A sudden, if overdue, interest in residential energy efficiency is resulting in the installation of tankless water heating systems in several of Mountain Home's new homes.
Instead of a big tank keeping 50 gallons of water constantly hot, regardless of whether there's anyone around to use it, tankless systems use a wall mounted, metal box which fires up only when hot water is actually demanded.
The potential energy savings are obvious but, before you roll your old tank into the street, consider.
These systems are not cheap - Last month's cost for a system in a 2400 square foot house was $1900 over that of a standard water heater (although a $300 federal tax credit cushions the blow a bit).
Estimates for payback periods cluster in the 5-8 year range but rising fuel prices will shorten that. Still, if you're the typical Idaho homeowner and out in 3 years, you may want to put the extra money to work somewhere else.
Watch out for unit capacity as most current models are capable of providing only 4.5 gallons of hot water per minute, inadequate for more than one "hot water intensive" activity at a time. Depending on their layout, homes as small as 2500 square feet may require a second unit to meet real world demand. The good news is that the Rinnai Corporation has just released an 8.5 gpm unit that should address the capacity issue.
Tankless hot water takes longer to reach the faucet - You'll have even more time to watch the cold water you just paid the city for swirl down the drain as your finger turns blue.
Granted, this the first generation of residential tankless heaters but, I don't know. I think for the moment that I'm going to take a Zen like position of "tanks, but no tanks".
If you've had any experience with tankless systems please enlighten me (I've got to let this Zen thing go) with your comments.