23 October 2008

Heating water can be a tankless job

The common answer for those seeking more efficient hot water heating is to install a tankless system. These use electricity or natural gas to heat water as it is needed, rather than to keep a big tank of water hot through the day.

I just got a press release from Bosch; its appliance division and its hot water products division are going to work more closely to sell builders tankless systems. Good for Bosch, I suppose, and certainly good for the environment, since it seems clear that tankless systems are more energy efficient than traditional hot water tanks.

Or are they? According to the L.A. Times, tankless systems hit wallets harder than regular systems do if the heater is far from the faucet, or if it is improperly installed, or if your house is so darned big that you need secondary pumps to move the water correctly. But all this is just to say that your installer has to do the job right.

Still, some experts are not fans of tankless systems on fundamental grounds. Thomas W. Reddoch, a director at the Electric Power Research Institute, thinks that heat pump water heaters are the coming thing. These geothermal or air-based systems use a tank that keeps water hot by moving heat from one place to another, not by creating heat. However, these heat-pump systems are rare at the present. (Scroll down to "heat pump water heaters" on that last link for more info and vendors.)

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