By Brett Reilly, Tapa Homes
Searching for the Least Inexpensive Way to Heat Water in Your Home
We all use hot water each day for bathing, washing dishes and cooking but rarely take the opportunity to investigate just how expensive those simple tasks can be. The average household spends 30% of their energy bill on heating and although we may ask family members to take shorter showers we really should be looking into the options of how effectively our homes generate hot water.
In my search for the best and most inexpensive way to heat the hot water in my house I have tried and tested numerous options.
Every time we as consumers find a more inexpensive way to use energy we are also reducing green house gases and our carbon footprint. I personally have an eighty gallon propane hot water heater without a programmable timer that was purchased with our home and located in the garage. Both of these facts, being located in the garage and having no timer, waste both energy and money.
It is essential that your tank water heater is in a conditioned space since the garage will be substantially colder in the winter and the water heater will take more energy to maintain the desired temperature. Additionally, you will have to worry about wrapping it with an insulated blanket if it is out there. If you do not wrap the tank that is in the garage, more energy will be expended to heat the water than is necessary.
The timer is also essential because hot water does not need to be kept at 120 degrees all day, especially when you may be out of the house for eight to ten hours. The timer can be set to reduce the temperature to the lowest setting, typically 80 or 90 degrees, at eight in the morning and increased, back up to 120, around five in the evening. This will create nine hours a day, seven days a week or 63 hours a week when the hot water heater will not be burning energy. This alone will reduce your hot water bill by 37.5%.
One option to heat your water is a tankless water heater which can use either electric or gas (propane). Gas will be cheaper to operate because it takes less energy to heat the water than electricity does but both of them will save money compared to their traditional tank water heater. I have had more than a dozen installed for customers and every one of them is more than satisfied. It can more than double the cost of a tank water heater but the savings will be realized immediately. A tankless water heater is also an on demand system that provides hot water almost instantaneously depending how far the system is from your faucets.
There are two more options that you should know about that may or may not be for you. The first one is installed in our No Energy Bill model home. It is a hybrid electric tank water heater. The hybrid is more expensive than a tank heater but less expensive than a tankless heater. The hybrid hot water heater by GE and Rheem is a great innovation. It has a standard electric element in the tank for rapid heating but to maintain hot water at any given temperature it uses a heat pump that sits right on top of the tank. A heat pump extracts heat from the surrounding air, which is 76 degrees in the summer and 70 degrees in the winter, and transfers that heat to the water. It will use far less energy because the temperatures begin relatively close to the desired temperature of 120 degrees.
The last option, I saw in use when I was on vacation on the small Greek island of Santorini. Since there are no natural resources of energy on the island and any energy that must be shipped in is very expensive, the Greeks have utilized the energy of the sun to heat their water. At our hotel the hot water heater was located on the roof and used solar energy to heat the water for the guest throughout the day. In our climate it may require using a closed loop system that transfers the heat from a non-freezing liquid in the tank to another tank where the water will be heated. A little more complicated and I am sure it carries a cost but it is a system that has been tried and proven.
With several options to heat water in your household it is most important to remember that every time energy is saved in the process of heating water your energy bill is decreasing. Do not let the initial cost of a hot water heater guide your decision but rather how much energy, and money, it will save over time.