In the warmer months, we pay little attention to whether there’s hot water available or not. Most horses appreciate a cool-water bath after a sweaty work, and the sun will do the job of warming water enough for cleaning tack and brushes. But when the temperatures fall or hot water is a veterinary necessity, barns without a water heater can become a royal pain. And it can be frustrating if you’re stabled at a show where there’s no tap with hot water.
We’ve talked before about using an electric tea kettle for a hot-water source in the barn, and that works, although it’s far from quick. And you’re limited to about a quart of water at a time. This may be just fine for a one-horse mash, but it’s pretty annoying if you’ve got half a dozen hungry horses. A heat coil dropped in a water bucket will also work, but it’s far from fast, and the heat level is not precise. In addition, it can can be a fire hazard.
Of course, in the best world, you’d have a hot-water heater in your barn, so you had a constant source. However, this can be expensive to install and you have to keep it in a heated area so it functions properly. Plus, you pay for it to run 24/7, whether you need the water or not. Probably not cost efficient for most of us. With all this in mind, we decided to try some instant hot-water heaters to see if they actually work well and if they’re truly suited for horses and barns.
The Zodi Outback Gear company makes a portable water-heating unit that runs on a small cylinder of propane fuel (16.4 oz.) to heat the water and 4 D batteries to run the pump. It has an available garden-hose adapter, or you can use the pump to suck water out of another source, such as a bucket or creek. You need to keep the bucket full of water and select a source with little debris in it.
The system is relatively easy to set up, and the propane simply screws into the device. It has a shower-like nozzle for the water to come out (this unit is designed for campers who want a warm shower while out in the wilderness). Our unit has an instant push-button ignition for lighting the propane, which we recommend.
We initially hooked up the Zodi with the garden-hose adapter because, well, we figure you go through a lot of water when you bathe a horse. Unfortunately, our water pressure was too much for the unit. The outlet nozzle burst apart and water went everywhere. We then went back and adjusted the water pressure so the system would work with the adapter, which it did. Water must constantly flow through this system when the heater is on.
The pump that brings water into the system from a source other than a hose works at a slower rate, however, we didn’t think this was a likely alternative for horses.
The water does warm up instantly, but we were unable to initially get the water as warm as we actually wanted for adding to bath water. You can adjust the propane valve if the water is too hot, but if you need it warmer, you have to run the water back through the unit again. The colder your water source, the longer it will take for the water to heat up. It’s designed for an average input water temperature of 70°. Our outside faucet gave us very cold water.
The warm-water stream exiting the machine is slow and doesn’t have much pressure to it, compared to a true hot-water faucet or a hose with a sprayer attached. We found that it took some time to fill a gallon bucket with warm water. The stream was somewhat like most household fixtures set at about a one-quarter turn.
The unit itself becomes very hot quickly, so you won’t want to handle it till it cools. If you do need to move it, carefully pick it up by the handle only. It also will probably not work well in windy conditions, as the unit itself could tip over. In fact, you can pull the unit over with the outlet hose, if you’re not careful.
The unit comes with a four-gallon plastic case, which is said to be enough water to bathe a person for 10 minutes. The unit will heat about 60 gallons of water on one propane cylinder. It has an eight-foot long showering hose with nozzle. You can get accessories to hook up a full barbeque-type propane cylinder, if you desire.
Zodi Hot-Tap Propane Instant Hot Shower, around $170. Garden-hose adapter $10.
The Coleman instant water heater was simple to set up, once we got through the instructions. It also uses a screw-on 16.4 oz. cylinder of propane to heat the water, and it will warm about 40 gallons of water on one cylinder. (The instructions state that continuous operation of the water heater on warm for 20 minutes may cause the propane cylinder to freeze up, which means you must let it thaw or replace it with a fresh cylinder.) You can purchase an adapter to use a bulk propane source, if desired.
The unit has an automatic igniter. The knob you use to turn the heater on and off also adjusts the water-heating temperature from cool to warm to hot. Again, you should not turn the heater on until the water source is ready and turned on. Coleman claims the unit will heat water to 100?° in about five seconds, and we agree. The exiting water was satisfactorily warm and arrived quickly.
We hooked the unit directly to a water hose, which gave us a faster source of water. The unit has a five-gallon water-carrier accessory, but the pump to bring water from the carrier was too slow for us. The pump is powered by a rechargeable battery.
The water exits from a rotating faucet on the top of the unit, in the handle, that is much like a household faucet. It swings out for use and back in for storage. However, the water exiting the faucet comes out at a slow pace. This means a long wait if you need to fill a bucket for a bath, but it is acceptable for filling a small bowl for cleaning tack or adding water to bran for a warm mash.
The heater has an internal shut-off switch that prevents the water from heating over 160?°. If the water going through the unit cools to 120?°, the unit will turn on again to reheat the water. Basically, you have constant warm water, and the unit monitors its temperature.
You can get a number of accessories for the device, including a carry bag for $35, the hose adapter for $25, a spray adapter for $13 and additional five-gallon water containers at $10 each.
Coleman Hot Water On Demand $180.
The Hott Wash heater is truly a portable water heater as long as you have a water faucet nearby and an electric outlet. You can plug the Hott Wash directly into an outlet and even permanently mount it in your barn. It comes with a very short electric cord, though, so you’ll probably need an extension cord. Be sure you use only a heavy-duty 12 gauge outdoor three-prong ground-wire extension cord. If you don’t, the unit will not heat (we know; we tried).
The water is set to come out below 125°, although the thermostat control range is between 65° and 145°. We found the pre-set level worked fine.
We connected our cold-water hose to the cold-water valve and another hose to the outlet for the warm water. The four-gallon Hott Wash tank has to fill with water before you turn on to heat, which you do by moving a switch at the front of the unit, once the unit is full. When you move the switch to on, a red light on the front of the unit indicates the water is heating. The light turns off when it’s finished. It takes about 20 minutes to heat the tank filled with water. When the switch remains in the on position, the heater will turn itself on when the water drops about six degrees.
While four gallons of water is plenty for most barns for cleaning tack, washing wounds or making a mash, it falls short for a quick bath. The booklet instructs you to prepare in advance for your horse’s bath by heating four gallons of water, then filling a bucket with hot water and covering it with a towel. Heat another four gallons then begin the bath. You start with about eight gallons of water and the rinse water heats while you’re soaping your horse. This isn’t as frustrating as it may sound. It takes time to properly prepare your horse and then bathe your horse before the rinse anyway.
The water pressure coming out of the tank was excellent and felt like most faucets or a normal hose with a spray nozzle. The unit is said to require 125 psi of water going into the tank and dispenses it at the same pressure. Note: You must leave the cold-water hose attached to the unit at all times and allow a constant flow of water into the unit in order for the water to exit the unit at an equal pressure. If you remove the cold-water flow, the water will not exit the Hott Wash with any type of pressure.
You can get a Hott Wash Folding Cart for $40 to move the tank (drain the tank between uses). You can also purchase a commercial hot-water hose for $45, which is said to keep your hot water warmer longer (we did not test the hose).
Hott Wash Portable Hot Water Heater. $275 to $400.
We’ll leave the Zodi system for the campers who need a gentle warm shower. For quick, instant water it’s tough to beat the Coleman Hot Water on Demand. It’s easy to use, and it does give you hot water immediately. However, it falls short for bathing a horse.
If your main purpose is hot water is for baths, we’d recommend that if your barn is suited to having an actual water heater installed in it, contact your plumber and get one. If not or if you need to be guaranteed a hot-water bath at a competition then the Hott Wash is the way to go. It’s simple to use, reliable and will give you the pressure you need for using a hose and sprayer. You just have to prepare for the bath.