Ecuador’s New Hot Water Challenge

President Correa has sparked a new debate over one of the most basic creature comforts:  hot water.  Currently, the state subsidizes the price of propane gas tanks throughout the country, which are commonly used as cooking fuel and as the fuel for hot water heaters in most homes.  Declaring that state subsidies were meant only to support cooking uses, Correa has mandated that no more gas hot water heaters are to be sold or used in the country.

Unfortunately, the mandate was put in without providing an alternative to the gas hot water heaters (calefones).  As a result, Correa is being heaped with abuse by social commentators and heavily mocked on Twitter by Ecuadorians who have no interest in a cold shower (  Discussions of the issue freely admit that Ecuador has some financial and social challenges to overcome, but most deny that taking away the country’s hot showers is any kind of answer.

We’re not sure how this is going to be resolved, so we’re keeping an eye on the situation.  However, we do know this:  We test the hot water availability in all of the apartments, condos, and houses we offer for rent.  We know from bitterly cold experience the pain of an ice cold shower in Ecuador, so we make the effort to ensure that the hot water heaters in our properties are working when we take on a listing.  Older water heaters and poorly installed water heaters can be finicky and we know the systems here aren’t perfect, but avoiding cold showers for our clients is one of the reasons we screen our properties carefully.

Most of our properties do have calefones installed currently as the source of hot water (mirroring the bulk of the Ecuadorian population).  However, we do have one property available right now that has a US style electric hot water heater.  To see listing CR#0065. contact Benjamin at 08 085 0174 or

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13 Responses to Ecuador’s New Hot Water Challenge

  1. Thomas Conry says:

    I am from the US and we have tank water heaters. I have used the suicide water heaters throughout Central America and South America and the on demand or tankless water heaters in Chile and Ecuador. I don’t like either. Also I saw a lot of solar hot water heating in Peru and Chile but none here in Ecuador. Passive solar water heaters work on a thermal syphon system so no power is needed to run then. The US has had this system for over 20 years. Why not here?

    • CCstaff says:

      Not sure why not but perhaps the mountain clouds would prevent this from being a viable option year around in Cuenca. I believe systems like what you describe are sometimes found on the coast. US style tank water heaters can be purchased and installed but in a rental property, you will likely have to pay that expense as the owners are unlikely to see the value in the upgrade.

  2. George says:

    Hello CCstaff,
    This article was written more than a year ago. Any updates. We were there in September of 2011 at Casa Ordonez and we had no problems with cold showers. Have they worked all this out or are people just ignoring it?

    • CCstaff says:

      Some reports that there will eventually be a secession of the propane subsidy but as of now calefons are still the most common heating option.

  3. There are shower heaters that are save and activate on flow, eliminating the need for the user to move a switch while wet and in the shower. In addition the Ecosmart Shower heaters have standard heating elements that can easily be replaced , whereas others need to have the whole inside of the unit changed or in most cases they need to be thrown out.

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  6. Lional says:

    It is interesting that he is proposing this. Just recently the price for electricity changed based upon usage. Most homes use less than 400 KW hours per month and that is the cut off before you are charged a higher amount for your electricity. If we are forced to heat water with electric water heaters it will certainly put many more homes, if not most homes, over the limit and require that they pay more for all electricity used. I think this idea needs a rethink.

    • CCstaff says:

      Agreed, but maybe this was the plan all along? There are no private electricity providers so all of that money will go to the Government. Less gas subsidies and higher electric bills. It seems a bit irresponsible to me.

  7. Just read the article regarding the ban on gas water heaters and your comments on the so called Suicide showers commonly used in Latin America. You are correct as it pertians to these shower heaters. They are cheaply made and have no safety features build in to them and they require the switch be turned after you have water running through them otherwise the heating element burns out and you have to dispose of them. Ecosmart US LLC manufactures an Online Shower Heater that is of high quality, reliable and most important SAFE. They only activate when water is turned On, so there is no need to flip a switch, they are water proof and shock proof and the heating elements is standard and easy to replace, making this shower heater a long lasting shower heater, plus they are affordable averaging $69. These come in 3kw@110V and 6kw@220V.

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  9. Lionel says:

    I think that this is a ploy by Correa to get rid of the government gas subsidy! I believe that he is trying to raise the price of propane.

  10. As I mentioned on your Facebook page, this is coming up because of the high price of oil now. Correa wants to sell as much at full price. He can’t do that if he’s subsidizing propane for hot water.

    How he plans to deal with all the hotels that use propane to heat water is something I’m interested in watching. Tourism will suffer a serious plunge if North Americans can’t come and have a hot shower.


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