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5 Water Heater Alternatives

There’s always something you can change in your homestead that can help make your quality of life a whole lot better while at the same time not being too pricey. It’s been said that heating water is responsible for about 30% of the energy bill in most households worldwide.
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You don’t have to break the bank to heat the water in your home when you have alternatives like solar water heaters you can consider. But, solar is not the only way to go. Below are a few water heater alternatives you have at your disposal.

1. Heat Pump Water Heaters

Heat Pump Water Heaters

Heat pump water heater units don’t directly generate heat from electricity.

Rather they use electricity to transfer heat from one area to another. The heat from the air surrounding the device is used as the heat source. A compressor and refrigerant fluid are used to move heat into the unit’s insulated storage tank.

While it has higher efficiency, so are their maintenance costs and retail price. These water heaters can be found with in-built water tanks known as integral units.

Heat pump water heating units use almost half as much energy as conventional electric water heating units. In warm conditions, they can perform even much better.

Homes that dedicate a heat pump specifically for space conditioning and have an electric water heater can reduce heating water costs if they install a ‘hybrid’ heat pump unit.

A fully integrated single-unit system is one option. An already existing storage water and heat pump heater can be redesigned with the addition of a specially-designed heat pump device.

2. Hybrid Gas Water Heaters

Hybrid Gas Water Heaters

This title refers to water heating units with at least two-gallon storage tanks.

However, less storage than what you’d expect its output capacity to look like. The condensing burner in it is smaller than what you’d find on whole-house tankless systems and has enough storage to be ranked highly in first-hour ratings.

The small burners generally won’t need new gas pipes when it comes time for retrofit installations. Because the burners are more than 75,000Btuh, they’ll be rated and classed as commercial goods, although they’ll be marketed for personal and residential use.

3. Indirect Water Heaters

Indirect Water Heaters

An indirect water heater will generally use the boiler in the home as a heat source.

It circulates water using a heat exchanger from the boiler tank into a separate insulated storage tank. Since the hot water is kept warm in the insulated tank, the boiler doesn’t need to be switched off and on as often, improving its energy economy.

It has electronic controls that can set preset tank temperatures, monitor the water temperature, and make the boiler keep water hot for as long as required.

The more sophisticated systems rely on heat purge cycles to circulate the leftover heat that remains inside the heat exchanger and then transfers this heat to the storage tank after you’ve switched off the boiler. It eventually further improves the system’s overall efficiency.

When used together with modern high-efficiency boilers, indirect water heating units are usually quite an affordable way to heat water in the home. You can buy these systems in integrated forms, incorporating the water heater and boiler with controls.

Propane, oil, and gas systems are readily available almost everywhere. Any kind of hydronic space heating (see also ‘ Everything You Wanted To Know About Hydronic Heating ‘), say radiant heat, radiators, or hydronic baseboards, can be offered by your standard boiler system.

4. Integrated Water Heater

Integrated Water Heater




If you’re upgrading the heating system in your home or building an entirely new home from scratch, and you’re looking for a new water heater, you might want to strongly think about a combination of space heating and water heater systems.

This system, also known as a dual-integrated appliance, takes space heating and water heating functions and puts them into one package.

Warm air distribution is what space heating is all about. The device’s combined annual efficiency measures a water heater’s efficiency with space heating integrations. You should be looking for combined annual efficiencies measuring 0.85 or higher.

Combination appliances contain a powerful water heater that has space heating integrations. The hot water in the storage tank is passed through a heat exchanger and transformed into heat air. The fan inside the machine then blows this new hot air into the vents to warm up the house.

Many combo systems like this can be found at very low prices. However, water and space heating efficiency levels are usually lower than their conventional counterparts.

Models that include highly-efficient condensing water heating systems are exceptions. These models place efficiency gains higher than traditional equipment, delivering 90-percent combined efficiency.  

Also, the combination appliance size is what will determine how well it does economically since both water and space heating are derived from one box. Product manufacturers should have the ability to spot local contractors and distributors who know about these products and how they’re installed.

5. Solar Water Heaters

Solar Water Heaters

As its name suggests, these heaters use the sun’s energy to heat water. A solar water heating unit can end up being a great investment because it offers a renewable and virtually cost-free energy source for a top energy user in the house.

However, because the benefits and feasibility of solar water heaters can vary based on several variables like how big your household is, which way the roof faces, and where you live, it will need you to be savvy to know how much you can save and what your total costs will be.

Solar water heating systems have an insulated storage tank, solar thermal collectors attached to a sloped wall or roof, and an overall fluid system connected to the two.

It’s typically advised you use a 2-tank system where the heater circulates the water inside through to the collectors and then back into a different storage tank.

Here the conventional water heater is then preheated. The distance between the storage tank and the collector impacts both the cost and installation method.

A solar collector can be an insulated glass box with a black-colored flat metal plate absorber or a pair of glass-encased metal tubes/pipes that can absorb solar heat. Some collectors use parabolic mirrors to focus sunlight onto the tube/pipe. Fluid flows between the storage tank and solar collector either via natural convention or a pump.

The biggest difference that most solar heaters have is the ability it has to resist freezing. If the temperature doesn’t go below freezing, water can flow freely to the collector’s storage tank.

However, normally it’s safer to circulate another separate freeze-resistant liquid through the solar collector and then use a heat exchanger to move heat energy to the water.

Solar water heating units are nowhere near as common as in the 70s and 80s when early tax credits supported them. However, the units that can be found today are way more reliable and considerably less pricey.

How much a solar water heater initially costs is still a lot higher than other competing tech costs. But, if you’re willing to make that one large upfront investment, you can end up saving as much as 50-70% of the energy you use to heat water in the long-term.

What Is A Tankless Coil?

Tankless coils are not tankless water heaters, nor are they indirect water heaters. A tankless coil uses the boiler inside the home as the heat source to heat water. It has no storage tank of its own. When you draw from the hot water tap, the water is circulated through the boiler’s heat exchanger.

A tankless coil works perfectly as long as your boiler is regularly (like during the cold seasons like winter). Still, during fall, spring and summer, the boiler needs to be switched on and off as frequently as possible because it could lead to wasting energy.

As much as it’s a great option, you still might want to strongly consider using a free-standing storage-tank water heater or indirect tank water heater.

Wrapping Up

When selecting an installation professional, ensure they have enough experience installing the kind of system you’re looking to install.

If the system needs to be integrated with an existing system, let your heater contractor install it themselves. You probably won’t be able to do such things by yourself.

To get good value for your money, request bids from several different contractors and look at each bid that comes in very carefully. Consider reputation, service, warranties, as well as total cost.

Storage water heating units will lose heat if they’re located in warm areas. Also, try to reduce the length of the pipes running through your bathrooms and kitchen. A centralized location is the best one because it won’t be too far from all the hot water taps around the house. 

Hopefully, now you know the water heater alternatives you have at your disposal. So, what are you waiting for? Get one today!


author avatar
Charlie Hardcastle


On Key

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