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AGE of WATER HEATERS
ALTERNATIVE HOT WATER SOURCES
ANODES & DIP TUBES on WATER HEATERS
ANTI SCALD VALVES
APPLIANCE DIAGNOSIS & REPAIR
APPLIANCE EFFICIENCY RATINGS
AQUASTAT CONTROL Functions
BACKDRAFTING HEATING EQUIPMENT
BACKFLOW PREVENTER, HEATER WATER FEEDER
CARBON MONOXIDE - CO
CHECK VALVES, WATER SUPPLY
CLOGGED SUPPLY PIPING
CROSS CONNECTIONS, PLUMBING
DEBRIS in WATER SUPPLY, Water Heater
DRAIN a WATER HEATER TANK
ELECTRIC WATER HEATERS
FLOODED WATER HEATER REPAIR
FREEZE-PROOF A BUILDING
GALVANIC SCALE & METAL CORROSION
GAS BURNER Flame & Noise Defects
GAS FIRED WATER HEATERS
GAS PIPING, VALVES, CONTROLS
HEATING COST SAVINGS METHODS
HOT WATER SUPPLY
HOT WATER IMPROVEMENTS
HOT WATER DELIVERY SPEED UP
HOT WATER EFFICIENCY IMPROVEMENT
HOT WATER PRESSURE EXPANSION RATE
HOT WATER PRESSURE LOSS
HOT WATER PROBLEM DIAGNOSIS
HOT WATER QUANTITY IMPROVEMENT
HYDROGEN SULFIDE GAS
INDIRECT FIRED WATER HEATERS
MANUALS & PARTS GUIDES - HVAC
MIXING / ANTI-SCALD VALVES
NO HEAT - NO HOT WATER: HEATER DIAGNOSIS
NOISE, WATER HEATER
ODORS IN WATER
PIPING IN buildings, Clogs Leaks Types
RELIEF VALVE LEAKS
RELIEF VALVES - Water Heaters
SCALE REMOVAL, WATER HEATERS
SEWER GAS ODORS
SOLAR HOT WATER HEATERS
TANKLESS WATER HEATERS
THERMAL EXPANSION of HOT WATER
THERMOSTATS, WATER HEATER
TIMERS for ELECTRIC WATER HEATERS
WATER HEATER ALTERNATIVES
WATER HEATER ANODES, DIP TUBES
WATER HEATER AIR INLET
WATER HEATER DEBRIS FLUSH
WATER HEATER DRAIN PROCEDURE
WATER HEATER EFFICIENCY
WATER HEATER FLUSH PROCEDURE
WATER HEATER NOISES
WATER HEATER PROBLEM DIAGNOSIS
WATER HEATER COMPARISONS, PROPERTIES
WATER HEATER SCALE
WATER HEATER SAFETY
WATER HEATERS for HOME HEATING USE?
WATER ODORS, CAUSE CURE
WATER PIPES, Clogs Leaks Types
WATER PRESSURE TOO HIGH: DANGERS
WATER PRESSURE LOSS DIAGNOSIS & REPAIR
WATER QUANTITY IMPROVEMENT
WATER SOFTENERS & CONDITIONERS
WINTERIZE A BUILDING
Indirect water heater properties: here we define and explain indirect-fired hot water heaters, describing the characteristics & advantages of this method for making domestic hot water where a gas or oil fired heating boiler is installed.
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Thanks to Carson Dunlop, a Toronto Home Inspection Firm and Home Inspection Educator, for permission to use sketches shown in this article.
Below we describe some alternative ways to make hot water, either to replace or to supplement an existing hot water supply system. After knowing what the hot water problem really is, there are steps we can take to get more hot water or to increase hot water pressure.
As we explain at TANKLESS COILS, a conventional tankless coil system imbeds a finned copper tube coil inside of the hot heating boiler water, running domestic cold water through the tankless coil where physically separated boiler water heats the coil and thus heats water passing through the coil.
An indirect-fired water heater also uses a finned-copper tube coil in a different approach to providing more domestic hot water.
In our photo at left, the white Super Stor™ tank is an indirect-fired water heater. Water in this tank is heated by a plumbing loop circulating hot boiler water through a heating coil in the bottom of the Super Stor™ water heater tank.
Indirect fired water heaters: In some other buildings domestic hot water is produced by cycling hot water from a hydronic or steam boiler through a loop inside of a steel tank. The water in the tank is heated by the water in the coil.
Modern systems using this approach use the term indirect-fired water heater and such systems are sold by various companies such as the SuperStorTM unit shown here as the white tank to the right of the heating boiler.
You may also notice the WellXTrolTM blue water tank off to the left of the boiler as well as
in the left foreground covered partly by a cardboard box we have a white-yellow fiberglass close to the thin blue vertical water softener -
water treatment equipment in the same photo. And just to be complete, the little tank over the boiler next to our service technician
is the expansion tank for this heating boiler.
The difference between RANGE BOILER WATER HEATER and Indirect-fired Water Heaters is in the details. The heat exchanger that heats water in the range boiler is in or at the heating boiler. The water in an indirect fired water heater such as the SuperStorTM unit is heated by a finned copper coil located inside the hot water tank. The internal coil is in turn heated by circulating water inside the coil to and from the heating boiler. The range boiler is an old concept in use for about 100 years. Indirect fired water heaters are a modern system and are in current sales and use.
Plumbing Connections for an Indirect Fired Water Heater
Where an indirect-fired water heater is installed, the coil is inserted not in the heating boiler, but rather in the bottom of a hot water tank. You can see this design in our photo at left (the blue tank is the indirect fired water heater) and also in our sketch at page top, provided courtesy of Carson Dunlop Associates.
Water from the heating boiler (not domestic cold water) is circulated from the boiler, through the coil, and back to the heating boiler. The coil, in turn, heats water stored in the separate hot water tank.
This installation is a bit fancy: the blue indirect fired water heater is heated by the gray Weil McLain™ oil fired heating boiler.
The blue water heater tank is in turn being used in this case to provide a big reservoir of hot water to a water-to-air heating coil installed in the light gray/tan air handler at far left in the photo. This home uses that air handler for both central air conditioning and also for heat. Other pipes connected to the Weil McLain boiler may indicate that that boiler also provides hot water heat to some building areas. (Click on the photo for details).
But the principle is the same. Hot water from the blue indirect-fired water heater tank could have just as well been used to provide domestic hot water for washing and bathing as well as for heating the water-to-air heating system, as well as serving both purposes.
Controls on Indirect Fired Water Heaters
An indirect fired water heater such as the Super Stor™ or Extrol™ water heater (shown at left) unit will include a temperature control that is usually mounted on the water tank itself.
When the hot water temperature drops below the control set point, the control will turn on a circulator pump that will cycle hot boiler water through the heating coil inside of the Super Stor™ tank.
The indirect-fired water heater does not itself turn on the heating boiler.
Rather, when temperatures inside the separate heating boiler drop below a low limit (or hot water maintenance level) set on the heating boiler's own control, that system will turn on its burner to re-heat the boiler water directly.
Efficiency of Indirect Fired Water Heaters
An indirect-fired water heater is a more efficient way to use a home heating boiler to make domestic hot water. Why? Because the heating boiler will run less often, and when it does run, it will have a longer "on" cycle (as it has to heat up the tank of hot water). Both of these conditions are a more efficient way to burn home heating oil than using a tankless coil.
In sum, during the heating season, when a heating boiler is likely to be "hot" most of the time anyway because it is heating the home, a tankless coil installed on a heating boiler is a reasonable way to obtain some domestic hot water from the system, though in most installations a tankless coil will not be able to produce as much hot water for as long a time period as what we can obtain from a separate water heater.
But an indirect-fired water heater always makes more efficient use of the home heating boiler, year round. And since the consumer can decide how big a hot water tank she wants, 50 or even 100 gallons of hot water can be kept in reserve. More than we can normally obtain from a conventional domestic tankless coil on a heating boiler.
Also read RANGE BOILER WATER HEATERwhere we describe an older type of indirect-fired water heating system installed at many older homes.
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about indirect-fired hot water heaters
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