Then, there’s an immediate problem that inconveniences everyone.
Take the daily morning routine in our house, involving two teenagers and two adults, all having to get ready for work and school. We need to get four people cleaned up and out the door, and there is nothing worse than stepping into a shower, getting soaped up, and having the hot water run out. It’s even worse in the winter, when the water rapidly goes from toasty to frigid in the blink of an eye.
You can only imagine the arguments that have gone on, the timers set to encourage shorter showers, the debates over who gets to shower first, and the rest - all over managing our hot water.
When our hot water tank gave out a few years ago, it was on a Friday night - Valentine’s Day weekend.
Water flooded the basement, and we spent hours sucking up the 75+ gallons of water with a shop vac, a messy and thankless job.
Then we had to deal with additional time spent sorting through items in storage that had been damaged or destroyed, including heirlooms that we were devastated to lose.
It was your basic homeowner’s nightmare.
We couldn’t get anyone out to replace our hot water heater until at least Monday, and we weren’t sure at first exactly what kind of heater we wanted. What we did know is that we never wanted to be in this situation again.
We started to look for solutions immediately, and my husband remembered seeing a "This Old House" show where they talked about tankless water heaters.
The idea behind them is that they provide hot water on demand, rather than holding it in a tank and keeping it warm. It’s much more energy efficient, and while the install cost is higher, the long term energy savings is significant.
But more importantly to us, we would never have to deal with the flood and destruction from a standard heater again, and we would never run out of hot water. An added bonus was that we could also finally fill that great garden tub in the master bath, without the hot water running out when it was about half-way full. These fantastic tubs often take 100 gallons or more of water to fill, and smaller, 55 gallon hot water tanks just don’t do the trick. The tankless system was the clear winner for us.
I’m concerned that the new Department of Energy regulations requiring additional efficiencies from hot water heaters will cause problems for homeowners like me who spent significant money on a home with a Master Suite, complete with a whirlpool or garden tub.
The old classic 80 gallon tank will no longer be manufactured, and new tanks will be limited to 55 gallons or less.
Older tanks, if being repaired, will also have to be retrofitted for efficiency.
I understand why - heating water uses about 20% of a home’s energy costs, and making heaters more efficient could lead to substantial energy and cost savings across the board. However, a 55 gallon heater is not going to work very well for our family of four, no matter how efficient and well insulated.
However, the tankless heater we installed a few years ago is the perfect solution for this problem.
First of all, no water is actually stored, which means there’s no water sitting around, just waiting to flood your home at any time.
Secondly, the on demand system means that I get, essentially, limitless hot water, when I need it.
It means we can finally run the dishwasher and take a shower at the same time!
It means no more arguments about who showers first, for how long, and who gets priority in the morning.
We no longer need to keep a kitchen timer in the bathroom to make sure everyone gets a shower!
It’s a miracle!
And best of all, it’s energy-efficient. We are saving noticeable amounts of money on our gas & electric bill every month. The up-front costs are balancing out in terms of cost savings, but much more important to me, has been the peace of mind - I’m no longer called “The Water Police” by my kids, and our day starts without the stress that used to be routine. It’s worked so well that my aging mother who lives in East Rochester just installed one in her home, after a similar tank-style water heater failure/disaster that was even harder for her to manage on her own. It gives me peace of mind to know she won’t have to worry about a flood again, and that she will have smaller bills to pay on her limited income. She also just loves being able to run her dishwasher and laundry at the same time, and never having to worry about inadequate water to do the job ever again.
Our tankless heater is one of the best home improvements we’ve ever made. It’s saving us money, but more importantly, it’s improved the quality of our life in our home. Home is supposed to be that comfortable place where we all gain our strength to face the day, and ours is finally starting, every day, without an argument. Well, at least the debates are no longer about hot water. I have teenagers after all, and hot water heaters can’t solve that.