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Heating water accounts for up to 30 percent of the average home’s energy budget. Some makers of gas-fired tankless water heaters claim their products can cut your energy costs up to half over regular storage heaters. So is it time to switch?

Probably not. Gas tankless water heaters, which use high-powered burners to quickly heat water as it runs through a heat exchanger, were 22 percent more energy efficient on average than the gas-fired storage-tank models in our tests. That translates into a savings of around $70 to $80 per year, based on 2008 national energy costs. But because they cost much more than storage water heaters, it can take up to 22 years to break even—longer than the 20-year life of many models. Moreover, our online poll of 1,200 readers revealed wide variations in installation costs, energy savings, and satisfaction.
With the help of an outside lab, we pitted Takagi and Noritz gas-fired tankless water heaters against three storage water heaters. We didn’t test electric tankless heaters because many can’t deliver hot water fast enough to replace a conventional water heater if ground­water is cold. Even in areas with warm groundwater, most homeowners would need to upgrade their electrical service to power a whole-house tankless model.
Our tests simulated daily use of 76 to 78 gallons of hot water. That’s the equivalent of taking three showers, washing one laun­dry load, running the dishwasher once (six cycles), and turning on the faucet nine times, for a total of 19 draws. While that’s considered heavy use compared with the standard Department of Energy test, we think it more accurately represents an average family’s habits. We also ran more than 45,000 gallons of very hard water through a tanked model and a Rinnai tankless model to simulate about 11 years of regular use.
Here’s what else we found:

Water runs hot and cold Manufacturers of tankless water heaters are fond of touting their products’ ability to provide an endless amount of hot water. But inconsistent water temperatures were a common complaint among our poll respondents. When you turn on the faucet, tankless models feed in some cold water to gauge how big a temperature rise is needed. If there’s cool water lingering in your pipes, you’ll receive a momentary “cold-water sandwich” between the old and new hot water. And a tankless water heater’s burner might not ignite when you try to get just a trickle of hot water for, say, shaving.

Nor do tankless water heaters deliver hot water instantaneously. It takes time to heat the water to the target temperature, and just like storage water heaters, any cold water in the pipes needs to be pushed out. And tankless models’ electric controls mean you’ll also lose hot water during a power outage.

Up-front costs are high The tankless water heaters we tested cost $800 to $1,150, compared with $300 to $480 for the regular storage-tank types. Tankless models need electrical outlets for their fan and electronics, upgraded gas pipes, and a new ventilation system. That can bring average installation costs to $1,200, compared with $300 for storage-tank models.

Tankless units might need more care During our long-term testing, an indicator on the tankless model warned of scale buildup. We paid $334 for special valves and a plumber to flush out the water heater with vinegar. Many industry pros recommend that tankless models be serviced once a year by a qualified technician. Calcium buildup can decrease efficiency, restrict water flow, and damage tankless models. Experts suggest installing a water softener if your water hardness is above 11 grains per gallon. Ignoring this advice can shorten your warranty.

Efficient storage models are priceyWe also tested the $1,400 Vertex, a high-efficiency storage water heater by A.O. Smith. The manufacturer claims its installation costs are similar to a regular storage model. But its high cost offsets much of the roughly $70 per year the Vertex will save you. Instead, we recommend buying a conventional storage water heater with a 9- or 12-year warranty. In previous tests, we found that those models generally had thicker insulation, bigger burners or larger heating elements, and better corrosion-fighting metal rods called anodes.

Posted: September 2008 — Consumer Reports Magazine issue: October 2008
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Did you know that Archeologists have recovered a portion of a water plumbing system from the Pyramid of Cheops in Egypt. The evidence of indoor plumbing in palaces has dating back to 2500 B.C.E.

Did you know at 140 degrees, it takes five seconds for water to burn skin. At 160 degrees, it takes only half of a second. Home hot water systems should be set to no hotter than 125 degrees.

Did you know that Plumbing is short for plumbum? Plumbum is latin for Lead. Pipes were once made of lead.

Did you know that rumor has it that Ozzy Osbourne was an apprentice for plumbing before becoming the Ozzy we know today?

Did you know that the covert White House Speacial Investigations Unit established during the presidency of Pres. Nixon were called “plumbers”. They were a response to the “Pentagon Papers” that were leaked during the Vietnam War. Their job was to plug intelligence leaks in the U.S. Gov. relating to the Vietnam War, hence the term “plumbers”.

Sir John Harington is credited with inventing the flushable toilet in 1596, hence the American nickname… “the John”.

Since 1963 (the year CDA was established), more than 28 billion feet or about 5.3 million miles of copper plumbing tube has been installed in U.S. buildings. That’s equivalent to a coil wrapping around the Earth more than 200 times. The current installation rate now exceeds a billion feet per year.

In a typical home, more than 9,000 gallons of water are wasted while running the faucet waiting for hot water. As much as 15% of your annual water heating costs can be wasted heating this extra 9,000 gallons.

If a drip from your faucet fills an eight ounce glass in 15 minutes, it will waste 180 gallons per month and 2,160 gallons per year.

A low flush toilet can save you up to 18,000 gallons of water per year.

In the tomb of a king of the Western Han Dynasty in China (206 BC to 24 AD), archaeologists discovered a 2,000-year-old “toilet” – complete with running water, a stone seat and even a comfortable armrest! The finding: marked the earliest-known water closet, which is quite like what we are using today, in the entire world.

The Earth has somewhere in the neighborhood of 326,000,000,000,000,000,000 gallons (326 million trillion gallons) of water on the planet. Roughly 98% of our water’s in the oceans of the world, and therefore is unusable for drinking because of the salt content. That means only around 2% of the planet’s water is fresh, but 1.6% of that water is locked up in ice caps and glaciers. Another 0.36% is found in very deep, underground sources – meaning only about 0.036% of the planet’s total water supply is found in lakes and rivers (our main supplies of drinking water)!

Albert Einstein was named an honorary member of the Plumbers and Steamfitters Union after saying publicly that he would become a plumber if he had to do it all over again.

On average a person uses a toilet 2,350 times a year. With a toilet usage time of five minutes per session, that’s 195.8 hours a year!

Did you know that the most famous video game superstars, Mario and Luigi, were in  fact plumbers?

rewritten  by Kenny B. (These were borrowed all over the web)