Thursday, April 21, 2011


When dry-camping conserving resources such as water becomes a major concern. When getting ready to take a shower, it's hard not to waste water while waiting for the hot water to make it from the hot water heater to the shower head. Here are some tips to help solve that problem:

1. You can install the Atwood adjustable thermostat, but even at its lowest setting, the water may still be too hot for your comfort (about 115° F.). Of course, personal preferences vary, and you may be fine with this solution. It certainly is an easy install.

2. Another solution--and one that costs no money--is to time the water heater. You can use a digital kitchen timer, which clings magnetically to the stove hood near the water heater switch. Turn on the heater in the morning, set the timer for about 15 minutes--actually, between 10 minutes in the summer and 20 minutes in the winter--and then when it beeps, turn off the water heater. After a little practice, you'll be able to attain the perfect showering temperature pretty reliably this way.

3. A third method is to monitor the temperature of the water heater's tank using a remote-reading thermometer with an alarm. The $17 Mannix AQ150 aquarium thermometer does a fine job. Slip its probe under the tank's insulating jacket and set its high temperature alarm to your preferred temperature. Turn on the water heater, and then turn it off again when the thermometer beeps that the water temperature is just right. At that point you can just turn the hot water faucet on full--no need to mix.

4. Most folks take a "Navy" shower, shutting the water off while soaping and scrubbing, then back on to rinse. With the water temperature where you like it, you can also put colored tape on the faucet knobs when they are at top dead center. So that you don't have to mess with the faucet settings once the temperature is satisfactory, you can add a 90-degree brass shut-off valve which screws into the faucet and the shower hose on the other end. It's available at any hardware store and although not pretty, it is functional.

4. You'll probably still need to run the water in the shower for a few seconds to get the hot water to the shower head, though. But you can reclaim that water by running it into a one-liter plastic jug, and then use it throughout the day to wash dishes.

Problem: Shower heads can become clogged with hard water deposits.


1, Replacement with a new head or cleaning out the old is a good place to start. Try soaking the shower head in vinegar. Let it soak for a few hours.

2. Sometimes, hard water deposits can form in the hot water tank and then break off, migrating downstream and usually plugging a hot water valve either in the shower or at a sink. Removing and cleaning of the valve is the fix.

3. Lastly, you could have a pump that is losing capacity. Is the flow good in the kitchen and bath sink faucets?

Contributors: Larry Wade, Alex Rutchka, Andy Baird, Don Malpas

Revised 31 May 11

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