Friday, September 25th, 2015

Updating Your Plumbing for a Downsizing Family

Life changes when the kids move out. It’s quiet and the water bill goes waayy down. Is a 40-50 gallon water heater tank still needed?

In our mid-century split-level home, we’re transforming a poorly-planned 6′ x 8′ bathroom into a tiny utility room. The plan is for this newly-born utility room to hold a stackable washer-dryer, a water softener, a very small laundry folding area and an in-wall access point to a storage area under the stairs.

Making the most of small spaces is a challenge, but we’re pretty happy with the outcome so far. There’s just one problem: The tiny room is just not large enough for a standard 40-gallon water heater. So, the spouse has been thinking and may be on to something: we’re trading in the tank water heater for the tankless “hot water on demand” kind.

According to energy.gov, “Tankless water heaters, also known as demand-type or instantaneous water heaters, provide hot water only as it is needed. They don’t produce the standby energy losses associated with storage water heaters, which can save you money.”

As our hot water demands continue to diminish over the next 2-5 years (THANKS, colleges with dorms!), our need for storing and heating hot water in a large, continuously heated tank does, too. There is a pretty big downside we’re may need to get used to, though: the flow rate of a tankless water may not be as awesome as with a standard water heater.

In a smaller, 2-3 person household, however, the cost savings may be worth the trade-off in hot water flow rate. For example, homes that use 40 gallons or less of hot water daily, a tankless approach may increase of increase energy efficiency in the neighborhood of 20 to 30%. Over a conventional tank water heaters. ENERGY STAR® estimates that a typical family can save $100 or more per year with an Energy Star-qualified tankless water heater.

We like savings and efficiency, especially on a retirement income.

How Tankless Water Heaters Work
As the name suggests, tankless heaters do not use a storage tank but heat water directly via a heating unit. Energy.gov notes that “When a hot water tap is turned on, cold water travels through a pipe into the unit. Either a gas burner or an electric element heats the water. As a result, tankless water heaters deliver a constant supply of hot water.”

Gas vs. Electric?
Like regular tank water heaters, the tankless varieties are available in either gas or electric models and provide hot water at a rate of 2–5 gallons per minute (slightly higher for gas versions).

What Flow Rates Mean in the Real World
If you like to run the dishwasher or do a warm-water load of laundry before hopping into the shower, a tankless heater might be frustrating. Simultaneous demand can strain a single tankless unit. Energy.gov suggest installing multiple units – one for the shower, one for the kitchen and another for the laundry.

Advantages and Disadvantages
Recent innovations in the tankless water heater industry have improved quality in the heating units. Cost-wise, the initial cost of a tankless water heater may higher than a conventional storage water heater, but tankless water heaters may last longer and have lower operating and energy costs. If your current water heater is more than 8 years old, it’s about halfway through its life expectancy. While you still have a time, talk with a reputable plumber to see if tankless might be an option for you.

Water You Waiting For? At Allied Reddi-Rooter, updating hot water heaters is one of our specialties. Our expert plumbers can help you define the best approach to supplying your home with a constant supply of hot water. And, we offer money-saving coupons to meet your budget needs. Visit our web site, http://alliedreddirooter.com, for details. Or, call Ray for a free estimate or to schedule an appointment. (513) 396-5300.