hammer & DidIDoThat (man, that would be a great name for a stakes horse ), I think you're on to something that could work for me. If it's not hard for me to make a strain relief for the garden hose that would probably also be secured somewhere above the HW heater (so it can't be walked into), maybe the T right on the intake nipple would work. But the other solution is also a possibility.
The bad part of putting a tee straight into the tank is you'd be putting tension on a fitting that's absolutely NOT designed for it.
No argument there, that's why I'm only considering this as a temporary solution until I can get a proper permanent installation. This will not be a no-risk solution but I'll do it if I can make it low-risk.