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Tankless Water Heaters: Good Green Technology Investments?

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U.S. Green Technology | Where Main Street Meets Green Street

In the typical US home, roughly 25 percent of energy use goes to heating water. Tankless water heaters can save 22 percent. But how does the green technology stack up against storage tanks? The answer depends on your values.

A tankless unit’s heating elements kick on when the tap is opened, heating water as it moves through the pipes. This eliminates the standby energy loss associated with keeping a full tank of water heated at all times.

At first glance, tankless seems like a green dream come true, but the green technology does have some downsides:

  • Tankless systems are expensive. The green technology can cost 200 percent more than storage tanks. That’s not counting accessories and pipe renovations that may be required to enhance compatibility with existing homes.
  • Hot water isn’t instantaneous. The green technology needs a minute or so to do its job. However, storage tanks often need a few minutes to push cold water out of pipes, so this may not be a point against tankless.
  • A single tankless system may have trouble supplying several appliances at once. Doing laundry and showering simultaneously may not be possible. But again, storage tanks have the same problem. You may have to wait for the tank to refill between two heavy hot water uses.

In 2008, Consumer Reports determined that tankless systems weren’t worth the expense. However, some homeowners disagree.

Chronicling the green renovation of her Connecticut farmhouse, blogger Alexandra Marks asks, “Isn’t it time to adjust our cost-benefit analysis from focusing on our pocketbooks to including the good of the economy and generations to come?”

For homeowners like Marks, the green technology’s disadvantages are a non-issue, and the prospect of consuming 22 percent less fossil fuels is worth the expense.

By Leslie Hedrick

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