Saturday, March 29, 2008

In Hot Water

Wouldn’t it be nice if you were able to reduce your energy consumption by up to 50%, qualify for a $300 tax credit* and have enough hot water for a relaxing shower even though you’re last in line for the bathroom? Tankless water heaters are quickly becoming the darlings of the green building crowd for these reasons and more.

The fundamental difference between tankless and traditional water heaters is obviously the tank. But it’s an important difference. Traditional models are inherently inefficient because they store, heat and reheat water. They can account for up to 25% of your home’s energy consumption and the vast majority of that energy is wasted as “standby loss,” in other words, keeping all of that water in the tank hot.

Tankless models by contrast, heat water as it flows through the unit making them up to 50% more efficient than their big, bulky cousins and qualifying many for tax credits. As a bonus, the life expectancy of these super efficient units can extend beyond 20 years, potentially twice what you’d expect out of the tank that you have in your basement right now.

So why don’t we all have these tankless units in our homes already? The short answer is probably cost. The tankless technology is relatively new to the United States and units can cost twice as much as the traditional models. Installation can also run more due to the potential need to upgrade fuel supply lines and venting over your current system requirements.

Before you run out and purchase a new tankless system for your home, do your research and consider not only unit costs and installation costs but also the life cycle costs. You may find that the unit pays for itself in a relatively short period of time. Whether you are beginning a Renovation, adding a kitchen or bathroom, or your old water heater just sprung a leak, the tankless models are definately worth considering. To get you started on your research, check out three of the most popular tankless brands available in the US: Bosch, Rinnai and Takagi.

*Unfortunately, the Federal tax credits have run out but check to see if your State gives any tax credits for energy efficiency; many do. As I understand it, there is a movement in Congress to reinstate the 2005 credits. I'll keep you posted on progress towards that goal.

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