The Tank › My 70 year old electric water heater
- December 1, 2010 at 6:55 pm #14601
I just got done replacing my home water heater with a Richmond Power direct vent propane.
I live in rural Nebraska. The water heater it replaced was an electric Westinghouse that my Dad installed in–believe it or not—1940, when the REA first brought electricity to the farm and the year he got married
In 1970 Dad built our new house, and the water heater got moved into it.
It was still working fine when I replaced it the other day. No leaks or nothing. The reason I replaced it was to take advantage of an energy efficiency upgrade program.
For 70 years this old workhorse provided hot water for a family of 7. With zero problems.
Dad and Mom are both gone now, but I remember both of them saying how great it was to have hot water in a house.
So–do you think modern built water heaters can hold a candle to the way “they used to build them”.December 1, 2010 at 8:03 pm #14602SnowyNorthParticipant
That must have been one hell of a water heater. Looking at this website:
and seeing what Westinghouse was making from 1900-1939 and from 1940-1979, you can imagine they had some serious steel in that tank. Were the elements ever replaced? Does it even have a temperature and pressure valve?
What are you going to do with it? You could hook it up in series between the water supply and the new heater as as un-powered tempering tank. It just seems a shame to retire it after such a long career in your family.
I wonder if there is an REA museum somewhere that could use it in a display. Or your local county historical society might be interested in it; both for it’s history in the electrification of your county and it’s history in your family farm.
You should keep it running just to beat Randy’s 1981 Kenmore:
Best wishes with the new one!December 2, 2010 at 1:47 am #14609Randy SchuylerKeymaster
In that era, it’s not impossible that his heater was made of copper or monel, both of which just do not corrode and last pretty much forever.
PS — When Zooeyhall has dealt with FVIR systems a few times, he may put the old heater back in. It’s one reason I don’t replace mine, even though it only has one inch of insulation.December 2, 2010 at 9:09 am #14612
Thanks for the reply. No–I am not going to throw it away, because it is still working fine. I am moving it out to a storage shed I have for safekeeping.
None of the elements ever had to be replaced. And yes–it does have a pressure relief valve.December 2, 2010 at 9:25 am #14613
I have noticed that the tank does have a sort of silvery look to it. Could this be monel metal?December 2, 2010 at 9:33 am #14614
The chant you hear today is nothing but “energy efficiency! energy efficiency!”. But what use is “energy efficiency” if you build a device that can have an expected lifetime of 10 years, when they used to build them to last, like my old water heater?
Westinghouse designed my old water heater to last and last, because that’s what people expected in the early 1940’s, coming out of the Great Depression like my Mom and Dad.
In the 70 years I had my Westinghouse, I might have replaced four or five “modern” water heaters. And while the “modern” ones may be more efficient while operating, when you think of the the energy that goes into the making of a water heater–the forging of the metal, the shipping, etc.–making “energy efficient” but cheap construction water heaters probably uses MORE energy in the total.December 4, 2010 at 10:26 am #14627energyexpertParticipant
One point to note about elements:
Years ago (and I means years) electric water heaters had a external element which was strapped around the outside of the tank near the bottom. Heat was transferred through conduction through the tank and into the water. Some of the heat was also lost outward rather than into the tank.
This design was replaced by the current design of the immersion elements which heat by conduction/convection with no direct loss of primary element heat.
The current design of upper and lower elements provides the “quick recovery feature” which the strap element did not.
But the initial design fostered long element life since the element did not contact the water.
DavidDecember 4, 2010 at 12:51 pm #14628
I had to take the thermostat cover off of the water heater some years back, to check the thermostat setting.
I noticed exactly what you say–the elements seemed to be external to the tank.December 4, 2010 at 3:21 pm #14632
Hello: Those old wrap around elements were held im place with a spring to allow for thermal expansion and still stay tight to the tank. I’ve got a salesman’s demo of this style of tank and it only had two ports in it, one for the hot out, right in the center of the top and one drain/fill at the center bottom. There was very little to go wrong. With modern good insulation over the wrap around elements, this could be a nice and efficient heater 😎
Yours, LarryJuly 15, 2014 at 10:35 pm #21021
Hello! I’m new here. I stumbled upon this thread after a Google search for electric water heaters. I would love to see pictures of either zooeyhall’s 70 year old Westinghouse water heater or eleent’s salesman’s demo!
By the way, I work for HTP, Inc. We make some of the most robust water heaters on the market today. Our electric water heaters have tanks constructed of stainless steel and they are equipped with thread-in electric heating elements with stainless steel bushings and Incoloy sheaths. Our heating elements have what is probably the lowest watt density of any heating element on the market today. Lower Watt density equates to less build-up of scale and longer element life. Yes, our construction costs more, but we think the trade-off is worth it!
I should add that I am an engineer with a genuine interest in the history of water heaters and not some marketing guy trying to drum up sales!July 15, 2014 at 10:49 pm #21022
Hello: Here is a photo of that salesman’s sample. I’m interested in the history of water heating as well as there are so many good ideas waiting for us there.
ps, I was just at PCBC where HTP was showing off it’s newest Phoenix heater. Looks good!July 15, 2014 at 11:11 pm #21023
Eleent, this is really neat! Thank you for sharing! If you ever decide to thin your collection and want to sell this, let me know!July 16, 2014 at 11:54 pm #21031
Hello: I’ve spent years assembling this water heater collection and feel it would be best and most useful if it remained together. When I get old (in a few weeks :P) I’ll try to find a good home for it like the Smithsonian or an independent plumbing museum.
ps. If you keep an eye on old, or antique water heater on Ebay, you just might find another one of the salesman’s heaters.July 18, 2014 at 12:06 am #21036
I certainly understand not wanting to break up the collection! I’ll keep my eyes peeled!
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