Managing Construction - Bob Vila

Category: Managing Construction


Solved! Storage Tank vs. Tankless Water Heaters

Which type of water heater would be best for your home? As it turns out, the answer's not that simple. Find out what considerations you'll need to weigh to find the most efficient and cost-effective water heater for your needs.

Tankless Water Heater vs Tank

Photo: supplyhouse.com

If you pore over the energy bill each and every month but rarely give a thought to your water heater, you’re missing something critical: there’s a direct relationship between the two. Believe it or not, the average household devotes more than a quarter of its total annual energy spending to the water heater alone, which means that the water heater is more expensive to run than almost any other home appliance—only heating and cooling cost more.

Under the circumstances it literally pays to weigh the options and crunch the numbers before purchasing a replacement water heater. The good news is that, largely in response to consumer demand, manufacturers now offer a range of water-heating technologies designed to maximize efficiency and minimize ongoing costs. As a result it’s a good time to be in the market but given the busy landscape, it’s also a confusing one.

Make no mistake: If you’ve had the same water heater for a decade, you’re probably spending more than is strictly necessary for essential daily tasks like bathing, laundry, and dishwashing. But while upgrading to almost any brand-new, energy-smart water heater would save you money on your monthly utility bill, it would be foolish to choose your next unit blindly. Why? Efficiency matters, yes—but operating costs make up only part of the value equation. It’s also critical to assess the purchase and installation costs of a new water heater. So if you’re surveying a field of water heaters, all of which are more efficient than your current model, settling on just one requires figuring out which would do the most for your bottom line over the long term.

Of course to be in a position to pick one model above the others, you must first narrow in on the type of water heater you want. Other options exist, but homeowners typically consider only two technologies—conventional storage tank water heaters on the one hand and innovative tankless water heaters on the other. Read on for details on the pros and cons of each type, and the considerations involved in making a selection.

 

STORAGE TANK WATER HEATERS

Storage Tank Water Heaters

Photo: supplyhouse.com

According to Daniel O’Brian, a technical specialist with SupplyHouse.com, “traditional tank-style water heaters are far and away the most commonly used.” Uncomplicated, unfussy, and deeply familiar to their installers and repairmen, storage tank water heaters remain in use in part because old habits die hard in the building industry, but also because this tried-and-true technology has reliably served generations of homeowners.

Whether powered by natural gas, electricity, propane, or oil, storage water heaters function in pretty much the same way. The unit heats and reheats a volume of water stored within an insulated tank (typical residential tank sizes range from 20 to 80 gallons). When a plumbing fixture or water-using appliance calls for it, hot water exits the tank from the top, while cold water enters from the bottom to replenish the tank.

Efficiency. Conventional water heaters operate around the clock, whether you need hot water or not. Sounds inefficient, right? It is. When water in the tank cools down below a certain threshold, the appliance reheats the same water, effectively wasting energy in the process. That said, with more insulation and less standby heat loss, tank-style units now waste a lot less energy than they used to. Some even boast an Energy Star rating!

Installation. “If you have a gas water heater and you’re replacing it with a gas water heater, you can expect installation to cost about as much as the unit itself—around $300 to $500,” O’Brian says. Switching from one fuel type to another—say, from electric to gas—inevitably adds complexity and cost, but not as much as you might think. The reason? Storage tank water heaters don’t usually require any wiring or piping modifications.

Performance. There’s one chief complaint levied against storage units: Because their tanks are finite and their water-heating process isn’t instantaneous, it’s possible to run out of hot water temporarily. As O’Brian points out, “if you always seem to be running out of hot water, that suggests you need a bigger unit.” In other words, so long as it’s properly sized to meet peak demand, a tank-style unit doesn’t run out.

 

TANKLESS WATER HEATERS

Tankless Water Heater Options

Photo: supplyhouse.com

Tankless water heating isn’t new per se. Just look at the point-of-use tankless heaters that have been popular for many years, especially in Europe and Asia. In the United States, tankless, whole-house water heating caught on only relatively recently. But now more and more manufacturers seem to be producing more and more tankless units—and the professional service community has adapted—all to accommodate rising homeowner demand.

Dramatically smaller than traditional water heaters—small enough to mount on the wall—tankless units live up to their name. Rather than constantly maintaining a standby supply of hot water, they heat water “on demand,” as O’Brian puts it. Cold water enters the tankless unit then exits a split second later, fully heated to the target temperature by either a gas burner or electric resistance heating coils.

Efficiency. By virtue of their clever design, tankless water heaters operate up to around 30 percent more efficiently than their tank-style cousins. Wow! But note that tankless units command a premium price, double or even triple that of conventional units. In other words, before a tankless unit starts saving you money, its efficient operation needs to make up for its elevated up-front cost.

Installation. In addition to being more expensive up front, tankless water heaters also cost more to install. “Think of it this way,” O’Brian says, “when you’re installing a conventional unit, you’re typically hooking it up to the home as is. But when you install a tankless unit, modifications must be made.” The upshot? Whereas traditional water-heater installation costs around $500, tankless installation costs double, or more.

Performance. If the tank in a conventional water heater places a limit on output, then units without tanks promise limitless hot water. Complicating matters is that, as O’Brian puts it, “Never running out of hot water isn’t the same as always having enough of it.” If demand spikes—if you hop in the shower at the same time that the dishwasher’s running—the relatively low flow rate of a tankless water heater may not be able to keep pace.

 

Choosing the right water heater for your home and your family ultimately involves weighing a surprising number and range of considerations—”everything from how much water you use to how long you plan to stay in the home,” O’Brian says. Which type of water heater delivers better energy efficiency? That’s easy—tankless. Which would be the most cost-effective choice in your situation? Well, that’s a much harder question to answer. “Unless you do the math,” O’Brian concludes, “you won’t know for sure.”

House Plumbing Diagram

Photo: istockphoto.com

This article has been brought to you by SupplyHouse.com. Its facts and opinions are those of BobVila.com.


How To: Choose a Well Pump

If your family relies on a well for water, it's important to have the right type of pump with enough power to keep the water flowing, even on the busiest mornings. Brush up on a few well pump basics today, so you'll be primed for a smart purchase when the time comes.

How to Choose a Well Pump

Photo: supplyhouse.com

In cities and suburbs, folks enjoy virtually uninterrupted access to clean, potable water. But if you live in one of the 15 million U.S. homes reliant on a well, you don’t have the luxury of taking your water supply for granted. In areas with municipal water, the local government takes responsibility for regulating and maintaining service. If something goes wrong—say, if a water main ruptures—repair workers swiftly come to the rescue. But if your home draws its water from a private well and something goes wrong—if the well isn’t providing enough water, or any water, for that matter—then it’s your problem, and yours alone.

Fortunately, solutions rarely require messy, expensive digging. Most of the time, for the most common issues—pulsing, sputtering water flow or no flow whatsoever—the problem lies not with the well itself, but with the pump that brings well water into the home. A technician may be able to return an on-the-fritz well pump to working order, often by fixing or replacing parts. But according to Daniel O’Brian, a technical specialist with SupplyHouse.com, “It’s not unusual for pros to suggest installing a brand-new pump.” Hardworking, heavy-duty well pumps do last a long time (10 to 25 years), but they don’t last forever.

How to Choose a Well Pump - Well Illustration

Photo: istockphoto.com

Time for you to get a new one? Read on to learn the key points involved in choosing an appropriate replacement.

WELL DEPTH
There are three main types of wells. A “dug” well—typically created by a backhoe and lined with stone, brick, or tile—extends down 30 feet or less. A “driven” well goes a little deeper, to a maximum depth of about 50 feet. The deepest of all are “drilled” wells, which bore hundreds of feet below ground. Which type do you have? “It doesn’t really matter,” O’Brian explains. “When choosing a pump, how the well was constructed doesn’t really factor into the equation,” he continues. What matters is its depth. For any well less than 30 feet deep, choose a shallow well pump. Otherwise, opt for a deep well pump. “Not too complicated,” O’Brian concludes.

PUMP TYPES
From there, however, the process of pump selection gets a little more involved. According to O’Brian, “The confusing thing is that two pumps designed for wells of similar depth don’t necessarily work the exact same way.” While they may have much in common, different well pumps are installed differently and transmit water in different ways.

Centrifugal pumps operate by generating suction through the rotation of an internal fan. “These are standard, workhorse pumps,” O’Brian says, pointing out that “they usually cost less than other types.” One important detail is that centrifugal pumps install in a mechanical housing adjacent to the well, not within the well. That makes future maintenance more convenient. But, O’Brian notes, “The catch here is that centrifugal pumps don’t generate enough suction to be viable in the context of a deep well.” So, consider a centrifugal pump only if your well measures less than 25 feet deep.

Submersible pumps reign as perhaps the most popular type, partly due to their versatility. “You can use a submersible pump in virtually any well, shallow or deep,” O’Brian says. True to their name, submersible pumps install underwater, deep within the well. Watertight and long-lived, submersible pumps rarely require repair, but if the unit ever needs a little TLC, it must first be fished out of the well and brought up to surface level. “That’s no problem for a trained and licensed pro,” O’Brian explains, “but obviously the added labor usually comes along with added repair costs.”

Jet pumps are the most sophisticated, and the most powerful, capable of delivering more water, more quickly, than other pump types. Plus, like submersible pumps, the jet variety may be considered for a well of any depth. Installation varies according to whether it’s a “single-drop” or “double-drop” model. The former (best for shallow wells) installs inside, either in the home or an outbuilding. The latter (best for deep wells) calls for a split installation; while the jet assembly goes in the well, the motor remains above ground. Though more expensive than submersible pumps, O’Brian says that of the two, “jet pumps are often cheaper to service long term.”

How to Choose a Well Pump - Well Pump Isolated

Photo: supplyhouse.com

SIZING
No matter which type you choose, bear in mind that before making a purchase, it’s essential to make sure that a given well pump will be able to satisfy your family’s daily water needs. In other words, the pump must be able to deliver as many gallons per minute (GPM) as your household consumes during peak periods—mornings when more than one shower runs simultaneously, for example. There’s no single, set-in-stone right answer, but according to O’Brian, “Well pumps with flow rates between 6 and 12 gallons per minute are generally considered appropriate for most single-family homes.”

A second, equally important sizing consideration: water pressure, measured in pounds per square inch (PSI). “A standard 1/2-horsepower well pump provides adequate pressure in many residential settings,” O’Brian says, “but it’s a mistake just to assume that that’s all you need.” Instead, O’Brian recommends carefully surveying the PSI requirements of each and every water-using appliance and system in and around your home. “Dishwashers and washing machines typically demand 10 PSI, but for something like sprinkler irrigation, you may need twice as much.” The best course? “Seek advice from an expert familiar with your individual home and habits.”

 

Given that it’s a pivotal component of a major household system, you might expect replacing a well pump to cost a small fortune. Good news: While professional installation certainly adds to the total project cost, the pump itself isn’t likely to set you back more than $1,000. In fact, many of the most popular and commonly used models retail in the $300 to $500 range. Don’t know where to begin? SupplyHouse.com carries a wide selection from the top manufacturers in the category, and its customer service experts are always on hand to help you shop. Above all, remember that, as O’Brian puts it, “Water when you want it is important, so be sure to get the right pump for the job!”

How to Choose a Well Pump - Soil Layers Illustration

Photo: istockphoto.com

This article has been brought to you by SupplyHouse.com. Its facts and opinions are those of BobVila.com.


Quikrete In-Image Ad Test

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SHARES

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Photo: sample.com

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H Test

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SHARES

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Bob Vila Radio: Nailing Your Remodel with a Contractor

There are plenty of home remodeling horror stories, but working with a contractor doesn't have to be a nightmare. Follow our tips to get the results you want!

Already found a contractor for your next project? You might be happy with your hire, but planning ahead is the best way to make sure you’re happy with their work—and that includes discussing what you want and and getting everything down on paper.

working-with-contractor

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Listen to BOB VILA ON WORKING WITH CONTRACTORS or read on below:

mp3 file

If you need to make an adjustment, write up a change order that details the modifications, plus any added cost for labor and materials. Minimize miscommunication and mistakes by meeting with your builder regularly to make sure the project stays on budget—and on schedule.

Keep a dated log book as the renovation unfolds, including pictures and notes of who said or did what. It’s a good insurance policy if you run into a problem down the line, and you’ll have some great before and after shots to share with family and friends.

Finally, take the time to make sure your builder didn’t cut any corners, and only pay for work that you’re satisfied with. Never pay for an unfinished job, since it kills any incentive for the contractor to return and fix the problem.

Bob Vila Radio is a 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day carried on more than 186 stations in 75 markets around the country. Click here to subscribe, so you can automatically receive each new episode as it arrives—absolutely free!



So, You Want to… Install a Zoned Comfort Solution

Get precise control of the temperature in every room of your home with an energy-efficient and whisper-quiet cooling and heating system from Mitsubishi Electric.

Photo: mitsubishicomfort.com

It’s strange: We hold our dishwashers, ovens and other household appliances to an extremely high standard, but not our cooling and heating systems. Many homeowners tolerate lackluster performance that consumes energy and drives up utility bills. The explanation may be that over the past 50 years or so, one particular climate-control technology has dominated the market, and many folks are unaware that alternatives exist. Today, with so many advances in technology, homeowners can choose from a variety of compelling options to ensure year-round comfort. Among the most intriguing is the Zoned Comfort Solution™ from longtime industry leader Mitsubishi Electric. Departing from conventional technology, the zoning systems deliver highly customizable climate control with unparalleled efficiency that results in low operating costs. Though already widely popular in Europe and Asia, the Mitsubishi Electric system is just catching on here at home. So the real question is: Is this system right for your home? Read on for some key points to bear in mind.

 

PROJECT SCOPE

Photo: mitsubishicomfort.com

Some people choose Zoned Comfort Solutions to provide supplemental climate control to one room in their home. More common is using these systems to cool and heat the entire home. How does the Mitsubishi Electric system manage to be so versatile? In large part, it’s that the unique, streamlined design of the system enables it to scale up and down with ease. The simplest application consists of only two discrete components—an outdoor compressor-condenser (the outdoor unit) and an indoor evaporator (the indoor unit), with a single outdoor unit capable of supporting multiple indoor units. The result is you can have many indoor units as part of just one cooling and heating system. Those units can be any style you like—the style that gets mounted high up on a wall, the one that gets concealed behind a wall or ceiling and so on. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach. The right combination depends entirely on you—your needs and your preferences. No matter how you envision Zoned Comfort Solutions serving your home, you can expect the installation to involve a minimal amount of remodeling work. In fact, depending on the scope of the project, technicians may be able to complete the work in just one day.

 

ENERGY SAVINGS

Photo: mitsubishicomfort.com

With no sacrifice of performance, the Zoned Comfort Solutions operate with remarkable, stand-out energy efficiency. Simply put, in comparison with older, increasingly outmoded systems, Mitsubishi Electric technology uses noticeably less electricity to power its normal operation. The key: A traditional forced-air system operates in a stop-and-start cyclical pattern that consumes a great deal of energy. Conversely, a Mitsubishi Electric system minimizes energy consumption by running continuously. That doesn’t mean that the system operates continuously at full capacity, rather, it monitors each zone’s temperature and modulates its output to match the demand of a room at any given time. If that doesn’t sound like a groundbreaking innovation, consider that Zoned Comfort Solutions can save you as much as 40 percent on cooling and heating (an expense that, in average homes, accounts for about half of total energy consumption). Those savings really add up, especially over the long term, putting to rest the assumption that with cooling and heating you can enjoy comfort or savings, but you can’t have both.

 

CUSTOM COMFORT

Photo: mitsubishicomfort.com

Perhaps the most exciting aspect of Mitsubishi Electric systems is that the technology affords an exceptional degree of control. Namely, it enables you to target temperatures on a room-by-room basis. Contrast that with homes that have a traditional forced-air system where a single thermostat sets the temperature for the entire house. The frustration with such a setup has always been that in order to make one room cooler or warmer, you need to raise or lower the temperature for every room, all at once. This includes rooms that are unoccupied—the guest bedroom, the formal dining room and so on. Besides wasting a considerable amount of energy that the homeowner has to pay for at the end of the month, a single-thermostat system fails to recognize different members of your household may prefer different temperatures. With zoned systems, everyone under the same roof can be comfortable at the same time. If you like it a bit cooler, you can turn down the thermostat in the zones where you spend the most time. If your children like it warmer, you can set the temperature for their bedrooms accordingly. And if you’re all in the living room, no need to waste electricity cooling unoccupied spaces. Isn’t that the way it should be?

 

DESIGN DECISION

Photo: mitsubishicomfort.com

Historically, cooling and heating manufacturers have focused mainly on performance and less on aesthetics. Mitsubishi Electric sets itself apart: With their Zoned Comfort Solutions, you can choose from a range of indoor units, each with its own look. For multifunctional living spaces common to contemporary floor plans, many homeowners opt for a wall-mounted unit that, as its name suggests, mounts on the wall, often several feet above eye level. Even less conspicuous are the units that recess into the ceiling, or if enough space is available, into the floor or soffit. With their working parts fully concealed and only their air distribution vents visible, recessed units easily escape notice—a feature enhanced by their whisper-quiet operation. For an even more sophisticated option, look to the Designer Series, a new line of indoor units that goes further to prove that climate control need not conflict with home decor. Available in three colors (glossy black, pearl white and matte silver), the sleek and slim Designer Series hugs the wall, protruding mere inches into the living space. Homeowners can stick with one design or choose a different one for each room. The options are endless.

 

Mitsubishi Electric’s Zoned Comfort Solutions takes a fresh approach to cooling and heating—one that may forever change your mind about the meaning of, and possibilities for, home comfort. In the past, homeowners who were unaware of alternatives accepted the drawbacks of bulky, cumbersome and inflexible climate-control systems that offered hit-and-miss, energy-wasting performance. Today, thanks to innovative systems from Mitsubishi Electric, homeowners can enjoy better-than-ever climate control, probably for less money than they’re currently spending. Ready to take the first step? Go online now to MitsubishiComfort.com to locate a Diamond Contractor™ in your area. Trained and certified by Mitsubishi Electric, Diamond Contractors are always on hand to offer expert advice on integrating Zoned Comfort Solutions into your home, no matter its age, size or style. Compact, efficient and versatile, cooling and heating isn’t what it used to be—and that’s a good thing!

Photo: mitsubishicomfort.com

This article has been brought to you by Mitsubishi Electric. Its facts and opinions are those of BobVila.com.


Bob Vila Radio: Are Home Improvements Tax-Deductible?

That remodel you've been planning? It may be tax-deductible! Consult your accountant for details, but continue reading now to learn the basics.

When you finish a home improvement project, you can certainly take pride in a job well done. But in many cases, you can also feel good about saving money on taxes.

Home Improvement Tax Deductions

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Listen to BOB VILA ON HOME IMPROVEMENT TAX DEDUCTIONS or read the text below:

While it’s true that if you use your home solely as a personal residence, you cannot deduct the cost of home improvements, you can add the value of those improvements to the amount you have invested in the property. That means that when you sell the house, any profit you make will be offset by what you’ve invested in the place, and that includes your improvements.

Also, if you use part of your home for business purposes, you can qualify for home office deductions. If the project you’ve done benefits only the office portion of your home—a bookcase, for example—you can deduct the whole cost. But if the benefits extend to your entire home, you can only write off the percentage that corresponds to your home office use.

Check with your accountant for details!

Bob Vila Radio is a 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day carried on more than 186 stations in 75 markets around the country. Click here to subscribe, so you can automatically receive each new episode as it arrives—absolutely free.