Smarter Living: Energy

After the third cold shower of the week, it's clear that your water heater needs attention. How do you know if you should pay a repairman to patch up the problem, or if it's time for an upgrade?

If the troublesome heater is electric, replace it. Switching to a high-efficiency, Energy Star-certified gas model can cut back on energy consumption by 50 percent. If you have a gas model, think about repairs if it is less than 10 years old, and replace it if it's older than 10 years. Even a gas water heater that seems to be working fine might, in fact, be ready for an upgrade if it's more than 10 years old. Gas heating systems can last for about 25 years but will operate for years at very low efficiency before they finally fail; if yours is more than 10 years old, it probably operates at less than 50 percent efficiency and should be replaced.

If it is time to shop for a new water heater, consider an Energy Star-certified "demand," or tankless, system, in which water is circulated through a large coil and heated only when needed. You'll never run out of hot water, and you'll save an average of $115 a year on water-heating costs. Ideally, don't wait for your water heater to fail before planning for a new one. With a little foresight, you might be able to switch to a solar water heater, which can cut costs by $220 a year. Or look into a heat pump, the latest advance in water-heating technology. Sort of like the opposite of refrigeration, a heat pump takes heat from the surrounding air and transfers it into an enclosed tank. These systems also come Energy Star-certified and can save you as much as $290 a year.

Learn More

Salvage or Scrap: Dishwashers

Salvage or Scrap: Clothes Washers

last revised 11/3/2011

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