Choosing an Energy Efficient Water Heater for Your Eco-Friendly Home
Do you know that about 20% of home energy use is attributed to water heating? There are approximately 80 million single-family homes in the U.S., and homeowners spend about $24 billion a year on water heating, releasing approximately 192 millions tons of carbon dioxide into the environment. If every household replaced their energy-wasting water heater with a high-efficiency version, each family would save hundreds of dollars per year while eliminating over 100 million tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. There will be more money in your wallet and more clean air to breathe. It's a win-win situation.
If you want to make your home more eco-friendly, using an energy efficient water heater is absolutely a great way to do it.
Types of Energy Efficient Water Heaters
High-Efficiency Conventional Water Heater
Water is kept hot and running in a storage tank all the time.
Tankless Water Heater
Water is heated instantly when the tap is turned on without the use of a storage tank.
Hybrid Water Heater
Water is kept merely warm in a storage tank, then quickly gets heated up when the tap is turned on. Some models also contain a high-technology heat pump.
up to 70%
Solar Water Heater
Water is heated in a storage tank, which is connected to solar collectors. Most models also have a gas back-up system.
up to 90%
Things to Consider Before Buying a High-Efficiency Water Heater
If the purchase prices were all you have to consider, buying a new water heater would be such a simple process. Unfortunately, not all eco-friendly water heaters are created equal, and as a conscientious consumer, you've got some research to do. It is advisable that you evaluate the price of each model in relation to the following factors.
Heating Capacity and Flow Rates - If you're buying a tank water heater, find out what its "first hour rating" (FHR) is. This number defines how much hot water the heater can provide during one hour of use. If its FHR doesn't exceed your household’s hot water usage during the peak hours, you'd better start looking for another water heater with a higher heating capacity. If you're buying a tankless water heater, find out whether its flow rates can handle your peak hot-water demand. Unfortunately, some tankless models can't supply adequate hot water for simultaneous uses, such as showers and laundry.
Efficiency and Operating Cost - Learn how much it approximately costs to run the heater and how much time it takes to heat up the water. In general, gas water heaters are more economical than electric models, because they usually require less heating time, and natural gas is much cheaper than electricity.
Installation Cost - Never forget to consider the installation cost. A water heater is not something you could just put anywhere you wish like a couch. Some high-technology models require specialized service which can be pretty costly. Some old-school plumbers whose low-cost service you have trusted for years might not be qualified to install them. To make sure you will be able to cover all the expenses, always add the installation cost to the purchase price before you buy.
Warranty Coverage - A high-efficiency water heater is a great product, yet it is by no means a perfect machine. Some minor and major malfunctions are possible to occur, thus the warranty coverage is another important factor to put into consideration.
Average Prices of High-Efficiency Water Heaters (for Residential Use)
Gas and Electric High-Efficiency Conventional Water Heaters
Gas and Electric Tankless Water Heaters
Solar and Hybrid Water Heaters
Tankless vs. Tank Water Heaters
Tankless water heaters have become very trendy in the past decade, as they are compact in size, earthquake-safe, and able to eliminate standby energy losses by forgoing the storage tank. The electric tankless models actually use a pretty high amount of energy to operate the instant-demand systems, however, so they might not even save more energy than some high-efficiency tank water heaters.
If you're determined to buy a tankless water heater, a gas model is a better option, since it usually costs much less to operate. The installation cost is another thing you should consider before deciding to go "tank or tankless." On average, the installation cost of a tank water heater is around $300–$1,000. As for the tankless models, it costs about $2,500–$4,000 to install one. Yes, thousands of dollars more!
How to Make Your Water Heater More Energy Efficient
Old water heaters usually leak about 30% of their heat through their exteriors. If you can't afford to buy an energy efficient water heater quite yet, there is one simple thing you can do to upgrade the one you have, cut down your energy bill each month, and make your home more eco-friendly: insulate it!
Things You'll Need
- water heater insulation blanket (it should come with a roll of special tape)
- tape measure
- scissors or box cutters
- Clean the top of your water heater with a damp towel and gentle detergent. Wipe it completely dry.
- Measure and cut the insulation blanket to fit your water heater.
- Wrap the blanket around the water heater, and secure it with the tape.
Note: If you have a gas water heater, make sure the blanket does not cover the top vents. If you have an electric water heater, don't wrap the blanket over the heater element controls or power sources. Failing to take these precautionary steps can lead to overheating or electrical shock.
Where to Find More Information
If you've been eyeing a few water heaters for a while but have a hard time deciding which one to get, perhaps you need some extra advice from reliable sources. These websites provide detailed information about environmentally friendly products, compare water and energy usage, give energy ratings of household appliances, and help consumers make informed purchases that will minimize air pollution as well as reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
- Energy Star (energystar.gov)
- The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (aceee.org)
- Green-e (green-e.org)
- Consumer Reports' Greener Choices (greenerchoices.org)
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.