Heating Water Efficiently

image courtesy of Minerva Studio

image courtesy of Minerva Studio




Be ready
when your old water heater fails!




When your water heater fails, you will be in a hurry to replace it. That’s why it’s important to do a bit of research ahead of time and have an efficient replacement in mind. Most home water heaters in the US are tank types that last approximately 10 to 15 years before failing.<1><2>


Getting an Efficient Water Heater

Before your water heater fails, you can select a trusted contractor who’ll be able to install an efficient replacement. To find a good installation contractor ask neighbors, hardware stores and building supply stores for recommendations. Then check on the internet to ensure that there are relatively few complaints against a company. For example, perform a Google search for “ABC Water Heaters Inc complaint”.

image courtesy of Fast Water Heater Company

image courtesy of Fast Water Heater Company

You can also research the installers that are available in your area by performing an internet search for “user reviews” of the installers you are considering.

For a typical US home with a natural gas tank type water heater, the new replacement water heaters that have recently become available on the market have varying energy efficiencies, with the most efficient using only about 87% as much energy as the least efficient<3>. That spread can equate to a difference of about $3 per month in utility bills.<4> You can insist that your installer get you a quote on an efficient model of your choice, even if the installer has to obtain the unit for you (rather than selling you a model that’s already in their inventory).

An energy efficient installation will usually include insulation around metal inlet and outflow pipes, to limit heat loss through the metal. It’s desirable to have an overflow pan (with drain) installed under a tank water heater, since many tank water heaters will eventually fail due to tank leakage.<2>

Although a gas powered tank type water heater can be the least costly overall (including initial and ongoing cost), tankless designs can save perhaps 50% on the water heating portion of utility bills while avoiding cold showers in a large family.

You can ask your installer if they will be processing a building permit. Installations supported by official building permits may cost a bit more, but avoid future liability from system flooding and venting problems, and avoid risk of invalidating home insurance.

A wealth of information is available on the US Department of Energy’s website.<5>

Solar Water Heating

Solar Thermal Panels image courtesy of EveryoneSolar LLC

Solar Thermal Panels
image courtesy of EveryoneSolar LLC

Systems for heating household water using sunlight are available in developed and developing countries. Solar water heating offers an additional benefit in developing locations: water heating can be used to disinfect drinking water.<6>

In developed countries, solar thermal systems usually work by circulating a fluid through tubes or a blanket within a panel, using the heated liquid to heat water for home use or the swimming pool. In some systems, the circulated fluid may simply be water that comes from the faucet or pool. Thermal panels tend to be an efficient replacement for oil or grid-supplied electricity used to heat water or rooms.<7>


When You Move

When you’re looking for a new home, consider the efficiency of that home’s water heating system. The US Department of Energy’s website offers a good discussion of issues to consider.<5>


<1> Water Heating, Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Water_heating#cite_note-WHRKills-8
California Energy Commission, http://www.consumerenergycenter.org/home/appliances/waterheaters.html
<2> What Kills Water Heaters, Water Heater Rescue, http://www.waterheaterrescue.com/pages/WHRpages/English/Longevity/what-kills-water-heaters.html
<3> Energy Guide, Dominion, https://www.dom.com/about/conservation/images/energy_guide.jpg
<4> (1 – .87) x $26 = $3.38; $26 is the 14% of typical monthly energy cost that’s for water heating; from Where Does My Money Go?, Energy Star,
<5> Selecting a New Water Heater, US Department of Energy, http://energy.gov/energysaver/articles/selecting-new-water-heater
<6> Solar Water Heating, Household Energy Network, http://www.hedon.info/solarhotwater?bl=y
<7> “What’s the Most Efficient?” Geo VS Solar Thermal VS Solar PV, http://blog.heatspring.com/whats-the-most-efficient-geo-vs-solar-thermal-vs-solar-pv/
Categories: Moderate Changes

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