On our latest IoT Podcast episode, we take a question that Drew left on our IoT Voicemail Hotline. Drew’s home uses an electric hot water heater. Drew and his family isn’t home that much, so he often turns the water heater off and on manually. He wants to know if there’s a way to automate his hot water heater.
The answer is yes, but the method can vary greatly. Some hot water heater brands offer modules to add such smarts, for example. Other heaters, typically several years old, will need a more generic product that can work with nearly any hot water heater. Since we don’t know the age and brand of Drew’s appliance, we’ll start with the generic approach and then cover some of the brand-specific options.
It turns out that Stacey is using a product that does exactly what Drew wants. She bought the $149 Aquanta Water Heater Controller and it’s working well for her. It also includes a water leak detector, which is a nice bonus.
The Aquanta product can be retrofit on either an electric or natural gas water heater, allowing you to automate the heater. You can self-install it as the process looks relatively simple. Or if you’re not the DIY type, you can have an electrician hook it up for you.
Once installed, the Aquanta continuously reads values from the two included temperature sensors. That information can be accessed over Wi-Fi to the Aquata mobile app. You don’t need a bridge or hub for this product as it simply connects to your existing Wi-Fi router. And you can access the controller data or adjust your hot water heater remotely from the application.
What’s nice about the Aquata is that it can intelligently learn your hot water habits over time and adjust the heating accordingly. Think of it as a smart thermostat that has learning capabilities. You also have “Home” and “Away” modes that can be toggled as needed if you’re not going to be around for any length of time. The app also provides insights into energy efficiency and real-time water temperatures as well:
The Aquanta doesn’t work with tankless water heaters, so if that’s what you have, consider the PowerX Water Monitor. It costs a bit more at $189 and requires a hub; you can bundle the controller and hub for $239.
For folks with a fairly recent hot water heater, many brands offer an optional smart module. The key difference here is that unlike the Aquanta, which works with nearly any heater, these are proprietary. You can’t buy a Kenmore controller for a Rheem appliance, for example. Bradford White, Kenmore, and Rheem, to name a few, all sell these smart modules for their heaters. Prices will vary based on the brand, but I’ve seen some of these for as low as $60 and they generally all cost less than $100.
If you’re buying a new hot water heater, you might want to research if the brand offers a smart controller before you make your purchase. It’s possible that the optional controller costs less than the Aquanta. However, if you later replace the heater with a different brand, you’ll have to buy a new controller all over again. So it may make sense to go with the more generic approach from a longevity and compatibility standpoint.
To hear Drew’s question, as well as our discussion on the topic in full, tune in below to the IoT Podcast:
Bill Edlebeck 2 says
Does the controller have to sit upright on the top of the water heater as in the picture? My water heater is under the counter
Stacey Higginbotham says
i think the cords are long enough you could tape it or affix it to the side.