I’m a prepper. The term is loaded with all manner of connotations that point directly to a lone wolf hunkered down in a bunker with firearms and cans of tuna waiting to ride out the Zombie Apocalypse. Me? Not so much. Instead, I’m simply prepared for the entirely predictable everyday difficulties that unfold. Here’s an excellent example.
Last year our water heater here in San Francisco died and released a nasty pool of rusty water on to the laundry room floor down in the garage. And of course this occurred on Christmas Day. Ain’t that always the way? It’s as if appliances know exactly when to fail so as to maximize inconvenience and make it as painful as possible to find skilled labor and replacement parts. We did eventually find someone to do the job the next day and we paid him well for his efforts. And we’re fortunate to have good relations with our neighbors so we had access to their shower and such. But it got me thinking about how much hot water contributes to a civilized life and how much it’s missed when it’s gone. Enter the Eccotemp.
If you have a standard barbecue propane tank and a garden hose supply of water you can have instant on-demand hot water with this little device. I bought mine on Amazon for about $120 and it came in the mail in two days. I gave it a quick test drive on the back patio to see exactly how it works, dried it off, then set it aside in its original box with my other preps. Just in case. You never know.
Fast forward to summer when my tenants in a modest house up in Sonoma informed me that they’d be leaving to return to their native Canada. I spent some time making improvements to the property after they left in anticipation of my next tenants. While I was at it I placed an Eccotemp in the garage there too. It’s a good thing I did because last month (the week of Thanksgiving – how do these machines know?) the old water heater finally went belly up and my new tenants were left with no hot water. I scrambled for five days to find a plumber available during the holiday.
Having this simple but effective device ready at hand made all the difference while we waited for the plumber to do the necessary replacement. My tenants are good natured and adventurous so they set up the Eccotemp on the back deck and hung privacy curtains so as not to scandalize the neighbors. It worked beautifully. We’re fortunate to have a mild climate here. Don’t try this in Saskatoon in late November!
Dish washing was accomplished by filling pails of hot water and bringing them to the kitchen sink as needed. An Igloo cooler was pressed in to service as an impromptu Japanese ofuro for the kids. Worked just fine.
There’s a 5,000 gallon rain water catchment tank in the back garden that could supply the property if the well and pressure tank should fail in a power outage. The next big disruptive event might be an earthquake that would almost certainly clip the usual water systems in the region. I sleep better at night knowing my tenants would have something to fall back on. And I might very well find myself there with them.
Like the portable water heater, a parallel system for cooking is already in place. A $100 two burner camp stove runs on propane and was used extensively as a summer kitchen to keep heat and smoke out of the house. This supplements the propane barbecue grill and works beautifully for soups, sauces, and pressure canning. It just happens to also be exactly the right kind of equipment to have on hand in various emergency situations. Multiple propane tanks are already set aside. Just in case. You never know.
None of this stuff is extreme. None of it is terribly expensive if it’s phased in over time. None of it is hard to do. And all of it serves multiple functions under ordinary circumstances. You just have to be aware of life’s little surprises and get ahead of the curve.