With the holidays upon us, our homes are brimming not only with good cheer but also valued guests. Coupling these guests with the lowest groundwater temperatures of the year, however, can certainly stress out your water heater. Since an average tank water heater only lasts around ten years, maybe it’s time to upgrade now before the guests arrive. Since there are more choices than ever when replacing a water heater, here are a few things to consider.
The main choice most homeowners will make is between a traditional tank water heater or a tankless model. Although tankless water heaters get the most press these days, tank water heaters still have their advantages. The primary advantage is upfront cost, since a standard 50-gallon tank water heater is typically one half to a quarter the price of a tankless model that would serve the same home. Tank heaters also have a disadvantage in running cost, and may use about 50% more energy than a tankless model.
Tankless water heaters will never run out of hot water, but they have a maximum rate at which they can provide hot water. When sizing a tankless heater, make sure to use a temperature rise and flow rate appropriate for your home. For example, if your ground water is 50 degrees and you want to heat the water to 120 degrees while two people take showers that use 2.5 gallons per minute, make sure your model can supply at least 5 gallons per minute at a 70-degree temperature rise.
Unlike a tankless system, a tank heater stores the water at temperature and uses a less powerful burner or heating element to reheat the water. This means that the typical 50-gallon tank can provide water for the equivalent of thirty minutes’ worth of showers before it runs out of hot water and takes an hour to heat back up. With three people taking showers at the same time, you could run out of water in ten minutes! The usual solution to this problem with a tank heater is to install a larger tank. Also, you can set the water heater to a higher temperature and use a thermostatic mixing (or tempering) valve at the tank output to provide you with more hot water capacity without risking burns from excessive faucet temperature.
If you are planning to install hydronic (e.g. baseboard water or radiant) heating, then you can use the same boiler that your house heat uses to supply hot water. This combination boiler system is a great choice, both reducing costs and providing nearly unlimited heat. The hot water tank is essentially just a tank, and is therefore inexpensive. Since your house boiler needs to provide heat to your whole house, it also has enough heat output for even demanding water heating tasks.
Of course, if you’re looking for features like radiant heat and tankless heaters, it is far easier to design these into a new home than retrofit into an existing one. If your holiday plans call for a new home, complete with a wonderful hot water system, please contact our experienced staff today.