Home & Garden

Technology creates new water heater options

Because they’re small, you can install HeatWorks units in several places to move water to your faucets faster.
Because they’re small, you can install HeatWorks units in several places to move water to your faucets faster. HEATWORKS

When was the last time you gave any thought to your water heater? Chances are you don’t think much about the steadfast bringer of hot water that resides in your basement or crawlspace other than when something goes wrong with it – or when you see how much it’s costing you every month on your utility bill.

Giving your water heater some consideration might be worth your time. New models provide increased efficiency and better performance over yesterday’s old clunkers – most for a premium price. Here are five cutting-edge models:

Heatworks

You have two main categories to choose from when buying a new water heater: those with storage tanks and tankless units. The Heatworks system falls into the second category and represents the latest technology. It uses graphite plates that activate resistance in water to heat it, rather than using a heating element (which can fail and be costly to replace). A Heatworks unit can be installed as your home’s main water heater, or multiple units around the house can be installed. The units are compact and can fit under sinks and in closets. This means hot water doesn’t have to travel far to reach the faucets. Moving hot water over shorter distances can save money on your gas or electric bill. Alternatively, you can keep your current water heater and install Heatworks units as add-ons to help make the whole system more efficient. The temperature for the units can be set remotely via smartphone app or through the forthcoming Apple Watch. $475 at www.myheatworks.com.

Rheem Eco-Net

A computerized panel in your home gives you control of your heating and cooling systems – including your water heater. You can also access the system, which sends periodic maintenance updates, through your smartphone or tablet. Rheem makes three different water heaters that work with the system, including the Professional Prestige Series Hybrid Heat Pump. It uses an electric heating element and a heat pump to warm your water. Heat pumps can increase the efficiency of water heaters by drawing warm ambient air from around them and using that air to heat the water. In fact, this unit claims to be twice as efficient as a standard electric water heater, promising savings of up to $370 per year. The water heater has an easy-to-use screen that lets you set usage profiles quickly and easily, even if it’s not connected to the Eco-Net system. Price starts at $1,450 plus installation at TCS, http://tcs.rheemteam.net.

State Premier Self-Cleaning

One of the hazards of running a traditional-style hot water heater with a tank is that scale, a sediment from minerals in the water, can build up on components over time and cause them to function improperly. The Premier Self-Cleaning electric heaters from State help you avoid this issue. These are designed with a tube that delivers cold water to the bottom of the water heater’s tank. State’s tubes are made from a material called PEXAN that protects against lime and sediment buildup. The heater also has jet ports that create turbulence in the water and keep sediment from accumulating. Heavy-duty magnesium anode rods in the glass-lined tank help prevent rust and corrosion. These features are designed to reduce costs for cleaning and other maintenance over the life of the machine. www.statewaterheaters.com.

Rheem Solar

When it comes to affordably heating the water in your home, solar-powered systems are an option worth considering. After you’ve installed the system, your hot water is heated by the sun. There are also passive solar water heaters available; you install tanks or panels on your roof and your water is heated directly by the sun. Unless you live in an unshaded area with lots of clear days, these can be impractical. A better way to put solar power to use could be found in the Rheem Solar system. Panels go on the roof to collect the sun’s rays. That energy is then converted into electricity to power the tank-style hot water heater. This model has electric backup capabilities so the system can make hot water by using electricity during a patch of gray days. $4,525 for an 80-gallon unit and 65.58-square-feet collector at www.build.com.

Navien Comfort Flow

This is another tankless option that has two unique components. One is that the Navien Comfort Flow heater uses recirculated water that draws unused water in the lines back into the machine – instead of using ice-cold water from outside. This helps it use less energy, which saves you more money. Its second feature is a half-gallon buffer tank that helps it avoid the “cold water” sandwich (see side note) that can sometimes be an issue with on-demand systems. $2,180 at amazon.com.

Time To Go Tankless?

Promising endless supplies of hot water, high efficiency, small footprints, low operating costs and no trouble with sediment buildup, tankless water heaters can certainly be a good investment. But there are three things you should know about them that might make you reconsider.

1. They are expensive. Even though tankless systems will save you energy in the long run because they don’t require you to keep 40-50 gallons of water constantly hot, they tend to cost more than standard units. Also, some require special venting, which means they could also cost more to install.

2. You can get a cold water sandwich. When a tankless system senses a water demand, it feeds some water through from the cold line to determine how much heat to apply to the water. This can create a “cold water sandwich” that comes between the leftover heat in the line from the last use and the new hot water that will be created once the equipment is firing.

3. Limited output. Because only so much water can be fed through a tankless hot water heater at once, you can run into problems if several family members need hot water at the same time. Someone can easily get cheated.

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