Domestic Hot Water Heaters
Heating domestic hot water for bathing has come a long way in the last 20 years or so. But chances are if you go and look at your water heater right now, you will see a large white cylinder about 5 feet high and 20 inches around. If you have gas it will include an energy-wasting flue and if you heat water with electricity you probably pay 2 to 3 times more for your hot water than you should. On top of this obvious waste, you might consider that an electric water heater, powered by electricity from a coal-fired power plant, generates twice the carbon footprint of a natural gas-fired water heater.
The domestic water heating industry uses an energy factor, which is almost as useless as the AFUE rating used by the heating industry. Application and installation or operating efficiency (every bit as important as combustion efficiency) is hard to calculate and thus ignored. But with the standard tank type water heater there is little to go wrong; and little to do to improve efficiency. You are stuck with about 35% of the fuel you burn to make hot water going up the chimney instead. The good news is is that conventional water heaters only last about 10 years, so you are liable to get a chance to replace yours very soon!
Indirect-fired Water Heaters
If you have a boiler or intend to replace your old boiler with a new high efficiency boiler you will want to consider the unmatched performance of an indirect water heater. An indirect is super-insulated water heater with a coil, like an extra zone, driving water produced by a 98% efficient boiler through the tank. This application allows you to shut down combustion air and chimney saving fuel like nothing else.
An indirect-fired water heater should last 30 years, has no moving parts and is more efficient than any tankless water heater made, without running short of water.
Combination water/space heaters
Bradford White’s Combi II is the most popular combination, water/space, heater available. We like them in their single-wall configuration. Though they are pricey and only 80% efficient, they have the distinct advantage of providing space heating and domestic hot water in one neat package that can usually be installed in the same footprint as your existing domestic hot water heater. We are licensed the State of Minnesota and various municipalities and manufacturers to replace any water heater under warranty, but these Combi systems take a special understanding of radiant floor heating that the average plumbing company lacks entirely. Big yellow page adds do not qualify the technician that shows up at your door.