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Energy Saving Water Heaters Arlington WA

Recent headlines about potential shortages of natural gas and rising heating costs have again raised concerns about the need to conserve energy in Arlington. One of the largest sources of energy consumption in your home is an appliance that most of us take for granted, makes virtually no noise when operating, and often sits unnoticed in a basement or closet.

Campbell's Plumbing Inc
(425) 224-7691
12427 Williams Rd
Lake Stevens, WA
Hours
Monday 24 Hours
Tuesday 24 Hours
Wednesday 24 Hours
Thursday 24 Hours
Friday 24 Hours
Saturday 24 Hours
Sunday 24 Hours
Services
Commercial Plumbing, Emergency Plumbing Service, Plumbers, Remodel Plumbing, Residential Plumbing, Septic Systems, Sewers & Drains, Sump Pumps, Video Inspections, Water Heaters, Water Lines/Pipe Work

Roto-Rooter Plumbing & Drain Services
(888) 245-3191
8015 Broadway
Everett, WA
Description
Roto-Rooter is the #1 name in plumbing and drain services. You can rely on Roto-Rooter plumbers for fast, expert service.
Phone Hours
SUN - SAT 12:00AM - 12:00AM

Arlington AA Plumbing
(360) 523-2662
172 E Gilman Ave
Arlington, WA
Services
Plumbing Service, Leak Detection, Water Heater, Plumbing Contractor, Plumber
Hours
24/7

Marysville Aa Plumbing
(360) 857-0214
280 State Ave
Marysville, WA
 
Roto-Rooter Plumbing & Drain Service
(206) 935-6600
8825 34th Avenue Northeast, Suite L
Marysville, WA

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Campbell's Plumbing Inc
(425) 243-9883
NULL
Snohomish, WA
Hours
Monday 24 Hours
Tuesday 24 Hours
Wednesday 24 Hours
Thursday 24 Hours
Friday 24 Hours
Saturday 24 Hours
Sunday 24 Hours
Services
Commercial Plumbing, Emergency Plumbing Service, Plumbers, Remodel Plumbing, Residential Plumbing, Septic Systems, Sewers & Drains, Sump Pumps, Video Inspections, Water Heaters, Water Lines/Pipe Work

Hertz Energy & Pump Services
(360) 653-3432
16424 Smokey Point Blvd
Arlington, WA
Hours
M-F 7a-5p

Oso Plumbing
(360) 435-3508
23020 Oso Loop RD
Arlington, WA
Services
Service Repairs Tankless Water Weaters
Hours
8:00 am 5:30 pm

New England Const Plumbing
(360) 657-4812
1081 Cedar Ave
Marysville, WA

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Honest Heating Plbg & Pumps
(425) 319-5059
5305 138th St Ne
Marysville, WA

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Saving Energy with Water Heaters

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Recent headlines about potential shortages of natural gas and rising heating costs have again raised concerns about the need to conserve energy. One of the largest sources of energy consumption in your home is an appliance that most of us take for granted, makes virtually no noise when operating, and often sits unnoticed in a basement or closet - the water heater. "Water heating accounts for 20 percent or more of an average household's annual energy expenditures," according to the U.S. Department of Energy. "The yearly operating costs for conventional gas or electric storage-tank water heaters averages $200 or $450, respectively."
There are various types of water heaters, but the most common one is the storage type. With this water heater, cold water enters the bottom of an insulated tank, where it is heated by either a flame (natural gas, propane or oil) or an electric coil. When the water reaches the desired temperature setting on the tank (usually between 120° to 140° F), the heat source stops, and the water sits or is discharged as hot water through the top of the tank. Even if no hot water is drawn from the tank, the heat source will operate periodically to maintain the water temperature. This is due to standby losses - heat conducted and radiated from the walls of the tank, and in gas-fired water heaters, through the flue pipe. These standby losses represent 10 to 30 percent of a household's annual water-heating costs. In addition, as the hot water is used, it is replaced with cold water from the pipes so that the tank is always full. This cold water not only lowers the overall temperature of the water in the tank, but also has to be heated prior to use. This means that the heater continues to work after you use the water, in order to bring the water in the tank back to the desired setting.
The question that most of us fail to ask is: Why keep 30 to 80 gallons of water at 120º all the time? Do you leave your car running 24 hours a day just in case you need to go somewhere? Of course not, you start it when you need it. Water heaters should work the same way, starting up only when we need hot water. Unfortunately, traditional storage heaters heat the water up, let the water cool, then heat it up again, in a never-ending cycle that wastes a lot of energy. This brings up another problem with storage heaters. Since the water is always sitting in the tank, iron deposits collect on the bottom. Some of these deposits are drawn to an anode in the tank (which must be replaced occasionally, although few homeowners realize this), but the remaining deposits coat the bottom and eventually cause it to rust out. The resultant leak, if not caught in time, can become a flood, since there is no automatic flow inhibitor; thus, the water will continue to flow until you get home - a potential nightmare.
Why do we have this system? Because of the historically low cost of gas and electricity, and the economies of mass-producing storage heaters, there simply was little motivation to invent a better mousetrap. As a result, the United States is one of the few countries that still uses storage heaters as the primary method for heating.
Is There a Better Way?
An alternative to storage heaters is the tankless heater (also known as an instantaneous or demand heater). "Tankless and point-of-use heaters are an economical way to supply hot water to remotely located sinks and showers," according to John Wagner with the Journal of Light Construction. With a tankless heater you can eliminate standby heat losses from the tank and reduce energy consumption 20 to 30 percent because there is no storage tank. In a tankless heater, the cold water travels through a pipe into the unit, and either a gas burner or an electric element heats the water only when needed. With these systems, you never run out of hot water.
"Instead of heating water to a high temperature and holding it there 24 hours a day, these heaters only heat the water when needed," says Don Zeman, host of Homefront, a national radio show (www.homefront.com). Tankless water heaters are common in Japan and Europe. They began appearing in the United States about 25 years ago, but are not as popular here because of the low cost of storage heaters. "In almost every other country in the world, tankless hot-water systems like Rinnai Continuum are the standard way to heat water for the home," says Ervin Cash, vice president of Rinnai Heater and Water Heater Groups, a manufacturer of tankless heaters. Tankless heaters work differently than storage heaters. Where a storage heater uses a flame to heat a plate at the bottom of the tank (like boiling water in a pot), a tankless heater uses a burner that distributes heat to a heat exchanger, or coil, which then transfers the heat to the water as it passes through the unit.
There is one significant drawback with many tankless water heaters - limited flow rate. Typically, tankless heaters provide hot water at a rate of 2 to 4 gallons per minute, although some units claim to have a flow of up to 8 gallons per minute. This flow rate might suffice if your household does not use hot water at more than one location at the same time (e.g., showering and doing laundry simultaneously), or if you have a one- or two-person household. One option is to install tankless heaters in a parallel sequence, which would enable water to flow to multiple faucets. Although gas-fired tankless heaters tend to have higher flow rates than electric ones, they can waste energy even when no water is being heated if they use a pilot light. However, the amount of energy consumed by a pilot light is relatively small.
The advantages of typical tankless water heaters are: very low standby losses, low operation costs, unlimited amounts of hot-water delivery, a long life expectancy, and a friendliness to do-it-yourselfers and retrofitting. One significant advantage, according to Zeman, "is that you only heat the water to the temperature needed for the task - i.e., 104° for a shower, instead of paying to heat the water to 140° and adding cold water to it to bring the temperature down to the correct temperature." The disadvantages are: they only run on natural gas, propane or electricity; the standing pilot light wastes some of the energy saved from standby losses; they cost significantly more initially; and the unlimited amounts of hot water can't be taken too rapidly, because flow rates are limited. There is already evidence, however, that as the cost of gas and electricity increase, the pressure to conserve energy will also increase, thus spurring the marketplace to produce better and more efficient tankless heaters.
What Options Are Available?
Tankless water heaters are available in propane, natural-gas or electric models. They come in a variety of sizes for different applications, such as a whole-house water heater, a hot-water source for a remote bathroom or hot tub, or as a boiler to provide hot water for a home heating system. "There are heating boilers that have an internal or external heating coil - called a tankless - for making hot water. I am not a very big fan of these. This system asks you to leave your heating boiler up to full temperature for the whole year," says Richard Trethewey, of Ask This Old House, at www.thisoldhouse.com. (Editor's note: There is at least one system that has solved this problem, called the BoilerMate from Amtrol. It is an extremely well-insulated 40- to 50-gallon tank that acts as a separate heating zone in a hydronic heating system. When the BoilerMate calls for heat, the boiler fires up and sends hot water through the unit's heat-exchange coil, as if it were a baseboard heater. This heats the water without heating the house.)
Tankless heaters can also be used as boosters for dishwashers, washing machines, and solar or wood-fired domestic hot-water systems. Gas-fired models have higher hot-water output than electric models. "They are available in gas or electric, but I would only recommend gas at this point. The electric would need at least 14 to 15 kilowatts (a lot of power), and the electric elements can scale in hard water," Trethewey adds.
As with many storage water heaters, even the largest whole-house tankless gas models may not supply enough hot water for simultaneous, multiple uses of hot water (i.e., showers and laundry), although there are units on the market that claim they can provide service a shower, dishwasher and washing machine at the same time. Large users of hot water, such as the clothes washer and dishwasher, may need to be operated separately. Alternatively, separate tankless water heaters can be installed to meet individual hot-water loads, or two or more water heaters can be connected for simultaneous uses. Some manufacturers of tankless heaters claim that their product can match the performance of any 40-gallon storage heater. There are also combination units that use the tankless technology combined with a storage tank. This still provides energy savings, because you are not constantly heating and reheating, and it also provides for greater capacity.
Selecting the Right Heater
When most people look for a new storage heater, they usually just purchase the same size that they had before, or they may opt to increase slightly. Selecting a tankless water heater is somewhat more complicated, because you need to make sure that you have enough hot water for peak usage. Tankless water heaters are sized in gallons per minute (gpm) of flow. Most provide 2 to 4 gpm of hot water. Therefore, you need to inventory the water needs of your house and develop a plan to service those needs. You can use the following guidelines on water flow to assist in developing the plan:
Faucets 0.75 to 2.5 gpm
Low-flow showerheads 1.2 to 2 gpm
Older standard showerheads 2.5 to 3.5 gpm
Clothes washers and dishwashers 1 to 2 gpm
Typically, incoming potable-water temperature is 50°. However, a rule-of-thumb used in energy auditing is that ground-water temperature (deep well) is 90° minus degree of latitude. You will want to heat that water to 120° for most uses, or 140° for dishwashers without internal heaters (it is usually more efficient to have an internal heater in the dishwasher). Therefore, you need to heat 50° incoming water by 70° to bring it to the desired temperature of 120°. You then want to determine the number of hot-water devices you expect to have open at any one time, and add up their flow rates. This total is the desired flow rate for the tankless water heater. Once you know the desired flow rate, you can start to shop for a heater. Most tankless water heaters are rated for a variety of inlet water temperatures and temperature rise. Choose the model of water heater that is closest to your needs.
An example calculation would be to figure the hot-water use for one person in the shower while another is using the bathroom sink. You would add the flow rate of 0.75 gpm from the sink faucet, with the flow rate of 2.5 gpm from the shower, for a total desired flow rate of 3.25 gpm. Faster flow rates or cooler inlet temperatures will reduce the water temperature at the most distant faucet. Using low-flow showerheads and water-conserving faucets is a good idea with tankless water heaters. Some types of tankless heaters are thermostatically controlled. They can vary their output temperature according to the water-flow rate and the inlet water temperature. One option for reducing the water rise needed is to use a solar water heater as an initial source for your hot water. This will save costs on heating the water to the desired temperature. One significant consideration with tankless heaters, however, is that there is a minimum flow rate required to activate them. Most need a flow rate of about 0.5 to 0.75 gpm to power up. However, some may need as much as 2 gpm, so they won't heat water unless the flow is high. Therefore, you need to make sure that the flow is consistent with the minimum requirements of the tankless heater you are considering.
Tankless heaters have either modulating output control or fixed output control. The modulating type delivers water at a constant temperature, regardless of flow rate. The fixed type adds the same amount of heat, regardless of flow rate and inlet temperature. You should avoid the fixed type, since the temperature at the taps can fluctuate. In fact, with this type of control, the more you open the hot-water tap, the cooler the water will become.
What Is the Cost?
Tankless heaters cost more than conventional storage-tank-type units. Small point-of-use heaters that deliver 1 to 2 gpm sell for about $200. Larger gas-fired tankless units that deliver 3 to 5 gpm cost $550 to $1,000. These costs do not include installation. The attractiveness of tankless water heaters is not only the elimination of the tank standby losses and the resulting lower operating costs, but also the fact that the heater delivers continuous hot water. Gas models, with a standing pilot light, lose some of the savings achieved by the elimination of tank standby. The exact cost of operating the pilot light depends on the design of the heater and the price of gas, but could range from $12 to $20 per year. Ask the manufacturer of the unit how much gas the pilot light uses for the models you consider. You should turn off the pilot light if the unit will not be in use for a long time. Some models offer an intermittent ignition device similar to the spark ignition device on some gas kitchen ranges and ovens. Not all tankless water heaters have this electrical device. This type of device is much more energy efficient, but may also raise the price of the heater.
Unlike storage heaters that can be installed by a homeowner or any plumber, you may have difficulty finding an installer who has experience with tankless heaters. You may also need to hire a second qualified technician (either a pipe fitter in the case of a gas heater or an electrician in the case of an electric heater) to upgrade the energy supply lines to the heater. The heating elements and gas requirements for tankless heaters are much larger than those for storage water heaters. Typical storage water heaters have a gas input of 40,000 btu per hour, while tankless ones can be as high as 170,000 btu per hour. In addition, gas heaters usually require a larger gas supply line than most storage heaters. You cannot just adapt an existing 1/2- to 3/4-inch supply line; if the heater's manual requires a 3/4-inch supply line, that means it has to be that size all the way back to the gas pressure regulator. Similarly, electric storage water heaters draw 6,000 watts at most, but electric tankless heaters can draw as much as 28,000 watts. As a result of these considerations, a tankless unit can easily cost more than a typical storage unit.
Installing a Tankless Heater
As with a storage heater, the shorter the distance to the fixture, the better. They may be installed centrally or at the point of use, depending on the amount of hot water required. However, if space is a problem, then you can locate a tankless heater in the same area as your present storage heater, since your water and gas piping are already in that area. Most tankless units can be mounted on a wall and thus take up less space in a closet than a storage heater. If you are building a house or an addition, then you should try to place the heater as close to the fixtures as possible, since this will limit the energy losses from the pipes. For example, you can use a small electric unit as a booster for a remote bathroom or laundry. These are usually installed in a closet or underneath a sink. If you are purchasing a whole-house heater, then you should locate it in a central area. Gas heaters need to be vented to the outside. In a retrofit installation, the existing flue pipe will probably need to be upsized for the tankless heater. You should never reduce the flue size of the tankless unit to fit a smaller flue already in place. Also, you should not install a tankless heater outside or in an unheated space, unless it never freezes in your climate. Furthermore, the pilot light can be blown out if the unit is exposed to the wind. Direct-vented heaters must be installed on an outside wall. Electric heaters can be installed wherever sufficient space and electric supplies are available.
How Long Will It Last?
Most tankless models have a life expectancy of more than 20 years. In contrast, storage water heaters generally last 10 to 15 years. The parts that come into contact with water are usually not corrosive and should not rust out. As discussed above, storage heaters often rust out because they are not maintained properly. Most tankless models, on the other hand, have easily replaceable parts that can extend the life of the heater by many years. The one caveat is that a tankless heater requires a qualified technician who understands the unit and can obtain the appropriate specialized parts, whereas storage heaters have few parts that rarely break.
Some Final Thoughts
While storage heaters are still the most popular choice for hot water, tankless heaters are starting to gain popularity, particularly as we face increasing energy demands. The clearest advantage is instantaneous hot water on a nearly limitless basis. In addition, you don't have to worry about the heater rusting out and flooding the house when you are away on vacation. They are particularly attractive for additions, hot tubs, and other situations where you need additional hot water for showers or other appliances that you add to your house. Clearly, this is technology that will continue to improve and in time will likely become a significant alternative to, if not a replacement for, the traditional storage heater. So get a tankless heater and enjoy that long, hot shower without worrying about running out of hot water! n

Barry Chalofsky is an environmental land planner and the author of The Home and Land Buyer's Guide to the Environment. For more information, visit his website at www.erols.com/profed.

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