... without running hot water. I don't think I mentioned it, but my hot water heater broke last November; I just got a replacement installed this past week. Of course, it wasn't planned that I would take all winter and then some to get a new hot water heater.
At first, I simply couldn't find a plumber to talk to. Hard as it may be to believe, this area is facing a severe shortage of plumbers! Even a very well-known national chain home improvement store is unable to do installations due to the lack of plumbers. I wonder if it should be a second career for me? Seems it would be less strenuous than programming... but who knows?
The tank that broke was propane fueled and I wasn't crazy about that. Propane anywhere other than the cook stove makes me nervous. Irrational? Of course. Anyway, I knew there was an opportunity to make a change. I also, within a short period of time after it broke, came to realize that I don't use much hot water. I can manage a sink load of dirty dishes with one tea kettle of boiling water, and the only other draws on the hot tap are showering and laundry. I got adept at sponge bathing over the past seven months, and I will say that having hot tap water again feels quite the luxury. I brought my laundry to the laundromat... like old NYC days. Yes, almost my entire 35 years living in NY saw me at the laundromat every few weeks. Believe me, to many NY'ers, a home laundry system is luxury living.
Winter came. The hardest thing about not having hot water during the winter is the morning face wash. It's quite the shock--although I got used to it (funny how we get used to things)--that near-zero splash. Quite the waker-upper. I was investigating my options: Since I now knew how little hot water I needed, it seemed an "on demand" heater would be most economical and ecological. Sadly, I found out my water is too heavy with minerals which would have made maintenance a headache.
Next option was electric, but small. Maybe 30 gallon if I could find one. Yes, they were available, but word was reaching my ears that I would suffer shock in the electric bill if I went that route. I called our local energy initiative and they helped assure me that electric wouldn't be the wallet drain I feared. They referred me to a local plumber (I wonder how they found him!?) and he was interested in setting me up with a heat-sink water heater. They work by drawing heat out of the surrounding atmosphere. If my wood stove were in the basement, and if I were firing it up all winter, then the heat-sink would have probably been a good buy. But it isn't, and I don't. It's quite cool to cold in the basement during the winter.
I finally ended up installing a 40-gallon electric heater.
Quite an amazing learning experience, this going without for seven months. For one, I've concluded that our way of living is not very efficient, but is in fact rather wasteful too much of the time. I suppose I reached that conclusion because I'm living here alone. It's a different story if one considers a family of 4 or so. But for me to keep 40 gallons of water hot all the time doesn't make a lot of sense seeing how I need so little of it. So I'm now thinking of setting it up with a timer. I'll also invest in a special blanket to wrap it in.
It's made me think of all the people the world over who do not have hot water on tap--many don't have cold on tap! We live cushy lives here in the west. It's easy to lose sight of how much luxury we enjoy.
I'm glad I don't have to sponge bathe any more.