Hacked Gadgets Forum

January 8, 2011

DIY Gas Hot Water Tank to Electric Conversion

at 12:45 pm. Filed under DIY Hacks


If you have a gas hot water tank you might be agonizing over the large heating bills for your hot water. Gas prices are going up and when using gas lots of your heat ends up the chimney. So you are convinced that going electric is a good idea. Only problem is that purchasing a new electric tank would negate your energy savings. That is where this DIY Gas Hot Water Tank to Electric Conversion hack comes in. With a bit of work and an old stove heated element you could easily convert your gas hot water tank to run on electricity. To get even more savings a simple timer is all that you need to only produce hot water when you need it.

Thanks for the tip Matt.

“My inefficient natural gas hot water tank to an ultra efficient electric tank on a timer, decreasing my energy consumption for water heating by about 80% and saving us about $175 per year. Shape the heating element to fit inside the tube through the water tank. I used a couple pipes as forms to bend the heating element into a “coil inside a coil” shape so that the two ends of the element were on the same end of the coil. “


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12 Responses to “DIY Gas Hot Water Tank to Electric Conversion”

  1. Worried Person Says:

    this is a bad bad bad bad bad bad bad bad Idea

    This should not be published. It horribly dangerous and a horrible design


  2. rallen71366 Says:

    If you won’t say WHY it’s a bad idea, STFU. You have to be able to communicate warnings clearly. You give “This is a bad idea, Don’t attempt it.” And all we have to go on is your reputation? Really? Mr. Worried Person, is it?

    I understand that your user name is probably accurate, but please realise that some people actually DO KNOW what they are doing, know the NEC, and proper industrial/commercial electrical techniques, and can handle 110V/240V/440V just fine. Unless you can provide some guidance or constructive criticism, save your keystrokes for some other occasion.

    Thank you.

  3. Sariel Says:

    I don’t really think that ‘worried person’ was too worried about the repercussions of using a high voltage line. I do understand that in these times that we live in one must rely upon their own ingenuity to sustain their level of lifestyle. I’ve been there, done that. However this is a highly dangerous hack not just for the high voltage electricity but, also using materials that they were not originally designed for. I’m sure sitting in an ice cold tank of water for 12+ hours and then heating up to a high degree temp the coils have a high risk of exploding. I would suggest that he should pack in some type of ceramic insulation to help hold the heat longer and keep out any condensation from the coils. Only use HIGH GRADE ceramic insulation. I used to work in an Aluminum Plant and this stuff will not burn on an electric coil even at 2000°F. It will degrade over time, so make sure its easy to replace. I could go on an on about the safety violations this breaks, but I digress. Simply put to do this to a fully functional gas powered water heater is complete and utter insanity, but seeing as this heater had heated it’s last ounce with gas, this is a fine TEMPORARY fix.

  4. josh Says:

    The benefit to danger ratio is way too low for me. It would be well worth the extra couple hundred bucks the author could have spent to have a proper water heater. Water heaters these days are way more efficient than ones made even just 5 years ago for about the same price. Plus, there’s the fact that the tank over the course of time becomes rusted on the bottom and needs to be changed. I’d rather not chance having an old tank rupture on the bottom, cold water or hot.

  5. Gunner Says:

    I suggest that people should read the whole article (via link) before jumping to conclusions based on a picture and truncated article. The element is NOT in the water… there is a tube running the whole height of a (gas heated) tank in which the element is placed (think tall donut shape). Myself, I did need to look twice… but I also read the whole article which explained everything quite well.

  6. Andrew Says:

    Regardless of the safety concerns, resistive heating is very inefficient.
    In a modern gas hot water heater very little heat is lost “up the chimney”
    I don’t know about you guys, but when I’ve been house hunting I have passed over some really nice houses just because they had electric water heaters or worse an electric stove.

  7. signal7 Says:

    Yeah – I don’t think this is a good idea, either. Natural gas is very cheap where I live and when I bought my house, I converted everything over to gas instead of electric. My energy bill dropped by at least 20% in the first month.

    So, unless your gas rates are unusually high, this isn’t something I would be doing. Right now, the dryer, home heating system, water tank, stove, and fireplace are all natural gas and I’m not switching to electric anytime soon.

  8. Sariel Says:


    Never said that the element was immersed in the water tank. However reading what had been wrote, I can see how one could come to that conclusion. Obviously Rob had placed the modified element down the flue of the original gas chamber. What I was merely trying to state is that the element was placed in the middle of a tank of water for long periods of time without heat. Without proper ventilation this heating and cooling process can build condensation. Moisture in the element can spell disaster, especially when it’s on an unattended timer.

  9. HMav Says:

    Actually the heating element he is using (from an old stove) can handle moisture just fine. Ever had a pot of water boil over? Did your stove explode? No? Ok. However using it to heat air and then heat water is a huge waste. There is no way there is any energy saving here, it goes right up the flue! It would have been better to immerse the element in oil and sealed off the flue for a liquid liquid heat exchanger. With that said, why not just use an actual electric water heater element which is cheap and designed just for this and install a bung in the top or side of the water tank for the element?

  10. Gunner Says:

    My comment wasn’t directed at anyone in specific, but I must have hit a nerve, and you did quote;

    “I’m sure sitting in an ice cold tank of water for 12+ hours and then heating up to a high degree temp the coils have a high risk of exploding.”.

    Regardless, the article fits the site… “Hacked Gadgets”… not “The way we should all do things” 🙂

    But now to throw in my two bits on the technical… Condensation is possible, but not from the tank environment without the water temp somehow dropping below ambient temp before being heated up again and again… (something my electric kettle does without fail) and that is not likely with the authors clear knowledge and usage. He also clearly mentioned solid suggestions of GFI outlets, fuses, safety notices, etc. I would have considered insulating the soldered joints with appropriate high heat jacket to prevent shorting, but that’s just me 🙂

    I wouldn’t do most of the things people “hack” here… but it is educational to read. I just have low tolerance for misplaced (IMHO) negativity and clear misinterpretation (once again… original comment wasn’t directed at anyone in particular); Thus I rarely comment and therefor end my part on this topic now. Carry on 🙂

  11. none Says:

    The bigger picture shows that this is inefficient. Your’e going from
    – Gas to heat conversion by burning: 80%.
    down to:
    – Electric energy to heat conversion: 100%.
    but fuel to electricity conversion: 50%

  12. Matthew Says:

    Agreed, I knew when I first looked that this was typical gas heater with a “Chimney” where the heating element would NOT be in the water, which eliminates SOME of the concern but also introduces ALOT of inefficiency. Simply having a heating element radiate heat thru the air to the wall of the tank is probably MORE wasteful than the gas heater when it was still using gas. Convection thru air like that is about the worst way to get heat into the water.

    I’m also not convinced that BENDING a stove heating element doesn’t do ALL SORTS of things to compromise it’s integrity. Those things are solid and as we all know: Solid = Not Bend. Many of those elements are a nichrome wire surrounded by ceramic which when bent…. isn’t REALLY bending…. it’s BREAKING in about a kazillion places.

    Just all sorts of reasons to be careful at the VERY least with this one.

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