Choosing a hot water heater - Our Daily Green

Monday, September 16, 2013

Choosing a hot water heater

photo courtesy of: wikimedia commons
The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that heating water for the home can account for anywhere from 15-25% of a home's annual energy consumption. This presents a tremendous opportunity for saving energy with a few simple steps.

Perhaps the most obvious is to use less hot water, such as these simple hints:

  • Take shorter showers
  • Wash laundry in cold water (which preserves the clothing longer, as well)
  • Install low flow shower heads and faucets throughout the home
  • Trust your dishwasher manufacturer and skip pre-rinsing the dishes before you load the dishwasher. 

Conventional hot water heaters will store up to 80 gallons of hot water, ready for the homeowner's needs. Turn the thermostat lower on the water heater. Many water heaters have an automatic shut off at 190 degrees, but water does not need to be anywhere close to that hot. It can scald and cause burns. A more ideal temperature is warm enough to kill bacteria, such as the one that causes Legionnaire's disease. That temperature is 123 degrees F, which is what is recommended for both safety and comfort.

Legionnaire's bacteria is not a concern with tankless water heaters, or on-demand heaters, as there is no standing water. Instead, these innovative units quickly heat water only when it is needed. While they are growing in popularity, due to the many attractive features, it is important to know some of the potential drawbacks as well. The initial cost of the tankless water heater is quite a bit higher than a conventional water heater and can take 16-20 years to recoup the cost. Additionally, special considerations for the equipment must be made. If you have hard water, a separate water softener must also be installed or in many cases the warranty is voided on the tankless water heater. Many new tankless water heaters, if they use gasoline or propane, are eligible for federal tax credits for 2013. Electric tankless water heaters are not eligible, as the energy savings is negligible. Other water heating solutions include solar water heaters which are also eligible for a federal tax credit, but under a separate program. To find the different sort of rebates and tax credits available, the Energy Star site has a complete listing.

In a few years, new types of water heaters, such as the gas-condensing water heater and the electric heat pump water heater will also be more widely available. The gas-condensing water heater does not vent the combustion gases used to heat the water directly outside, but instead captures and utilizes those gases to heat the water even more. By designing the vent for the gases with a greater surface area, as the gases exit the tank, they transfer more heat to the water in the tank.

The electric heat pump water heater works similar to a refrigerator, but in reverse. Whereas a refrigerator pushes the heat outward as it cools the interior of the unit, the water heater pulls heat from the surrounding air and transfers it to the water in an enclosed tank.

Perhaps the most important takeaway from today's post is to plan ahead. Most water heaters have a warranty of 6-7 years, depending on the manufacturer. A wise consumer will take time to research and understand their options before they have to contact a professional to replace their water heater, giving them the most cost-effective and energy efficient options for their home.

Today's post has been brought to you by Reeves Family Plumbing in the Coppell-Carrollton area. All research and opinions are our own. 

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