Urban Natural Homes December 31, 2013

Upgrading Your Hot Water Heater: Evaluating the Energy Efficient Choices


With winter officially upon us, we are naturally using more hot water. Did you know that after heating and cooling, hot water is typically a home’s next biggest expense? And did you also know that with a standard water heater a good part of that expense is wasted keeping the water in the tank hot while only a portion actually goes towards heating the water you use? Most of us recognize that there are more efficient models out there. However, the range of different types can be confusing. To demystify the situation I did some research on the Energy Star website. Below are four types of energy efficient water heaters that they recommend and that you might consider when replacing that clunky older model.

High-Efficiency Gas Water Heater

High efficiency gas water heaters are a step up from standard water heaters in that they have better insulation, heat traps and more efficient burners. According to Energy Star, despite having only a modest impact on price, they can increase efficiency by about 7.5%.

Gas Condensing Water Heater

A standard hot water heater essentially is like a water tank sitting on top of a gas fireplace with the chimney running straight up the middle and exiting at the top. And while a standard hot water heater will vent combustion gases directly outside, a gas condensing water heater will capture those gases and utilize them to heat the water. They also have a ‘chimney’ that is designed with a lot more surface area so that more heat is transferred to the water in the tank. This greatly increases efficiency and performance.

Electric Heat Pump Water Heater

Heat pump water heaters use electricity to move heat from one place to another rather than directly generating it by taking heat from the surrounding air and transferring it to water in an enclosed tank. Note that this type of water heater has certain housing requirements including an indoor temperature between 40 and 90 degrees and quite a bit of space around it (about 1,000 cubic feet of air space).

Tankless Water Heater 

Tankless water heaters use the same principle as standard gas water heaters, but they don’t utilize a storage tank. When a hot water tap is turned on, cold water is drawn into the water heater and a sensor activates a gas burner which warms the heat exchanger and the surrounding water. By heating water only when its needed, a tankless water heater is obviously much more efficient than the standard tank type.