Did you know? The EPA estimates that fourteen to eighteen percentage of household energy is used to heat water!
Energy costs are ever increasing, the consumer should be aware of all the options to heat water as efficiently as possible. There can be many signs that your water heater may need maintenance and repair. Rusty water, fluctuating temperatures, signs of leakage, burn or scorch marks on the tank, and popping sounds are a few of the indicators that you may be about to wake up to a cold shower.
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We are a small efficient family run business providing exceptional services at fair prices. We have repaired, maintained, and installed radiant heating, boilers, and water heaters in California since 1986, and know bringing these same services to Sonoma County.
Gas tank water heaters have been the most common source for heating water in the Bay Area for decades. Gas is still a very affordable fuel compared to Electricity. Older water heaters often lasted 20 to 25 years. Unfortunately our newer replacements have on average 6 year pro rated warranties, and may not be manufactured to last much more than the warranty period. Energy efficiency is usually from 53% to about 62%. Which means up to 47% of energy goes up in smoke. Energy Star conventional gas tank water heaters are a minimum of 67% efficient. These are not so common, and can have slightly longer warranties.
The State of California is an ultra low emissions , or an ultra low NOx State when it comes to gas water heaters. Very few States are Ultra Low NOx and unfortunately conventional gas water heaters have not adapted easily to the ultra low emissions standards. Tank water heaters were reliable and simple at 53% efficiency. Changing to ultra low NOx and trying to squeeze more efficiency out of old technology has not produced reliable water heaters.
Electric tank water heaters have not changed much in decades. Typically they are 240 volt on a 30 amp circuit. They tend to last longer than the 6 year warranty because they have less stresses than a gas fired tank water heater. They are about 91% efficient using electricity which is typically three times the cost of natural gas. One of their unfortunate traits is that electrical appliances that heat things can easily push your electric bill into the third tier ( much more expensive ). If you don’t have gas there is probably not a lot of alternatives other than the water heated listed next.
This is a tank with an electric heat pump unit mounted on top. A heat pump has a compressor just like your refrigerator, and it is basically an air conditioner or refrigerator in reverse. Heat pumps are usually 250% efficient. Yes 1killowatt in and 2.5 kilowatts out. The technology is reliable. They are regarded as a Green appliance. G.E. , Rheem, Kenmore, A.O. Smith are just a few of the models available. If you are forced to have an electric water heater, or you have Solar Electric and want to conserve this is a great choice. Yes 250% efficient!
Tankless water heaters were invented in 1868 in London. The first tankless water heater was called the “Geyser”. On demand or tankless water heaters have been used world wide for decades. Europeans, Asians, Australasians would be confused if they saw a tank water heater. The major producers of Tankless water heaters (all Japanese) began to tackle the remaining tankless hold outs of the world water heater market in Canada and the US in the late 1990’s. High energy costs in other parts of the world would make it prohibitively expensive to use tank water heaters. Gas fired tankless water heaters range from 84% efficient to 96% efficient. If you convert from a conventional gas water heater (62%) to a 96% efficient heater you could reduce your household energy bill by up to 6%. That could be hundreds of dollars saved per year.
Tankless water heaters are great. However they are not a good fit in all situations. If the house has long pipe runs and does not have a recirculating system users can get frustrated using a tankless. Retrofitting recirculating systems, or on demand recirculating pumps can be a solution to wasting water in any household and also make a tankless water heater user friendly in a not so well plumbed house.
Contrary to myths, on demand water heaters do work with recirculating systems. The normal requirements for a time clock and a thermostat apply. Rinnai water heaters have built in recirculating pump controls, and one very efficient model has a built in recirculating pump.
There are also tankless electric water heaters. They are very common. Ranging from tiny units for hand wash only ( very common in public bathrooms ) to units large enough for a household of four people. Whole house tankless electric is a great option for the home that has a solar hot water system, and a solar electric system. Most of the work is done by the sun. The electric tankless is mostly a backup heater when there is no or little sun.
Many complaints regarding tankless water heaters are due to poor installation by unqualified installers. 90% of so called “warranty calls” are due to installation problems not the water heater. We have been a qualified Rinnai tankless installers for 15 years. We are also approved service providers for Rinnai tankless, and carry a very large stock of the common parts.
Tankless water heaters require maintenance to ensure they will last a long time. Maintenance is usually needed every three years . We have water heaters that are fifteen years old, and expect them to last twenty years. Some home owners will buy three tank water heaters in 20 years, and not have the energy savings or reliability of a tankless water heater.
The Rinnai RH180 is a 40 gallon storage tank with a tankless water heater attached. It is called the 180 because it produces 180 to 190 gallons of hot water per hour if needed. (a 50 gallon gas water heater normally produces 90 gallons in the first hour). A thermal efficiency of 80% makes it 13% better than the Energy Star minimum standard. It uses a conventional ½” gas line, a conventional 4 inch metal flue, and is a direct replacement of any 40 or 50 gallon conventional gas tank water heater. It works with any piping configuration, or long pipe runs in a house. The tankless technology is well tested and more reliable than the low NOx burners in conventional gas heaters. There is no flame to stress the storage tank which will increase tank life considerably. In the event of a severe earthquake you would have 40 gallons of fresh drinking water in storage. Installation time is reduced because it is a direct replacement, and does not require a separate different flue, or new gas line (does need an electrical outlet).
The most economical water heater to run is the one that is heated for free by the sun. Solar water heaters have been around for a long time. They were very popular in the 70’s with the huge tax credits available. Arnold Schwarzenegger re vamped solar hot water with the California Solar Initiative Thermal Program.
Rebates and tax credits are available for replacing an electric, natural gas, or propane water heater.
Solar systems are generally “pre heat systems”. The sun slowly heats a storage tank when sun light is available. The pre-heated water then goes to feed another water heater before it comes to your faucets. In the summer months the sun can heat 100% of the hot water, in the winter the solar system partially heats the hot water. When no sun is available the regular water heater can do 100% of the work. Solar systems that feed tankless gas, or tankless electric water heaters are a great combination because the tankless is purely on demand and has no wasted energy when not used.
An indirect tank is a storage tank that is heated usually by your radiant heat boiler. Most modern boilers are 95% efficient and make a very efficient heat source. Indirect tanks are very well insulated and do not lose a lot of heat just storing the hot water. They are typically made of high quality stainless steel and should last a very long time. The indirect tank has been used in Europe for over 50 years. Indirect tanks are an efficient way to heat hot water and store it.
There are two negatives that I know of. If your boiler breaks down there is no hot water. Also the boiler needs to be more powerful to heat the tank than would be needed for just the radiant heat. On many occasions I will choose a tankless gas water heater along with a smaller radiant heat boiler, and keep the two systems separate.
John Owens Services, Inc.
1275 4th St. #137
Santa Rosa, CA 95404