Saturday, April 11, 2009

Bucket heater trial run

Last night I tried out my 1000 Watt bucket heater in a 5-gallon pail to see how well it worked as a supplemental water heater. It's advertised to heat 1 gallon of 60-degree water to 130 degrees in 10 minutes. The bucket heater has an automatic shut-off if it's accidentally taken out of the water while still plugged in. It will also cycle on and off once the water level drops below 5 1/2." But if immersed in a full bucket of water, it will eventually bring the water to boiling.
I filled the bucket to within 3" of the top with cold tap water, plugged the heater in, and set a timer. Here's the breakdown for heating a full 5-gallon pail:
  • At 10 minutes, the water was lukewarm
  • At 20 minutes, the water was hot and steaming--hotter than I would like for a bath, but not painful. I could keep my hand in it comfortably.
  • At 30 minutes, the water was so hot that I could only dip my finger in for a second. At this point I unplugged the heater, although it will bring the water to boiling if you leave it in long enough.
The verdict? I don't think I will need to use it, since it takes my 30-gallon water tank just under an hour to reheat. However, it would be a convenient alternative to boiling pots of water on the stove. You can fill the bucket (with the pool's hose) & heat the water right next to the pool. All you need is an electrical outlet.

I don't know if 5-gallon plastic buckets release chemicals when they're filled with hot water. Would a PETE (food-safe) bucket be safer than a regular one you can get at a home improvement store? I don't know, but it certainly wouldn't hurt to use one. You can ask for used frosting buckets at the cake decorating departments in grocery stores. Chinese restaurants often have 5-gallon food-safe pails, originally filled with soy sauce or vegetable oil.

It would be interesting to heat identical volumes of water on a stovetop and in a bucket heater and compare which is faster. If someone ever does that experiment, please let me know!


  1. The best way I know of for heating water quickly is to use an electric kettle. They are a household staple in the UK, and I know you can get them from amazon. Anyhow, they are designed to heat water for tea, so they are made of food-safe plastic or stainless steel. They don't heat a ton of water at a time (we have a stainless steel one that heats 7 cups), but they heat MUCH faster than a pot on the stove.

  2. i do think food grade would be in order. you can order them, chep online at us plastics

    tabitha not karl

  3. MaryAnne I agree the quickest way is to boil the kettle and put some big pots on the stove. It is enough to keep the water ideal as there is only 450 lts of water.

  4. This is great. When I gave birth and we had no hot running water I thought there had to be SOME way some kind of submersible heater to heat the water other than pots on a stove. I called pool supply stores & home improvement but they all said they'd never heard of such a thing.

    Couldn't you use galvanized buckets? yes they'd get warm, but if you didn't boil the water you'd be ok, no?

  5. You could certainly use metal buckets--just bring up some oven mitts from the kitchen perhaps!

  6. galvanized buckets are toxic. seriously.


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