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Sunday, February 22, 2015

Calefon oh my Calefon (On-demand Water Heating)

We're always for innovations that save energy and resources, which is why we were a little bit excited to move to a place that has an on-demand water heater (aka tankless water heating). These have been popular in Europe and Japan for many years and we even considered getting one for the house in Prince Edward Island. 

The actual purchase cost can be quite prohibitive and as we'd already maxed out our 'green' grant with the geothermal system and required a holding tank to run it, we skipped the on-demand water heater, or calefon, as it's known in Spanish. (We also didn't understand them all that well, but here's a handy diagram.)
http://blog.amerigas.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/tankless-water-heater-work1.jpg

Anyhow, we now find ourselves the recipients of on-demand water. The heater was tucked away tastefully in a cabinet in the kitchen, with the cold water line running into the bottom of it and hot water lines running out. (As pictured.)
Yes, it says "GO-177"
This is a propane based heater that requires good ventilation (see the exhaust at the top). What we didn't realise is that it also needs ready access to air. (I guess it makes sense with fire being involved!) So our nicely tucked away heater was basically experiencing a severe asthma attack when we ran it with the doors closed. This made the water temperature fluctuate wildly when we used the hot water for any extended period of time. (Think shower...) The builder finally recommended that until he found a solution that we only use the calefon with the doors opened.
You can barely make out the happily burning flame.
This has improved the water temperature issue (it's nice and consistent now) and the calefon doesn't sound like it's being smothered while it runs. It now makes a hearty whooshing sound (vaguely reminiscent of the furnace in Nightmare on Elm Street - okay, that might be an overstatement) and then is basically silent.

The point of all of this? Do not be afraid of the on-demand water heater. It can save a lot of money on a monthly basis and is a bit more environmentally friendly that keeping a huge tank of water warm all the time. Our dish washer seems to be quite pleased with the calefon as well...our dishes come out pristine. This makes Ron happy, both because he doesn't have to wash the dishes in the first place or make up for any dishwasher short comings.
Ron's clever solution to covering up the "widow maker"
wires for an electric water heater. It's a soap dish...
So far, we've used up about a tank and a half of gas (1/4 of one being sucked up by the gas lines running to our apartment), so we figure we can run on one tank a month (give or take) and that costs (right now) a whopping $2-$2.50. The initial outlay on a tank is $65. The gas takes care of our hot water, stove and dryer, everything else is electric. Now, if we could only get the right size water pump for the building, we just might be in shower nirvana.

10 comments:

  1. There seems to be a lot more heating options now that are more environmental-friendly. Which means that you have more types of furnaces to choose from. Furnaces are worth buying not only for their utility but also for their added value for your home. It now depends on you what kind you think is worth parting with more than a few dollars.

    Henrietta Fuller @ Bri-Tech HVAC

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    1. Henrietta, you're so right! There are tons of options out there and I think that it can sometimes be overwhelming. I know for some people it's scary not to have 60 gallons of hot water just waiting for them. We found another small problem that was affecting the water temperature (our main gas valve wasn't turned on all the way) and once it was fixed our showers have been awesome! (There have been some burnt dinners...but everything is back on course!)

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  2. Hey there! I too live in Cuenca -- transplanted from the USA. I found your blog while trying to do some research on my calefon. Because grrr. I have three dials: invierno or verano; gas, min to max; and water, min to max. As far as I can tell, both the seasonal and gas settings factor into temp control -- eg winter gives warmer water than summer and more gas also means more heat.. I just had to change the regulator head for my water-side hose and then consequently had to up my gas. Reading today about a fancy new water-saving shower head, I was disenchanted because my calefon only works if a sufficient amount of water is being pulled by the tap. Ding ding! is that what the water control does? I thought it controlled how much water it would heat. Do you have any idea? I didn't see all that hullabaloo on your calefon photos. I appreciate it!

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    1. Well, Meggan, I'm a year late in answering and you've probably figured it all out by now. I've seen many different set ups for calefons and none are the same. The locals assume that we know how to use it. I would guess that the water control manages the flow of water entering the calefon. Your water pressure will be regulated by how your building is set up. Some just run off of gravity, which makes getting a decent shower a challenge, especially if anyone else is using the water. We have two large water pumps in the basement, but the pressure still isn't completely reliable. Hope you've found a solution! Sorry I'm so late in getting back to you!

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  3. We made the switch to the tankless water heater and could not be happier. The first thing is your water bill is going to drop tremendously because you only heat water you use. The added space allows you to place the heater in a closet or even under the sink. Our system runs less too, meaning less repairs in the end.

    Andy Jones @ AQS Comfort

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    1. Glad you're happy with your heater. We're fairly happy with ours as well, even though the water pressure in the building can affect my shower. We're thinking that it's almost time for a maintenance check on the calefon, but will do a bit of research before we proceed.

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  4. I do not know that much about water heaters so this was truly interesting to read. I did not think I would want to learn about this but I guess I just did not know that they worked that way. It is funny what we will buy and we have not clue how it is made or have it works.

    Ambrose @ Brown & Reaves Services, Inc.

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    1. Glad the post was of some help. For the most part, we're very pleased with the calefon and would likely consider it for a house in North America. Let us know how you get on with your selection.

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  5. That article solved me a problem which I had been facing since 1 week. Thanks for sharing the article.

    Heating and Cooling Woodbridge

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