# Running cottage tank at 120 VAC

Discussion in 'Water Heater Forum, Tanks' started by cmh, Jun 23, 2009.

1. ### cmhNew Member

Joined:
Jun 23, 2009
We inherited a cottage with a small electric water heater. I still have to check the thermostat, but I believe the element requires replacement.

I am comfortable working around household wiring, so I removed the 15 amp fuse protecting the unit, and opened the access cover. The single element is a Stillman model 140, labeled for 240V and 3000W. Our cottage does not have 240V electrical service, and so this element is connected to 120V power.

Is it acceptable to operate these 240V elements at 120V? Should I look to replace it with a 120V element?

And currently it is wired with 14 gauge wire and protected by a 15 amp fuse. Is this appropriate?

Joined:
Jan 14, 2009
Location:
01609
The primary drawback to running a 240V element on 120V is that the tank's recovery rate roughly doubles. (The 3kW element is only dissipating ~ 1.5kW at half the rated input voltage.)

Replacing a 3kW 240V element with a 3kW 120V element would put you near the amp limits chassis wiring for 14AWG wire, and way over the 15 amp code limit for 14AWG house wiring. If there's a 1500watt 120V element available, it'll be nearly identical to the 3kw 240V unit, and preferable for your setup.

If not, replace it with the same element that you started with (and keep the same fuse.) In short runs 14AWG wiring can take more current, but 15 amps is still the limit for what would actually meet code. It'll be drawing ~13amps, which is already close enough- don't push your luck.

4. ### ThatguyHomeowner

Joined:
Aug 27, 2008
Occupation:
A bounty hunter like in "Raising Arizona"
Location:
MD
Half the voltage is 1/4th the power, assuming a constant element resistance of (240^2)/3000 = ~19 ohms.

How many gallons is it and
what recovery time do you need and
what is your incoming water temp and
what is your heater 'stat set at?

Last edited: Jun 23, 2009
5. ### jadnashuaRetired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

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Sep 2, 2004
Occupation:
Retired Systems engineer for defense industry.
Location:
New England
Running the thing on 120vac is sort of like having a lamp on a dimmer...it still lights, but not anywhere near as bright or as hot as it would be if it was up full. 15A for a WH isn't very much, so while it should work, it will take a long time to recover.

6. ### ThatguyHomeowner

Joined:
Aug 27, 2008
Occupation:
A bounty hunter like in "Raising Arizona"
Location:
MD
10 gals of water (83#) heated 50F will take 415 BTU and will take 121w-h. At 750w it will take 10 minutes.

7. ### jimboPlumber

Joined:
Aug 31, 2004
Location:
San Diego
But lets look at real world...how long would it take to heat 25 gallons 80Âº??

8. ### ThatguyHomeowner

Joined:
Aug 27, 2008
Occupation:
A bounty hunter like in "Raising Arizona"
Location:
MD
25 gals of water (208#) heated 80F will take 16,640 BTU and will take 4876 w-h. At 750w it will take 6.5 hrs.

Correction: (10 gals)(50F)(2.43)/750w = 1.6 hrs.

Last edited: Jun 24, 2009

Joined:
Jan 14, 2009
Location:
01609
DOH! Of course it is! (What was I thinkin'? or rather, why wasn't I thinkin'? )

So @ 120VAC with the old element he's running 750W, but could comfortably (legally) tolerate up to 1500W given his wiring/fusing configuration. Anything 120V element between 1000-1500W would be a noticeable difference in recovery time compared to simply replacing the 3kW/240V element.

But as with most electric tanks, it takes awhile. Even were he running at the fully rated 3kW it takes ~100 minutes to raise 25gallons 80F. At half power it takes ~200 minutes, etc.

Basically it means be sure to let your girlfriend shower first...

10. ### hjModerator & Master PlumberStaff Member

Joined:
Aug 31, 2004
Occupation:
Plumber
Location:
Cave Creek, Arizona
element

1650 watts is the maximum 120 v. element because of amperage draw limitations. If you can get it in a "low watt density" format it will last longer than the more common high watt density one.