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Old 03-04-2015, 10:14 PM   #1
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How Long Can You Shower? Hot Water Ideas?

Planing my hot water setup and I'm wondering about those 6 gallon RV hot water heaters--does anyone have experience using them? How long of a shower can you manage with what showerhead? Any other great hot water ideas? I'm using a woodstove for heat already, so no need for those considerations. I want to be able to take nice showers, and hopefully not have to wait too long before the next person has hot water to shower.

On-demand? Tanked? Solar?
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Old 03-04-2015, 10:56 PM   #2
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I don't know if this will help you....

I have a 2000Watt Point of use GE electric water heater (GE10P06SAG no longer manufactured). I turn it off when I don't need it. I turn it on and then wait 15 minutes (or more if I forget) and take a very hot 15-20 minutes shower. I tend to be lobster red when I get out of the shower. I do love a hot shower. My shower head is a residential American Standard 2.5 gpm handheld. I will need to replace it soon as the NM water clogs up the fixtures. I need to add a water softener before I replace the shower head.

Prior to the bus, we had a 6 gallon AC/LP RV water heater in the Class C (only ran it on electric during the 5 years we were in the Class C). Generally, I could take a shower, run the water heater cold, dry off and by the time I was dressed, David could take a shower (he took cooler showers than I did). After Das Mel moved in with us, I could take a shower (running the water heater to cold), Das Mel would have to wait 5-10 minutes after I was dressed to take a shower (also running the water heater to cold), then David could take his cooler shower after Das Mel got dressed. Usually we staggered the showers thru out the day when possible. Mostly because the Class C was only 22 ft long overall and it was crowded with 3 adults in it.


When it comes time to replace the shower head, I am thinking I will replace with an inexpensive oxygenics hand held that only uses 1.75gpm and does well on low water pressure. I can't use the "massage" very well on the current handheld but it's still feels good on the bottom of my feet.
http://www.homedepot.com/s/oxygenics?NCNI-5
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Old 03-04-2015, 11:03 PM   #3
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I have a 15 gallon electric water heater that is highly efficient and heavily insulated. I also installed one of those Oxygenics shower heads that puts oxygen into the water stream to increase the pressure while using less water. We have now tested it and found that the water is still hot after 25 minutes. I have not tried it for longer periods.
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Old 03-04-2015, 11:07 PM   #4
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I have an Atwood 6 gallon hot water heater in my camper (which I'm shortly going to be replacing with my Skoolie project). It's... OK. When we first bought it we were getting a out 10 minutes out of it. "Navy" showers are fine, but don't expect to leave the water on, even if you have a full hookup. The problem with these units is that they just don't have the capacity to put out a single temperature. Even after a minute of use, the temp to the shower is going to start dropping as cold water gets into the unit, so your shower temp starts to drop. You turn it up, it drops faster...

A HUGE improvement was adding the Oxygenics showerhead. That's a low-flow showerhead with some sort of "burst" mechanism inside that makes it feel like it's higher pressure than it really is. Everybody I've ever met that has had one swears by it, so we got one - and we love it too. Definitely putting this in the Skoolie. We're big fans. It nearly doubled our shower times. We don't need 20-minute showers, but we have 3 kids... it adds up.

They burn through propane pretty quickly, at least compared to just cooking...

I definitely recommend the "Hott Rod" add-on you can get. I have no idea how long the tank lasts when you replace the anode this way, but it sure changes the equation. The hot water doesn't really last any longer, but it saves a lot of propane if you're at a place with electric hookups.

For my Skoolie I'm skipping this unit. They're crazy expensive compared to domestic systems. I'll be doing a diesel boiler (Webasto or similar) plus a solar panel feeding into a 20-gal tank that also has an electric stand-by coil (for campgrounds with electric hookups). That gives me multiple sources of heat and it's not crazy-hard to set up if you're confident in some basic plumbing skills. The reason we're doing this is we're also doing in-floor radiant heat, but I still think a solar+electric+some_other_fuel setup is the way to go here. YMMV.

If you have any other specific questions about these 6-gal units, let me know. I have a lot of mileage on mine.
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Old 03-05-2015, 07:48 AM   #5
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im planning a small solar heated tub on top of the bus. gravity fed to the showerhead. i will pump the tank full every night and monitor the temp via a automotive mechanical temp gauge. helmet baths before bed, showers during day.
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Old 03-05-2015, 01:30 PM   #6
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Just to clarify... I don't "DO" those navy showers. I turn the water on full blast. I wash my hair, put conditioner in and then wash the rest of me, then wash the conditioner out. I shave my legs in the shower as well (usually not when I wash my hair but have been known to do both in the same shower session). It's half of the reasoning behind putting a SS grab bar about 13-14 inches off the floor of the shower (foot prop).

You need to look at how you will be using your bus. For a weekend, the navy showers may be acceptable. If you are a guy, they may be acceptable. If you don't get dirty, they may be acceptable. I am living in the bus 24/7/365. I want a decent shower. I will say that a handheld shower head is the way to go. I use my shower stall for rinsing off muddy shoes, filling buckets of water and other cleaning. A hand held makes all this much easier. Plus, with the lower water pressure, makes it easier to wash the shampoo and conditioner out of my hair. Watch your GPM ratings (written somewhere on the shower head), some of the tiny ones will use a lot more water than the large ones.
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Old 03-05-2015, 05:56 PM   #7
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Thanks for the Oxygenics shower head tip--that is a new discovery to me and it sounds like just the ticket!

I would like to avoid propane if I can and I want more than 6 gallons of hot water when I need it. I will not necessarily be full-timing all the time, but I might and the most important things to me are the bed, bathroom/shower, and kitchen. I want to be economical, but I also want to be able to take a 15 minute hot shower!

Im leaning toward an electric, domestic -style heater now, and I might try to incorporate solar water heating later down the road. I am also wondering if I could gain efficiency by either building an insulated cabinet for the water heater or otherwise similarly upping the insulation around the tank.

Does anyone have a good recommendation for an electric water heater that would be a good fit for a bus? 20 gallons is as big as I want. All the ones I've found are 240V, which would be a no go. I'm thinking that I will probably have to have dual heating elements--a 120V for shore power charging and a 24V for charging off my batteries. I realize I will probably have to replace at least one of the stock elements to get the 24V heating, but I'm ok with that.
I'm also OK with considering incorporating a solar hot water panel from the get-go if needed, which I think it will be.
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Old 03-05-2015, 06:18 PM   #8
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You need to measure where you plan to put the water heater. We were going to go with a 20 gallon but didn't because, even with the water heater sitting on the original bus floor (like the 10 gallon one is) the kitchen sink hung down just a tad too far. So we ended up with a 10 gallon and 1-1/4" to the bottom of the drain pipe.

Just so you know, you are searching for the water heater wrong. You should be looking for POINT OF USE WATER HEATER. This search will point you to point of use water heaters like this 20 gallon 120vAC water heater

Rheem Performance 20 gal. 6 Year 2000-Watt Single Element Electric Point of Use Water Heater-XE20P06PU20U0 - The Home Depot

OR this 30 gallon 120vAC water heater
Rheem Performance 30 gal. 6 Year 2000-Watt Single Element Electric Point of Use Water Heater-XE30P06PU20U0 - The Home Depot

BTW, I just took a shower and timed it... even with the incoming water so cold, my shower (washed hair, shaved legs, washed me) took 15 minutes before the water started cooling off (means it's about to turn cold). During the summer when the water isn't so numbingly cold, I can take a 20 minute or longer shower.
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Old 03-05-2015, 06:26 PM   #9
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There's a site where somebody has sketched out a dozen ways you can rewire these things. These are (nearly always) resistive heating elements - you run less voltage through them, and they just heat slower:

How to wire water heater for 120 Volt

Just be aware, it's all about the watts, and it's NOT a divide-by-2. The first example in the site above gives you the formula. You drop to 24V and you're going to lose a lot more. It's going to take forever to "recover" unless you have a huge wire to the tank and lots of battery storage.

Personally, I think a lot of this forgets an important point. A 15 minute hot shower with a 2.5GPM head is going to use 30 gallons of water. Unless you're going to carry a huge amount of water around or you're planning on going to a LOT of water-only sites, you're not realistically living "off grid" in that circumstance. I see way more camp sites that are electric-only than water-only. And you still need grey water tankage for it, too. So... if you're going to have a hookup for this stuff, why not stick with 120V here and focus your energy on solar or something like that?
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Old 03-05-2015, 06:36 PM   #10
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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!
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