Water Heater Recommendation

Discussion in 'Water Heater Forum, Tanks' started by Dee in SC, Mar 6, 2011.

  1. Dee in SC

    Dee in SC Master of none

    Messages:
    19
    Location:
    SC
    Hello, Experts.
    I'm in charge of building a new house while my husband is in Afganistan. I'm making all the decisions on appliances, including doing the necessary research for reliability and quality. Water heaters and HVAC have me stumped (I'll edit and re-post this in HVAC next). Sadly, the builder's plumber is not being helpful and I don't want to rely on salespeople who may be biased. Since you all are best informed of what works best and what breaks down often, could you suggest your favorite water heaters for the following situation?:
    Mid-state, rural, SC home near GA border, 2,900 sq. ft., 1 level, 3 full bathrooms, looong rectangular floorplan with master bed/bath (his and her bathrooms) and washer/dryer at one end of the house. The other end of the house has the kitchen and guest bathroom. We're on SCE&G electric and will have propane tank for cooking and whatever else we select to run off propane gas. I honestly don't know whether we should use electric or propane for the water heaters. We will have an emergency generator for backup power.
    We'll need two water heaters.
    Water usage: Just me and my husband and the occasional guest; no children.
    We're using well water.
    Husband likes a strong water pressure shower - what "device" (brand and type) should I ask our plumber to install to make sure the shower pressure brings joy to husband's heart? I know something exists, but don't know what it's called.
    I appreciate your time and input.
    Dee
  2. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Messages:
    21,814
    Location:
    New England
    You have a choice on the water pressure based on the pump and controls you specify. The higher the water pressure, the more it will cost you in electricity - it takes energy to provide that extra pressure. A conventional well uses something like a 60/40 pressure switch, and the pump fills the tank until the high point, shuts off and the pressure drops until it gets to the low point. There are a few ways to make the pressure remain constant rather than varying each cycle: a variable speed pump (expensive) and a cycle stop valve. If you search on the well forum, you'll find lots of discussions on this.

    When you have the plumbing done, consider having them plumb a hot water recycling line and a recirculating system for the hot water. This will keep the water hot while it is running at all locations so you don't dump a few gallons waiting at the end of that long run for it to warm up. While with a well, you may not pay for the water, it certainly costs to pump it out of the ground, and then, you may have a septic system you would be dumping those extra gallons into for no good reason. It's cheaper and more convenient to use a recirculation system. The recirculation system has a very small pump, and you can put it on a timer or an occupancy sensor so it only runs when you need it. Also, insulate ALL of the pipes well.

    Go with a Bradford White tank with a powered damper using your propane for fuel. Good quality, good economy. Size it per the local codes based on the number of bathrooms, or whatever they require by code. Go bigger if you plan a multi-head shower or a large soaking tub.
  3. Dee in SC

    Dee in SC Master of none

    Messages:
    19
    Location:
    SC
    Jim, I can't thank you enough. This is exactly the kind of information I'm looking for. This is my first use of well water and first new construction. I suspected there was so much more to be considered and I'm eager to understand the situation. But there's just not enough time to gain the necessary knowledge quickly. I have read quite about about the CSV, so I've already been thinking about it. Just to confirm what you said, I can serve both ends of the house with a recirculating system and not have to waste cool water running through the pipes until the hot reaches its destination, right?
    Since you seem knowledgeable on wells and such, we've had the well drilled but still need the pump. After much research, I'm leaning heavily toward a conventional pump vs on-demand. I know it means having water storage tanks installed, but it still seems to be the least maintenance way to go in the long run. I've heard of problems with the on-demand that aren't quite worked out yet. Can you point me in the right direction for choosing a well water pump? Is there information I need to give you about the well's pressure before you or someone could guide me?
    Dee
  4. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Messages:
    21,814
    Location:
    New England
    The choice of pump will depend on how deep it needs to be and the recovery rate. Hopefully, the well has at least the minimum you might require at the peak, otherwise, it means a very big storage tank that can be filled slowly during the day so you can draw off what you need when required from it, rather than directly from the well. Without knowing the depth and the recovery rate, it's hard to suggest something.
  5. Redwood

    Redwood Master Plumber

    Messages:
    7,453
    Location:
    Connecticut
    Bradford White or, Lochinvar....
    Brands are really important when it comes to Gas Water Heaters.

    Gas water heaters today use a FVIR (Flammable Vapor Ignition Resistant) System for safety.
    Bradford White and Lochinvar use the same system and it is hands down superior to that of the other manufacturers.

    Read the whirlpool thread stickied at the top of this tank type water heater forum.
  6. Dee in SC

    Dee in SC Master of none

    Messages:
    19
    Location:
    SC
    Jim,
    Out of respect for the readers here, I'm going to post my well data at the Pump & Well Forum. I suspect there are more people like myself needing this guidance and they can also benefit by finding your answers in that section. Would you be so kind as to hop over there and continue this? I'll post my information right now.

    Meanwhile, I'm going to continue to followup with my water heater related questions here.


    Dee
  7. Dee in SC

    Dee in SC Master of none

    Messages:
    19
    Location:
    SC
    Redwood,
    "99% of Being Smart... Is Knowing What You're Dumb At"
    Ain't that the truth! I. Know. Nothing. Despite my efforts, the more I read, the less I realize that I know. One thread of questions branches off into many. As for your info., thanks for the brand recommendation -- and, yes, I've already seen the Whirlpool thread, shuddered, and made note of it in a doc file I'm keeping on the issue of water heaters. You and Jim are pointing me in the direction that I hoped when I posted here. My builder didn't even specify a brand of water heater in his initial bid and I didn't want to engage him on the topic until I knew something myself. I'm going to read up on Jim's advice of using propane for fuel and a "powered damper." I don't know what that is just yet. Also, I'll read up on FVIR, thanks for pointing that out to me as being current usage. I don't want to stare blank-eyed when the builder's plumber mentions it to me. If you've got further guidance, bring it on! Dee
  8. Gary Swart

    Gary Swart In the Trades

    Messages:
    7,308
    Location:
    Yakima WA
    The builder didn't specify brands of water heaters and probably the brand of toilets either. Here's why. If left to their choice, builder will buy and install the cheapest appliances possible. Sure the water heater may be a piece of junk, the toilets may not flush very well and frequently clog, but that's how they keep the price on the house down. Specify Bradford White water heaters, specify Toto toilets. Look at the top of the forum and follow the links to Terry's Report on Toto toilets. Believe us, all water heaters and all toilets are not the same. I don't have knowledge about cost of propane vs electricity in heating water, I have natural gas and even in the Pacific Northwest where electricity is relatively inexpensive, natural gas beats the heck out it. I do know that gas is faster so tank sizes can be smaller. I would also urge you to look at a recirculating system for the hot water. Easy to install when building, possible but not so easy to retro fit.
  9. Dee in SC

    Dee in SC Master of none

    Messages:
    19
    Location:
    SC
    Gary,
    You and I are thinking alike. I'm on to the practice of builders installing "no name" brands. On the other hand, maybe most people don't care, until there's a problem, and so the builder is sort of doing a "service" by making choices of some kind for the buyer. I already spent some time yesterday reading Terry's information on toilets and have selected the Toto Ultramax toilet MS854114S for our bathrooms. Actually, I found three toilets so my husband could have a choice, but he'll probably go with my choice. I've also selected brands and models of our appliances, fixtures, etc. It takes an enormous amount of time to educate myself on general technology, then find the right brand based on quality and repair history, etc., but I'm happy to do it so that we can minimize our future pain and maintenance. But I'll tell you, the matter of HVAC, well pumps, and water heaters is an area that requires more than just research on my part. It also takes professional experience and I'm extremely grateful for forums like this. Even when I get the information, I have to spend a great deal of time digesting it. In my opinion, I also think it's important for me to know about the insulation choices, shower waterproofing options, etc. It's almost overwhelming. I'm probably a builder's worst nightmare. I was particularly interested in the guidance on using propane for our water heater. We'll be located in a rural area and we've never used propane before and I didn't know if we should use it for the water heater (or just for our stove). I have no idea about propane consumption required by various mechanical devices and whether we'd be refueling with propane all the time, so it's good to hear advice on whether to use it or not. I don't know about the cost vs electricity either. Thanks for weighing in on the hot water recirculating system. I'll read up on it today, but you're not the first to suggest it. Dee
  10. Gary Swart

    Gary Swart In the Trades

    Messages:
    7,308
    Location:
    Yakima WA
    Dee, you impress me! You are sure on the right track, and yes, it there is a lot to learn when you have little or no previous knowledge. Propane tanks come in many sizes, so you would just have to get one big enough to supply your needs for say a month or so. But, again, I really don't have the knowledge about propane usage to give you a real opinion. You can believe me when I say you'll love a recirculating hot water system. No wait for the cold water to be purged, and no wasted water either.
  11. Dee in SC

    Dee in SC Master of none

    Messages:
    19
    Location:
    SC
    Gary,
    It's such a huge investment and I know too many people who are living in "new" construction that is falling down around them. I started reading about foundations a year ago (better get started on a forum posting for that subject). Heaven knows I only want to make these decisions one time, so they better be the right ones. I know that some trades feel anger toward us DIYers that are shopping prices and "dictating" techniques but, for me at least, it's either I find a way to build this house with a sharp eye on cost and employing whatever shopping options are available to me ...or we postpone building.
    As for the recirculating system, it wasn't in the plumbers bid but should have been --we sure don't want to waste precious water and it's extremely painful for me when I've ever had to let the water run until it gets hot. What a waste! I would have to have water canisters on hand to capture it for use elsewhere...but what a pain that is.
    I'll be able to ferret out the information about the propane tank size that's right for us, now that I know we'll use it for our stove and for the water heater. I'll have to make sure that's all before I trouble someone with questions about tank size though. Thanks!
    Dee
  12. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Messages:
    21,814
    Location:
    New England
    YOu might want to check the price fluctuation on propane. It tends to go up in the winter and down in the summer. So, if you have a tank sized for one-month's use, you wouldn't be able to take advantage of the summer's low prices. Check to see if the supplier will 'rent' you a tank and check that against buying one. Also, keep in mind access so it can be refilled. ANd, you might not get much snow, but with luck, that would be the time you needed it refilled the most! Even with a heat pump, a few days or of the year, you may need auxilliary heat (sometimes referred to as emergency heat). This can be done with either electrical resistance heaters (think large space heaters) in the air handler or a furnace. A furnace would likely be more expensive, but depending on amount of use, the electrical verses propane use - one may have an advantage over the other. Also note on your heat pump (assuming you go that way), that the air temperature outlet is often moderately cool. Depending on the lot and soil type, you might consider a ground-sourced heat pump system. This, instead of pulling heat out of the air, pulls it out of the ground which is a better heat sink. Depending on the type of soil you can burry the heat piping, or if it's easy to drill wells, use ground water as the heat source. The ground would probably never get all that cold, verses the air. A heat pump stops working, or at least being very efficient, if the air temp drops below around 40. the ground or water likely never gets that cold.
  13. Dee in SC

    Dee in SC Master of none

    Messages:
    19
    Location:
    SC
    Hello, Everyone,
    My apologies for abruptly dropping out of sight. I had to move to a temporary (tiny) apartment while we build and I unexpectedly lost internet for much longer than I anticipated. Unfortunately, I thought we'd be moving into a newly-constructed house by now. I'd like to thank you all for the great information. I need to take this guidance, along with the house plans, and meet with the local electric company rep. It is my understanding they will help guide me. But as you may have gathered, I like to have my own knowledge first, so that I can listen with some level of comprehension and not force someone else to make my decisions for me. I'll post back later when I've got specific choices, as I'll be very interested to hear your opinions. Many thanks again. Dee
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