and you have extra power (the 2-3 hrs of midday that actually produce what the panels are rated at and do the majority of your necessary daily charging). We have to be very conservative with heavy wattage items, for us it is the toaster oven at 1500w (an energy hog!).
That is why we use propane for anything heat related (except the toaster oven!), as it is way more efficient.
Your plan about diverting the load when the batteries are charged sounds good as long as you can figure out a way to time or coordinate it all the time. Otherwise, it might be a hassle to decide whether you want to prioritize battery bank charging or hot water.
Just food for thought from experience of living with an off grid solar system as a main power source.
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Old 03-05-2015, 10:10 PM   #15
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What Winslow said.
We have run a cheap China instant water heater (Marey I think) for seven years.
Endless hot water. No problems.
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Old 03-06-2015, 10:15 AM   #16
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Man, all this info has me swaying back and forth like a tree in the breeze.

My very first plan for hot water way back in the day was to use an on-demand propane heater. My only concern was that those cheap ones are designed for outdoor use only. I'm ok with bending the rules, but I don't want to be too dangerous. Though if it's working for you for so long, it can't be that scary

I'm totally split now as to whether I go with an electric tank, supplemented (or primarily heated) by solar and my wood-stove's boiler OR go with the cheap and dirty option of one of those propane heaters. I'll be using a gas stove, anyway. I just dont like the idea of having to fill up on propane all the time, and I don't have any idea how much propane I'll be going through for hot water use, vs just cooking use.

The propane on-demand heater is certainly a lot cheaper--about $200 for most of the units I've seen, plus some propane fittings. But the cost of energy is higher. I also don't have really any experience with propane use and installation in real life, other than heating an old cabin with it, which was very expensive.

The electric is going to run me about 600-800 for the tank, solar panels, a pump, and copper to plumb in everything. But, in theory, the sun and my woodstove will keep me warm for almost free.

It's funny. Im a long ways from installing these units, but since Im about to insulate the walls, I've got to decide now so I can incorporate the proper infrastructure into the bus.

I really appreciate all the opinions presented here and I hope this thread will be useful to others in the future!
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Old 03-06-2015, 12:00 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by charles_m View Post
Man, all this info has me swaying back and forth like a tree in the breeze.

I'm totally split now as to whether I go with an electric tank, supplemented (or primarily heated) by solar and my wood-stove's boiler OR go with the cheap and dirty option of one of those propane heaters. I'll be using a gas stove, anyway. I just dont like the idea of having to fill up on propane all the time, and I don't have any idea how much propane I'll be going through for hot water use, vs just cooking use.

The propane on-demand heater is certainly a lot cheaper--about $200 for most of the units I've seen
Charles,

We are actually using an RV style hot water heater, not a residential. It cost around $400, and is made to take an RV beating vs. the less expensive residential type. Plus the venting is way easier on RV model. We fill up our propane tank every 3 months at around $100 a fill - 25 Gallon tank. We don't really worry about propane use at this rate. If we were to conserve, I think we could easily add a month to that. We also use the hell out of our propane cook top and little blue flame heater, everyday. The generator use is random, running a few hours here and there, running on cloudy or rainy days. $30 bucks a month for propane, looking at around (30,000 btus for water heater, 5-8000 for cook top and 7-10,000 for heater) 48,000 btus/hr when everything is in use, is the most inexpensive utility bills I have ever paid.
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Old 03-06-2015, 12:07 PM   #18
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I've used the small Eco-Temp propane instant water heater. Probably it and all the other brands come from the same factory in China. Actually I've used it in two settings.

The first is an experiment shed I built at home. It has hydronic heat in the concrete slab and careful detailing of the insulation and air sealing (the building is a passive solar experiment). As I haven't built solar water heat collectors yet, I have tried heating the building with the Eco-Temp hanging on the wall inside. Based on that experience there are a few things to mention about using it indoors:
  • don't dismiss the water vapor that comes from burning propane. There's a lot of it.
  • I always left a window open a bit for oxygen make-up and venting
  • perfect combustion doesn't produce carbon monoxide... but don't bet your life on having perfect combustion. That shed is occupied only for durations of a few minutes, so I didn't worry about this during the experiment.
For my last big bus trip I plumbed the Eco-Temp with 24 inch flexible hoses. It usually hung on a hook inside the bus, and I opened a window and hung the heater on a slightly backed-out screw on the outside when hot water was needed. Kind of ghetto perhaps, and I wouldn't do that as a permanent solution, but I have thought about recessing a vented compartment in the side of the bus and installing the heater in there. I'm still on the fence as to how I'll finally do space and especially domestic water heating.
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Old 03-06-2015, 12:44 PM   #19
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Originally Posted by family wagon View Post
I've used the small Eco-Temp propane instant water heater... I plumbed the Eco-Temp...
Which Eco-temp did you use? The L-5? I have an L-5 that we used in the food cart. David was thinking about trying it to heat the water just for the washing machine. Never did get around to seeing it we could fit it up in the available space above the washer. Did you run it on an RV water pump? I know the one in the food cart was barely able to keep the water flow high enough for the unit to kick on. I have a slightly larger pump in the bus. Maybe next summer I will get it hooked up.
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Old 03-06-2015, 09:50 PM   #20
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Lorna, go to the Eco temp site --they'll hook you up with the right pump. Mine works super.
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