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CUT YOUR UTILITY BILLS

Water Heater Carries a No-Leak Warranty

November 13, 1994|JAMES DULLEY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; Dulley is a Cincinnati-based engineering consultant

QUESTION: My old gas water heater doesn't supply enough hot water. Will installing one of the new designs with a lifetime no-leak warranty also cut my utility bills? How can I compare the many high efficiency models?

ANSWER: The new gas water heaters with a lifetime no-leak warranty are also the most energy-efficient models. These also have no-rust stainless steel burners. Most water heaters have only a five or 10 year no-leak warranty.

For a typical family of four, installing one of these super-efficient models can lower your annual utility bills by more than $100. This can easily pay back its higher initial cost many times over its life.

Inside a no-leak water heater, the inner tank is made of durable nontoxic polybutylene plastic. The outer tank is made of durable polyethylene. Most other water heaters use glass-lined steel tanks that eventually leak.

A small super-efficient stainless steel burner and heat exchanger system is located on the side of the plastic tank. A small pump circulates the water through the heat exchanger to the tank. An intermittent igniter eliminates the cost of burning a pilot light continuously.

Another efficient design, called Nautilus, uses a submerged burner design. The sealed burner is completely surrounded by water. This design transfers more of the heat to the water and less is lost up the flue.

Dip tube design, which brings in the cold inlet water to the burner heat exchanger, affects efficiency and tank life. One design creates a turbo action over the burner. Another design uses numerous small jet openings for more turbulence. Baffles in the exhaust flue also improve efficiency.

You can compare efficiencies and operating costs of various models by the energy factors (EF). The EF for various models can range from a low of about 0.52 to a high of 0.70 for the super-efficient no-leak plastic models. A water heater with an EF above 0.60 is considered very efficient.

The level and type of tank wall insulation is also a good indication of the efficiency and overall quality of a water heater. The best ones use two-inch thick rigid foam insulation for an insulating value of about R-16. Foam insulation also provides more support than fiberglass and resists denting.

If you are concerned about getting enough hot water for morning showers, the "first hour rating" (FHR) in gallons is more important than just the size of the tank. A smaller, more efficient tank, with a high output burner, can provide more hot water than some models with larger tanks.

Write for Utility Bills Update No. 797 showing a buyer's guide of super-efficient gas water heaters listing EF's, FHR's, prices, tank insulation levels, tank warranties and a hot water demand work sheet to determine the FHR you need. Please mail $2 and a self-addressed envelope to James Dulley, Los Angeles Times, 6906 Royalgreen Drive, Cincinnati, Ohio 45244.

How to Seal Gap in Home's Door Frame

Q: My house has settled some over the years and there is a fairly wide and deep crack around one door frame. When I seal it, how far down in the gap should I push the foam backer rod?

A: You are correct in using a foam backer rod for a deep wide crack. You should not attempt to fill the entire crack with caulk. Push the backer rod in to a depth (measure where the edge of the rod touches the sides of the crack) equal to the width of the crack.

Use a silicone or polyurethane caulk. Polyurethane takes longer than silicone to cure, but it can be painted. Polyurethane also sticks to about anything.

Should Stucco Be Covered With Siding?

Q: I have siding on the top half of my house and stucco over concrete blocks on the first-floor walls. The stucco is deteriorated. Does it make sense to cover the stucco with siding too?

A: If you like the appearance of stucco on the lower half of your house, do not cover it with siding. There are durable plastic based stucco look-a-like coatings that you can apply yourself.

Stucco is an energy efficient wall finish. It seals all the tiny cracks and gaps where air, dust and noise can enter your home. If you want additional wall insulation, attach rigid foam insulation boards to the wall first.

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