Backup water heater?

doofusNovember 16, 2011


We have a new tank and heater combination ("indirect"), that provides both domestic and the heating hot water.

The heater is labeled as "95% efficiency", which, I'm guessing, is what makes it somewhat, uhm, fragile...

Last week some part of the heater failed and had to be replaced. We did not have to pay for it, as it was under the (extended) warranty, but we did not like spending 4 days with out heat and hot water.

Heat was bearable âÂ" it was not that cold yet and our back-up heating (wood-burning stove, electric floors in the bathrooms) helped too. But not washing ourselves, clothes, dishes âÂ" or doing it with water heated on the stove âÂ" was rather annoying...

This got me wondering, what sort of back-up we could install to not have this problem again...

I can see to major alternatives: a separate heater heating up the same water-tank (even if less efficiently), or several smaller "point-of-use" (gas or electric) systems.

A single secondary heater, that could take over the responsibilities of our existing one, seems most appealing. Especially, if we could have one using an alternative source of fuel (either oil or propane) âÂ" to also be prepared for any interruption in natural gas supply.

Our existing system consists of a 200 gallon tank coupled with Peerless Purefire PF-210 (167 BTUH) âÂ" six adults, a toddler, and a dog live in a 5500 feetò house. The backup need not be so powerful, a 100 BTUH tops âÂ" would be nice to fit it in the existing boiler room and hook up to the existing tank...

Can this be done with reasonable amount of effort?

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There are many 100k btuh tankless heaters on the market that could probably do what you need to do.

That said, it might make more sense to find out why it took four days to get your boiler fixed, and address that issue.

Any part can be moved around the globe in 24 hours.

I think that you are wise to have backup heat... I'm just not sure that a backup boiler is the answer. What if a pump goes out?

    Bookmark   November 16, 2011 at 9:06AM
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Any part can be moved around the globe in 24 hours.

Well, it went like this:

  • The boiler failed early on Sunday morning.

  • By about 11am on Sunday the installer's people were in trying to revive it.

  • Shortly after noon they declared, they'll need to replace the part, that they don't have and so need to order.

  • Monday the installer's expert guy showed up to confirm the findings of the (presumably, less experienced) colleagues.

  • Shortly after Monday after noon he confirmed it and his boss proceeded to order the part from his supplier in NJ.

  • Some time between 3pm and 4pm the supplier placed the order with another supplier in PA (don't ask me, why the installer could not telephone the other guys directly)

  • On Tuesday afternoon the NJ supplier discovered, that their PA supplier did not ship the part yet âÂ" it is going out today, ground shipping.

  • On Wednesday late afternoon the part finally arrives and the original installer sends their expert to install it.

  • Wednesday evening the boiler begins to work again.

Yes, next time this happens we'll insist, the installer sends someone to Pennsylvania to pick up the missing part same day, it is only about 90-minutes drive (in one direction). Moreover, though I resent being without heat for 4 days, I realize, that if the weather was really cold, they would've sent someone themselves. But we were in no danger of freezing âÂ" just inconvenienced, and the installer were hurting over the $500 cost of the part, that they had to absorb, and so they did not try too hard :-(

But, obviously, I want this to be far less dramatic next time... There are many 100k btuh tankless heaters

Well, our gas pressure is too low for a natural gas tankless heater. Plus, if we are installing backup, we may as well prepare for losing natural gas supply as well. I suppose, we could look for a propane- or oil-burning tankless system, but, I thought, we already have a tank anyway and may as well us it... I'm just not sure that a backup boiler is the answer. What if a pump goes out?

Uhm, what pump?

    Bookmark   November 16, 2011 at 3:09PM
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I am new to this forum and don't know if this is the right place to post this (I'm fairly sure it's not) so please redirect me/it as appropriate. We have an MBS (Serbian) cast iron multi-fuel stove. We are in the west of Ireland and we burn mainly turf. We get bad storms in the winter. We bought it last winter but it only arrived in the spring. We can cook on and in it and it gives us a good supply of hot water and heats ten radiators. It's changed our lives! But... when the electricity goes, the pump won't kick in and we're screwed - have to basically put the fire out. We sometimes lose electricity for several days in the winter if the storms are very bad. We are quite remote. Please can anyone advise on installing a backup pump with a small generator. My husband is brilliant and technological stuff and mechanics and plumbing so would probably install it himself. Thanks.

    Bookmark   October 18, 2012 at 5:02AM
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"it was under the (extended) warranty"

It is a service contract, no matter what they want to call it.

They are not in any rush to spend their money.

    Bookmark   October 18, 2012 at 4:54PM
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Lucy: On this side of the pond, I think the common solution is to have a standby-generator. One can get a unit capable of providing all the power in the home and have it permanently installed, or get a 'portable' unit (it has wheels) and operate only those loads that one would use in an emergency.

There are models of the larger units that can operate on petrol, diesel, propane or natural gas (thats what we call it). Smaller models here would be petrol.

My friend who loses power a lot uses a 7.5KW generator and can run most of his house if he is careful not to load it down too much (electric water heater, AC). That includes his well pump, septic pump, refrigeration, lights and other outlets.

    Bookmark   October 22, 2012 at 7:17PM
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