News from the Tennessee Valley State, Local and National news
FRIDAY, MARCH 30, 2007

Tankless water heaters can help save on utilities

Dear Jim: We have a typical family of four. Both my wife and I work and the children go to school. Our water heater started leaking and we need a new one. Will one of the new efficient tankless models be a good choice? Bill G.

Dear Bill: When a standard tank-type water heater starts to leak water, there really is not much you can do other than replace it. For most families, installing a tankless water heater yields a substantial savings on their utility bills and some gas/propane models qualify for a $300 energy tax credit. No standard tank-type models qualify for the credit.

Tankless water heaters are not new at all. They have not been popular in American homes, but are very common almost everywhere else in the world. It is a proven technology and you will never have a rusted out tank to replace. Tankless water heaters are small and are usually just hung on the wall or recessed (gas models) in a wall outdoors.

Much of the cost of heating water with a standard tank-type water heater results from heat being lost through the walls and top of the tank. During summer, this heat loss to your home makes your air conditioner run longer so it is a double cost. During winter, it does heat the air, but it is usually located in a utility room or basement where warmth is not needed.

A tankless water heater has very high output burners (gas) or heating elements (electric) to heat the water only as it is needed. If you do not use any hot water overnight, the unit does not comes on. In contrast, a tank-type model may come on several times to replace the heat lost from the tank.

In addition to the savings, a tankless water heater can supply enough hot water for endless showers, whereas a tank-type water heater can run out of water by the third long shower. If you have just washed the dishes or done the laundry, the hot water may run out by the second shower. The only drawback to a tankless water heater is the instantaneous hot water output is limited by the heating capacity of the unit. Depending upon the heating capacity of the unit you install, you may not be able to simultaneously take two showers while running the clothes washer. This is a minor inconvenience to stagger the high hot water usages tasks a bit.

Gas models have the greatest instantaneous hot water output, up to six gallons per minute. Since you seldom use straight hot water from the faucet, this is more than adequate. If you are replacing an electric water heater, you will need additional circuits and wiring to a tankless unit. No matter which type you need, select one with modulating heat output for more steady hot water temperatures.

Dear Jim: I am in the design stages of a new house. I was wondering if it would make sense to install a solar-powered attic fan along with reflective foil under the roof. The roof will have a standard ridge vent? Dave B.

Dear Dave: If you are building a new house with the option to install any type of attic vent system, select a combination of a continuous ridge and soffit vents. This will be adequate with the reflective foil.

Solar-powered attic fans work well, but with their higher cost, they are most feasible on existing homes currently without adequate attic vents. They are particularly effective where there is significant sun exposure.

Send inquiries to James Dulley, The Decatur Daily, 6906 Royalgreen Drive, Cincinnati, OH 45244 or visit

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