Electric Water Heaters and Circulation Loops with Friday Apaliski

sustainability Apr 14, 2021

Friday Apaliski is the San Francisco-based authority on sustainability and has developed a process through her company Sustainability Concierge to aid homeowners in developing a more holistic and sustainable home. 

If you would like to get in touch with Friday, you can reach her by email at [email protected].

Watch our interview or read the transcript below: 


Friday: So we talked about heat pump technology for heating and cooling your house. That same technology exists for heating your water. And even better than that, there is one that has like an indoor and outdoor component, but, you know, I live in San Francisco. I was like, I don't have that much outdoor space, not filling all my outdoor space with these outdoor machines. Rheem makes a water heater that is heat pump technology. It's called a hybrid water heater. And it looks just like a regular hot water heater. And it plugs in just like a regular hot water heater. 

The thing that has just brought me so much extra delight lately, is that in my new house or in the house that we remodeled, we are now keeping our wine in the same room as our water heaters. And the water heaters, they take the hot air out of the ambient air and they put it into the water and they spit out the cold. So my little wine bottles are like in there perfectly chilled. Thanks to my water meters. 

Jenny: That's perfect. 

Friday: I know it's super delightful, but yeah, they come in whatever size you need. I have, I think a 40 gallon hot water heater. And we have to, like I said, because we have two units and they work fantastic.

Jenny: In that scenario, the way that the water heater works is, it's heating a big tank of water and just holding warm water so that when you turn it on, you have hot water. Not instantly, but pretty instantly being depending on where you are in the house and the location of the water tank. Does it work in the same way? It's still a tank of warm water. Heated. 

Friday: Yup. It's still take a warm water and you know, I often get questions from folks about what about a tankless hot water heater. So here's the deal with the tankless hot water heater. And like I've said a million times before, there's no perfect solution. Everything is going to give and take. Tankless hot water heaters got really popular in Europe. People were like, Oh, we should totally do this. Because they heat only the water you're using right away. And in Europe, the way they were designed is that you would put in your bathroom underneath your sink, your tiny little tankless, hot water heater. And in your kitchen, where are using it, you put another one. 

And then because Americans are Americans, we were like, well, a bigger one would be better. So, now we do these tankless hot water heaters that you put in your garage and it's supposed to do the whole house. And what I hear every single time I talked to a client about this is, it takes forever to get hot water to my bathroom, which is on the other side of the house from my garage. And I'm like, yeah, that makes perfect sense. 

Jenny: Yeah. It could be like two minutes of just running water, like wasted water. 

Friday: Yes. And in California we care about that a lot. That's why I say like, depending on where you live and depending on what your situation is, but I'm not a big advocate for on-demand hot water heaters also because they have to have a combustible element. So they are all natural gas. Or super energy hog of an electric version because they have to heat something.

That is not my favorite solution. I can see where, you know, depending on the right case, it might be the best solution. But for me, I would advocate for a tank. And if you're really concerned about wasting water, as you wait for the hot water from the tank to get to where you are. And this is especially important for people who are really thinking about a large scale construction project, talk to your plumber about a recirculating pump. We had one in our last apartment building. There's a giant boiler in the garage and there's 12 units in this place. And I'm not kidding. The hot water was. Instant. 

Jenny: Yeah. For a single family residence, it's around a thousand dollars for a circ pump, a circulation pump. And it's so worth it. 

Friday: So worth it, because what it does is it takes that hot water that's in that tank and it keeps it fresh in your pipes all the time. You're not wasting it. So the water doesn't go out. It's not one way. You make it into a loop. The water is constantly circulating in that loop. And that means that as soon as you turn the hot water on, it comes out hot. There is an energy component there. It takes electricity to keep the water circulating, but relative to the amount of water that you save, it's huge. And trust me, wasting water also wastes energy. Not necessarily in your home, but in the larger scheme of things, right? Because all of the water that goes down your sink and goes down, your drain has to be treated at a wastewater treatment facility. And that takes a lot of resources to do that. So you really don't want to waste water and you really don't want to waste electricity.

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