Unusual ways to save money on your energy/water bills - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 38 Old 02-28-2013, 04:34 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Does anyone have any "unusual" (forgive me for lack of a better term) tips on how to save money on utilities. Something deferent from your typical list.

Here's one I read recently: lower the level of water in your toilet then put a water bottle full of gravel or some other heavy substance in the tank to displace the water.

Alrighty people, lets hear it!
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#2 of 38 Old 02-28-2013, 05:37 AM
 
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I grew up in the desert and water was always a concern.  When we were kids, we shared baths.  My mom would take the first, because she liked it super hot and after it had cooled down, my brother and I would hop in.  After we were done, the water was scooped into a bucket and carried to the vegetable garden.  We always had a beautiful garden and the soap didn't seem to be a problem.  

 

Water from my dad's showers was always saved as well.  He would stop the plug and then scoop the standing water when he was done.  

 

We used to do the 'brick in the tank' thing until last year when we replaced out toilet with a water conserving one.  

 

My biggest energy saver is simply to turn everything off.  Lights, power strips, the dryer, it all gets used less and less.   Sometimes, my electric bill will creep up and I can always trace it back to dryer usage or holiday baking.  Every time I turn something on, I am reminded that it costs money to run appliances. 

 

 

And I would love to tackle the refrigerator.  It is a big energy hog and I would like to replace it with a homebuilt chest freezer-turned frig.  LIke this:  http://johnlvs2run.wordpress.com/2009/10/08/chest-fridge-conversion/


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#3 of 38 Old 03-03-2013, 02:21 AM - Thread Starter
 
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i was reading that if you put jugs of water in the fridge, they help keep it cool so it doesn't have to run as much.  i bet the same could go for the freezer.

 

we are moving into an apartment and i'm trying to figure out a way to keep the bills down.  we used to be military and all the utilities were covered...the water is allocated, so im not too concerned on water bills, mostly electric.  I work graveyard shift and my husband works during the day so I think that will help a lot.  There are only a few hours of the day where we are up and using electricity.  I suppose I can just connect multiple electronics to a power strip and turn them on when we are all home.

 

Im a big fan of hanging everything to dry, but I hate the crunchiness so i think i'll throw em in the dryer for 10 min just to soften everything up. 

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#4 of 38 Old 03-03-2013, 03:48 AM
 
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Unplug when no one is home. That will keep costs down, as many appliances are electicity vampires.
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#5 of 38 Old 03-03-2013, 09:50 AM
 
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We used to do the 'brick in the tank' thing until last year when we replaced out toilet with a water conserving one.  

 

An actual brick is a bad idea because it can fall apart, but something like a plastic jug is good. We did that in our old place... that reminds me, we need to do it again!

 

I have no great suggestions. :( 


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#6 of 38 Old 03-03-2013, 11:25 AM
 
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An actual brick is a bad idea because it can fall apart, but something like a plastic jug is good. We did that in our old place... that reminds me, we need to do it again!

 

 

A brick is fine.  Really.  We used the same brick for a decade.  Anything that will displace water will work. 


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#7 of 38 Old 03-03-2013, 06:16 PM
 
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Going through the same thing with a new home.  We immediately put a brick in the toilet.  I replaced the sink with aerators and put in low-flow showerheads.  Our gas company actual sent us 2 aerators and 1 low-flow showerhead.  We have a 5-gallon bucket in the shower to catch the cold water before it is warm enough to get in to water the garden.  I checked with our water utility and there are a lot of rebates.  I got a rebate for the 1 showerhead I purchased.  We set shower timers for the kids or else they would stay in all day. 

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#8 of 38 Old 03-03-2013, 07:14 PM
 
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I take out (or just loosen) the extra bulbs in multi-bulb fixtures. My bathroom has 6 bulbs in a strip, and 2 is plenty. The dining room ceiling fan/lamp has 3 and we just need 2.


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#9 of 38 Old 03-04-2013, 08:18 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ruthiegirl View Post

Quote:
Originally Posted by erigeron View Post

An actual brick is a bad idea because it can fall apart, but something like a plastic jug is good. We did that in our old place... that reminds me, we need to do it again!

 

 

A brick is fine.  Really.  We used the same brick for a decade.  Anything that will displace water will work. 

Most bricks now are actually colored concrete and resistant to water and weathering, so I think the advice is no longer relevant, unless you have a real, old-fashioned fired brick which will indeed crumble.  


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#10 of 38 Old 03-04-2013, 08:35 AM
 
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What about using dimmer switches, of you own your home? Do they save electricity or are they vampires?
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#11 of 38 Old 03-04-2013, 08:49 AM
 
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We have our own well now, with cisterns for pressure when the pump is off.  The cisterns also collect rainwater from the shed roof next to them, and we use that water for the house as well as the garden (we've had some issues to iron out with silt coming in from both roof and well at different times, but we seem to have ironed those out).  It was quite the investment, though, but necessary due to our dismal water pressure and normally dry summers during which watering needs are sky-high.  We are hoping soon to connect much of our household waste water to a gray water system which will ease our summer water use even further.

 

For now, our "water" bill is in our electric bill, which was quite reasonable this winter.


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#12 of 38 Old 03-05-2013, 07:16 AM
 
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An actual brick is a bad idea because it can fall apart, but something like a plastic jug is good. We did that in our old place... that reminds me, we need to do it again!

 

I have no great suggestions. :( 

 

Do you need to do anything specific before you put the jug in the tank, besides fill it with gravel or something? I would like to try that, as it seems we might be paying too much for our water. (But I'm not sure, this is only the first time we've ever paid our own utilities.)


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#13 of 38 Old 03-05-2013, 07:48 AM
 
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Another water saving option (rather then a brick or jug) is to install a dual flush convertor. Fits most toilets and I hear it is easy to install.

 

Here is an example of one. ($24.99)

http://www.bedbathandbeyond.com/product.asp?sku=16937967&utm_source=google&utm_medium=cpc&gclid=CMKrseX15bUCFSZnOgod0EgAuQ

 

Most newer toilets are more conservative with water use, but if you have an old toilet, they may be using too much water for flushing. (Not sure how you tell - my plumber told me and I replaced the old, old toilet with a dual flush toto toilet; the other toilet in the house was newer and doesnt use as  much). Another live by notion: " if its yellow, let it mellow, if its brown, flush it down"

 

Another saving tip:

Adjust the temperature gauge on the water heater, by just a degree or two lower.

If you have a dehumidifier in the basement, when it fills rather then dumping the water out, pour it into your washing machine. When you do a load of laundry, less new water is needed to fill the machine. Or one can use the water for plants or ???.

If your water bill seems high, it is possible that you have a leaky faucet - call in a plumber or track it down yourself.


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#14 of 38 Old 03-07-2013, 04:59 AM
 
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Behavioral changes:

Showers

  • Take showers of 4 minutes or less. You can buy timers.
  • Shower like a sailor: get wet. Turn off water. Apply soap and wash. Turn on water and rinse.

 

I just googled it and saw it's in wikipedia and it's called a "Navy" or Military shower - 2 minutes or less.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Navy_shower

 

Utilities

In summer - use curtains and shutters and other things to block sunlight and keep your rooms cool.

 

In winter - wear lots of sweaters and use a hot water bottle and keep the heat off.

 

Don't have central heating or cooling. I grew up in New England and we tried not to put on heat in our bedrooms in the winter. We heated the living room and kitchen.

 

If you have air conditioning, only use air conditioning in the room you are using. Avoid using it  at night and try to use a fan instead.

 

Use tankless hot water heaters

http://energy.gov/energysaver/articles/tankless-or-demand-type-water-heaters

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#15 of 38 Old 03-07-2013, 06:33 AM
 
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I live in Canada so I'm not sure how it is in the rest of the world, but here, there is not much point to being frugal with utilities. Most of our bills are "service charges", "billing fees", "debt reduction fees", "taxes", etc. Very little of our bills are the use of the actual utility. For natural gas, our bill without any actual attempt to be conservative is only about $15-$20 of actual natural gas. The rest is the "delivery charge". With electricity, the bill is about 50% "fees". We have energy saving lightbulbs and use photocell sensors, motion detectors and have energy saving appliances, but don't really modify our behavior. Any new toilet you buy here is so conservative with water that even if there was room to fit a jug or a brick, it wouldn't have enough water for the toilet to actually function lol... They hardly work now as it is, sometimes you have to flush 2-3 times to get the water clean. 

I'd love to go off the grid, have a well and produce my own electricity so I could actually save myself money and not the utility company. 

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#16 of 38 Old 03-07-2013, 08:28 AM
 
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Do you need to do anything specific before you put the jug in the tank, besides fill it with gravel or something? I would like to try that, as it seems we might be paying too much for our water. (But I'm not sure, this is only the first time we've ever paid our own utilities.)

 

It needs to be filled with something - gravel, water, sand or whatever will keep it sitting on the bottom of the tank.  I used a brick but a one gallon water jug would work just fine too.

 

Personally, I hate the low-water use toilets.  We have had several and they all require(d) more than one flush to get the stuff down.  We know several plumbers and they also have the same negative opinion and say they are convinced they are leading for more water usage.

 

I found programable thermostats to be a money saver.

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#17 of 38 Old 03-07-2013, 08:33 AM
 
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Do you need to do anything specific before you put the jug in the tank, besides fill it with gravel or something? I would like to try that, as it seems we might be paying too much for our water. (But I'm not sure, this is only the first time we've ever paid our own utilities.)

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Caneel View Post

 

It needs to be filled with something - gravel, water, sand or whatever will keep it sitting on the bottom of the tank.  I used a brick but a one gallon water jug would work just fine too.

 

You can even use a jug of water, just fill it all the way to the top and don't leave air in it.

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#18 of 38 Old 03-07-2013, 11:18 AM
 
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Another water saving option (rather then a brick or jug) is to install a dual flush convertor. Fits most toilets and I hear it is easy to install.

 

Here is an example of one. ($24.99)

http://www.bedbathandbeyond.com/product.asp?sku=16937967&utm_source=google&utm_medium=cpc&gclid=CMKrseX15bUCFSZnOgod0EgAuQ

 

Most newer toilets are more conservative with water use, but if you have an old toilet, they may be using too much water for flushing. (Not sure how you tell - my plumber told me and I replaced the old, old toilet with a dual flush toto toilet; the other toilet in the house was newer and doesnt use as  much). Another live by notion: " if its yellow, let it mellow, if its brown, flush it down"

 

Another saving tip:

Adjust the temperature gauge on the water heater, by just a degree or two lower.

If you have a dehumidifier in the basement, when it fills rather then dumping the water out, pour it into your washing machine. When you do a load of laundry, less new water is needed to fill the machine. Or one can use the water for plants or ???.

If your water bill seems high, it is possible that you have a leaky faucet - call in a plumber or track it down yourself.

 

To clarify, I just hate spending money, and while I realize I have to pay my utilities, I would like to pay bare minimum, so things like only one light bulb per fixture or putting a jug of water in the tank, I like. shy.gif


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#19 of 38 Old 03-07-2013, 11:30 AM
 
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What about switching the breakers off when you leave the house? I'd maybe leave the kitchen on so you fridge doesn't turn off... but the bedrooms/living room probably have a few things which suck power all day that you don't need. 

 

Also... if you have a main water shutoff to your house, you could try closing it half way to see if slowing down the water into the house conserves anything? Or it might just be really annoying taking half an hour to fill a pot when you go to cook lol

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#20 of 38 Old 03-07-2013, 02:18 PM
 
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I live in Canada so I'm not sure how it is in the rest of the world, but here, there is not much point to being frugal with utilities. Most of our bills are "service charges", "billing fees", "debt reduction fees", "taxes", etc. Very little of our bills are the use of the actual utility. For natural gas, our bill without any actual attempt to be conservative is only about $15-$20 of actual natural gas. The rest is the "delivery charge". With electricity, the bill is about 50% "fees". We have energy saving lightbulbs and use photocell sensors, motion detectors and have energy saving appliances, but don't really modify our behavior. Any new toilet you buy here is so conservative with water that even if there was room to fit a jug or a brick, it wouldn't have enough water for the toilet to actually function lol... They hardly work now as it is, sometimes you have to flush 2-3 times to get the water clean. 

I'd love to go off the grid, have a well and produce my own electricity so I could actually save myself money and not the utility company. 

 

 

YES!!!!! Seriously! I can't save on utilities to save my life. Except turning down heat. That's the ONLY thing that makes a difference. We have one room that's electric heat so we can blast it and then turn it right down. Rest of the house is gas. We turn down when it's unneeded and use extra blankets but to be honest no we can't lower our bills. It's ALL service charges...sigh


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#21 of 38 Old 03-08-2013, 05:18 AM
 
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We don't have a dishwasher and don't use a clothes dryer. Both are costly in energy use.

 

We keep the heat at about 64 degrees and wear warm clothing indoors in winter months. We use an electric blanket on very cold nights rather than heat the whole house. We also moved into the smallest bedroom in the house because it heats up and cools down quickly. We tracked and planned airflow in the house for summer months rather than use air conditioning. We draw air from the basement to the attic, not just the living spaces of the house. So far we haven't needed to install a whole house fan, but we seriously considered it and would again if necessary. We also caulked shut many windows that we don't use and it cut winter drafts significantly.

 

We do have water jugs frozen in the chest freezer to protect against prolonged power outages, and it not only is a good way to store water but also does keep the temperature in the freezer very low.

 

Regarding reducing water flow in the toilet, our plumber told us that our older toilet required all the water in the tank to flush properly. There was no pressure other than gravity to enable flushing and the house's sewer pipes would clog if we put bricks or a jug of water in the tank, especially for any toilet that is far from the sewer discharge.

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#22 of 38 Old 03-26-2013, 05:35 PM
 
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Keeping the temperature of your house as close as bearable to the outside temperature is a great way to save both money and carbon emissions.  We invest in wool clothing for the winter (superwash merino: itchless, WARM and machine washable) so we can nudge the thermostat down. In addition, exercise early in the day keeps you warmer all day long. 62F is no problem.  We installed an attic fan that keeps the attic from turning into an oven.  It's powered by a small solar cell.  Paid for itself the very first summer because we never turned on the air conditioning.

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#23 of 38 Old 03-27-2013, 05:38 PM
 
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My house is all electric and I am constantly looking for ways to save on our bill.  A couple things that have helped us:

 

1. We bought smart energy strips.  Basically one oulet controls the strip and that is the outlet that we plug the tv or computer into.  Then there are 4 or 5 other outlets that all the peripheral equipment is plugged into like the speakers, dvd player...etc.  There are also 2 outlets that always stay on for something like a clock that you wouldn't want to shut off.  Then when we shut off our tv or our computer, it cuts the power to all the peripheral equipment too.  You can get these energy strips for around $25.

 

2.  We bought locks to put on the refrigerator and freezer doors.  The locks hold the doors shut tightly so they don't bounce back open or leak the cold out.  These were only a couple dollars and are the same type of locks made to keep kids out of the refrigerator.

 

After implementing the first two items, we saw a savings in our electric bill.   The newest thing that we have purchased are motion detecting light socket.  The lights were always being left on in the basement in the play room because our kids can't reach them to turn them off.  So the motion detecting light socket just screws into the regular socket and then the lightbulb screws into the new socket. Now when we go downstairs the lights automatically go on and when leave the playroom, after a short period of time, the lights turn off.  We've only had these a couple weeks so I can't say for sure if they are saving us money.


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#24 of 38 Old 03-31-2013, 04:11 AM
 
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I have a couple of utility saving suggestions that work great to reduce the need for air conditioning in the summer:   1.  I use those emergency blankets (that reflect heat) on my windows that have a lot of sun coming in.  Although I have light blocking curtains, the emergency blankets work much, much better.  I use those spring loaded curtain rods to fit inside of every window.  Then I fold the space blanket over the rod and clip it using the kind of binder clips you can get with the office supplies.  The right size clips will move easily over the rod and allow me to move back the curtains when they are not needed.  On hot days I just slide the space blanket over to cover the window.  The space blankets last a couple of seasons if treated gently but the clips and curtain rods don't have to be replaced.  Even on 100 degree days, this has nearly eliminated my use of air conditioning as so little sun comes into the house.  Looks weird from the outside though, I admit eyesroll.gif   Sometimes you can find the space blankets at the $1 store.  This is a particlarly great option if you are renting because the whole thing is easily removable to take with you with no damage left behind.  And I am quite serious: it virtually eliminated the need for air conditioning.

 

2.  On very hot days, I use a makeshift "outdoor kitchen".  A toaster oven and portable electric stove burner plugged in outside will cook almost anything without heating up the house.  Again, because this reduces the heat load on the house, you can really minimize the need for air conditioning.  And you can keep an eye on dinner while doing the gardening (or relaxing in a lounge chair - your choice!)

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#25 of 38 Old 03-31-2013, 05:30 AM
 
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If you own, strategically placed trees can provide shade and keep the house cooler in the summer!

My parents put some kind of film on certain windows, which reflected light, but could be seen through. I don't know if it helped with keeping the house cool, or was just to keep the sun out of our eyes at the dinner table. Does anyone know what I'm talking about, or if it helps to keep the house cool?
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#26 of 38 Old 04-03-2013, 06:14 AM
 
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Pek64, You can buy window film that is "one way mirror." It either adheres to or suctions on to window glass. It's available at most home improvement stores and also online. It may have the same effect as the emergency blanket suggestion.

 

We also use a small convection oven rather than a full-sized oven - year 'round. We are a small family and I don't bake or cook in large batches. We did it so that our food would be cooked better and to save electricity. The only problem with this approach is that the cost of a good convection oven is as high as a full-sized oven, and I noticed that the lower cost ovens (like a toaster oven) seem to become less efficient as they age.

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#27 of 38 Old 04-03-2013, 10:37 AM
 
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We installed new toilets about 4 years ago, and even with 3 grown men in the house, we hardly ever have to flush more than once (trust me, our toilets get a workout).

 

We put plastic on the windows in the winter - until we got new windows.

 

If you have a bathroom exhaust fan, replace the switch with a timer, so it doesn't get left on too long (sucking heated or cooled air out of the house).

 

For heating - a programmable thermostat is wonderful. Silk long underwear is also wonderful.

 

My Mom has a split-entry house. In the winter, she hangs a sheet at the bottom of the stairs. She has a gas fireplace in the downstairs family room that she uses a lot, and the sheet helps keep that heat in the room, rather than flowing up the stairs. She also cut a piece of styrofoam to fit in the front door (between door and screen door) to reduce air leaks (her house was built in 1977, and the door doesn't have a great seal). There is a door from the garage to the foyer that everyone uses, instead of the front door.

 

Tankless water heaters aren't really effective where I live - it gets so cold in the winter that the water coming in to the house is only about 36°F, and one would have to get a huge tankless to keep up. A combination tank and tankless can work (though gets expensive).

 

Get rid of a couple of kids. When our twin sons went off to college last fall, not only did our grocery bill plummet, but so did the electric bill. Fewer showers, laundry loads, electronics.


If the chips are down, the buffalo is empty.

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#28 of 38 Old 04-03-2013, 01:14 PM
 
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Tankless water heaters aren't really effective where I live - it gets so cold in the winter that the water coming in to the house is only about 36°F, and one would have to get a huge tankless to keep up. A combination tank and tankless can work (though gets expensive).

 

Not if you get a plumber who knows what they're doing wink1.gif

 

They just started using them around here in the last decade or so (we've had one for about 5 years) and that's what everyone tells us, when I show them our bill, they're floored. 

 

The best part about them is that we still have hot water when the power goes out, which seems to happen in my neighborhood an awful lot.... People refuse to believe that part too and tell me that's impossible, I don't know what to tell them lol 

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#29 of 38 Old 04-03-2013, 02:48 PM
 
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I don't think it's about the plumber - it's about the laws of physics. If I want 120° water for my shower, and it comes into the house at 36°F (which it does for 4 or 5 months out of the year), I need to increase the temperature 84°, which will require 700 Btu/gallon. I'd need a pretty big heater if I wanted to use more than a couple of gallons per minute.

 

I didn't say it wasn't possible - it just isn't all that practical for whole house use, and the initial cost greatly offsets any energy savings.


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#30 of 38 Old 04-03-2013, 03:09 PM
 
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Most of them aren't actually "tankless", so the name is kind of misleading (which is why plumbers who don't know about them will just tell people they're stupid if they get one). They still have a storage tank so it doesn't matter what the temperature of the water outside of your house is, it's always heating room temperature water. The tank may or may not be heated, depending on the time of year, the temperature of the water or if it's hooked up to the furnace's air handler system as well. It is, however much more money to retrofit an old house than you'll save, so it isn't terribly useful for people who already have a heating tank... the various lines need to be rerouted because there is a certain order of priority to the hot water lines whereas traditional boilers just stem off of one line (which is why someone in the shower will get burned when someone else flushes the toilet). 

We also have one at our cottage where water is pumped out of the lake which is 0C half the year. It is still much cheaper to run than a regular tank. Unless a family is using hot water all day long, having a hot water tank is pretty much like leaving the oven on all day just in case you want to bake bread. 

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