For nearly a century, Americans have been relying on the same basic type of water heater: the storage tank water heater. These systems heat up a tank full of water at a time and maintain it at a steady temperature, then deliver that heated water through the pipes when a faucet is turned on. Though these systems have been the norm for decades, they are also incredibly energy inefficient, as heat is gradually lost as the hot water sits in the tank. Fortunately, new water heater technology is available to improve both your personal experience and the environmental impact.
Tankless Water Heaters: Worth It?
Tankless water heaters are the latest trend in environmentally responsible hot water heater technology. While traditional tank models waste energy due to the standby heat loss that causes heated water to cool and require further heating, tankless system bypass the tank entirely, and instead heat water as needed. When a hot water faucet is turned on, the pipes carry the cold water through an electric or gas heating element, which heats the water and then delivers it to its destination.
Many homeowners love the tankless model because you don’t have to wait for the hot water tank to fill, and families with high demands for hot water may consider installing multiple tankless units. Tankless water heaters are estimated to use up to 25% less energy than traditional models: the environment and your wallet will both thank you in the long run.
Geothermal and Air-Source Heat Pump Water Heaters
Among the latest in water heater innovations are water heating systems that use heat pumps in place of the traditional use of a gas or electric heating element. A heat pump essentially functions as a reverse refrigerator: while refrigerators suck heat out of a confined space and discharge it into the surrounding environments through air vents, a heat pump water heater takes heat from the environment and concentrates it into a confined space.
Heat pump water heaters come in two main types:
• Air-Source. These systems draw their heat from the surrounding air, and therefore should be installed in a room with excess heat, for example near a furnace. They won’t work well in colder areas, and these systems tend to have the effect of cooling the room where installed.
• Geothermal. Geothermal heat pumps draw heat from the earth. In water heaters, they typically draw heat from within the earth during the colder winter months, while drawing heat from the air during warmer seasons.
Advances in hot water heater technology have made it possible for water heating units to get smaller and smaller, so that today’s most innovative kitchen sink ideas include installing an under-sink water heater directly beneath the kitchen sink for instant, on-demand hot water. No more leaving the water running for minutes at a time while you wait for it to heat up to wash your dishes – under sink water heaters may be tankless or use a small tank of just 1-2 gallons to provide hot water when and where you need it. In addition to kitchen sinks, under-sink water heaters can also be a great option for the bathroom sink, particularly for homeowners that want plenty of hot water at once, and on demand in the bathroom.
At Benjamin Franklin Plumbing Bay Area, we pride ourselves on staying up to date on all the latest and greatest in plumbing innovations, including new water heating technology, to give our clients the best information and service possible. If you’re thinking about changing your water heating system or are just curious about your options, give us a call.