Does Your Home Need More Hot Water?
Does your standard tank type water heater seem to run short of hot water on a regular basis? Is the temperature of your tank set near HOT, but there’s still not enough to go around? Has your family grown in size and your standard 40 or 50 gallon tank no longer keeps up with demand? It’s inconvenient and uncomfortable but not entirely uncommon. So what do you do when your home seems to be serving up a little more chill in the water than you’d prefer? Consider the following tips.
What You Can Do About It
There are a number of options out there to help you conserve hot water in your home before you overhaul your current system. You could install an insulation blanket on the hot water heater (you can find insulation blankets in most hardware stores), switch to low-flow showerheads and faucets to conserve water, including the hot stuff, or up the frequency with which you have your hot water heater serviced by a professional. If these solutions don’t work, and there’s a good chance they won’t provide a magic bullet, consider upgrading to a more efficient tank-based water heater, or going tankless entirely. If you’re looking at an upgrade, you have several options to consider, including:
A Bigger Water Heater
A 40-gallon or 50-gallon basic water heater has been the standard for many years, and this often does a serviceable job for many households. If you can’t get the kids out of the shower and find yourselves coming up short in hot water supply, it might make sense to install a larger, well-insulated tank. Installation of a larger water heater will require a review of your existing exhaust pipe configuration to make sure it will be compatible.
High Recovery Replacement Water Heaters
The speed with which your water heater heats up cold water for household use is referred to as the recovery rate of the heater, which is measured in gallons-per-hour (gph). The higher the recovery number, the better. Replacing your tank with a high recovery model, in most cases, will provide only marginal increases in immediate hot water supply. However, it will also mean it takes less time for the tank to heat back up again. A high recovery unit will also require a review of your existing exhaust pipe and gas piping configurations.
Tankless Water Heaters
A great solution for increasing the hot water supply in your home—although typically carrying the highest price tag up front—is the tankless gas water heater. A properly sized, professionally installed tankless heater can provide a continuous stream of domestic hot water—all of it supplied on-demand, as you need it. No storage tank, no standing pilot, and in most cases, quite compact and anchored to a wall in your mechanical room. Because there is no hot water storage, the efficiency of these units is through the roof. The tankless route is a more significant change in parameters and your installation contractor should heed the manufacturer specifications regarding gas supply piping and flue pipe installation. So if you go the tankless route, choosing an experienced, professional installer is critical.
Sidearm Tanks for Hydronic Heating Systems
If your home is heated by a hot water boiler, an option worth considering is an indirect-fired water heater, or sidearm tank. Operating as a separate zone off your boiler, a sidearm tank provides hot water at the same efficiency level as your boiler, which is typically more efficient than a conventional water heater. In addition, because the boiler typically has a large BTU capacity in order to heat your home, it can quickly re-heat the tank. Since there is no direct heat source, it operates in a low-stress environment for a long service life. An indirect fired water heater will typically provide quite a bit more hot water than a conventional gas heater of comparable size.
If hot water is in short supply in your home, a more robust water heater may be in the cards. Consult a reputable plumbing and heating contractor, to obtain professional recommendations and firm quotes. Once you have a solution and a company you trust, go for it, and make the educated decision that you’ll be able to live comfortably with for years (years filled with ample hot water, too!) to come.