As a plumber, I run across a wide variety of products and plumbing systems. I definitely find myself curious and interested in the new technology my industry comes up with, but very rarely am I impressed with a product. I mean, truly honest-to-goodness wowed. One product that I am impressed with is the ultra high efficiency water heater (a.k.a. gas condensing water heater). These babies are real work horses.
In order to understand why I am so impressed, you need to know how a typical tank type gas water heater works. Basically, it has what looks like an extra large stove burner located under a tank of water with a flue pipe for gas to travel through in the center of the tank. Inside this flue pipe is a wavy sheet of steel called the baffle. The baffle slows down the escaping hot gas just enough so that heat can be transferred to the water. This design is very inefficient. As it leaves the water heater, the gas still contains so much heat that we have to install double-walled metal flue pipe if it is close to anything combustible, otherwise it will start a fire. That’s not very impressive. Tons of energy and money is spent to slowly heat that water, and then most of the heat we have paid for is lost out the top, heating up our already stressed environment.
So what is the difference with an ultra high efficiency water heater? What is the big deal? I mean, they look almost the same as a regular water heater (except maybe a little thinner), but these things might as well not even be from the same planet. First off, the burner sits at the top of the water heater and the flame is less like a stove and more like a jet engine. There is a fan that pushes the heat down through a central pipe that spirals down through the inside of the tank, which allows time for the heat to transfer into the water. In fact, 96% of the heat from the flames transfers to the water. 96%! Cue the term “ultra high-efficiency”. (Not to be confused with what are sometimes labeled as “high-efficiency” conventional types, which are only 8% more efficient than the older, regular models.)
Do you remember the double-walled metal flue pipe the other water heater needed so it did not burn down your house? Well, this thing pulls out so much heat that that flue pipe is made of plastic. That’s right, plastic, and it doesn’t melt. But wait! That’s not all folks! When you fire this bad boy up, it will heat 50 gallons of cold water to a piping hot 120 degrees in about 15 minutes. So what is the big deal with that? Let me tell you.
Right now, there is a big movement to go to tankless (which, by the way, is a great invention and a huge improvement over conventional), but there are sometimes issues with tankless water heaters—unexpected issues that can require you to change your lifestyle in order to accommodate the tankless’ gallons-per-minute limitation. That is to say, with a tankless, you can have endless sequential hot water, but you can’t have a large quantity at once. Ultra high efficiency water heaters heat the water so quickly that it is almost like having a tankless, but without those limits. It’s the best of both worlds, really: virtually endless hot water, and as much of it as you want.
On top of that, the cash you save on energy bills is quite substantial compared to the cost of using a traditional tank. It is estimated that the savings over the lifetime of an ultra high efficiency water heater is in the $2,550 range, which would help cover the extra cost of installing this amazing piece of equipment, while you reduce your carbon footprint at the same time.
For all of these reasons, installing these types of water heaters is something that makes us feel proud of our work at Goodman Plumbing, knowing that we are helping to make a difference one ultra high efficiency water heater at a time!
If you’d like to read a little more about different types of water heaters, we have pages dedicated to each kind. Click here for a summary of water heater comparisons, conventional water heaters, tankless water heaters, ultra high efficiency water heaters, heat pump water heaters, solar water heaters, or commercial water heaters. Let us know if you have any questions about anything regarding water heaters or how you can make your Asheville plumbing more water or energy efficient—we’d love to help you find a solution that is perfect for your needs.