Tankless water heaters
Are they a good deal?
Tankless water heaters offer the promise of hot water on demand, but electric co-ops are concerned about the impact their use might have on electricity demand during peak usage periods. Tankless water heaters can ratchet up the demand for electricity, particularly during peak usage hours when people are bathing or doing laundry, for example. And co-ops that buy power wholesale can face higher wholesale rates during peak demand times.
Whole-house versions can contain up to four 7,000-watt elements, which can consume substantially more energy than the two 4.5-kilowatt elements found in the electric water heaters used by many consumers.
Also, the cost of purchasing, installing and maintaining a tankless heater may outweigh their modest energy savings.
"Tankless water heaters are pretty popular in Europe and in some Asian countries, but we're beginning to see them advertised more in the United States," said Brian Sloboda, a program manager at NRECA's Cooperative Research Network.
In most cases, there is a need to upgrade electrical systems to handle their load, as well as limitations on their ability to provide continuous supplies of hot water simultaneously for different needs.
It is not realistic to expect unlimited supplies of hot water from tankless heaters, Sloboda said, adding that the tankless models can't match the 50-gallon to 80-gallon reserve in a traditional water heater tank. "If someone is taking a shower and someone else is using the kitchen sink or washing clothes, someone is going to be unhappy," he said.
In some areas, electric utilities charge premiums for peak-time power demand. A tankless water heater running during that period could have a hefty effect on a consumer's bill.