If it's time to replace your water heater, why not look at ways of greening up this necessary appliance? There are several ways you can approach this goal.
1. Choose High-Efficiency Ratings
One of the simplest ways to go green is to carefully compare the ratings on the water heater options that are available. The EF (Energy Factor) is one of the standard ratings you can find on every water heater. This is a good rating to compare not only because it is standard, but also because it directly compares the amount of fuel used to heat a specific amount of hot water. This makes it one of the more accurate of the available efficiency ratings, and it is a key factor in determining the Energy Star certification on a particular unit.
2. Go With the Electric Option
If you have a choice of fuel, such as a choice between gas and electric, it is typically greener to go with the electric option. Electric water heaters tend to have the highest EF rating compared to other fuel options. If your utility provider uses renewable electric sources, such as hydropower or wind energy to fuel the local grid, then the choice of electric is even more green than the EF rating would indicate.
3. Upgrade to Tankless
The style of water heater can also impact how green it is. The traditional tank heater uses a lot of electricity or fuel simply to maintain the temperature in the holding tank, which means it is always using energy even if you aren't actively using hot water. Tankless heaters only heat the water on demand, which means there is very little energy used when the hot water isn't actively flowing. For this reason, tankless heaters are almost always greener than tank heaters.
4. Insulate at Installation
Some tank heaters come with minimal built-in tank insulation, but it is still better to upgrade that insulation as soon as the water heater is in place. A well fitted and properly installed tank blanket prevents heat loss from the holding tank, thus reducing the amount of energy needed to maintain water temperature. The water lines leading from the tank should also be insulated. Insulating does more than stop heat loss from tank and lines, it also prevents the heat from dissipating into the air of your home and increasing the energy you use to cool your home in the warm months.
5. Look at Non-Traditional Options
Don't limit yourself to water heater types you are familiar with. Solar-powered water heaters can be a very green option for the right home in the right climate, for example. Or, in a colder climate, it may be worth it to look at dual systems that heat both your water and your home at the same time, thus sharing in the energy use instead of doubling it.
Contact a local plumber to discuss the green options for your water heater replacement.