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There are several ways to provide hot water to your home. Like most home installations, they each have their own advantages and disadvantages. The variables are many including the size of your home, your water heating needs, pre-existing home heating installations, and other regional differences such as local fuel prices. Even this list of hot water tanks and water heating systems is far from exhaustive. Solar hot water tanks, for example, can be a great home addition for many homeowners in selective areas. The best idea is to talk to a hot water contractor about the best available options for you.
Tankless Water Heating System: This system is the cheapest in terms of both installation and operation, but isn't without other advantages as well. Because these systems heat water on the spot, there's essentially an unlimited amount of hot water, albeit at a slow flow rate. This slow flow rate means the temperature of the water can fluctuate during use. If you're in the shower while someone flushes the toilet and the water in the shower suddenly jumps to uncomfortable or dangerous levels, you probably have a tankless water heating system.
Hot Water Booster Tank: A hot water booster tank is an addition to the basic tankless water heating system. The booster tank increases the performance of the water heating system but is more expensive to run. You should probably also hire a professional to install your hot water booster tank. Improper installation of the booster tank will render it ineffective. Keep in mind, too, that even with a booster tank you may still run the risk of scalding water.
Hot Water Storage Tank: Hot water storage tanks will also improve the performance of your water heating system. Often, hot water storage tanks are installed when a tankless water heating system becomes less efficient with age. Supplementing a hot water storage tank to an old system is less expensive than replacing the entire system. Again, you should probably hire a professional to install the tank.
Alternate Hot Water Heating Systems
Instead of a tankless water heating system, you might consider a gas, oil, or electric water heater. These systems generally require less maintenance, are still relatively cheap depending on fuel availability, and can offer more reliable hot water to your home. You might want to talk to a hot water contractor about the viability of these systems in your area.
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Hot Water Tank Insulation
Hot water tank insulation is a great idea to reduce the energy demands of your hot water tank. For a negligible price, you can cut your water heating cost by as much as 10%. An insulation jacket is wrapped around your hot water tank to produce the necessary insulation. Be careful, though, to leave your hot water thermostat uncovered and to keep your hot water set no higher than 130 degrees to reduce the risk of damage to your wiring. Insulating the pipes will also increase your energy savings and can help your hot water last longer for homeowners who like to take extended showers. Placing a rigid insulation board under your hot water tank can double total insulating effect, but this insulation usually needs to be installed with the water tank to be reasonable.
If you're not sure if you need insulation for your hot water tank, check it by placing your hand on the tank. If it feels warm, you could probably benefit from an insulation jacket. Installing the insulation is a simple project for an electric hot water tank, but if you own a gas or oil-fueled tank, you should probably hire a professional to ensure safe installation of the insulation jacket.