Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Coral Max water heater

One of the things I plan to do on the ranch is show people different shower solutions.  This big tank water heaters are energy and space wasters.  The whole house tankless heaters are coming down in price, but they are still rather pricey for a large home.  I plan to use a tankless water heater made for small homes in the straw-bale cabin.  That will be the cabin that will have the main kitchen and guest speaker housing.  I want that cabin to be absolutely comfortable.  I have at least 2 solar water heaters ready for cabins.  I plan to use a small single point of use water heater for the trailer style cabin.  And I have a propane tankless water heater for the shower house.  That leaves MY shower.

When I moved in, there was a 40 gallon tank water heater.  It died about 6 months ago.  I was not sad.  A volunteer and I removed the dead water heater.  Jim, the volunteer, took the old thing apart exposing a black tank and then he designed and built a solar box for that tank to sit in and absorb the sun's rays.  I used the propane water heater with a garden hose attached into my bathroom while I researched possible water heaters.  There are all of the ones I mentioned above...  but I kept thinking, "Why isn't there a shower water heater with the heating element IN the shower head?"  Knowing that my ideas are usually not original, I got online and searched for what I knew had to exist.  Sure enough.  It seems all over the world, people use shower heads with water heaters built into the head.  They come in all sorts of voltage and wattage...  I know how to do basic wiring, but if there are all those volts and watts and amps thrown in, I can get confused.  So, I emailed a friend who does know electricity.  I told him what I had:  a regular outlet and the mega-outlet that the old water heater used.  I sent him photos and links to the shower heads I was considering.  We went with one that would be compatible with the wiring that the previous water heater had used.  I ordered it.  It arrived.  One Coral Max 220v 30amp version.

Anthony came out to install it.  The wiring went easily enough.  The water hook up went easily enough.  The instructions say to run the water through the head before turning on the breaker.  We did. We turned on the breaker and a big red flash and it died.  No one was hurt or even mildly shocked.  What we didn't understand is that you need to turn the water on and FILL the shower head completely so that the water is on the element.

Sadly, Anthony went home and we both pondered and concluded that that was our mistake (not filling the unit completely.  I got on ebay to see if I could find a replacement element and found the whole set up for $26 in an auction with 3 minutes to go!  I got it, it arrived.  I uninstalled the first one and reinstalled the new one.  Anthony had done all of the difficult stuff.  I merely carefully switched out the heads.  I ran the water for a solid ten minutes, and then flipped the breaker.

Well, it worked.  I could feel the warmer water on my hand.  I decided to give it the full test with an actual shower.  It was really only luke warm.  I have one more thing to try before I give this the complete two thumbs down....

Update: I turned the water pressure down coming into the bathroom which helped the temperature, but the entire unit died in less than a year.  It was worth the experiment, but not a very good product.