As with heating equipment, water heaters are changing in technology and options available to home owners. We service, repair, and replace all the various water heating technologies:
- boiler tank-less coils,
- electric tank water heaters,
- oil fired water heaters,
- gas fired tank water heaters,
- indirect fired water heaters,
- point of use water heaters,
- and modern tank-less instantaneous water heaters.
If you are considering an upgrade in efficiency, do not wait until your existing water heater is out of time and not providing you with hot water or it is leaking. At that point all the options may not be available to you unless you are willing to live without hot water while the replacement project comes together. Many customers have been forced to replace their inefficient water heater with the same type of heater because the more efficient option was days away and they were out of hot water.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, water heating contributes to about 18% of a home’s energy consumption. The boiler tank-less coil is the least efficient and most uncomfortable way to heat hot water. It requires that the boiler maintain temperature in the boiler 365 days a year and in most boilers that boiler temperature is at the high limit of about 180 degrees F. Oil companies love this method of hot water heating.
In addition to the inefficiency of the boiler tank-less coil there is the dangerousness of the uncontrolled scalding hot water that first comes out of the faucet when you turn on the hot water. That scalding hot water rapidly cools down to cold water unless you can find the “sweet spot” that will provide you with continuous hot water. With a modern pressure balancing faucet that does not have volume control you will never find the “sweet spot” and will be forever unhappy with the uncontrollable hot water.
Conventional storage type (tank) water heaters are the most widely used water heater in the United States. Tank type water heaters can be oil fired, gas fired, or electrically heated through coils in the water. In 2015, through the energy efficiency act passed by the Federal Government, water heaters had to meet stricter efficiency standards and so insulation was added to the outside of the tanks. This helped decrease the standby heat loss of the tanks and brought them up to the new standard.
However, any water heater which is connected to a chimney is inefficient because the drafting of the chimney pulls cool air from the basement floor through the flue of the heater in the same path as the combustion byproducts passed to heat the water. That cool air now cools down the water in the tank and the heater fires on and off all day long to maintain the hot water in the tank.
Electric tank water heaters don’t suffer this same fate, and the added insulation did make a big difference with these heaters. But with Long Island’s electric rates, electric is not the most efficient option for heating hot water.
There are also tank style, gas water heaters that have a motorized damper to prevent the chimney draft from sucking the heat from the water heater up the chimney. The number one advantage to a conventional gas fired tank water heater is that no electric is required and you will have hot water during a power outage.
For those with hot water boilers, an indirect fired water heater has the greatest value. The indirect water heater installation is in a price range between direct replacement of your existing water heater and the installation of a modern tank-less wall hung water heater. When rating energy efficiency, it is between the other two options as well.
An indirect fired water heater is a super insulated tank which contains your domestic water and a high capacity heat exchange coil which heats the water in the tank. The water heater exchange coil is piped from the boiler as a separate heating zone. The transfer of heat from the heating water circulating in the coil heats the water within the tank. The efficiency of the indirect water heater is that the standby heat loss is only ½ degree per hour. Up to two inches of foam insulation around the tank locks in the heat and creates a thermos effect. So, if hot water is not being used during the day or night, the water heater is not constantly firing to keep up with a significant heat loss up the chimney.
There are also models available with a lifetime warranty against tank leaks, so it could be the last water heater you ever buy. As with every tank style heater, there is maintenance that should be completed; flush the tank and test the relief valve annually, and check the sacrificial anode rods and replace as necessary at least every three years.
While storage tank water heaters are most popular and still widely used, the tank-less, on demand water heaters are becoming very popular. As the name suggests, it has no storage tank so it heats water on demand with a powerful gas fired, or electric coil heat exchanger. There is no constant heating of water as the appliance works only when you run the water through it. This can mean significant energy savings since you are only heating what you use.
A single tank-less water heater can deliver up to 7 gallons per minute. With today’s restricted shower heads you can use two showers at the same time with the larger model heaters but flow restriction will be necessary. In larger homes with many bathrooms, multiple heaters may have to be used.
The tank-less water heater has a small footprint, it hangs on the wall. The initial installation cost can be as much as four times the cost to replace a conventional water heater. The tank-less water heater does not vent through the chimney, plastic pipe is used to vent and grab combustion air from the outside through an exterior wall. There are many restrictions as to where and how this venting can be done. The gas line will need to be upgraded to handle the much larger gas load of the tank-less water heater. Sometimes the gas meter will need to be upgraded as well.
Because of the high efficiency of the units, there will be a caustic condensate byproduct which will have to be neutralized and piped to a drain connection. A tank-less water heater can last for twenty years or more, but to achieve this longevity annual maintenance will be required. Because of the hardness of our water, the water heater will need to be de-limed with a flush out solution and procedure and the heat exchanger will need to be brushed clean as well because of the aggressive condensate.
With the proper installation and annual care, the tank-less heater will long outlast the conventional heater. On the other hand, however, we have replaced tank-less heaters that have only been in the home for three years because they were either improperly installed from the start, or the homeowner didn’t realize the importance of the annual service. We would be happy to come to your home, in advance of your water heater leaking all over the floor, to evaluate your individual water heating needs and give you options for what will work best for you.