When it comes to high efficiency water heating systems, everybody seems to have questions — the technology is still pretty new and unknown to many people. This has generated a lot of confusion and misinformation. I’d like to try and clear up some of this confusion.
First of all, is it true that investing in a high efficiency water heating system can save you lots and lots of money on your water heating bills? Well, let me give you some government data: heating water for residential use can account for up to 15% of your total energy usage. Depending on the system chosen, a high efficiency water heater system may use 50% less energy than older, less efficient models — or it may or may use as little as 10%.
Why the difference? Well there are many factors that can contribute — for example in larger homes a central tank may be located a long-distance away from the actual hot water tap. If the hot water must flow through a lot of plumbing, it can cool somewhat in the process — and that’s energy loss. Other factors that can influence the cost of heating your hot water are the size of your pipes and the size of your household.
Here’s another myth — high-efficiency water heaters are the so-called “tankless” systems. In fact, tank-based high-efficiency models are available — and they can be powered with natural gas, oil, electricity and even liquid propane. A tank high-efficiency water heater system can save you anywhere from 10%-15%-even 20% or more in your hot water heating costs. You can also purchase high-efficiency models in a heat pump or solar-powered configuration. And while the heat pump and solar power configurations can provide an enormous cost savings, the purchase and installation price for these systems can be a formidable obstacle for many homeowners — and many people are also of the opinion that these types of systems do not operate well in colder climates.
Of course the type of high-efficiency water heater system that seems to get most of the publicity is the tankless system — because these units do not need to continually heat and reheat a tank full of water, you can realize 45%-50% or more of your hot water heating costs as compared with the older models. And these units work flawlessly, even in the coldest climates.
I guess that since solar technology is becoming more refined and more efficient all the time, I must take a moment to discuss it. Solar energy has a tremendous advantage over other types of energy sources — we receive an endless supply of this heat energy every day from the sun, and we won’t run out anytime soon, so it is renewable. Many people think of heat pump-based high-efficiency water heaters as the epitome of energy efficiency — and they can save you up to 65% of your water heating costs. But solar power can reduce your costs up to 90%! But before you rush out and purchase a solar powered, high-efficiency water heater system, make a note — you will also need a backup system. After all, a solar power system will not be able to heat your water at all at night, or on cloudy or rainy days when the sun is not shining!
I hope you see from this brief discussion that purchasing the right high-efficiency water heater is not the simple, straightforward decision that many people would have you believe. If you want to realize significant water energy savings, you must purchase a model that is right for your home. Purchasing a system designed for high demand — when you don’t have a high demand — can be just as wrong as purchasing a low-capacity system that is not able to provide enough hot water when you need it. Your local dealer/installer is a trained professional who has the tools and know-how to help you decide which model, what capacity, and what features you need. Seek them out and rely on their advice.