The variety of water heaters on the market today gives homeowners more choices as to which type of water heater best suits their needs. Saving water and energy are keys to lowering energy bills. So how do you know how best to heat water for your home?
The traditional water heater (storage tank) is the most cost effective model of water heater available. These can be gas or electric, but aren't always the most energy efficient. There are ways to manage a water heater to lower energy usage by adding a timer so water is not heated when it's not needed.
In Arizona, traditional water heaters can last anywhere from 8 - 12 years, depending on usage and maintenance. It's often recommended that they be drained twice a year to clear minerals and calcium build-up within the tank to extend the life of the water heater.
If your current water heater is at the end of it’s useful life, you should already be researching what type to purchase before the old one fails. Being left to make a quick decision doesn’t always allow enough time to research the variety of water heaters available. One easy solution to monitor water leaks from a water heater quickly, is to leave a water sensor nearby. The alarm alone is loud enough to notify anyone of a water leak, allowing for a quick shutoff. These can be found at hardware stores for a nominal cost. Mine was about $30 at Lowes. There are other models on Amazon, but choose wisely.
Besides traditional tank water heaters, tankless water heaters have improved to save water and electricity. Tankless water heaters can lower an energy bill significantly as they aren't running 24/7 to have hot water at the ready like traditional water heaters. These are available In gas and electric models. Make sure you have the right size gas lines and electrical load for it to run efficiently and produce enough hot water based on the number of occupants in your home. These cost more than traditional water heaters but the return on investment is quicker due to heating water only when you need it.
Heat pump water heaters offer unique benefits to those homeowners with water heaters in garages in warmer climates. While heating water, the heat pump works to provide cool air to garages (in Arizona) or wherever the water heater is located. During the summer months, this benefit is a bonus for hot garage spaces. My home inspector purchased one about 3 years ago and loves it. I plan on investing in this type of model to cool my hot garage; will be interesting to see how winter months fair.
For those in wetter climates, the heat pump water heater can provide dry air, acting to reduce humidity (shared by an Atlanta realtor.) A bonus for these models is that some models allow for splitting the water heater from the heat pump, giving the owner the capacity to include the heat pump portion of the equipment in another area so that the unit benefits a different space than the one housing the water heater. The return on investment for these is about two years, making them a good option for those in warmer climates. Those in colder regions should review carefully to see if this is a good option for your home.
Solar water heaters are very energy efficient, but rely on thermal solar panels mounted on a roof or exterior flat surface. In cloudy climates these aren't as reliable as other models and they rely on gas or electric back-up systems. These can be more expensive to install so the return on investment takes much longer to recoup.
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This is Part 6 in a series on Sustainability.