The Beauty and the Beast of hot water tanks

There is an ever growing trend that appears to be gaining each and every month which is the press towards more energy-efficient items in one’s home. I think every paying customer out there who gets their utility bill, every month or two for some, is ‘WOW… is there anything I can do to minimize the “bite” the government (PUD) takes from your wallet?’ There may be very little to do for folks who elect to live within a city’s limits because the city often charges a fee for trash, storm drainage, sewer, water. However, when it comes to electricity, yeah, there are things that you can do to minimize the “bite”.

With this article, you’ll be getting into some pretty hot water with us. Hot water tanks, and equally the manufactures of them, are getting to where the cost to heat cold to hot is getting more and more palatable. I lived in a South American county for three years, and basically we used what was called a Lucha. (See photo below).


Now, if you think we were a little frightened to step into a shower, stand in water with a device likely not connected to a GFI, turn the water on and get hot water out, (think of a toaster as the way it works) and enjoy the experience, then think again. These are probably the most efficient means to heat cold to hot, but if we think most North Americans will adopt this means, well, I think that would take a real effort. Instead, manufactures of hot water tanks, and or devices to accomplish the same thing, have made strides in recent years.

The newer wave tanks are called “on-demand” or instantaneous tanks, and we also have Hybrid which work like heat pumps. All promise to save on your monthly bill, but the question is: what’s the difference you pay and how long will it take to recoup the additional cost of the new generation tank. Another thing to give consideration is the ability to get parts, qualified technicians and the cost of maintenance.

Cost: The obvious theory is, you heat the water when you need it (heat pump hybrids are different in their means to save money) thus saving most families about 30% annually, or on average about $300-360 yearly. Old water tanks cost significantly less from the start; a 50 gallon can cost around $350-500, where your on-demand costs vary as to your needs.  A family of say two could use a smaller on-demand and pay around $300 for a unit where a family of 4 would obviously need more water per minute, so you’d likely have to pay around $1200-1400 for the unit.  The thing to keep in mind is capacity per minute, like the Rinnai RU98EP LPG Tankless Water Heater. True Built Home does not endorse or recommend one or another when it comes to manufactures. Each person should do their own due diligence and make a sound choice based upon you and your family’s needs. With our math in place, it would stand to reason that after say the third year of living with the new water heater, it will have paid for itself. If the unit lasts longer, which is another positive reason to choose to install them, you should start to enjoy some savings every month. You might feel good too because after all, you are not wasting either your money or resources.

Water flow: as we mentioned above, your needs as a family or individual will affect which on-demand tankless hot water unit you install.  The really terrific thing is these units will spit out hot water until the cows come home because they never run out of hot water. Whereas the older technology is, it holds 50 gallons and when it’s gone, it takes another 20-30 minutes to heat up the new water. Probably the big knock against the newer units is the water temperature tends to fluctuate between a little cold to a little hotter. However each year the manufactures are getting closer to perfecting the results, and should not in itself prevent you from considering this option as to the means to heat water for your family.

Size: The old style tanks take up way more room than the on-demand units; another plus for those who have a tight space or just want to free up more room for other things.

Last note: If you are considering an on-demand water heater, good for you, but keep a few things in mind: Think about the size you need. This is the most important thing, in my opinion, when it comes to choosing a unit. Next is to read a good amount of reviews; do your homework. Lastly, and I am only telling you what others in the industry have told me, stay away from electric on-demand units and if at all possible stay with either natural or propane units. I am told by several plumbers (in fact, they won’t install them) is that the electrical units are more temperamental, break down more frequently, and do not provide the consistency of a gas unit. Happy buying.

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