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hawley

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This morning we ran out of hot water. The water heater is out. It is less than 4 years old. It is an energy effecient that vents out the wall like furnaces.
Company that put it in, my husband called, he was put on hold for 10 minutes and then he finally hung up. Called the company they use at his work. Repair guy has been here 3 times today and on the phone to the company. It is almost 7pm and we now have hot water again. I had decided what I would tell the guests. Both suites full. Don't have to decide now.
We will check into adding another hot water heater. It has a manifold and another one can be added. These things are like computers, changi ng fast. dh learned alot.
 

seashanty

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if you ADD a water heater keep this in mind
we have an old gas hot water heater
added a new electric hot water heater
if one goes out (usually the old gas one) i thought the electric hot water heater would just take over. wrong! the cold water from the 'dud' mixes with the hot water of the one working and we end up with lukewarm water. what good is that? the plumber said i should have known. huh? so, if one goes out, we have to run downstairs and close the valves ... there should be a better way, and i am guessing a more interested plumbing company would have set it up differently. that just seems all wrong to me.
 

swirt

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if you ADD a water heater keep this in mind
we have an old gas hot water heater
added a new electric hot water heater
if one goes out (usually the old gas one) i thought the electric hot water heater would just take over. wrong! the cold water from the 'dud' mixes with the hot water of the one working and we end up with lukewarm water. what good is that? the plumber said i should have known. huh? so, if one goes out, we have to run downstairs and close the valves ... there should be a better way, and i am guessing a more interested plumbing company would have set it up differently. that just seems all wrong to me..
Unfortunately there isn't. If you put them in series, then the last one in line controls what you get. If the first one quits, then you still have hot water, but if the second one quits, then you get mixing, so you end up with warm. But at least there is an energy benefit. If you put them in parallel (like it sounds like yours are) then you get the mixing, and there is no energy benfit. Having the shutoffs like you have is unfortunately the best solution. A few years back I looked to see if their was some kind of auto valve that would shut the cold tank down automatically...essentially their isn't.
 

Sanctuary

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We have redundant systems on just about everything important. For example, when our water pump decides to take an unexpected vacation, we can turn a couple of valves and have the other water pump step up to the plate. We like to have one operated by DC (battery) current and the other by AC current. Our third source, of course, is just the dockside city water hookup. When we are out of power, we can still run off of battery power (or just start the generator!).
If you set up your water heaters with manual shut offs much like we do with water pump systems, where you control what's being used (that's the key - "manual") by bringing one online and the other offline, you make the system use whichever water heater you direct it to use. It doesn't take long to heat a tank of water when you find out your main water heater went ka-pooey. We do this kind of plumbing with lots of things - water, sewage, fuel systems, electric, air conditioning, etc.
As for automation....you know as I sit here and think about it...this may possible with a little creativity. You could use electrically controlled solenoid valves controlled by a relay and a sensor set up to know when a water heater failed (could be a temparature sensor that triggers a relay which triggers the solenoid which moves a valve) and would then move the valves into the "other" position taking the failed heater offline and bringing the auxillary heater online. When a sensor tells a relay to "swap", an electrically controlled magnet moves a valve and allows the pipe contents to start running in a different direction. Another relay could control the on/off of each water heater.
It works for me with refrigerant gases (air conditioning), and I bet there are Alco or Sporlan valves and electrical coils that would control water flow, as well. As you can see, maintaining a boat has taught me to think outside the box. LOL If avoiding the failed water heater is important and you want to have some automation to the fix, you may want to looking into the solenoid and coil idea, but don't expect your local plumber to come up with this. It's likely a system you'll have to research and engineer yourself. But, hey, if I figure this out and understand it, it's not that hard.
The water heater was the first major appliance we had to replace and what a nightmare. It didn't fit out any of the doorways - had to beat it to death with a sledge hammer to crumple it enough to get it out the door and getting the new one in was no picnic. It lasted 26 years, though. :) They don't make stuff like they used to. The ice maker lasted 27 years, and the washer/dryer lasted 28 years. I don't even want to think about what might be next.
 

swirt

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We have redundant systems on just about everything important. For example, when our water pump decides to take an unexpected vacation, we can turn a couple of valves and have the other water pump step up to the plate. We like to have one operated by DC (battery) current and the other by AC current. Our third source, of course, is just the dockside city water hookup. When we are out of power, we can still run off of battery power (or just start the generator!).
If you set up your water heaters with manual shut offs much like we do with water pump systems, where you control what's being used (that's the key - "manual") by bringing one online and the other offline, you make the system use whichever water heater you direct it to use. It doesn't take long to heat a tank of water when you find out your main water heater went ka-pooey. We do this kind of plumbing with lots of things - water, sewage, fuel systems, electric, air conditioning, etc.
As for automation....you know as I sit here and think about it...this may possible with a little creativity. You could use electrically controlled solenoid valves controlled by a relay and a sensor set up to know when a water heater failed (could be a temparature sensor that triggers a relay which triggers the solenoid which moves a valve) and would then move the valves into the "other" position taking the failed heater offline and bringing the auxillary heater online. When a sensor tells a relay to "swap", an electrically controlled magnet moves a valve and allows the pipe contents to start running in a different direction. Another relay could control the on/off of each water heater.
It works for me with refrigerant gases (air conditioning), and I bet there are Alco or Sporlan valves and electrical coils that would control water flow, as well. As you can see, maintaining a boat has taught me to think outside the box. LOL If avoiding the failed water heater is important and you want to have some automation to the fix, you may want to looking into the solenoid and coil idea, but don't expect your local plumber to come up with this. It's likely a system you'll have to research and engineer yourself. But, hey, if I figure this out and understand it, it's not that hard.
The water heater was the first major appliance we had to replace and what a nightmare. It didn't fit out any of the doorways - had to beat it to death with a sledge hammer to crumple it enough to get it out the door and getting the new one in was no picnic. It lasted 26 years, though. :) They don't make stuff like they used to. The ice maker lasted 27 years, and the washer/dryer lasted 28 years. I don't even want to think about what might be next..
I looked into the home crafted method. It can be done with some work, but the problem is (like in SeaShany's case) that if one is electric and one is gas, when the electric goes down due to power outage, so does the electric switching device. You end up in kind a of old lady who swallowed the fly, then the spider then the bird... kind of situation. You build the electric autoswitch, then you build a backup electric system, then you build the thermostat failure backup, then you build the system to notify you there is a problem because you don't realize one of the tanks has quit working... the logic of it was fun for a while, but the reality of it is it is easier to just go the basement, touch the outging pipes to figure out which is cold and then throw the valve by hand.
 

Sanctuary

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Swirt, I totally agree. I'd just do it the manual way if it were me, and that is how my water plumbing is set up - manually! With valves to move manually, removing the electrical side of the equasion, that's just one less thing to have to maintain and troubleshoot when something fails. This is why we have so many redundant systems because something is bound to fail at the worst time. A power outage would certainly mess up the automated version, unless you have a generator. It was interesting engineering it in my head and it came to me as possible, not necessarily feasible, because I am in the process of rebuilding one of my solenoid valves in one of my air conditioning (hoping the part arrives in today's mail), and I could visualize adapting such a method to water plumbing. Would I actually install it? Heck no! I like manual valves where they can be used. The original ones (28 years old) are still working just fine! Air conditioning, on the other hand...well I'm stuck with the automated system on that one.
 

hawley

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if you ADD a water heater keep this in mind
we have an old gas hot water heater
added a new electric hot water heater
if one goes out (usually the old gas one) i thought the electric hot water heater would just take over. wrong! the cold water from the 'dud' mixes with the hot water of the one working and we end up with lukewarm water. what good is that? the plumber said i should have known. huh? so, if one goes out, we have to run downstairs and close the valves ... there should be a better way, and i am guessing a more interested plumbing company would have set it up differently. that just seems all wrong to me..
When I had the new water heater installed it has a manifold so other water heaters can be added to it. They would be hooked together. So both would be gas. Repair guy told dh that you could manually shut one down if it quit and the other would keep working. So am going to look into doing that.
The one we have now is 50 gallon. Only 3 years old. Not much use compared to a regular family.
 

swirt

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Swirt, I totally agree. I'd just do it the manual way if it were me, and that is how my water plumbing is set up - manually! With valves to move manually, removing the electrical side of the equasion, that's just one less thing to have to maintain and troubleshoot when something fails. This is why we have so many redundant systems because something is bound to fail at the worst time. A power outage would certainly mess up the automated version, unless you have a generator. It was interesting engineering it in my head and it came to me as possible, not necessarily feasible, because I am in the process of rebuilding one of my solenoid valves in one of my air conditioning (hoping the part arrives in today's mail), and I could visualize adapting such a method to water plumbing. Would I actually install it? Heck no! I like manual valves where they can be used. The original ones (28 years old) are still working just fine! Air conditioning, on the other hand...well I'm stuck with the automated system on that one..
LOL I agree I like the challenge of building it in my head. It's easier that way than actually building it. ;)
 

Sanctuary

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Indeed! I've got a watermaker (that thing on a boat and takes sea water and turns it into the finest purified fresh water on the planet) built in my head and I'm beginning to gather the parts to turn the image and plan in my head into working parts. This is going to be an interesting project. Yeah, you can buy them already assembled for about $13,000, but for under $1,000, I can build it myself.
 

hawley

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Indeed! I've got a watermaker (that thing on a boat and takes sea water and turns it into the finest purified fresh water on the planet) built in my head and I'm beginning to gather the parts to turn the image and plan in my head into working parts. This is going to be an interesting project. Yeah, you can buy them already assembled for about $13,000, but for under $1,000, I can build it myself..
That is significant. Good luck with that project.
I think your projects are more than mine.
 

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