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Tankless Hot Water Heaters: Should I or Shouldn’t I?

March 22, 2017


Photo: rinnai.com

Whether you are building a new home or retrofiiting an older one (like me), take time to evaluate the hot water system. After all, estimates say that as much as 30% of a home’s energy budget is consumed by heating water.

My new “old house” came complete with an old and rusted gas-fueled tank-style water heater in the attic that was dying… well, dead. The question was not “should it be replaced?” but rather, “should it be replaced with a similar model or a new tankless system?”

A traditional water heater continuously heats water in the tank, regardless of whether it is being used. By comparison, the newer tankless designs heat water only when there is demand for it. Less stored water to heat means less cost—and let’s not forget, a more compact, wall-mounted design.

I did some research on water heating in general and tankless hot water heaters specifically, and here is what I learned:

Size Matters: Tankless hot water heaters are available in room or whole-house sizes. Calculate how many appliances or fixtures need hot water in order to determine the best size unit for your home. For me, a whole-house system was needed.

Gas-Operated Tankless Water Heater Diagram

Gas-operated tankless hot water heater diagram.

Fuel Type: Hot water heaters are available in either electric or gas (natural and propane) models. If you are considering electric, check for voltage and amperage requirements. The gas version will need some electric to operate, but venting will be the bigger issue.

Location: If you live further north, your ground water will be colder than if you reside in the southern or western part of the country. The temperature of the water will affect the speed and flow.

Know the Flow: If you think you will need to run the dishwasher while someone else is showering, assume a larger gallons-per-minute (GPM) rate will be on order to meet your overall water needs. Take into account water usage, too: A bathroom needs less water than a kitchen, a dishwasher less than a shower, and so on.

Look into Rebates: Many utility companies offer incentives, and you may benefit from state tax credits as well. Investigate both to ensure that you’re eligible and if so, that you reap the full benefits.

Understand the Payback: In general, a tankless hot water heater will cost you more upfront—between $800 to $1,150 (plus installation)—compared to a traditional tank water heaters at $450 to $750 (plus installation).

Balance the cost of your unit with your ongoing operating costs. According to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy website, tankless water heaters can be 24 to 34 percent more efficient than a traditional tank-style water heater, depending on a home’s daily demand for hot water.

Ready to update your hot water heater to tankless/on demand? Contact us today!

Jim Lavallee Plumbing
Serving Eastern Massachusetts and the Boston area
Phone: Toll-free (888) 884-4122

Water-Efficient Plumbing Fixtures

March 20, 2017

Water Saving Faucet

Photo: allianceforwaterefficiency.org

Save water and energy by investing in WaterSense certified low-flow toilets and faucets.

By Maureen Blaney Flietner

Efficient Products
Managing the country’s water supply is a rising concern, yet many Americans are unaware of how much water they waste. The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that each person uses about 80 to 100 gallons of water per day and a lot of it goes down the toilet.

One program raising awareness is the Environmental Protection Agency’s WaterSense program created in 2006. The voluntary partnership encourages consumer demand for water-efficient products and services, similar to the way the Energy Star program has created energy-saving awareness. So far, WaterSense has qualified products in two categories—toilets, and bathroom faucets and faucet accessories. The products have started to appear on store shelves with more available online or by special order. In addition, the marketplace offers options, such as waterless urinals.

The first category targeted by WaterSense was toilets, the greatest home water consumer. The thought of more “low-flow” toilets may, at first, turn away homeowners. Some early attempts before WaterSense performed poorly as they tried to achieve the federal law of not exceeding 1.6 gallons per flush (gpf). One of their problems was requiring repeat flushes to remove waste.

But WaterSense specifications require both high efficiency and high performance. With new technology and design modifications, more than 60 toilets have earned the WaterSense label. They were independently tested and certified to perform as well as or better than their market counterparts while using an average of 20 percent less water per flush than the industry standard of 1.6 gallons. For those homes still using old toilets with 3.5- and 5-gallon flushes, the savings percentages are even greater.

These toilets accomplish the task using several methods: single flush gravity fed; pressure assist using a tank storage device or water line pressure; power assist using a small pump to force water at a higher velocity; and dual-flush gravity fed.

Kohler’s gravity-fed Persuade® toilet is one example that offers the dual-flush technology. Using a two-button actuator integrated into the top of the tank lid, the user can flush either 1.6 gallons or half that amount, 0.8 gallons, depending on need. According to Kohler, the latter flush option, if used routinely to remove light or liquid waste, could save a household of four between 2,000 and 5,000 gallons of water per year versus standard models. The Persuade features a skirted toilet bowl, which the company notes as significantly more hygienic than other models, and eliminates potential debris buildup around the trapway and bowl-tank connection.

Waterless Urinals
Another way to cut bathroom water use is something not readily considered for a residential setting. However, interest in waterless urinals at home is rising, says Klaus Reichardt, president of Waterless Co. Requests are coming from families with several boys at home, those concerned about water conservation and water and sewer costs, and from builders of large spec homes with his and her bathrooms.

The product does work in retrofits if there is enough space in the bathroom, says Reichardt. Often there is room enough, about two feet, for a urinal between the sink and toilet. The plumber only needs to open up the wall to provide a line to the drain line. There is no need for a water line.

The system is simple. The trap is filled with a liquid sealant that prevents sewer gas and odors from escaping the plumbing below. Urine is temporarily stored in the trap. As it accumulates, it overflows into the drain pipe.

On the assumption that a male resident might use the urinal three times a day, the water savings is more than 1,700 gallons a year, says Reichardt. In addition, products such as the Del Casa No-Flush® Urinal by Waterless are available in a variety of colors, including granite for a high-end look.

Bathroom Sink Faucets
It is estimated that there are 222 million residential bathroom faucets in the country and about 17 million new bathroom sink faucets sold each year for new homes or as replacements. The faucets, depending on age, operate at various flow rates. In homes with pre-1992 bathroom faucets, the water may come pouring out at from three to seven gpm. A faucet from between 1992 and 1998 may flow at 2.5 gpm. In 1998, new bathroom faucets had to meet the 2.2 gpm at 60 psi standard.

Building a new home or remodeling? Contact us today for your plumbing & heating needs!

Jim Lavallee Plumbing
Serving Eastern Massachusetts and the Boston area
Phone: Toll-free (888) 884-4122

Energy Savings Projects to Tackle in 2017

March 15, 2017

Depending on your local climate and home structure, energy use can be an escalating concern for home owners. In, just under half (42 percent) of home energy costs stem from heating and cooling, with energy use (and related costs) expected to increase by another 2.4 percent this winter alone.

The New Year is the perfect time for homeowners to make energy-efficient upgrades to their homes. In turn, this also marks the perfect opportunity to work together with your clients on new temperature-resilient and cost-effective implementations.

Seal the Deal 

Sealing a home from drafts can save more than 20 percent on heating and cooling bills. As a result, any energy-improvement plan should examine overlooked areas of the home for gaps, cracks and holes.

pro_installer_caulking_bFor instance, Great Stuff Gaps and Cracks Insulating Foam Sealant will provide additional protection in drafty areas around windows and doorways.

Weatherstripping is a basic preventative measure your clients can address themselves. Easy-to-install products, such as weatherstrip tape, will stop air leaks and keep drafts out. Similarly, slide-on door bottoms are great for blocking drafts from entering the home through door frame gaps.


Stay Warm through Insulation


Increasing insulation in the attic, and around the water heater and pipes, can boost a homeowner’s energy savings and maintain more consistent and comfortable temperatures. Since your clients may not fully know the type or volume of insulation that is best for them, take a few minutes to review their attic insulation needs and estimate the quantity needed to make an impact.

Water heaters account for 18 percent of a home’s energy use, insulating the water heater with a blanket can increase stored water temperatures and reduce water heating costs by as much as 9 percent. If your clients are ready for a new water heater, tankless options like Rheem can slash energy consumption by nearly one-third. This is an excellent option for limited-space properties.

Wrapping pipes is also an easy option to saving energy costs, pipe insulation will prepare the home for colder days and nights, and prevent moisture build up during the rest of the year.

Make Energy Conservation Smarter

New technology and smart products make it easy to improve at-home energy efficiency. A simple upgrade to a Wi-Fi programmable thermostat, such as the Honeywell Lyric Round Thermostat, will allow homeowners to moderate electricity and gas usage and program temperatures from just about anywhere through a smartphone app. The Lyric thermostat also will measure humidity levels to ensure more accurate temperatures.

Some smart thermostats can self-program to adjust temperatures based on clients’ schedules, preventing the heating or cooling of unoccupied rooms. The ecobee 3 WiFi Programmable Thermostat, for instance, can connect to remote sensors around the house to ensure consistent temperatures in all rooms.

rheem-indoor-tankless-gas-water-heater ecobee-thermostat

Make the motto “New Year, New Home” for your clients, and help them keep money in their pockets by becoming more energy efficient in 2017. For more information visit www.homedepot.com/energy


By Sulema Vela, Southern Division Pro Director, The Home Depot

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