And it burns, burns, burns…. and burns and burns and burns some more.

I got a lotta stuff done this weekend. I changed these:


I replaced this thing:


I stood this thing up again, after a year, but still not exactly straight (clothes don’t dry crooked, they just dry):


I cleaned this:


Defrosted and unplugged this (clean later):


And then I cut a hole in this for some reason:


But my pièce de résistance was this:


Purty, huh? You bet yer heating bill it is. I’ll bet mine. You’re looking at what used to be the emergency OFF switch for our tankless oil burning water heater. It is now the emergency ON switch and one hour timer switch for the same. Yes, technically while that timer switch is ticking there’s now no way to turn off the oil burner without going into the basement, which is probably required by some silly building code. If my oil burner ever did explode, though, it would likely blow a giant hole in my kitchen floor directly between the emergency switch and whomever needed to flip it, fully mocking the purpose of that switch. Also, once your boiler has exploded, what’s left to turn off anyway? So, I’m putting it to some use.

First, some Home Heating 101, from someone who knows just enough to know what he’s doing most of the time. The hot water in your home is most likely heated by one of two types of boiler: a tank heater or a tankless heater. A tank heater heats a large volume of water and keeps it at a specific temperature until you’re ready to use it. This is the actual water that you drink/wash/bathe in. Today’s models are worlds more efficient than their predecessors but in the end you’re still paying to keep a giant tank of water at 180 something degrees ALL THE TIME, just so when you walk up to a faucet you can have water hot enough to make tea before you can count to three. Are we that spoiled? I can understand instant gratification, but come on! It’s like leaving your hair dryer running all the time so you can just pick it up and start styling without the hassle of switching it on. It’s like leaving your car running all the time so you can just get in and go. It’s like leaving your computer on all the time so you can just sit down and… no wait. Scratch that. I do that one.

A tankless water heater works by heating a small tank of water that then in turn heats a coil of pipe that contains your home’s hot water. It’s better than a tank heater since much less energy is needed to heat that small tank of water than say, 60 gallons of water. Still, just like a tank heater, that small tank is kept at the same temperature all the time. This is the heater I have. A third kind of water heater is called a point source heater and heats your water directly with either gas or electricity only when you want to use it. This is the heater I want. Since I can’t afford one at the moment, I decided to turn my tankless heater into a bastard version of a point source heater. Because I can. And because I just paid $3.89 a gallon for heating oil.

We only use hot water out of the tap for two things: showers and washing dishes. There’s the occasional load of laundry that needs to be boiled, but other that that it’s just showers in the morning for the adults and dishes and showers for the kids in the evening. So, why the HELL would I need to be burning oil every hour to keep a tank hot that we’re only going to use twice a day? Sara and I had this epiphany weeks ago and ever since have been using that emergency shut off switch to make sure our oil burner is only running when we need it. Some parents wake up in the dead of night and wonder if their kids are home safe, I wake up in the dead of night and wonder if my oil burner is running, needlessly. Even though we’ll certainly remember to turn the burner on when we want a hot shower, we would way too often forget to turn it back off. My solution was the timer switch, so no matter what, in one hour that burner is shutting off.

Coming next: how to install your own water heater timer switch and live to tell about it!


3 responses to “And it burns, burns, burns…. and burns and burns and burns some more.

  1. I really like this idea. We just moved into one half a duplex that has an older oil burner that heats both hot water as well as the water for the radiators. I assume its tankless with a coil, I can’t really see where the tank would be. Anyway, I was looking into getting a timer for it. My emergency off switch is even more ridiculous than yours – it’s mounted on the side of the heater. My hesitation with the timers actually made for heaters, where you set the specific time of day for it to come on, is that we don’t tend to use it that regularly – besides showers in the morning, when laundry and dishwasher and dishes are done can vary. A manual timer switch (not just a switch) thus seems like a great option. I can turn it on in the morning when I feed the cat before we shower. I think what would be best to do is run some wire upstairs from the basement from the breaker, add the timer, and then run it back down to the heater. I guess I should add a something in so that it can stay on full time in the winter though. Anyway, thanks for a great suggestion.

  2. Pingback: What sucks more than having your house cave in? « Best Imitation of Myself

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