Energy Efficient Water Heaters

The benefits of energy-saving water heaters

In most households, hot water usage accounts for a significant portion of annual energy consumption. Typically, about 20 percent of your total energy costs are accrued by heating your water. Given those numbers, it's easy to see how energy efficient water heaters have the potential to save you a lot of money in the long run.

High efficiency water heaters have features such as heat traps and advanced insulation that help you conserve energy. Most of the direct heat loss that occurs in water heater tanks is caused by warmth escaping through the sides and base of the appliance, or by convection that occurs when heated water is sent into your home's piping system. Energy saving water heaters use less power to make water hotter and minimize standby losses, which occur when heated water is left to cool in the tank. You can also use water heater blankets as an additional layer of insulation to minimize heat loss.

Water heaters are classified by their energy sources, and energy efficient options are available no matter which type you prefer. As with energy efficient refrigerators and dishwashers, efficient units qualify for the Energy Star rating. Energy Star water heaters must meet or exceed strict government standards for power conservation.

Types of Water Heaters

Electric water heaters have the advantage of easy installation. They are also flexible, in that they can be placed in many different areas of the home and come in a full range of sizes. While they do take a relatively long time to heat water, they also generally have larger tanks, creating superior storage capacity. Using water heater blankets is recommended to avoid standby losses.

Natural gas is another option. These appliances heat water quite quickly, but your home has to be set up with a natural gas pipeline to house one; you're also limited in terms of placement, as the natural gas water heater will have to be put wherever the gas lines allow. Propane water heaters operate similarly, but you'll need to arrange regular fuel delivery and purchase a sizeable liquid propane tank. Oil-fired water heaters work very quickly and therefore usually have more compact tanks, but the range of options available is relatively limited.

Tankless water heaters are yet another option. These units work by heating water on demand with heat exchanger coils. They are usually installed at the point of use (of which there can be one or many) and are very efficient, but installation is complex and can be quite expensive.

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