possible use for a spare hot water heater
Monday, May 2 2022
One of the things I dislike about Powerful living here is that whenever I go to the basement, I feel like I am intruding into his space. He doesn't give me any reason to feel this way; it's all coming from a deep part of my personality that wants to avoid confrontation and unnecessary social interaction. So I waited until he was gone for some reason to go down there and begin the process of decommissioning the old heat-pump-based hot water heater for possible redeployment at the cabin. More on that in a bit. While I was down there, I noticed that Powerful had left his heat on and his door wide open. That, along with our electric car, probably accounts for our $500 heating bills.
The origin of that heat-pump-based hot water heater was the installation of a bunch of heat-pump splits throughout the house back in the Fall of 2019. Along with those, a heat-pump-based hot water heater was added to our multiple means of heating water. This method proved to be unsuited for our house; it had the effect of cooling the basement too much while making a lot of noise and producing water that stank of sulfur. The heat pump people replaced it once but when Gretchen complained a second time, she got the run-around and decided to take her complaints to Google Reviews, which produced a much more accommodating result, at least initially. But then, before the head of the heat pump company could schedule his guys to come and take the water heater and give us a refund, he blew up about something Gretchen had said and told us, essentially, screw you, you're stuck with the damn thing. (The company is Rycor, in case you're curious.) So we'd been left with an unusable hot water heater in our basement for the last year and a half.
In recent months, though, I'd been thinking I could maybe take that hot water heater up to the cabin and customize it to heat with circulating hydronic water instead of refrigerant. A few days ago I hit on an even better idea: install it at the cabin and use it to heat water with its heat pump using electricity that would otherwise be wasted once the solar-charged battery is full. In the warm season, there would probably be enough extra electricity to warm it completely during a typical week and top it off after a night of heat loss. Then we would have hot water for our use on the weekend without needing to burn any propane at all. In essence, the hot water heater would act like an additional battery, storing up energy (in the form of hot water) for future use. While heating water with solar energy is much less efficient if done electrically (as opposed to hydronically), heating it with a solar-powered heat pump is probably efficient enough that it won't end up using all that much of the excess power we generate in a week (and I will have to find other methods to store that energy) while cutting down signficantly on our propane needs (as well as the electricity needed to run the propane heater). Getting this to work will require a few tricks, such as programmatically determining when the household battery is near full and the sun is providing a lot of electricity, and possibly also being able to programmatically disable other household circuits while the heat pump is running.
Decommissioning in the hot water heater entailed first draining it using a hose run out through one of the basement doors. Then I cut off the copper pipes connecting it to the plumbing system, sealing one with a cap where there was no valve to close. After disconnecting the heater from an electrical cable, I managed to wrestle it up onto a dolly and wheel it to the bottom of the stairs. What happens next depends on how heavy it is, though I'd venture that it weighs at least 200 pounds empty.
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