Energy-Saving Hot Water Heaters: Your Three Best Options

March 25, 2009 by  
Filed under Energy Efficiency

The second largest expense in home energy, after heating and cooling and accounting for about 14% of the average utility bill, is the hot water heater. The typical hot water heater only lasts about 10 to 15 years, so before you find yourself in the market for a new one it would definitely be prudent to research every option for energy efficiency. Solar, heat pump, and tankless water heaters are all home energy savers that would make excellent choices for sustainable living.

Solar Heaters

The most economical, environmentally friendly source of heat energy is the sun. Thermal solar energy has been used effectively for ages and best of all, is absolutely free. A solar water heating system comprises collectors outside which preheat water before channeling it to the home’s primary hot water heater, a storage tank near the main heater, a connecting pipe, and a controller. During the summer, preheated water from the collectors may be all that’s required to meet usage demands.

The most important consideration when installing a solar heating system is the location of the collectors. Whether placed on a mounted stand on the ground or the roof, the collectors must be facing south and be exposed to direct sunlight all day, all year long. Unfortunately, these considerations rule this option out for anyone living in cloudy or cold climates, or whose home is surrounded by heavy foliage or other buildings. Solar hot water systems can cut yearly water costs by more than 50%.

Heat Pump Heaters

After solar heaters, the next most cost and energy saving alternative is the heat pump heater. These water heaters work by pulling heat from the air outside and transferring it into the water within the tank. They are optimal for moderate climates and very energy efficient. Though the initial cost might be high, the end result is about a 50% reduction in your water heating bills.

In hot climates, an attachment to your heat pump called a desuperheater can be used to heat water via waste heat from the device alone. Though not as powerful as other methods, it is a way of harnessing renewable energy and can meet almost all of a home’s hot water needs during the summer months.

Tankless Heaters

Tankless water heaters may sound like the next new thing in green living, but they’ve actually been used for decades outside the US. Typical hot water heaters heat and store 20 to 50 gallons of water per day, whether anyone actually uses it or not. This seems remarkably wasteful when compared with the energy-saving tankless heater, which only heats water on demand.

Energy efficient tankless heaters can be gas or electric and have two classifications. Whole house tankless heaters totally replace the typical storage hot water heater. Point of use tankless heaters are installed right next to where the hot water will be used, such as under a sink. Though more costly than traditional storage water heaters, this option cost much less to operate, which translates into energy bill savings.

Any one of these three models could greatly improve the energy efficiency of your home. Discover what eco-friendly choices are available to you today and invest in your future.