Thursday, May 3, 2007


Water Heater, 4/29/2007

This tank and mess of hoses is our new water heater installation. We've never before had hot water on a boat, so we're thrilled!

The old tank was badly rusted and leaked when we tried to fill it. While we would have loved to have repaired that immediately, we had bigger fish to fry last season, so we just bypassed it and lived with cold water.

On our Cape Dory 28, the tank is installed under the aft part of the port side bench in the saloon. It's pretty tough to get down in there, particularly to the back side of the tank where the rear mounting screws are. So, Michele did the hard work, crawling into the deep recesses of the engine room where I couldn't fit, to remove the old mounting screws and fasten down the new tank. Fortunately, we were able to lift the tank up through the storage opening in the bench, and lower the new one through exactly the same way.

One cause of rusted water tank is that whenever water spills on the mounting surface, the metal casing sits in it, rusting away. We tried to combat that situation by getting a stainless steel tank, and by mounting it on rubber washers, eight total, to lift the tank slightly off the surface. If water spills or drips onto the surface, at least it won't be sitting directly in it.

The mess of hoses you see in the picture make for a complicated installation -- somewhat more complicated than necessary, as a matter of fact. Generally, there are four connections: water in, water out, engine coolant in, and engine coolant out. (The water heater is electric, but also has engine coolant connections that let coolant pump through a heat exchanger, heating the water whenever the engine is running.) We complicated the matter by including a permanent winter by-pass connection (the white hose). When winterizing the boat, we can just flip a valve on the bypass hose and drain the tank instead of filling it with non-toxic antifreeze.

This was definitely one of the more frustrating projects for me. First, some hoses needed re-routing, since the connections on new tank were in different position than those on the old tank. Some of the fittings were stripped or crossthreaded, so I needed to get new connectors. Then, I couldn't seem to get them all to stop leaking. Every time we tested the system, something leaked, requiring one of us to climb down there, disassemble it, and start again. Finally, we got advice from Michele's father, who suggested that we simply weren't using enough teflon tape on the connectors. He was right on, too. On our final attempt, we really layered it on thick, and that did the job.

Overall, it was a tough chore, but the reward has been well well worth it. We love having hot water on the boat!

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