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 March 27, 2012
Are You in Hot Water?

 No disrespect to the members of the Polar Bear Club, but those people are crazy. Becoming a human Popsicle(r) by swimming in a cold body of water in winter? Um, no thanks.

Like most of us, I prefer my showers hot. So, Mythbuster Woman is here today to keep you in hot water. Literally.

True of False: It's more energy efficient to boil water if you start with hot water from the tap.

Answer: False. According to our Xcel Energy engineers, it doesn't really matter. Your stovetop is expending the same electricity to heat the cold water to the starting temperature as your water heater used to produce the preheated water from the tap.

True of False: A tankless system cannot provide enough continuous hot water for my entire household.

Answer: False. Tankless water heaters are energy-efficient, cost-effective and space-saving. And with the many rebates available, they are a great value when compared to other high-efficiency water heaters. If sized correctly for your home and use, you'll never run out of hot water (sizing factors include things like the number of people and faucets in your home and overall need).

In addition to working just as well as a regular tank water heater, most tankless heaters can be repaired, so they last even longer, reducing landfill waste through both their size and longevity.

If you decide to go tankless, you should find a qualified professional to help you install the unit and determine the size you'll need to fit your needs.

Question from an esteemed Mythbuster fan: Does my water heater need an insulating blanket?

Answer: Touch it. If it's warm, yes. If not, then congratulations! You have a high-efficiency water heater and you're saving energy and money without any extra work.

And here's another tip. If the R-value is listed on your tank, note that an efficient tank is at least R-24. If it's less, adding insulation to it can reduce standby heat losses by 25%--45%.

If you're handy, you can probably install a pre-cut jacket or blanket on your electric water heater yourself. Read and follow the directions carefully. For gas and oil-fired water heater tanks, please hire a qualified HVAC contractor -- Mythbuster Woman may not be available to rescue you if something goes wrong.

And remember -- don't set the thermostat above 130ºF on an electric water heater with an insulating jacket or blanket---the wiring may overheat.