I'm looking at replacing my current 80 gallon electric water heater.
The current heater says the upper and lower elements are both around
Most 80 gallon units I have seen in stores nowadays are 5500 watt units
(upper and lower element are both 5500 watt).
I currently have a 5000 watt gasoline powered generator. Our house is
wired with a transfer switch, and the current water heater is already
wired into the transfer switch. We have crappy electric service, which
is why I bought the generator a couple of years ago. We have had
outtages lasting 1-2 days. In my area we had an ice storm a couple
years back- remarkably, our crumby power stayed on, while most others
were out for between 1-2 weeks. My point? We have outtages that last
more than 3 or 4 hours, so there is a good chance we would need to heat
water using my generator. I have used the generator to heat our water
between showers when we were down for a day or so.
At my list visit to Lowes, I talked to a guy working there and
explained my generator situation to him. He recommended that I buy the
80 gal electric unit I was looking at and just buy some lower watt
heating elements to replace the higher watt ones that come with the
unit from the factory. He said he had done the same thing at his house
with no problem. Are there any problems that he or I don't know about
by doing this? (other than it will take a little longer to convert
incoming cold water to hot).
He claimed that by using the lower watt element it takes less energy to
heat the water - he compared it to cars you can buy with two different
size engines- one uses more gas than the others. I don't buy that. I
didn't argue with him there at the store, but I believe it takes the
same amount of energy to heat the water, just a longer time to use the
same amount of energy to heat the same quantity of water.
The other thing I thought about doing was keeping the 5500 watt
elements in it as is, and buying some extra lower watt elements for
emergencies where we would need to heat water using the generator. I
have never had to replace an element before- if you need to swap out
both the top and bottom elements, do you have to drain the whole water
heater, or can you do a fast swap, plugging the hole with a towel, etc.
while you quickly switch each of them out? The heater is down in our
unfinished basement, so if a little water got on the floor, it wouldn't
be the end of the world.
Thanks in advance for your advice!