Introduction: Hot Water Heater

The need arose for a large quantity (5 gallons) of near-boiling water to make ginger beer. Boiling water in a kettle or jug would be too slow, so I put together this inexpensive electric water heater which has seen service in several varied tasks (more later).


Do not operate this heater where there are children or pets.

Do not leave the heater unattended while it is in operation.

Never allow the water to be below the heating element.

Have your assembly work checked by an electrician.


The equipment required:

1x food-safe 30 litre (7-10 gallon) bucket with a sealing lid*. (Home Depot)

Check that the base of the bucket is 12” (diameter) or more.

1x 1500 Watt hot water heating element. (eBay or electrical store).-

The length of the heating element should be around 10” or less.

1x 6’ (2 metre) power cord with plug. (Minimum rating 15A) (Home Depot or junked appliance)

Electric Drill & drii bit.


Hot glue gun.

50 mm (2”) hole saw.

1xSmall plastic food container (Lid not required).

1xStrain-relief clip and screw for power cord. (Home Depot).

*Look for a bucket with one of the symbols shown in the food-safe chart (see photo), with No. 5 (PP) probably the best of all, as it is polypropylene, and ideal for hot liquids.

Step 1: Fit the Element.

Fit the electric element . Drill two holes in the side of the bucket approximately 2” (50 mm) above the base to fit the element . Best to drill slightly undersize holes and ream out the holes for a tight fit. We are aiming here for a water-tight fit, so best to have under-sized holes to start with. Insert the element from inside the bucket, (with sealing washers on the inside of the bucket), but do not tighten up the element’s retaining nuts. The side of the bucket has a curvature which needs to be flattened to ensure a water-tight seal. Gently heat the side of the bucket with a hair dryer or propane flame and as the plastic softens, it will flatten under pressure as you slowly tighten the nuts. When you have finger –tightened the nuts as far as you can, give the nuts a last quarter turn each with a spanner. Fill the bucket with water to test for leaks. Give another quarter turn to the nuts if necessary. (see photo).

Step 2: Wire It Up.

Attach the two wires in the power cord to the terminals on the heating element. If you are unsure of this step, get an electrician to do the job for you. (see photo)

Hot glue a protective cover (a small plastic food-storage box is fine) over the power lead connection.(see photo)

Fit strain relief clip and screw to the top of the side of the bucket. Pass power cord through strain relief clip. (see photo).

Make a 50 mm diameter hole (hole saw) in the bucket lid. Fit the lid to the bucket. Add ingredients to the bucket through the hole in the lid. The lid with hole will limit spillage should the bucket tip over.

Step 3: Test

Fill thebucket (to about 2” below the rim) with water. Plug in and switch on. The water should boil in a few minutes.

Before you put ingredients in the hot water, turn the power off.

Note: Initially, I was concerned that a plastic bucket would soften and possibly collapse due to heat from the water. So I tested the device by keeping water boiling in it for an extended period . The water heater passed the test with flying colors. No leaks and no collapse after 6 hours continuous boiling.