Looking for an energy star alternative to replace a tank hot water heater. I live in New England.


Looking for an energy star alternative to replace a tank hot water heater. I live in New England.

Asked by Daviod Blank

Need a cost effective alternative for a tank hot water heater for my home located in Stamford, CT. Home has 3.5 bathrooms. We are near empty nesters. Any Ideas?

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Michael Holcomb's picture

I can't resist asking . . . do you live near empty nesters or are you about to become empty nesters? I'llassume the latter for the purposes of this response.

Potable water heating innovation has made tremendous gains in the past few years. The old tankwater heater has improved in efficiency but greater gains have been made in tankless water heaters,specifically condensing tankless water heaters.

There are options when considering a tankless system.

  • First is an on-demand, point of use tanklesswater heater. These units are usually installed in close proximity to the fixture.
  • Next is electric poweredpoint of use water heaters are not suitable for most homes since they may require a significant upgradeto the electrical system if more than one is required.
  • And finally there are whole house systems. Wholehouse systems are sized based on flow.

My recommendation

I would recommend installing a system with a flow rate or 8.5GPM (@ 45-degree temperature rise).

This is adequate for the average family - no sense installing asystem that is adequate for two people but not suitable for 4 or 5 occupants. You wouldn't want tohave to replace your unit with a larger flow rate system if you sold the house or someone returns to thenest.

Get a whole-house condensing unit

Condensing tankless water heaters are the most efficient.I know they are fine with natural gas orpropane.

I would not consider an electric whole house on-demand systembecause the operating cost is veryhigh.

The Prestige Series Condensing Tankless Gas Water Heater, manufactured by Rheem, performs withan astounding 0.94 energy factor. Compare this to standard gas-fired tank water heater at 0.54 EF or amore efficient fan assisted tank water heater at 0.62 EF.

  • Costs range from $1175 - $1230 plus installation.
  • The skill level to install a tankless water heater isrelatively high so I recommend hiring a professional, licensed and insured plumbing contractor.
  • You'llneed a gas line capable of providing enough gas to provide 150,000 - 200,000 Btu's.
  • Most likely you willneed to upgrade the gas line from 1/2 -inch to 3/4-inch.
  • Venting is done through PVC pipes - no chimneyrequired. Unlike the early tankless water heaters, condensing tankless water heaters do not need to bemounted on an outside wall. PVC venting allows for a remote location up to 30-feet from the unit to theoutdoors.

Tankless water heaters are becoming more common in Michigan, where I live, another cold-weather state. They arevery reliable and can provide plenty of hot water for as long as you like.

Independent lab testing

I prefer Rheem because theirefficiency is rated by an independent laboratory.

  • Other manufacturers choose to rate them systemsin-house.
  • I prefer third-party.

GAMA (www.gamanet.org) is an independent rating organization forgovernment energy efficiency standards. Look for this certification on any water heater you purchase.

For more information:

Read "Get Optimal Performance from a Tankless Water Heater" for our essential tankless tips.