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I would like to set up a clothes washer in a location that has only cold water. (It will be in a makeshift shed of some kind, with a hose and an extension cord.)

I could just wash everything in cold for a while, but I was thinking of getting a small, cheap propane hot water heater. These are designed to produce a relatively small flow, for a single fixture, like a shower. A washer uses a lot of water, but it should be fine if the flow is low - it will just take a while for the machine to fill up. Is this OK?

For example, Eccotemp L5, $120 on Amazon

Eccotemp L5

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up vote 4 down vote accepted

Modern washers have a timeout (in case the water-fill sensor fails) which is around 10 minutes, but you'll have to check the manufacturer to get the exact timeout for your washer as well as how much water it needs to fill at your preferred load settings.

If (DesiredCapacity / HeaterGPM) < TimeoutInMinutes

...then you'll be ok (I wouldn't cut it very close though - it would be a bummer to see it time out one millimeter short of full) So if you had a 10min timeout and needed 10gal to do a tiny load with a 1.5GPM heater:

10gal / 1.5gpm < 10min ? True.

... to be fair, a maximum load of a washer is typically 40gal so the concerns would be reasonable.

Because of all of these variables, those who make the washer would know best since they would know these variables.

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The various Bosch AquaStar heaters seem produce hot water at 2-6 GPM, while the cheap models I'm looking at are 0.5-1.5GPM. So I wonder if that will be OK. –  Jay Bazuzi Jul 18 '11 at 8:04
    
I see no reason why your selection would not work. Might take a while to fill as you mentioned, but should be OK. –  shirlock homes Jul 18 '11 at 8:36
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IT should be ok- the washing machine will wait as long as it takes for water to fill up to the correct level. So bigger pressure will fill faster. In your case the heater has to slow the water down to heat it.. It wont damage the washing machine in any way. –  ppumkin Jul 18 '11 at 10:43
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