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Can I Install a Propane Water Heater Next to an Electric One?

  • Transcript

    LESLIE: Mike in Tennessee, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?

    MIKE: Is it possible or either a good idea to put a propane water heater in – next to an electric water heater? With the bad weather that we’ve had and the possibility of losing the electricity, I was trying to determine whether or not I could put in a propane water heater and maybe cheap hot water to be able to wash the kids and the clothes when the electricity goes out.

    TOM: Well, that’s an interesting approach. First of all, I don’t see why you couldn’t do that as long as both appliances were installed safely and in accordance with electrical codes and plumbing codes and in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. So, there’s no reason why you couldn’t have the water heaters side by side with one being propane and one being electric. But you might want to think about a more permanent solution and a more practical solution to the underlying problem of losing power and that is to install a standby generator.

    Now, you can get a standby generator that would run on propane gas. And a standby generator is very handy, because it comes on automatically when the power goes off and it can handle the water heater, lights, refrigeration, heating systems, all the basics.

    LESLIE: Well, pretty much anything that you want it to.

    TOM: Yeah. And keep you moving throughout the house. So, rather than see you spend money on a second water heater, I’d rather see you spend some money on a propane-powered, gas standby generator.

    MIKE: What would you think would be necessary for running, yeah, the basics that you were just mentioning there: the water heater, the refrigeration, the stove? You know, not running the whole house – I think that takes about 15,000 kilowatts – but just running a partial system there. What would you recommend for that type of a standby?

    TOM: Well, exactly. And you can buy them based on different sizes. So, for example, if you wanted one that was about 8k, that would probably run you probably $2,500, plus or minus.

    MIKE: Oh, OK.

    TOM: And if you wanted one that was 20k, that’d probably run you about $4,500 and then something else in between. So, they’re not extraordinarily expensive. They have to be installed professionally and of course, this presumes that you have propane available to run them and not – or natural gas. But I presume you’re talking about propane.

    It comes with something called a transfer switch. So, it gets installed next to your main electrical panel and basically, the circuits that are wired in the transfer switch are the ones that actually come on. So you might have a lighting circuit, a refrigerator, furnace and so on. If you happen to have central air conditioning, you may not use that, because you’d be willing to put up with not having air conditioning for a few days but as long as your refrigerator worked and so on.

    MIKE: Fantastic. Well, thanks for all the good information you folks provide.

    TOM: You’re very welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

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