Living with 2 teenage daughters a dad might wonder if he can ever take a hot shower in his own house. You see, these two 17-year olds have conspired to deprive me of the basic needs of a hard-working dad – hot water! One takes a 45-minute shower at night draining every drop out of our 40-gallon gas water heater. Then in the morning, the other one duplicates this activity leaving dad with an endless supply of cold water. Brrrrrr!!
Our rent house is like our old house in that it has a 40-gallon gas water heater manufactured years ago. Recognizing this little detail, I decided to take matters into my own hands. Besides the obvious limitations of a 40-gallon tank our old unit was not very efficient. The Energy Factor (EF) was probably in the .58 range. What does that mean? The higher the EF the more efficient your water heater is.
Picture it this way. For every dollar I give the local gas company at the end of the month for heating water I will get 58 cents worth of hot water. That doesn’t sound smart or efficient, does it? How could I get more hot water, I pondered, for the same single greenback? Could I get something that was more efficient? I spent many hours researching water heating ideas. I ended up talking with the Texas rep from Rinnai. Rinnai is the industry leader in tankless water heaters and the technology that makes them a smart choice for modern homes.
Tankless water heaters have been around a long time. Gone are the days of storing lots of water in a big round tank and having the burner turn on and off all day long simply to keep the contents warm. That’s not very efficient. Tankless means just that – there is no storage tank. They are compact and easy to install. They can go in the attic like I have done. They can also go on the wall in the garage or utility room. There are even models that can be mounted on the exterior wall so they vent directly to the atmosphere.
The Rinnai model I chose, the RUC98 is very efficient. The EF is around .95 to .96. This explains the single plastic vent pipe coming out the top of the unit and going through the roof. High efficiency machines do not use metal vent pipes. The single vent pipe actually holds a pipe within a pipe. One draws in fresh air to burn the gas and the other pipe vents the fumes up to the atmosphere. It has 2 heat exchanges that act like little blast furnaces when I turn on any hot water tap in the house. The heat exchangers are warranted for 12 years. This very compact machine will crank out almost 10 gallons of hot water per minute. That will satisfy all hot water needs for my new house. The neat part is that those blast furnaces will make hot water until you shut the water off. So, the girls can take their showers and I will still have enough hot water to take mine before going to bed.
The picture above is of the actual unit in my attic. Just like a tanked water heater it has several of the same elements. There is incoming water, outgoing hot water, shutoff valves, the yellow gas line, sediment trap, and service valves for future cleaning activities. The same safety device, the temperature and pressure relief valve, is installed just like we do on traditional tanks. It has a digital thermostat on the front of the unit. There is also a thermostat wire that will be hooked up in the hallway below to give easy access to the t-stat. A drain is installed on the right side to dispose of any condensate that is created. (For you sharp-eyed readers you may be raising an eyebrow. The t-stat wire and the condensate drain are not hooked up yet because the house is still under construction. These will be finished out soon).
Water heating is a large part of most family budgets. When deciding on a new water heater keep that EF thing in mind. I encourage you to get the most for your hard earned energy dollars by choosing a high efficiency water heater. Then look at the 21st century way of heating water. Tankless water heaters are a small efficient work horse that will serve you quietly for years to come and it will keep dads happy throughout those challenging teenage years.