Aquanta smart water heater controller - ~5 month review.

Joined
Aug 15, 2020
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375
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Atlanta, GA
So ~5 months back I purchased a "smart" water heater controller called Aquanta - it was one of many different efforts to save some energy to make my life a little more carbon neutral. Our lifestyle is such that outside of morning showers and the dishwasher going 2-3x per week we don't really use hot water for much else, so maybe two hours per day of hot water demand if that. Looked at basic timers but that was a hard pass due to having to mount remotely and run additional wiring and tankless is not an option either as my existing panel does not have the capacity.

So overall I would say it has been a great upgrade and something to be considered if you are looking to add a timer to you water heater. It does not require remote mounting or additional wiring as on electric version it just mounts to the top of the water heater where the conduit enters. Installation is relatively easy, if you can replace an outlet or switch you can install this.

Pros:

- Does save some energy with little intervention. I didn't get a good baseline to compare as I didn't have any way to measure usage prior to installation. For reference the 53.2 KWH for April was only for 4/12-4/30 while the controller was still learning my habits. Calculating that out my usage was probably closer to 90 KWH per month pre-controller. I pay ~.15 per KWH so lets say I am saving about $4.50/month - its going to take ~3 years to pay off the $149 cost of entry.

- Away mode. When on vaca you can easily switch to away mode which is basically like turning the water heater off. No flipping breakers off, adjusting a timer or pulling trigger pins off a timer.

- Easy override. Have not had to use this yet but there is a "boost" mode that temporarily overrides everything for a time you set and just allows the water heater to go to 100% on mode. Figure times when you have family in town and lots of showers are happening, lots of dishes being washed, etc.

- Time of use setting. I am on a night and weekends plan with GA Power and Aquanta has most utility TOU plans programmed into their interface that seems to not allow the heater to run during peak periods, at least I think that is how it is going (see con below).

Cons:

- The interface could be a bit more powerful in amount of user control and seeing what is going on. As it currently stands you cannot see what the controller has learned of your habits and when it has scheduled the water heater to run. It doesn't even show you whether its allowing the heater to run or if it is in standby.

- No smart home integration. This is a huge miss as I would very much like Google Home to be able to put it into away mode when I am leaving.

Overall:

- Despite the cons I still am happy with the controller, it was a better option than a regular digital or analog timer in my application. It does have basic timer modes as well which I may give a whirl in a few months to see if it would be more savings versus the intelligence mode.

**Note on hot water temp below - this is a remote probe sensor that zip ties externally to the hot water outlet. Even at factory 120 degree setting the most I see is 116 degrees on the app. The 110 below is due to controller being in standby (I think) - lowest I have seen was 105/106 or thereabouts.


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Joined
Jul 15, 2018
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illinois, usa
With the current technology, I would hope that each new appliance will have a smart controller to minimize waste. It is a hard sell because companies make money on selling stuff and nothing on controlling waste!
 
Joined
Apr 28, 2020
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North Dakota
Thanks for the review...I like smart controllers and the water heater is one of the last things that I haven't messed with yet, primarily because of your mention of no integration. I don't mind stand-alone apps as long as they aren't clunky on the interface.
 
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MO
I don’t see a benefit except for off peak billing use. Our gas heater only runs right after using the hot water (shower, laundry, dishwasher) to bring the temp back up. If I turn it to vacation mode it’s still got hot water days later so I think the savings would be almost nothing if you don’t have demand billing.
 
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Is this a regular tank heater running on electric? Or is it an on demand tankless heater?

If the app is shutting the electric heater off, and you open a tap, are you getting hot water or luke warm?

I guess thats the beauty of the tankless heater.
 

pezzy84

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Aug 15, 2020
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Atlanta, GA
Is this a regular tank heater running on electric? Or is it an on demand tankless heater?

If the app is shutting the electric heater off, and you open a tap, are you getting hot water or luke warm?

I guess thats the beauty of the tankless heater.
This is an electric tank heater - this would not work or be of any benefit on a tankless demand system. My electric panel does not have any remaining capacity to add tankless so that is a non-starter as it would require a very expensive panel upgrade.

It does shut the heater off and allows the water to drop below typical thermostat set point vs keeping it continuously at thermostat set point. Its basically a "smart" switch that turns power on and off to the water heater, nothing too elaborate. I have not had any issues with running out of hot water with the controller as of yet, even if let us say I have heavy usage outside of my typical hours it will still kick the heater on if needed. Not like a peg timer where if you run the tank out during off periods you have to go kick it on manually.
 

gathermewool

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Is there any concern with cycling from hot to cold to hot regarding heatup and cooldown stress and fatigue. In other words, is the cycling bad for the heater?
 

JHZR2

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Is there any concern with cycling from hot to cold to hot regarding heatup and cooldown stress and fatigue. In other words, is the cycling bad for the heater?
I wonder how much it really cycles down though. It might coast down and not keep the tank “topped up” to full temperature, but if the tank loses all its heat from just sitting, it has a decent insulation problem.
 

gathermewool

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I wonder how much it really cycles down though. It might coast down and not keep the tank “topped up” to full temperature, but if the tank loses all its heat from just sitting, it has a decent insulation problem.
Insulation in older hot water heaters is definitely an issue.

When I put my hand on my HW heater I feel no heat. When I use my IR gun it shows as ambient.

When I wrapped it in two blankets, the kind you get from Lowes, and stuck a thermometer through it, the temperature was very warm. I don’t recall exactly, but it was something like 20F higher than ambient.
 

JHZR2

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Insulation in older hot water heaters is definitely an issue.

When I put my hand on my HW heater I feel no heat. When I use my IR gun it shows as ambient.

When I wrapped it in two blankets, the kind you get from Lowes, and stuck a thermometer through it, the temperature was very warm. I don’t recall exactly, but it was something like 20F higher than ambient.
It’s an issue in fired units because the stack loses a lot of heat.

It’s why we went with a mod/con boiler and indirect hot water. No stack to lose energy.

But I wonder if ours could use a blanket too?

I always figured the losses were out the copper pipes.
 

gathermewool

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It’s an issue in fired units because the stack loses a lot of heat.

It’s why we went with a mod/con boiler and indirect hot water. No stack to lose energy.

But I wonder if ours could use a blanket too?

I always figured the losses were out the copper pipes.

Ive got an electric heater, which makes things a little safer. As far as savings, I can’t imagine it takes long to recoup the cost of the blankets. I have no way of knowing, except that the temp between the blankets and the heater is well higher than ambient and the blankets not only cost very little, but essentially last the life of the heater.
 
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Illinois
I have an older gas water heater that had the typical fiberglass blanket. I took the blanket off and put a layer of that reflective bubble wrap around it, then put the fiberglass back on. It was an amazing change and I bet my water heater will go 12 hrs or more before it cycles to maintain heat. I'm going to take the fiberglass off and add another layer of the bubble wrap. Then fiberglass back on.
 
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