So long as hot water pours out of a spigot whenever you turn the valve, it’s easy to take for granted your home’s lowly water heater. But like all appliances, water heaters have a limited lifespan, about twenty years for tankless heaters and a maximum of fifteen years for tanks. If you push your water heater much past its expiration date, you’re risking leaks, or worse, basement flooding due to a catastrophic failure.
Before replacing the tank becomes an emergency, do a little research on a replacement unit by checking out the new technology now available in 21st century water heaters.
Tank Heater Improvements
Tankless water heaters have always left traditional tank heaters in the dust when it comes to energy efficiency. Without the need to maintain 50-plus gallons of water at a constant, elevated temperature, tankless heaters use less power, whether driven by gas or electricity. That energy savings accumulates over time and can make up for the higher cost of installation.
However, recent developments in heating technology narrow the energy-use difference between tank and tankless heaters considerably. Several manufacturers have introduced Heat Pump Water Heaters (HPWH) which offers twice the energy efficiency of a standard tank electric heater unit. This new technology harnesses the heat in the surrounding air, concentrates it, and uses it to elevate the water temperature. The fifty-gallon Rheem version of this kind of tank deserves its Department of Energy’s Star rating.
If you’re interested in extreme energy efficiency, you may want to check out the new solar powered tank heaters. The most efficient of these are mounted on the rooftop, using gravity as a passive way for water heated in the collection area to be siphoned into a holding tank. In homes where the roof isn’t strong enough to bear the weight of the equipment, or roof-mounted appliances are disallowed by local regulations, a pump system can be installed between the solar panels warming the water, and a holding tank on a lower floor.
Tankless Water Heater Improvements
Recirculation is the hottest new technology in tankless heaters. If you’re tired of turning the faucet on and waiting for cold water to purge before the water arrives at your master bath, consider buying a tankless system that offers this option.
Hot water will constantly circulate through the pipes so you’ll get it immediately on tap, rather than pour a lot of cold water down the drain.
Connecting To Your Heater
Advancements in microprocessors have also allowed improvements in water heater digital technology, both for tank and tankless heaters. Some models include multiple digital function modes, such as “Efficiency” or “Vacation.” These days, you can even connect to your water heater through an app on your phone to monitor and control temperature and usage, turning your water heater into a “smart” appliance.
Remember, if you’re thinking about replacing your current appliance, the best source of information about the latest technology in water heater systems as well as what’s involved in use and installation is your trusted local plumber.