Sep 19, 2011

Water Heating

We are at a bit of a crux in our home ownership. One of the negatives about our house - which we were well aware of when we bought it - was the antique water heater and furnace: they're both oil-fired.

We've had the oil tank filled a few times in the two-plus years since we bought the house, but oil is reaching all-time highs - as the gas pumps can attest. The last number I saw was $3.60/gal, meaning our 275-gallon tank would run right around a thousand dollars to top off.

Simply put, that's insane, and way outside our realm of comfort.

We can make do without the furnace - our primary heat for the winter is coal, and in the "shoulder" weeks we can use space heaters and add a sweater as necessary. Making do without hot water, however, isn't high on my list of Fun Things To Do In Winter. Thus, I'm exploring the options for replacement.

We have two options: propane or electric. A propane heater would require plumbing in an additional gas line and a new vent/chimney, not to mention the recurring propane bill - also around $4/gal at the moment. An electric heater would be more consistent in costs but has the negative of a lower "first hour rating".

Flip side: an electric heater is MUCH less expensive to install. A 50-gallon electric water heater is about $300 and I can install it in an afternoon, while a 50-gallon LP heater runs $500 - plus the cost of installation, which I am not qualified for (or comfortable doing).

And last week I discovered a third option: a heat-pump/electric hybrid water heater. GE released this about a year ago and I hadn't seen it - since I had no reason to go looking. However, what I *am* seeing looks good. Reviews have generally been positive, and it uses (nominally) about half the electricity of a standard electric heater. It does cost more initially - they're currently on sale at Lowe's for $999 - but the long-term savings look good. Even in our cellar, which is cool in the winter, it should prove a reasonable choice.

I haven't made up my mind completely, but I'm seriously considering it.


jon spencer said...

Don't forget to look at the on-demand water heaters.
They work well for some situations but not for all.
Total usage, temperature rise, hardness, softness and gallons per minute are some of the things that need to be thought of.
They can be real money savers or eaters.

ZerCool said...

Jon, thanks for that reminder. Our water is, unfortunately, one step shy of solid iron bar stock. Even with a manganese green-sand filter, our tub, washer, etc, are a permanent orange color. Every source I've talked to has told me unequivocally that an on-demand heater would not last long in that arrangement.

Ruth said...

Keeping in mind the SPACE requirements of the heat pump water heaters I'd say go for it. I looked at them long and hard for here, but as of right now we haven't the proper spacing for one. If your basement is open space (I think it has to be at least 10sq feet) then you're good, if not then it may not be a good option for you.

Bubblehead Les. said...

God, I hate the idea of putting my Home Infrastructure in the hands of the Electric Company. When the Grid goes down, well, just check with our friends who got hit during Irene. But if you have a GOOD Generator and a properly installed Transfer Switch, it might be feasible when the Blizzard drops the Power Lines to your Home. "Plan for the Worst, Hope for the Best."

Wally said...

I am really interested in the heat-pump style GE unit. It looks like a great unit with a lot of features, and still has a great capacity at 50 gallons. I think one will follow me home once I get a paycheck... Looks like they will be on sale for a couple more weeks and I think the flexability is sweet.