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Hey, Craig. . . Tanks or no tanks?


with Craig Hendrickson Marke ng Specialist & Residen al Energy Auditor


P


eople frequently ask, “What’s up with these tankless water heaters?” No doubt they are looking for ways to save on their


energy bills. Who can blame them? On average, hea ng water makes up 18% of our household energy cost.


Some manufacturers of tankless water heaters claim the consumer will save 30% - 50%, but research I have studied reports the average realized savings is only about $30 per year on electric units.


If you are like me, savings of any amount is a good thing, but maybe not so good when you contemplate the payback. Gas tankless units cost an average of $2000 (installed) compared to $870 (50 gallon, installed) for a conven onal storage-tank water heater. You might want to consider the return on investment before you make this purchase. It should also be noted that parts are s ll diffi cult to acquire for tankless hot water units and fi nding someone to service them can be a struggle.


Energy usage for the average home in the United States. www.energy.gov


Tankless water heaters (also known as on-demand water heaters) have been on the market for quite some  me and off er a lot of savings promise, but they have two key problems: keeping up with demand for hot water and maintenance.


There are two types of tankless water heater, gas-fi red and electric. If you decide a tankless heater will fi t your needs, steer clear of the electric models. I know Northeast Oklahoma Electric is in the market to sell electricity, but you should receive the most from your hard-earned dollars.


One of the down sides to an electric unit is they require 120 amps to operate. Since most homes only have a 100- to 200- amp service for the en re home, you would, in most cases, need to increase the service amperage. The expense to have a licensed electrician upgrade your service can be a signifi cant expense and is not included in average installed costs quoted by manufacturers.


Generally, an electric tankless heater will supply 2 areas of the home at one  me, such as a shower and dishwasher. A gas model will usually supply up to 3 areas at one  me. This might work for a re red couple, but probably not for an ac ve family.


8 - NE Connection


A tankless water heater begins making hot water instantly, but the water must s ll travel to the desired des na on, so it is not an “instant hot water” device. The excep on would be if the tankless water heater is located next to the faucet you are using. Some homeowners install a unit for every bathroom, the kitchen and the laundry for instant hot water, but that is an expensive solu on. Addi onally, homeowners may fi nd the hea ng element does not kick on if the water is run at a low stream as one might use for shaving or washing hands.


If you are looking for ways to improve the effi ciency of your conven onal tank-type water heater, consider these sugges ons:


Effi ciency concerns associated with a tank-type water heater is the heat lost through the walls of the tank due to the lack of insula on. This can be improved substan ally by installing an insula ng blanket made specifi cally for hot water tanks. These are an inexpensive improvement, generally cos ng around $20.00. There are blankets specifi cally for gas and electric heaters; make sure you purchase the correct one. While you are at the hardware store, go ahead and pick up a length of side-split pipe insula on to install over the cold-water intake pipe and the hot-water outlet pipe of the tank.


Do not rest an electric tank-type water heater directly on a concrete pad as the heat in the tank will conduct rapidly into the concrete and force the unit to kick on much more o en. Pads made from thick high-density foam add the needed insula on when placed between the concrete fl oor and the bo om of the tank and is the norm in many parts of the country. You might also consider adjus ng the thermostat(s) down to 120 degrees for even be er energy effi ciency. ●


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