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Tankless Task

Energy. Everybody's talking about it these days, spurred by the concern about global warming. But as noted here before, even if global warming didn't exist, we ought to be busting our buns to save energy anyway for three basic reasons.

1) Getting that energy takes a toll on the environment, whether it's drill rigs in Wyoming that ruin wildlife habitat or coal mining in Appalachia done by bulldozing the tops off mountains and leaking billions of gallons of toxic coal slurry into local streams. 2) The supply is limited, there's only so much in the ground, so it makes sense to use as little as possible. 3) Conserving energy can save a pile of money. (A fourth reason to save energy is to prevent future wars for oil, but we've visited that dismal topic before.)

The average household in the United States now spends a whopping $2,100 on home energy every year, and just use of electricity in one household generates about 11,500 pounds of global warming carbon dioxide.

One way to save energy and cut expenses is to get a tankless water heater, because water heating takes roughly 15 to 20% of the average energy bill.

That's why you should consider going tankless, or also called an "on-demand." The tankless heater is more efficient than the conventional water heater, since it uses about 30% less energy. This is because it heats the water only when it's actually being used. This takes less energy than keeping a big tank of water hot all the time. Another advantage of tankless heaters is that, although they cost more, they last at two or three times as long as a tank heater. Also, they take up a lot less space because they're rectangular, and only measure about 24" by 16" by 8", more or less depending on capacity. It's not surprising that these heaters are so popular in Europe and Japan, where apartments and houses are often smaller and energy has historically been in shorter supply than in the U.S.

It's important to get a tankless heater that's big enough to meet your household demands, so that you don't blasted by cold water in the middle of a shower because somebody else fired up the dishwasher. Your local dealer should be able to help you figure this out. Since gas heaters are much cheaper to operate than electric, gas is the best option.

Finally, of course, no matter what heater you choose, it's still important to save energy by installing low-flow showerheads, showering instead of bathing, and keeping the showers short; washing clothes on the cold cycle, and drying clothes on a line, not to mention keeping the temperature at 68 in the winter and turning it down to 55 or lower when you're sleeping or not in the house. By tightening up my home energy act, I've managed to reduce the gas bill for my home to a miserly $7 or $8 a month in the summer--and our total energy use is only about one-third as much as the average household. Interestingly enough, this is about what some experts say the average home could save. (See, for example, a study from the University of Michigan at For some good ideas for saving energy, see on the very useful Web site of the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy.

And while I'm at it, I also recommend that you check out the MASSIVE wealth of energy information available on the EPA's Web site, It's free, it's reliable, and it's one helluva lot better use of your tax dollars than $2 billion dollar wars for oil we shouldn't need in the first place.

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