In light of rising energy prices, energy efficiency is the way to go. Not only you improve your cash flow by saving money on your utility bills (and hedge against rising fuel prices in the background), but also this is the simplest thing an individual can do, especially if you're planning to do some remodeling your home or just replacing your water heater. Plus - efficiency is good for the environment (and it's green).
- High-performance gas storage
- Whole home gas tankless
- Advance drop in or integrated heat pump
- Solar, and
- Gas condensing
Energy efficiency is the easiest thing to do for everyone concern. A slight tweak into one's habit to reduce energy consumption will save money on energy bills and carbon dioxide emissions and it's good for the environment. You see water heaters consumes about 17% (up from 13% in 2005) of energy in homes, making it the third largest energy user behind 1) heating and cooling and 2) appliances.
"...the new water heater criteria are expected to save Americans approximately $780 million in utility costs, avoid 4.2 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions, and achieve cumulative energy savings of more than 3.9 billion kilowatt-hours and 270 million therms of natural gas."
Let's say you buy solar water heater. Unlike solar panels, the payback for solar water heater - since you don't pay for the fuel (fuel is free) - is rather faster. According to a recent study in the U.K. the average household can save $450 a year. Okay, it may be a little bit different here. But, you get the idea. The 'fuel' is free..forever! All investment needed is the system which can run from $5k-10k. The higher the utility costs the faster the payback.
Depending on where you live you can take advantage of Federal tax credit and state or local (financial) incentives combined which can reduce the cost of buying the system offset by the tax benefits received. The Fed gives you 30% credit up to $2,000 (at least until 12/31/08). In Virginia, if you're replacing water heater you can take advantage of residential energy efficiency finance program offered by No. VA Electric Coop (NOVEC) via Sun Trust. Of course, there are other 'utility' loans available as well.
When the new category of efficiency goes into effect in January 1, 2009, with exception of high-efficiency and high-performance gas storage that goes into effect in 2 phases - each category of water heater must maintain a minimum 'Energy (efficiency) Factor' or EF - which is a measure of efficiency based on the amount of hot water produced per unit of fuel consumed over a typical day. The higher energy factor the more efficient the water heater. For example, the minimum EF of whole home gas tankless come January 1, 2009 must have a minimum of 0.82, minimum gallons-per-minute flow of 2.5 at 77 degrees Fahrenheit rise, which is 41.4% more efficient than the current Federal standard.
Read more details, here.
image: solar tube water heater at Washington DC Solar Decathlon