After space heating, making hot water is the second largest energy user in the typical Upper Valley home. Depending on the size of your family (count teenagers double), hot water represents between 15 - 20% of your home's TOTAL energy footprint. So today's blog will give a quick primer on the latest options for saving money, saving energy, or if you're lucky, saving both!
Saving Energy - if you want to optimize energy savings, consider solar hot-water, heat-pump water heaters, or, if your hot water requirements are relatively modest, a tankless (on-demand) hot water heater. All of these systems are EXPENSIVE, with 7-20 year simple payback windows, but there's no question they will reduce your home's energy consumption and carbon footprint.
Saving Money - many Upper Valley homes have "indirect" hot water heaters, where water is heated by a tankless coil inside your oil or propane boiler, then stored in a separate storage tank. These systems are efficient in the winter but quite inefficient in the summer, as your boiler needs to come up to temperature just to heat your home's hot water. It's not uncommon for people to spend $800 - $1200 each summer just making hot water with their oil or propane boiler.
So if the efficiency rating on your boiler is relatively low - say between 75% and 80% - or you have an aging, inefficient stand-alone unit, you should consider installing a new stand-alone hot water heater. Look for the Energy Star rating and have it installed by a competent professional.
Saving Energy and Money - the best bet here is conservation, perhaps in combination with some of the options mentioned above. Installing low-flow shower heads is a good place to start, but for my money, putting an old-fashioned egg timer outside of every shower and having all family members pledge to taking, say, 4 minute showers is the BEST value for saving on your hot water bill!
I can't wait to hear my wife howl when she reads this....