Our Summer (almost) without Hot Water Part III

Submitted by Barbara on Tue, 08/14/2012 - 16:39

In part II we talked about different paths to our goals and got some advice from friends.  Some people recommended using a compost pile, which is great since it works all hours of the day but needs to be rebuilt periodically to keep up biomass & heat.  We also looked into tubing and I purchased a giant black plastic pipe (about 4.3' x 20"  Aprox. volume 312 gallons) that I think might become a batch heater in the future.  All of these things will take a time & resource investment.  Since we still havnt made up our mind about how to move forward, we decided to try one more experiment with what we have.

We decided to try the "pilot only" option.  We have already determined that this will not allow us to meet our NG goals (see part II).  It will however shrink our footprint until we make our decision.  Our short term goal is to make it until mid-September.  Then we plan to turn the hot water heater back on for the winter and be ready to `do something` in the spring.

So for Phase Two, we have turned the water heater back on, but just the pilot.  The burner remains off.  We turned off 2 more stove pilots but found out we couldnt readily turn off and relight the pilot to the oven because of a safety mechanism.  Leaving the pilot light to the oven on has made our situation easier to adapt to since it means we have 4 gallons of hot water on hand without tapping the water heater which takes longer to recover.

First improvement we made was to find a larger pot that would fit in our oven.  This holds more than the old pot and is kept at 100 degrees by the oven pilot.  In the morning we use it to fill the solar shower (which never got very hot in the sun) and in the evening we use it to hand wash pots and pans and faces.  We still need hot water from the water heater for second & third showers such as when we return from camping, occasional baths, or a load of laundry that requires sanitizing. 

Thus far, it looks like it takes 3-4 days for the water heater to recover on pilot only.  Currently this isnt meeting all our bathing/laundry needs comfortably but we are still looking for ways to meet our needs without kicking the water heater on.   By manufacturing scarcity in our lives we have introduced innovation that would naturally be part of our lives in a system with limited resources.  Necessity is the mother of invention.

Our hypothetical numbers for Mid-August through Mid-September are: Cooking 6 therms with the oven pilot on, Hot water 3.1 therms + 3.5 therms alloted towards winter heating.   We will let you know the results at the end of September.