Northwest Renovation Magazine

A Home Improvement Magazine

Did you know that the water heater in most homes is the number-two energy consumer next to the heating system? These hard-working appliances go unnoticed until water appears running on the floor or both faucets deliver the same temperature water, cold. Not what you want to wake up to.

The average life of a storage tank water heater in the Tri-County area is approximately 15 years for electric and 13 years for gas. The age of a water heater can usually be determined by locating the serial number on the unit plate. The first four digits will have the month and year that it was manufactured.

Electric water heater sitting in the middle of an area that the homeowner needed to use for a gym.
With the electric water heater gone this space can be used for the gym remodel.
This space was chosen for the gas water heater because it can be vented to the outside and is also closer to the main plumbing.
The new efficient gas water heater is now in place and vented to the outside. New pex piping took the place of the old galvanized piping.
Shown is a spreader, one of the types of tools needed to install pex type piping.They can be rented.
You can merge galvanized pipe with PEX piping with the proper fitting. This is an easy upgrade for the do-it-yourselfer.

If your water heater is over 10 years old and its efficiency is starting to decline you may want to consider replacing it with a new energy efficient unit. If it is electric, this is the time to connect to a high-performance gas water heater. These units can save a homeowner as much as $200 a year over an electric model (depending on your family’s size). Also, depending on the model you can get almost three times the hot water with the same size tank.

One homeowner-customer had a two-year old electric water heater but needed the room for a finished basement and growing hot water demands. This was the perfect time to convert to gas.

When planning a conversion (electric to gas) there are four major factors to consider:
1) Water heater vent
2) Combustion air supply
3) Water supply
4) Gas supply

The homeowner’s water heater was in the basement with no chimney to vent, so a horizontal vent was required. The basement was going to be partitioned off into rooms thus reducing the available cubic feet of combustion air required to run the water heater. We went to A-Boy Supply Company and found a direct vent unit manufactured by American Water Heater Company.

This unit has a coaxial vent system, which will supply combustion air from the outside as well as venting exhaust gas to the outside all within a 6” pipe. Another feature to this type of water heater is the ceramic shield of blue cobalt fused to the tank’s interior surface forming a corrosion-resistant lining.

The tank is also insulated with a 2” thick coat of non-CFC polyurethane foam to trap heat inside the tank. This unit has an aluminized steel multi-port burner that provides for an even flame distribution, quiet operation, and high-efficiency combustion.

The water heater was placed next to an outside wall, the coaxial venting was installed through a rim joist, and the unit was strapped to the wall as required by code.

For water piping we used cross-linked polyethylene (PEX) pipe, one of the most proven tubing materials in the world. It is available in sizes 1/4” to 1 1/2”. Pex is a superior form of cross-link that produces a uniform distribution of molecular chains. This results in an extremely durable product that is able to withstand a wide range of pressures and temperatures. Pex pipe has become the standard in almost all new residential plumbing systems.

Our homeowner’s last requirements were to supply gas to the unit. For this we used a new type of gas line called CSST (corrugated stainless steel tubing). This is a flexible stainless steel tubing used for natural gas and propane. It is available in sizes 3/8” to 1 1/4” and has a polyethylene jacket for easy installation.

After everything was tied into the water heater and inspected it was time to fire it up and make a last check for any leaks.

Our homeowner gained 400 sq ft of living space while reducing his energy cost and increasing his water heater output.

For more information on water heater conversions, tank and tankless heaters, contact Columbia Contracting Water Heater Service 503-225-0774.

ENERGY SAVINGS (2001 cost)
Natural Gas — $242
Propane — $326
Electricity — $451
Source: GAMA Consumers Directory of certified efficiency ratings.

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