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Making a non pressurized water heater

  1. Feb 24, 2009 #1
    I want to make a water heater from an insulated 50 gallon bucket, but I could easily use a different size container. I tried doing things the easy way by just looking for an immersion heater than can be plugged straight into an outlet, but all I can find are travel heaters for making coffee.

    So I've decided to use a normal water heater element setup. But I don't really know anything about them. What do I need to put the element in the bucket to heat water?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 24, 2009 #2
    Well from the looks of it, a typical 50 gallon uses 4500 Watts. That corresponds to almost 40 amps if you use a typical outlet. I'm not up on the electrical code for houses, but I'm quite sure most circuits in a home will not be able to handle 40 amps of current. This might not be such a good idea. You most likely will have to use 210 VAC to get the amps down.
     
  4. Feb 24, 2009 #3

    Averagesupernova

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    A typical electric water heater has a bottom and top element and they are never on at the same time. When hot water is drawn out the top of the tank, cold water flows in the bottom. When the thermostat on the bottom element cools enough the bottom element is turned on. If the water is only run momentarily, such as a hand washing, the top thermostat is not likely to cool enough to turn on the top element. BUT if enough water is run out then the top thermostat will cool enough to turn on the top element and turn OFF the bottom one. Each element is about 4500 watts. On a 240 volt circuit this is almost 19 amps. So, you could try a 4500 watt element made for 240 volts and simply run it on 120 volts. It will be slower, but it beats not having hot water. Or, you could simply search for an element that can run at 120 volts that won't overload the typical 120 volt circuit. 15 amp is common, 20 amp in some places.
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    I don't believe I should have to stress safety here, but I will. You are mixing electricity with water. Be careful. The 'bucket' you are putting the element in; do you plan on putting it in from the side like a normal water heater would? Does this bucket have an open top? You should consider that an element would normally have ALL of the rod imersed in water so don't take the shortcut and float it in from the top or something. Make sure that no water can splash onto your connections, etc. I would make sure this is GFCI protected.
     
  5. Feb 24, 2009 #4
    sounds good, how do I hook the element into the wall? What do I need for that?
     
  6. Feb 24, 2009 #5

    berkeman

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    An electrician.

    You will need to follow National Electric Code (NEC) rules, as well as your local building codes. You will probably need a building permit as well, depending on how this new appliance connects into your existing breaker panel circuits, and a final inspection and sign-off by the city inspectors.

    The reasons for these rules have to do with safety and liability. Not just your safety, but the safety of others who live in your home, as well as the safety of adjacent homes. If you catch your house on fire, depending on your FD's response time, you can burn down your neighbors' homes as well.
     
  7. Feb 24, 2009 #6
    So they don't sell anything that will plug into the wall and the element? Or some sort of device that plugs into the element?

    Are there any electricians on this site? Are you an electrician?
     
  8. Feb 24, 2009 #7

    berkeman

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    I'm not an electrician. But I've done home improvement projects (electrical and otherwise) that conform to code and were done with the proper permits and inspections.

    As to a plug-in device, there may be such a setup, but it would depend on local codes whether you could use it. And, you would have to just happen to have an outlet available right where you want the water heater, and with enough current available on that branch.

    Your local code would likely require a separate branch for a high-current appliance installation like yours, which would involve pulling a new circuit from the breaker panel, and possibly having to increase your home's breaker panel capacity.

    Once you have figured out the details of what you want to do, I'd suggest checking your breaker panel capacity (do you have any spare circuits that you can convert to GFCI, for example, and dedicate to this appliance?), and take all of the info down to your city's building inspector department. They are generally quite helpful when it comes to explaining local code requirements to home-improvement type folks, and they will be able to outline the kinds of things that need to be done to keep the project safe and legal. Then you could take all of that to a local electrician and ask for a quote for the project.

    What is the reason you are wanting to do this as a do-it-yourself project? Is it mainly cost, or do you have some other reason? Do you already have one water heater, and you are wanting to add another? Is the first water heater powered by gas or electricity?
     
  9. Feb 24, 2009 #8
    How does a water heater element plug into the wall? Do I just get an extension cord and cut of the female and hook up the wires directly?

    I don't anything about my place's electricals. What If I just unplug the oven and use that outlet? Or the washer or dryer?

    Pasteurizing bottles of homemade juice/wine/beer/etc. 160f for an hour. Right now i just use the stove but that takes too long.
     
  10. Feb 24, 2009 #9

    Averagesupernova

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    Hmmmm. So you want to heat up 50 gallons of water to do this and you are complaining about the stove taking too long? Just curious, how many bottles at a time? How long does it take now?
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    No offense, but I don't think this is something you should be tackling. You don't seem to have the grasp of electricity needed to do this. I have a ton of experience working with line voltage so I tend to be a bit complacent about safety when advising others. It's easy for me to assume others know about the same dangers that I do when in reality they do not.
     
  11. Feb 24, 2009 #10

    berkeman

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    No, you don't just use an extension cord and cut off the female end. Sorry, GiTS, my post #7 above is the best advice for you. I hope for your sake and the sake of your neighbors that you seek some local professional help in doing this.

    This thread is now locked, per the PF Rules and policy about discussing dangerous activities.
     
  12. Feb 24, 2009 #11

    berkeman

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