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Plumbing Inspection: Questions to ask Your Plumber About a Water Heater

Friday, July 15th, 2016

Many folks, especially new home buyers, enlist the services of a professional plumber or inspector to perform a thorough plumbing inspection of their property. While sewage lines, water supply lines and plumbing fixtures are of the most concern, you should not overlook the water heater. A water heater is the silent workhorse of the plumbing system that maintains water temperature for your everyday hot water needs. Listed below are common questions you should consider asking regarding a water heater during a plumbing inspection.

How old is the water heater?
Many decades ago, it was not unheard of for a water heater to last twenty years or more. Most folks can remember that big, bulky, square contraption your grandma called a “Hot” water heater. Unfortunately, things today are not made the way they used to be. According to energy.gov, a water heater’s lifespan is about 10 years for a storage tank system and 20 years for tankless systems. While their energy efficiency and the technology used to make them have improved tremendously, it seems their durability has decreased. Ask your plumbing inspector to verify the age of the water heater. The age is often included in the serial number, however this can vary depending on manufacturer and can be hard to decipher. Water heaters approaching the end of their lifespan will soon need replacement.

Is the size of the water heater adequate for this home?
The size of the water heater is crucial in its ability to maintain and deliver an adequate supply of hot water to your family. Recent models provide the FHR “First Hour Rating” on the EnergyGuide label. The rating represents the amount of hot water produced by the appliance during a busy hour. The following example is a common method used by plumbers to determine an appropriate size water heater. First, approximately twelve gallons of hot water is allotted per person in the household. Next, the number of bedrooms plus one determines the home’s maximum occupancy. For example, a three bedroom home would have an expected occupancy of four. Multiplying this number by the twelve-gallon allotment above equals forty-eight, the minimum FHR this home requires for adequate hot water.

What type of water heater is it?
Today, there are many types of water heaters available and it would be beneficial for you to know which type you have. Ask your plumber to verify whether it is gas, solar or electric powered. In addition, you want to know whether it is a storage tank system — stores hot water in a tank — or an on demand/tankless system that produces hot water as you need it.

For answers to your questions and plumbing inspections, contact The Pink Plumber today.

Tankless Water Heaters: How Do They Work?

Monday, February 15th, 2016

Tankless water heaters also referred to as instantaneous or on-demand water heaters, produce hot water only when called for. This feature provides the system with improved energy efficiency, which can save you money in energy costs. To help determine if it is right for your home, you should take the time to understand the basic functions of the system.

How They Work
A tankless system does not require a storage tank; they heat water directly when you turn on the faucet. When a flow switch affixed to the unit detects water flow, it activates the system to heat the water. An electric element or gas burner is responsible for heating the water before it reaches your tap. When you turn off the faucet or outlet, the water flow stops and the sensor deactivates the water heating system. Since tankless systems heat water only on demand, you can expect to save a few dollars on your energy bills.

Energy Consumption
The amount of energy tankless water heaters consume depends on the amount of hot water used. According to Energy Star, a typical home that uses 41 gallons or less of hot water daily can expect to achieve between 24%-34% more energy efficiency versus a conventional storage tank system. You can realize significant savings on your utility bill. Homes that use more water — 86 gallons per day — will only achieve between 8%-14% more energy efficiency. You can increase energy efficiency further by installing tankless systems at each water outlet; however, you incur more upfront costs as you will need additional units.

Cost Factor
You will experience a higher out-of-pocket cost when installing a tankless system. These systems cost more than most conventional storage tank water heaters. However, a tankless system’s expected lifespan is more than 20 years, which is far greater than its traditional counterpart of between 10 to 15 years. When you consider its increased lifespan with its lower operating costs, it could offset the higher purchase price.

Installation Considerations
Proper installation and periodic maintenance will ensure maximum energy efficiency for a tankless water heater. Many factors are involved when purchasing and installing a tankless system including fuel types, building codes, climate, and safety concerns especially involving gas-fired heaters. To ensure proper and safe installation as well as full energy efficiency, it would be wise to hire a professional plumbing contractor to install the system.

For answers to your questions, contact The Pink Plumber today.

Water Heaters: Should You Go Tankless?

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2015

Homeowners are often faced with a tough decision when their water heater leaves them out in the cold. Should they go traditional or upgrade to a tankless water heater system? This decision should be viewed as an important one because most estimates claim that your home’s water heater accounts for roughly 30 percent of its energy consumption. You could experience significant energy savings by installing a more efficient system. The looming question, should you go tankless, depends on several factors that are outlined below.

Traditional Versus Tankless

Traditional water heaters heat and store the conditioned water in a tank. By design, the water temperature is maintained 24 hours a day regardless of whether or not t is being used. A tankless water heater system heats water on demand, and only when called for. On-demand water heating means on demand energy use and less energy use equates to smaller utility bills. Another advantage a tankless water heater holds over a tanked system is their compact size.

Important Installation Considerations

When you are faced with no hot water, time is of the essence. If you are considering switching from a tanked water heater to a tankless system, the installation will be more involved. The fastest solution is to replace their traditional system with a new one of the same size. Not only will hot water be restored quicker, but it will be restored at a lesser cost. This is because of the necessary plumbing, gas line and electrical upgrades that are commonly required during a tankless installation.

Understand the Savings

Breaking down the installation costs and the expected annual savings can help you determine the best route to take when replacing a water heater. Typically, a tankless system costs anywhere from $800 to $1200 “plus installation” while a tanked water heater falls between $400 and $800 plus installation. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, a point of use water heater will produce hot water more efficiently — 24 to 34 percent — than a traditional system that incorporates a storage tank. The estimates can vary depending on fuel type and the amount of hot water used within the household.

Cost Saving Advice

If converting to a tankless water heater is just not economically feasible, consider these valuable tips to make your tank-style water heater more energy efficient.

  • Replace your old water heater with a newer model. Today’s tank-styled water heaters are much more efficient than those of yesteryear.
  • Insulating your tank-style water heater with a water heater blanket will significantly increase its efficiency.
  • Install a water heater timer, a device you preset that only activates the appliance during the times your household uses hot water.

Why maintain hot water 24 hours a day when probably only need it for a few hours?

For answers to your questions, contact The Pink Plumber today.

Image Source: Flickr

A Standard vs High-Efficiency Hot Water Tank

Wednesday, November 25th, 2015

Replacing your hot water tank is a decision you should not make lightly. The ever-changing technology of today’s water heaters makes choosing one more difficult. Examining the pros and cons of each type will help you choose the right system for your home.

What Are the Ratings?

There are two very important rating systems a homeowner should pay close attention when deciding on a hot water tank. The first is the energy factor “EF” which tells you how efficient the unit is. The second is its first-hour recovery time for tanked systems or flow rate when you are talking about a tankless system.

Understanding the EF ratings is easy with the higher the numbered units the most efficient. The first-hour recovery time for tanked systems tells you how much hot water it will produce in its first hour. The flow rate for tankless systems indicates just how many gallons of hot water it will produce in usually 2- or 5-minute intervals. Both the EF and flow rates are important information you should consider before purchasing a hot water tank and usually depends on the number of people using the system.

Hybrid Electric Heat-Pump System

Heat pumps are remarkable systems used to produce hot water as well as heat and cool your home. The technology transfers heat from the surrounding air to your hot water tank, which will save energy costs.

Pros:

  • The lowest operation cost of any system means the most energy savings to you.

Cons:

  • The initial cost is far larger than conventional systems.
  • Often available in only taller sizes, it may require plumbing modification during install and takes a more space.
  • The heat pump is basically a compressor, which can produce more noise than other systems.
  • Usually requires a larger area as it needs approximately 1000 square feet of surrounding air to function properly.

Conventional Water Heaters

Conventional water heaters, both gas and electric, have been around for decades. Although they are extremely dependable systems, it comes at a cost, as they are the least efficient.

Pros:

  • Upfront costs are smaller than higher tech systems.
  • They are easy to install.
  • They are cost effective as there are no pumps, fans or other exotic parts to replace.

Cons:

  • Use the most energy.

Tankless Water Heaters

A tankless water heater, sometimes referred to as an on-demand hot water system, produces hot water as you need it. Since there is no storage tank, the system does not have to maintain the water temperature 24-hours a day. This reduces energy consumption, which can translate into energy savings for you.

Pros:

  • It never runs out of hot water.
  • It can save between 30 and 50 percent in energy costs.
  • No tank means a compact size.

Cons:

  • Installation can involve major plumbing modifications.
  • Annual flushing is necessary to remove scale and maintain efficiency.

For answers to your questions, contact The Pink Plumber today.

Image Source: Flickr

5 Benefits of Tankless Water Heaters

Monday, August 3rd, 2015

If you’ve been hearing about tankless water heaters and you’re wondering if they’re right for your home, wonder no more! While there are definitive benefits to tankless systems, there are also a few drawbacks you should consider before buying. Read on to find out how you can benefit from installing these systems in your home.

The Wonders of Tankless Water Heaters

Here are five of the primary benefits of using tankless heaters:

  1. They take up less space. You can install smaller units in sink cabinets or larger units in a closet.
  2. They offer continuous access to hot water. Because tankless units heat water up as you use it and don’t rely on a tank full of heated water, you aren’t limited by the tank’s size.
  3. They are highly efficient. In many cases, tankless units are more efficient than tank-style systems, mainly because they don’t experience heat loss through the tank walls.
  4. They’re clean. While tank systems are subject to rust and scale accumulation in the tank, tankless water heaters bypass that problem.
  5. They have a longer warranty. In general, tankless systems last longer than other types of water heaters, so manufacturers can afford to offer a longer warranty.

Drawbacks

Like most everything else, tankless water heaters aren’t perfect, so they have their drawbacks. These include:

  • Costing more to purchase. The systems generally cost more upfront; however, you’ll make up the savings on the backend because they systems operate more efficiently, ultimately leading to lower water bills.
  • Experiencing a lag in delivery of hot water. In many cases, when you turn on the hot water at the faucet, it takes a few seconds to deliver the hot water. This is especially true if the tankless unit that supplies hot water to the application is located far away. For example, installing a water heater in the basement to supply water to a second-floor bathroom means a lag in delivery.
  • Needing venting. Gas-powered tankless system need venting, just like any other equipment (like a gas furnace). Electric models don’t require venting.

Making the Decision

It’s highly recommended that homeowners work with an expert to select tankless water heaters for their homes. The best way to ensure that tankless heaters will work well in your home is to size them properly. Most experts recommend employing multiple smaller tankless heaters around the home so that the bathroom, for example, has one tankless system that supplies power to the shower and sink. In general, using multiple systems for various points of application in the home ensures maximum savings and comfort.

Don’t get caught without hot water again. Get expert advice while upgrading to a tankless system. For answers to your water heater questions (tankless or not!), contact the Pink Plumber today.

Image Source: Flickr

A Buyer’s Guide to Choosing the Right Water Heater

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2015

Are you anticipating having to purchase a new water heater? The project requires a significant financial investment, so it pays off to consider all of your options. Today, there are often better alternatives to the standard storage tank-type water heater, which used to be the sole standby system from which most homeowners had to choose. While manufacturers have made advancements to improve their efficiency, you should also consider heat-pump and tankless water heaters.

Storage Tank Systems

It used to be that storage tank water heaters were a necessary evil. While they got the job done, the systems were also huge energy wasters. The energy they consumed to keep a large tank of water at-the-ready meant less return for your energy dollars.

Today, however, it’s possible to invest in a high-efficiency gas- or electric-powered water heater that employs high-performance tank insulation — the key to reducing waste. Talk to your local water heater expert to determine the right size tank for your home and the efficiency rating that meets your budget.

Heat Pump Heaters

A great option for homeowners living in warmer climates, the heat pump water heater bypasses the need to generate energy from scratch. Instead, they find energy outdoors and use it to power the system. As a result, heat pumps often outperform standard water heaters due to their efficient operation. According to the Department of Energy, heat pump heaters can perform two to three times more efficiently than conventional water heaters.

Tankless Units

Tankless water heaters are another innovative technology that makes wise use of energy. Gas- and electric-powered tankless units can be installed at the point of application (for example, in a bathroom to supply water to the sink, toilet and shower) or as a whole-house solution. Instead of holding water at a certain temperature so that it’s ready for use, a tankless unit heats water instantaneously, or as you need it. When you turn on the tap, the water moves through the tankless water heater, the heating element quickly heats the water, and then it comes out of the sink warmed for your use.

To get the most out of your investment in tankless systems, work with your local water heater expert to install the right-sized system at various points of application throughout the home. Installing multiple systems is the best way to avoid a lag in heated water delivery and ensure sufficient water supply throughout the home’s applications.

Making a Choice

The best choice for your home involves considering energy source and price, selecting the most cost-effective option for your region and calculating return on investment. The lowest-priced system may mean investing less money upfront, but you’ll generally have to put out more money over the life of the system. Conversely, higher priced, high-efficiency systems may cost more to purchase, but they’ll deliver lower operating costs over their lifetime.

For answers to your questions, contact the Pink Plumber today. We’re happy to help you with choosing a water heater that’s right for your home.

Image Source: Flickr