~ Excel Tankless Propane Water Heater ~ |
Though the water heater did a great job for us while plugged in at the dock, it became a useless space
hog while on the hook. Our first attempt at having hot water on hand during long stays at anchor was via solar power.
Basically, a black bag filled with 3 gallons of water sitting on a sunny deck produced temperatures somewhere between
tolerable and painful, and the attached hose running down through the forward hatch tapped us in for many a Russian Roulette
But as the daylight shortened with the season, so too did our hot water window. I'd taken on a
job that often had me absent in the height of the heat, so it soon became apparent that solar showers and schedules
didn't go well together. Enter the propane powered instant hot water heater!
After some research,
Don found an Excel vent-free unit that was reasonably priced and appropriately sized to mount on the rare, flat surface of the bulkhead
inside the anchor locker. The vent-free option meant we didn’t have to worry about big holes in the
cabin top, reducing installation to only minor re-plumbing, and an additional propane solenoid switch for safety sake.
Voila, we had scalding water on demand. Well … as long as the demand was for no more than 45 seconds.
Now I'm efficient at the water saving efforts of brisk bathing, but even the U.S. Navy granted more shower-time
than that! Once soaped up, I’d open the valve and hear the futile click-click-click of failed ignition
as freezing water sprayed down on this shocked sailor.
”DON! The water heater isn’t lighting!”
My hapless hubby would plod into the head, spread the towels aside, open the louvered locker doors, and “POOF”
(a good sound) we had lift off! He’d confirm the little blue blaze with a vexing and vexed “Looks
like it’s working fine now” quip, then put everything to rights.
Rinse and repeat. Click-click-click
We’d fiddle with the flow and flame controls with some success, but our showers
continued to be a study in contrasts. Alas, batteries filled up the old tank space, wire had been run,
holes had been drilled and sweat had been spilled so
| ~ Anchor Locker Wide Open ~
there was no going back. Our bubble of hopes
for hot water on the hook were completely combusted so we swallowed the situation as yet another eccentricity of this
That was until an unrelated conversation occurred regarding engine compartment fires.
When it was mentioned that an automated extinguisher or Fire Port would mitigate the risk of feeding oxygen
to the flame, a cognitive spark of association flared up in my brain.
”Don, why doesn’t our
water heater need a vent?”
”It has a sensor in it to shut it off if the oxygen levels get to low …
I saw the realization flash on Don’s face. We’d installed the water heater
in a space so small it couldn’t occupy a gasp; the unit’s safety feature was functioning as designed.
Each time we did a status check, we’d unwittingly let the suffocated flame breathe again, but tucked tight behind
closed doors had us taking cold showers.
We’d not been that quickwitted about the cause of our problems,
but a viable resolution came pretty fast. Don connected a small fan that turned on with the propane solenoid,
and we showered with the locker doors cleared and opened wide. With all that oxygen flowing freely,
we once again enjoyed hot showers of sufficient, sailory length – about 90 seconds!