Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Standard Tank Water Heaters vs On Demand Tankless Water Heaters

One of the most common questions I hear today when replacing a water heater is - should I replace my Standard Tank Water Heater with an On Demand Tankless Water Heater?

Let me first say that water heaters account for 18% of annual energy consumption in American homes. It takes a lot of energy to heat water as anyone waiting to boil a gallon of water on a stove can attest.

Now let’s look at some of the differences between the types of water heaters so you can make an informed decision on what best fits your situation.

Standard water heaters with a tank that vents into a chimney and electric water heaters represent our least efficient heaters. But they have been, by far, the work horses of the industry.

Typically, after Simmons Plumbing and Heating installs a water heater, you may not need to call us again for any hot water related issue until the useful life of your water heater is over. Initially, it is less expensive to install a standard water heater and most tanks come with a six year warranty and you can purchase an option for up to ten years.

So why would you want replace your dependable Standard Water Heater it with an On Demand Tankless Water Heater?

It typically does cost more to change out a tank with an On Demand Water Heater. Gas piping will almost certainly need to be changed to accommodate the input demands of the newer equipment. Typical gas inputs of a 40 or 50 gallon tank on a Standard Water Heater would be 40,000 BTU’s per hour. The up fit gas change for and On Demand Water Heater would require a need for piping to supply 180,000 to 195,000 BTU’s per hour. The reason for this is because to have a continuous flow (3 gallons a minute through the heat exchanger) of hot water more gas is needed to change incoming the water temperatures of 45 degrees to 130 degrees. In the end, however, switching to a Tankless Water Heater will save you money.

I know this just doesn’t sound right, how can putting more gas in be cheaper to run?

Efficiency, Efficiency, Efficiency, heat is not lost during down time to the chimney with an On Demand Water Heater. With a Standard Water Heater heat loss through the chimney ultimately makes a big sucking sound on your wallet. Heat is also lost through other outward forces like the walls of the tank itself, the  pilots. Let's not forget about that mass of water in the tank that continuously needs to be monitored and heated, so it remains at 125-130 degrees 24/7 for when you need it. An On Demand Tankless Water Heater does none of these things. If you’re not using hot water it simply does not come on.

So the good news is your can cut your current energy use of your home’s hot water by 25 to 30% .  That is a substantial overall savings on your utility bill.

In addition you now have a water heater that the family shares that will provide hot water to the last user as well as the first. Wow what a concept.

However, there are some things to consider when using an On Demand Water Heater.

For one, they tend to extend the pre-run time needed to get the hot water to the appliance, so there will be some wasted water down the drain, so to speak.

With most installs the Exhaust and supply air piping will exit/enter the home on one of your side walls of the home and some of this will be seen. It can be painted to match the home, helping blend in.

The exhaust from your Tankless Water Heater is mostly water vapor, a byproduct of burnt natural or LP gas, in winter months you will see a fog like haze.

Warranties vary but Simmons Plumbing and Heating uses a brand that provides a manufacture’s warranty to our customers. It includes coverage on parts for two years and a 15 year heat exchanger warranty (against leaks) with a full water heater replacement should a leak occur within those first fifteen years.

Water conditions should be considered when deciding on an On Demand Water Heater. And as with any major home appliance some maintenance is required. Mineral deposits, in particular should be addressed. 

Financial incentives are also available for most customers that have natural gas. New Hampshire customers have monies available for both natural and LP gases.

One final  note concerning tank type water heaters, both electric and gas.  Starting in 2015, they are slated for big changes in required efficiency standards. This will narrow the gap between them and On Demand Water Heaters, but there will still be a wide margin for cleaner exhaust, better operational costs and endless hot water, with the advantage going to the On Demand Water Heaters.

Lastly let me say that both types of water heaters will be with us for a long time to come. So it comes down to whether you want to save  money now or later.


Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Difference Between A Furnace And A Boiler

The difference between a furnace and a boiler:

This is a question I have to sort out on many emergency calls that come into the office. 

These are the questions I have to return back to a customer in order to give them an answer:

  • While the heat is running does air come out of floor or ceiling grills?
  • Does Air blow around the house in normal use?
  • Do you have air conditioning? If yes, does it come out of these same registers?
  • Is there a sheet metal ducted system in the basement?

If you answer yes to all or most of these above questions you most likely have a Furnace.

If you answer no then:

  • Does your heat come from baseboard type heating along the base of the walls?
  • Does your home have cast iron radiators?
  • Does the heating unit would have several types of piping and fittings attached to it, like copper and steel.

All these above question would be an indication that the heating unit is a Boiler.

Now there are a couple types of  boilers, Steam and Hot Water but none the less both are boilers.

Furnaces and boilers can be purchased so as to run on different fuels, the most common would be Natural gas and Oil though LP Gas has become a popular replacement to Oil.

In some cases there is a third unit called an Air Handler. This is a ducted system that also blows air.

In rural areas of the country Oil is still popular but Oil has limitations.
One of which, is it cannot be installed in upper levels of the home.
Larger type homes many use two or more ducted systems that are located in upper and lower levels including the attic.
For these type homes an Oil Boiler could be used in the basement or lower level.
Piping would be directed to an attic air handler providing 180 degree water to a car like radiator attached to the blower box.
As the air passes over the coil it is sent through the ducting to the desired areas for heating. The beauty of this system is that the ducting is used for both AC and heating.

In some cases an Air Handler may be used exclusively for Air Conditioning.
Retro fitting AC to an older home may be added after the fact, many times in the attic area. A central heating system would mostly have been already in place. Usually a Boiler type system.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Space Heaters and Safety


Space Heaters and Safety 


We at SIMMONS PLUMBING and HEATING know that severe winter weather can put a strain on your furnace and heating system. We are here for all your maintenance and service needs. And while we offer twenty-four hour emergency service, seven days a week 365 days a year we cannot guarantee that we will be at your door instantly. So with that in mind we would like to offer you some safety tips for alternative sources of heat you may require until we arrive to get your heating system back up and running. 


Electric Space Heaters


  •  Buy only heaters guaranteed by a certified laboratory,for example, Underwriters Laboratories. 
  • Make sure the heater will switch off automatically if it falls over, and it has  thermostat control.
  • Do not use a space heater to dry clothes or store objects on top of it.
  • Like the name implies space heaters need space. Keep objects, especially combustibles, at least three feet away from each heater.
  •  Make sure that your space heater is always unplugged when not in use and turn it off at night  or whenever you sleep. 
  •  Always plug your space heater directly into a wall socket, never use an extension cord.


Kerosene heaters


  • Always refuel your kerosene heater outdoors. 
  • Turn it off and wait for it to cool down before refueling and only use the correct type of fuel.


    General Heating Tips


  • Alternative sources of heating such as fireplaces and chimneys should be checked and cleaned  by a professional each year prior to using. Your furnace and heating system should also be checked and cleaned. Give SIMMONS a call, we are more than happy to help.
  • As with space heaters keep three feet around clear of clutter and combustibles.
  • Never use ignitable liquids to start a fire.
  • Only use seasoned wood in  your fireplace.
  • Place all fireplace ash into a metal container and dispose outdoors away from your home. 
  • Fireplace ash has the potential to ignite days after it has been discarded.
  • Make sure your smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are working properly by pushing the test button on the front cover.
  • Remember to practice a home escape plan frequently with your family.
For additional information from the USFA on Winter Fire Safety; 
click here.

Image courtesy of "Salvatore Vuono" at