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Water Heater Efficiency: Oil Fired Boiler Versus Electric Water Heater

  • Transcript

    LESLIE: Keith in New York, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?

    KEITH: What I have is I have an oil-fired boiler system. Does hot-water baseboard heating and also heats my hot water. And I have a well. And my question is whether I can actually divert water off of the well system, from the boiler, and put in an electric hot-water heater system, because oil is so expensive now.

    TOM: So you want to stop heating your domestic hot water in the boiler and instead heat it via an electric water heater?

    KEITH: Yes, whether it’s just a regular hot-water heater or an instant-hot. And that doesn’t concern me but I want to try using a little less oil.

    TOM: You absolutely can do that. And when it comes to choosing the right electric water heater, you want to make sure that you’re choosing one that’s as energy-efficient as possible. And there are heat pump water heaters on the market today.  And they use a fraction of the electricity that the traditional tank water heaters use but they’re more expensive.

    If you get a high quality heat pump water heater, you’ll be very happy, because that water will be far less expensive than what you’re – what it’s costing you now to run the boiler with the oil. I understand what you’re saying: it’s a very inefficient way to heat your house.

    Now, the other thing that you can do is – do you have a storage tank on that boiler?

    KEITH: I have a pressurized storage tank that serves the domestic water. I don’t know if that’s …

    TOM: Right. Is it – look big? Is it like 30, 40 gallons?

    KEITH: It’s 40 gallons, yes.

    TOM: It’s oil-fired?

    KEITH: It’s oil-fired, yes. Comes directly off the boiler.

    TOM: Oh, OK. Yeah. When you say “directly off the boiler,” it’s separate from the boiler or it’s – the hot water is heated through the boiler?

    KEITH: No, it’s separate from the boiler.

    TOM: Oh, OK. Yeah, alright. So, yeah, then my original answer applies. You can replace that with an electric water heater: either a standard one or a heat-pump unit. If you can’t afford the heat-pump unit and you’re going to use the standard electric water heater, make sure you put it on a timer, because you don’t need to run it 24-7. You could set it to go off in the middle of the night.

    KEITH: Oh, OK. Yeah, that’s – yeah, that’d be very good.

    TOM: OK?

    KEITH: Yeah, I appreciate that. Thank you very much.

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