Hot water is one of those things that most households take for granted. Until you’re without hot water, the thought of a hot water heater doesn’t even come to mind. If it works, why think about it? Well, hot water heaters are one of the biggest energy-draining appliances in the household. If you’re looking to go green and save energy, replacing your hot water heater is a great place to start. As with any appliance, there are many different types of hot water heaters to choose from. Here are some tips to help you go green and select the right hot water heater for you.
Know your Options
What was right for your home ten, or even twenty years ago probably isn’t what’s right for your home today. The first thing you must do before selecting a hot water heater is to know what your options are. There are four main types of hot water heaters: conventional storage, tankless/instantaneous, heat pumps and solar.
Conventional storage water heaters are the most common water heaters you’ll see in homes today. Consisting of a large tank, often located in a garage or closet, the conventional storage water heater offers a ready reservoir of hot water that is continually heated by electricity or gas. While this may be your cheapest option in terms of up-front cost, these hot water heaters are often the least energy-efficient hot water heaters of the bunch.
Tankless, or instantaneous, hot water heaters are a nice alternative to your traditional tank storage water heater. These heaters heat water directly with no use of a storage tank, providing hot water right where you need it, when you need it. Available using electricity, gas, or propane as a heat source, tankless hot water heaters can cut your water-heating bill by up to 20 percent. Most of the savings come from eliminating the energy wasted by warmed water sitting unused in a conventional storage water heater tank.
Heat pumps are a relatively new technology that can be used to heat and cool your home as well as your water. Heat pump water heaters work by using electricity to move heat from one place to another instead of generating heat directly for providing hot water. They can be two to three times more energy-efficient than conventional electric hot water heaters. To move the heat, heat pumps work like a refrigerator, but in reverse.
Solar water heaters are cost-effective, energy-efficient and environmentally friendly heating systems that use the sun’s heat to provide hot water. Typically, a homeowner who relies on electricity to heat water in their home could save up to $500 in the first year of operating and installing a solar hot water heating system. The average solar heating system, while a relatively high initial cost, pays for itself in four to seven years.
Choosing a Fuel Source
The next step in selecting the right green hot water heater for you is to evaluate the energy sources available. The fuel source you use will not only affect your water heater’s annual operational costs, but also its size and efficiency.
The first thing to determine is what types of energy are available in your home and what your most cost-efficient option is. There are several commonly-used energy sources for heating your water, including gas, electric, solar and geothermal.
Natural gas and electricity are the most common energy sources, and both are available in most new homes. Typically, gas is the best option if you have a conventional hot water heating system, as the operating costs of a gas hot water heater tend to be about half as much as an electric one. However, if electricity is your only option for hot water heating, then a heat pump will be your most cost-effective option.
Solar hot water heaters are by far the most environmentally-friendly option. Roof-mounted solar hot water systems are often designed to look like skylights, making them more pleasing in appearance to the homeowner and their neighbors. These hot water systems work by pumping cold water from the home’s water line to the roof, where it enters the thermal energy collector. Sunlight hits the collector, and the sun’s heat warms the water.
The heated water then returns to the home. Inside, the warmed water from the roof is collected in a solar tank, which has temperature sensors and other mechanisms. The warm water from the solar system then goes into the regular hot water heater. As the regular hot water system is heating water that has already been warmed by the solar hot water system, you don’t have to heat is as much, saving you money.
Consider your Size Needs
Size is another criterion to consider when selecting your new hot water heater. To provide your household with enough hot water and to maximize efficiency, you need to choose the right size of water heater for your home. If you have a large family, or use a large amount of hot water in your home, a solar hot water system could be your best option, as the solar system helps heat your water so your traditional system doesn’t have to do as much work. However, if you have a small family or use very little hot water, a tankless system might serve you best.
Energy efficiency and Evaluating Costs
After you have determined the energy source and the size of your water heating system, you should begin looking for the most energy-efficient system that fits your specifications and needs. To maximize your energy and cost savings, you want to know how energy efficient a water heater is prior to purchasing.
Lastly, you’ll want to evaluate the costs of the system and compare those to other energy-efficient models. In doing so, you should be looking at up-front purchasing costs, as well as the long-term costs and savings.