Equator Gringos

September 17, 2007

The Towering Inferno

Filed under: Ecuador — lstollin @ 6:49 am

Last weekend, after waiting over a month for any given plumber to fulfill their promise to show up, we finally got a Calefón installed. In North America these are referred to as “on-demand water heaters.”


Triggered by water flow, or maybe pressure change, they don’t fire up until you turn on the hot water, then they heat the water just as it flows through the heater. Our old, electric (read expensive), leaky hot water heater tank never gave enough water for Joy to finish shaving, so clearly something had to be done, and fast, before her lower body disappeared completely from view.

Our Calefón – The Master.

These heaters, while putting out seemingly endless hot water, are a little trickier to adjust to your comfort level than tanks. Our first showers were marvels of freeform dance and longarm safecracking before we got the hang of it. You see, if adjusting a regular shower is like linear algebra with two variables, adjusting a Calefón-powered shower is more like calculus or multivariate regression. Think I’m exaggerating? Here’s the deal: with an on-demand heater, if you decrease the flow by turning down the hot (certainly by any measure a time-honored strategy for making the water cooler), you actually increase the temperature, because less water is getting heated by the same amount of blowtorch, if you will. The solution? Never touch the hot after your initial tuning. Make all adjustments to the cold, and you’re good to go.


(Right) the frightening guts of the on-demand water heater (finger pointing to the burners, which heat the encased serpentine water pipes). I was dying to turn on the hot water with the cover off, but fear of being engulfed in an incendiary maelstrom prevailed.



  1. I’m glad you got this installed, I’d hate to think that Joy would be confused with the local version of Big foot.

    Comment by Rex — September 17, 2007 @ 11:14 am

  2. this water heater is way too complicated – but glad you got it worked out before we come to see you – you know how grumpy your mother-in law can get when she can’t get a hot shower:-)

    Comment by Bettye Halperin — September 17, 2007 @ 4:17 pm

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