There’s nothing quite like a nice hot shower. Turn on the tap and instant hot water! While many people take the luxury of water heating for granted, remember, water doesn’t magically heat itself.
It takes energy to crank up the heat and that energy is costing you money every time the burner in your water tank kicks in to maintain the temperature of your water. While going back to the days of lighting a wood fire and placing a cauldron over an open flame might reduce your utility costs, most people wouldn’t find it very practical!
So, how can you control the amount of energy you use for heating water? Most residential homes in the U.S. have a tank type system that stores hot water for use when needed. The most common energy sources are:
• Natural gas
When it comes to water heating, bigger is not always better. Your first consideration when getting a new water tank is to get the right size for your home. An oversized tank will result in wasted energy. You should select a tank that meets the needs of your household based on usage and the size of your home.
Find a water tank that is ENERGY STAR certified. You may find a cheaper unit but in the long run, a less expensive tank will cost you more in operating costs. Since a tank system uses a replenishment technique to keep you supplied with hot water, install low-flow showerheads and faucets that reduce the amount of hot water used. Also, consider setting your water temperature at 120˚ F, which is a comfortable hot water temperature for most uses.
For washing machines, avoid using the hot water setting. For most loads, cold water is sufficient, especially for the rinse cycle. The main concern with tank systems is that the reservoir has a constant supply of hot water available. When the temperature drops or water is used, the unit will kick on and start burning fuel to maintain the set temperature when more water is added.
Unfortunately, this means you can be using energy even when hot water is not being used. One way to get around this is to look at a tankless system. This is also called an “on demand” system. These units are common in Europe and some other countries, but are now becoming more popular in the United States.
Water heating with a tankless system uses a gas or electric element that heats the water as it passes through the unit. The advantage to this system is a constant flow of hot water. The drawback to a tankless system is a limited amount of flow available, as the water must pass through the unit at a steady rate.
Before installing a new water heating system, contact a certified RESNET professional who can advise you on the most energy efficient system for your home.