Question

I need more hot water in my all-electric home. Can you help me choose between a 2nd heater, a recirculation system, and a heat pump heater?

Asked by Bill
Seneca, SC

We need more, and quicker, hot water to 2 remote bathrooms and a clothes washer. Considering adding an 80-gal water heater in a closet by the washer. The existing 50-gal heater can then serve the other 3 baths and the kitchen. It will likely need to be replaced within a few years. We may add a propane tank for two fireplaces. But they are at the opposite end of the house from the new water heater location. And with the price of oil rising, I'm inclined to stay with electric. I've looked at the heat pump water heaters. I've concluded I should not use one in the closet by the washer. Maybe use one to replace the existing heater in the utility room when the time comes. An alternative is installing a retrofit recirc system to the baths and clothes washer. But I think I'll still need more hot water capacity than the existing heater. Suggestions?

Answer

Ted Kidd

Answered by Ted Kidd

Rochester, NY

Ted Kidd Energy Guru

December 12, 2010

Hi Bill,

It sounds like you are considering a lot of paths, each of which opens specific opportunities for providing more hot water, but let's first talk about when the problem occurs, and how you can save water.  

Here are several ideas, which I explain just below:

  • front load washing machine
  • low flow showerheads
  • turn up your water heater's temperature 
  • go solar
  • get an energy audit

Front-load washing machine

Running out of hot water in the shower is a real drag. But if this is frequently caused by the washing machine, this is a pretty simple fix that can cost $0-$600. Do you have a front-load washer?

  • They use considerably less water.
  • They also save energy by removing more water in the spin cycle, reducing drying time.
  • Finally, new soaps and front-load washers do a really good job of cleaning clothes in cold water, so you can remove the washer from the competition for hot water.

Low-flow showerheads

If you have limited hot water, a more efficient showerhead can extend how long your tank lasts, commonly by nearly two times.

Turn the temperature up

For showers especially, you need a very specific temperature. If the hot side is hotter you will be mixing more cold, which will slow the draw off the tank.

Be careful, particularly if you have small children -- turning up your water tank increases the risk of inadvertent scalding. A mixing valve can be added after the tank to protect against this.

Go Solar

A solar water tank that feeds to your existing tank will increase your total hot water and even when there is not a lot of sun, it will preheat the incoming water so your electric doesn't work so hard and recovers quickly.

Get an energy audit

The best solution is to get an energy audit. Not all audits are the same.

  • Make sure the energy auditor enters all your energy consumption and models various options for improvement.
  • The analysis should show return on each modeled investment and help you come up with an overall energy strategy and avoid missing big energy opportunities.

By starting with the audit, you should arrive at a long-term cure rather than short-term "Band-aids."

 

For more information:

Read GreenHomeGuide's "Tips for Switching to High-Efficiency Toilets, Showerheads, and Faucets".

Tagged In: energy audit, solar water heater, water saving, low flow showerhead

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