The water wars

The lovely new Evergreen ready for service.

I currently have three working water heaters. That is correct. Not one, not two, but three. Here’s how that happened. Let’s start with solar. I bought my first solar heater about 10 years ago. It did not work at all. I still had my big gas heater connected, so I procrastinated for a few years. Finally, I complained at the hardware store where I purchased it and, to my surprise, it was removed, and I got a full refund.

I let that same hardware store convince me to buy another of a different make, an error. It worked sometimes, sometimes not. That’s like having a car that works Monday, Wednesday and Friday, but not Tuesday, Thursday or weekends, i.e. a useless car. It was a useless solar heater. Again it sat on the roof for a few years. We used our old Heat Master. I had lost faith in solar water heaters completely.

We’ve been using a big Heat Master for the past 16 or so years. Works great, but it’s getting long in the tooth. I don’t want to wake up one winter morning to find the water heater has succumbed in the night, but it is still working okay, so I didn’t want to replace it. I’ll just install an alternative, I told myself.

I called Jorge the plumber.


Jorge came over, and I told him my plan. Remove the solar heater from the roof and install downstairs an on-demand heater I had already purchased, a nice brand called Avera. Hmm, opined Jorge, I bet I can get the solar heater to work. I am 99 percent sure. Those are good odds, so I agreed. He worked on it for a couple of hours and left.

It must have been a Monday, Wednesday or Friday. It worked when he left, but not on the next day, so I was back where I started, and my wallet was $1,500 pesos lighter. And the Avera was still in the box.

I called Jorge again.

He said all his customers with solar heaters are very happy. My relatives with solar heaters love them too. I asked Jorge for a solar heater recommendation. He mentioned a company named Evergreen. Jorge has one on his house, so I bought an Evergreen. Jorge installed it. It works pretty well, but it takes a good while for hot water to arrive from the roof, and it’s not very hot in the mornings. But it’s far better than the previous solar heater.

Heat Master

A week later I called Jorge to come install the Avera, which he did. He left. The water was wonderfully hot but, I discovered, the pressure through the house was abysmal, and when I turned on the cold tap even a little bit, the Avera switched itself off completely. Useless. I was pissed.

Online investigation led me to the conclusion that the water pressure entering the Avera was insufficient. When that happens, it turns itself off. It doesn’t care if you’re covered in soap or not. That seems to be a quirk of on-demand heaters in general, not just Avera.

I called Jorge again, telling him I wanted a pressure pump installed on the cold water pipe entering the Avera. He did not think that was the problem, but I insisted.

He installed a pressurizer. It’s the orange thing in the photo.

It now works like gangbusters. The solar will serve as backup. The Heat Master is old and uses lots of gas, plus it has a permanent pilot light which the Avera does not. I turned off the Heat Master. I can switch easily to any of the three heaters, but now the Avera is my main man. Hot and forceful. It’s a volcano.

Spring is for sprucing up

José walks atop glass. The dark area is covered with shade cloth.

I wait till April and May each year to do repairs. It’s the height of the dry season, and outside renovations don’t run the risk of getting soaked. Quite a few have been done already, mostly at the Downtown Casita where painting, plumbing and electrical occurred.

Yesterday, one of my guys, José, did some minor exterior painting here at the Hacienda, and then he climbed atop the roof of the upstairs terraza with a pressure washer to remove a year’s accumulation of gunk. The interesting aspect is that the roof is glass. He treads lightly and tries to stay atop the steel beams.

Old faithful.

My focus now turns to the water heater, which is about 16 years old. We started out with an identical heater 18 years ago, but it failed after two years and was replaced for free because it was still under warranty. It’s a big sucker, and has always worked great.

It has a nonstop pilot light, however, and it sits quite near the propane tank, which concerns me a bit. Plus, I would like to spend less on gas. I tried to reduce gas costs years ago by installing first one solar water heater, then another. Neither were worth warm spit, so I’m turning to another solution, one of those on-demand heaters.

But I’ve had bad luck with those too. We installed one in the Mexico City condo, and it’s been quite temperamental. We installed another in the Downtown Casita some years back because the little cheap traditional heater the home came with worked poorly. The new on-demand heater was no better, so I installed a large, traditional heater, which works great.


We also have an on-demand heater in my child bride’s pastry kitchen. It’s never failed us in seven years.

I’m going to buy an Avera instantaneous heater, probably the model that costs 3,199 pesos. It has great reviews on the Avera website, and I’ll also keep the old heater online. I can switch from one to the other. Another option is a modulating model. Anyone have experience with those?

Homeownership, never an idle moment.