Condensing & Non-Condensing Tankless Water Heaters

tankless water heaters

Home heating is evolving, and the rise of tankless water heaters is central to this evolution. These innovative systems have become famous for homeowners seeking efficient and effective ways to provide hot water. Among the varieties available, two distinct types stand out: condensing and non-condensing tankless water heaters.

This distinction may only be apparent to some. For the average consumer, understanding the differences between these two types of water heaters is crucial, not just from an operational standpoint but also in terms of energy efficiency, cost implications, and environmental impact. Choosing between a condensing and a non-condensing tankless water heater can significantly influence a household’s energy consumption, long-term expenses, and comfort levels.

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We aim to shed light on these two types of tankless water heaters. By presenting an unbiased comparison and detailed insight into their workings, features, and suitable applications, we hope to assist consumers in making an informed decision that aligns with their household needs and values. Whether you are building a new home, renovating an old one, or simply replacing an outdated water heating system, knowing these two options is essential for a choice that you will be content with for years to come.

What are Tankless Water Heaters?

Tankless water heaters, often called on-demand or instantaneous, represent a modern approach to providing hot water in homes and commercial buildings. Unlike traditional tank-style heaters that store and continuously heat water, tankless systems heat water directly as it flows through the device. This means water is only heated when needed, eliminating the standby energy losses associated with storage water heaters.

Functioning of Tankless Water Heaters

How They Work: When a hot water tap is turned-on, cold-water travels through a pipe into the tankless water heater unit. An electric element or gas burner heats the water as it passes through, delivering a constant supply of hot water without the need for a storage tank.

Instantaneous Heating: These heaters provide two to five gallons of hot water per minute. Gas-fired tankless water heaters tend to produce higher flow rates than electric ones. However, even the largest models might need more hot water for simultaneous use across multiple outlets in larger households.

Benefits Over Traditional Tank Models

Energy Efficiency: Tankless water heaters are generally more energy-efficient than traditional tank models by heating water only on demand. This efficiency can translate into significant cost savings over time.

Space Savings: Without large storage tanks, tankless heaters are compact and can be installed in smaller spaces or even on walls, freeing up valuable floor space in homes. 

Longer Lifespan: Typically, tankless water heaters have a longer operational life than tank models. They can last more than 20 years, compared to 10-15 years for traditional heaters. This longevity can offset the higher initial cost of the tankless system. 

Consistent Hot Water Supply: They provide a continuous hot water supply, ideal for families and situations where hot water is in high demand. 

Reduced Risk of Leaks and Water Damage: Without a tank, the risk of leaks and subsequent water damage is significantly lowered, which can be a significant advantage for long-term property maintenance.

Condensing Tankless Water Heaters

Condensing tankless water heaters represent a more recent advancement in water heating technology. They are designed to maximize efficiency by harnessing the heat that would typically be lost in non-condensing units. This section will delve into the mechanics of how these heaters operate, their key features, and the advantages and disadvantages they present to homeowners.

The Working Principle

Utilization of Exhaust Gases: In a condensing tankless water heater, the hot exhaust gases from the combustion process preheat the incoming cold water. This process occurs before the water reaches the primary heat exchanger.

Secondary Heat Exchanger: The defining feature of a condensing unit is the secondary heat exchanger. This component captures additional heat from the exhaust gases, usually lost in non-condensing heaters, to heat the water further.

Energy Efficiency: By using this additional heat, condensing water heaters can achieve higher efficiency levels, often exceeding 90%. This means less energy is wasted, utility bills are lowered, and environmental impact is reduced.

Key Features

High Efficiency: The main advantage of condensing water heaters is their high energy efficiency. They make better use of fuel sources, gas, or electricity.

Reduced Greenhouse Gas Emissions: These heaters contribute to lower greenhouse gas emissions than non-condensing models because of their efficiency.

Venting: Condensing units typically require PVC or other corrosion-resistant venting materials due to the acidic nature of the condensation.

Pros and Cons

Pros:

Energy Savings: The increased efficiency translates into significant energy and cost savings in the long run.

Environmentally Friendly: Less energy consumption means a smaller carbon footprint.

Flexibility in Venting Options: Due to cooler exhaust gases, they offer more flexibility in venting options and can often be vented through a sidewall.

Cons:

Higher Initial Cost: Condensing units are generally more expensive to purchase and install than non-condensing models.
Complexity and Maintenance: More complex components, like the secondary heat exchanger, require more maintenance.

In summary, condensing tankless water heaters offer a high-efficiency option for homeowners willing to invest more upfront for long-term savings and environmental benefits.

Non-Condensing Tankless Water Heaters

Non-condensing tankless water heaters are the more traditional type of on-demand water heaters. While they might not boast the same efficiency levels as their condensing counterparts, they have features and benefits that make them a viable option for many homeowners. This section explores the workings, key features, and pros and cons of non-condensing tankless water heaters.

Functioning of Non-Condensing Water Heaters

Direct Heating Process: Non-condensing water heaters heat water directly without reusing the heat from exhaust gases. When a hot water tap is turned on, cold water is drawn into the unit and heated by a gas burner or electric element.

Single Heat Exchanger: Unlike condensing models, they use a single heat exchanger. The efficiency of these units typically ranges from 80-85%, which is lower than condensing models.

Hot Exhaust Gases: The exhaust gases in non-condensing water heaters are hot enough to require metal venting, usually stainless steel, which can withstand higher temperatures.

Key Features

Simplicity and Reliability: With fewer components and a more straightforward design, non-condensing water heaters are generally considered more reliable and easier to maintain.

Energy Usage: They are less efficient than condensing models but still more efficient than traditional tank water heaters.

Installation Considerations: Non-condensing units usually require less complicated and less expensive venting systems than condensing models, although the venting must be heat resistant.

Pros and Cons

Pros:

Lower Initial Cost: They are typically less expensive to purchase and install than condensing models, making them an attractive option for budget-conscious consumers.

Ease of Maintenance: The more straightforward design means easier and often less frequent maintenance.

Durability: With fewer components that can fail, non-condensing units are often considered more durable over the long term.

Cons:

Lower Efficiency: They are less efficient than condensing models, leading to higher operational costs.

Venting Requirements: The need for heat-resistant venting can limit installation options and may add to the installation cost.

Environmental Impact: Lower efficiency means higher greenhouse gas emissions than condensing models.

In summary, non-condensing tankless water heaters offer a more straightforward, cost-effective solution for immediate hot water needs. They may deliver a different efficiency than condensing models, but their simplicity, lower initial cost, and ease of maintenance make them suitable for many applications.

Comparison Between Condensing and Non-Condensing Tankless Water Heaters

When choosing between a condensing and non-condensing tankless water heater, it is crucial to understand how they stack up against each other in terms of efficiency, cost, installation, maintenance, and suitability for different situations. This comparative analysis will provide a clearer picture to help consumers make an informed decision.

Energy Efficiency

Condensing Heaters: With efficiencies exceeding 90%, condensing heaters are top performers. They extract more heat from combustion, resulting in less wasted energy.

Non-Condensing Heaters: Typically, these heaters have an 80-85% efficiency. While they are more efficient than traditional tank heaters, they fall short of the performance offered by condensing models.

Initial and Long-Term Costs

Condensing Heaters: They have a higher upfront cost due to their advanced technology. However, they can lead to significant savings on utility bills over time.

Non-Condensing Heaters: These are more affordable initially, making them a popular choice for those with a limited budget. However, the lower efficiency means higher operational costs in the long run.

Installation Considerations

Condensing Heaters: They require unique venting materials due to the acidic nature of the condensate they produce. Installation can be more complex and costly. 

Non-Condensing Heaters: Installation is typically simpler and cheaper, but they require heat-resistant venting, which can sometimes limit installation options.

Maintenance and Lifespan

Condensing Heaters: They may require more frequent maintenance due to their complex design, including the secondary heat exchanger care. However, they generally have a longer lifespan.

Non-Condensing Heaters: Easier maintenance due to their more straightforward design, but they might have a shorter lifespan than condensing models.

Suitability for Different Homes

Condensing Heaters: Ideal for larger homes or regions with colder climates, as they can provide a more consistent hot water supply and are more efficient in long-term use.

Non-Condensing Heaters: Better suited for smaller homes or milder climates, where the demand for hot water is lower, making the most of their initial investment.

Environmental Impact

Condensing Heaters: Higher efficiency makes them more environmentally friendly, with lower greenhouse gas emissions.

Non-condensing heaters: They have a higher environmental impact due to lower efficiency and higher emissions.

In conclusion, choosing between condensing and non-condensing tankless water heaters depends on various factors, including budget, efficiency priorities, installation constraints, and environmental considerations. Consumers must weigh these factors against their specific needs and preferences to determine the best fit for their home.

Cost Analysis

Homeowners must understand the financial implications of choosing between a condensing and a non-condensing tankless water heater. This cost analysis will break down the initial investment, long-term cost benefits, and potential for tax credits and rebates, helping consumers decide to align with their budget and long-term financial goals.

Initial Investment

Homeowners must understand the financial implications of choosing between a condensing and a non-condensing tankless water heater. This cost analysis will break down the initial investment, long-term cost benefits, and potential for tax credits and rebates, helping consumers decide to align with their budget and long-term financial goals.

Condensing Heaters:

Purchase Price: Generally higher due to advanced technology.

Installation Costs: More expensive. It requires special venting and potentially a more complex installation.

Non-Condensing Heaters:

Purchase Price: Less expensive, making them more accessible for immediate budgets.

Installation Costs: Typically lower, with more straightforward installation and standard venting requirements.

Long-Term Cost Benefits

Condensing Heaters:

Energy Savings: Higher efficiency leads to significant savings on utility bills over the heater’s lifespan.

Durability: A longer lifespan means fewer replacements over time.

Non-Condensing Heaters:

Operational Costs: Higher ongoing costs due to lower efficiency.

Replacement Costs: May need replacing sooner than condensing models, leading to additional future costs.

Tax Credits and Rebates

Condensing Heaters: They are often eligible for tax credits and rebates due to their high efficiency and lower environmental impact.

Programs vary by location and can significantly offset the higher initial cost.

Non-Condensing Heaters:  Less likely to qualify for incentives, although some programs might be available depending on the region and specific model efficiency.

Total Cost of Ownership

The total cost of ownership over the heater’s lifetime is a critical aspect to consider. While condensing tankless water heaters have a higher upfront cost, their lower operational costs and potential for tax credits can make them more cost-effective in the long run. Non-condensing models, though cheaper initially, may be more expensive due to higher energy bills and possible earlier replacement needs.

In conclusion, while the initial price tag is an important consideration, evaluating the overall cost of the water heater’s life can provide a more accurate picture of which option is more financially beneficial. The next section will examine heaters’ environmental impact and energy efficiency, offering insights into how these factors might influence the decision-making process for environmentally conscious consumers.

Environmental Impact and Energy Efficiency

In an era where environmental considerations are increasingly important, choosing between condensing and non-condensing tankless water heaters takes on additional significance. This section examines how these heaters compare their energy efficiency and environmental impact.

Energy Efficiency

Condensing Heaters:

Superior Efficiency: Condensing heaters achieve efficiency levels above 90% by capturing and reusing heat from exhaust gases. This means less energy is used to heat the same amount of water than non-condensing heaters.

Reduced Energy Consumption: The higher efficiency directly translates to lower energy consumption, making them an eco-friendlier choice.

Non-Condensing Heaters:

Moderate Efficiency: With efficiency ratings typically between 80-85%, they are less efficient than condensing models. They still offer an improvement over traditional tank heaters but use more energy than condensing units for the same amount of hot water.

Higher Energy Usage: This increased energy usage means a larger carbon footprint and a more significant environmental impact.

Carbon Footprint of Condensing Heaters:

Lower Emissions: The high-efficiency results in lower greenhouse gas emissions, contributing to a smaller carbon footprint.

Eco-Friendly Choice: For those looking to minimize their environmental impact, condensing heaters are preferable.

Carbon Footprint of Non-Condensing Heaters:

Higher Emissions: Due to their lower efficiency, they emit more greenhouse gases compared to condensing models.

Greater Environmental Impact: While better than traditional tank heaters, their environmental impact is higher than condensing heaters.

Relevance in Energy Conservation Efforts

Global and Local Initiatives: Many regions focus on reducing energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. Choosing a more energy-efficient water heater aligns with these broader conservation efforts.

Personal Contribution to Sustainability: For consumers who prioritize environmental stewardship, choosing a water heater becomes a part of their contribution to sustainability.

In conclusion, condensing tankless water heaters are more environmentally friendly and energy efficient. They align well with contemporary efforts to reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions. Non-condensing heaters, while less efficient, still represent a significant improvement over traditional tank heaters and might be the right choice for those with specific budget constraints or installation considerations.

Maintenance and Longevity

A water heater’s longevity and maintenance requirements are crucial to decision-making. This section explores how condensing and non-condensing tankless water heaters compare in terms of their upkeep and lifespan, providing insights for homeowners on what to expect over the years.

Maintenance Requirements of Condensing Heaters

Regular Maintenance: Due to their complex design, including secondary heat exchangers, condensing heaters often require more frequent maintenance to ensure optimal performance and prevent issues.

Specific Needs: Maintenance might include regular cleaning of the heat exchanger, checking the condensate drain, and ensuring clear venting pathways.

Maintenance Requirements of Non-Condensing Heaters

Simpler Maintenance: With a less complex design, non-condensing heaters typically have simpler and less frequent maintenance needs.

Basic Upkeep: Regular checks and cleaning are usually sufficient to keep these heaters running efficiently.

Expected Lifespan of Condensing Heaters

Longer Lifespan: Often, condensing models have a longer lifespan than non-condensing models, potentially lasting over 20 years with proper maintenance. 

Durability: The extended lifespan can offset the higher initial cost and maintenance requirements.

Expected Lifespan of Non-Condensing Heaters

Moderate Lifespan: Although they may not last as long as condensing models, non-condensing heaters still significantly improve over traditional tank heaters, with lifespans often reaching 15-20 years.

Dependability: Their simpler design can contribute to reliable performance over their operational life.

Factors Influencing Longevity

Water Quality: Hard water or water with high mineral content can affect the efficiency and lifespan of both types of heaters, potentially requiring more frequent maintenance.

Usage Patterns: The amount and pattern of hot water usage in a household can influence the wear and tear on the heater, impacting its longevity.

Quality of Installation: Proper installation by a qualified professional is crucial for ensuring the longevity and efficiency of the heater.

In summary, while condensing tankless water heaters may require more maintenance, they generally offer a longer lifespan, making them a worthwhile investment for many homeowners. Non-condensing heaters, with their simpler maintenance and reliable performance, remain a compelling choice for those seeking a balance between upfront cost and long-term reliability.

Installation Considerations

Installing a tankless water heater, whether condensing or non-condensing, involves several important considerations. These factors not only influence the initial setup but also impact the long-term performance and efficiency of the unit. This section guides what homeowners should consider when installing a tankless water heater.

Condensing Heaters Space Requirements

It is generally compact but may require additional space for the condensate drain system. Suitable for both indoor and outdoor installations, depending on the model.

Non-Condensing Heaters Space Requirements

Typically, smaller and more flexible in terms of installation location. It can be a better fit in tight spaces where larger units or additional components cannot be accommodated.

Ventilation Needs of Condensing Heaters

Require venting materials resistant to corrosion, like PVC, due to acidic condensation. Often, allow for more venting options, including horizontal venting, due to cooler exhaust gases.

Ventilation Needs of Non-Condensing Heaters

Heat-resistant venting materials, such as stainless steel, are needed due to the high temperature of exhaust gases. Venting can be more restrictive and potentially more expensive to install.

Professional Installation vs. DIY Potential

Both Heater Types:
It is strongly recommended to have professional installation, especially for gas-powered models, to ensure safety and compliance with local codes and regulations.

Electrical models offer some DIY potential, but understanding electrical systems and adherence to safety standards is crucial.

Additional Considerations

Local Building Codes: Compliance with local building codes and regulations is essential. These codes often dictate specifics about venting, placement, and other safety measures.

Gas Line Requirements: For gas-powered models, ensuring that existing gas lines are adequate to supply the heater is crucial. Upgrades to the gas line might be necessary.

Water Hardness: In areas with hard water, installing a water softener can extend the heater’s lifespan and maintain efficiency.

Cost of Installation: The overall cost can vary greatly depending on the complexity of the installation, type of heater, and local labor rates.

In conclusion, installing a tankless water heater, whether condensing or non-condensing, requires careful consideration of space, ventilation, and compliance with safety standards and local codes. Professional installation is generally recommended to ensure optimal performance and safety. The final section will offer advice on choosing the right model for your home, considering all the factors discussed in previous sections.

Choosing the Right Model for Your Home

Selecting the appropriate tankless water heater, whether a condensing or non-condensing model, involves carefully assessing your household’s needs, usage patterns, and specific circumstances. This section provides a guideline to help homeowners navigate the decision-making process, ensuring they choose a model that best fits their requirements.

Assessing Household Needs

Determine Hot Water Demand: Estimate your home’s peak hot water usage. Consider the number of bathrooms, kitchen usage, and appliances that require hot water.

Evaluate Existing Setup: Look at your current water heating system. Understand its capacity and how well it meets your needs to gauge what you require in a new system.

Calculating Requirements

Flow Rate: Calculate the flow rate (gallons per minute) needed by adding up the flow rates of all devices that could be used simultaneously.

Temperature Rise: Determine the temperature rise required by subtracting the incoming water temperature from your desired output temperature.

Budget Considerations

Upfront Costs vs. Long-Term Savings: Balance the initial investment against potential energy savings and operational costs over time.

Installation Costs: The cost of professional installation can vary based on the job’s complexity and local labor rates.

Climate and Home Size

Climate Impact: In colder climates, a more powerful heater may be necessary to achieve the desired rise in temperature.

Home Size and Layout: Larger homes or those with multiple floors may have different requirements in terms of flow rate and placement of the unit.

Environmental Priorities

Energy Efficiency: If reducing your carbon footprint is important, a condensing model might be the better choice due to its higher efficiency.

Sustainability Goals: Consider models with eco-friendly features and those that align with your sustainability objectives.

Brand and Model Research

Reputable Brands: Research and choose brands known for reliability and quality customer service.

Model Reviews and Ratings: Look for reviews and performance ratings of specific models to gauge customer satisfaction and performance.

Professional Consultation

Seek Expert Advice: Consult a professional to assess your home’s needs and installation considerations.

Customized Recommendations: A professional can provide recommendations tailored to your home’s layout, local climate, and your family’s usage patterns.

In conclusion, choosing the right tankless water heater involves a comprehensive evaluation of your household’s needs, budget, and environmental goals and a thorough understanding of the specific demands of such systems. Considering these factors and seeking professional advice, you can select a water heater that meets your immediate hot water needs and aligns with your long-term financial and environmental objectives.

Summary

Whether condensing or non-condensing, homeowners are faced with various considerations, this article has endeavored to provide a comprehensive guide to assist in this decision-making process, covering both heaters’ key differences, benefits, and drawbacks.

Recap of Key Points

Efficiency and Cost: Condensing tankless water heaters, with their higher efficiency and longer lifespan, offer significant energy savings over time, albeit with a higher initial investment. Non-condensing models, while less efficient, provide a more budget-friendly option with simpler maintenance requirements.

Environmental Impact: The choice between the two types reflects a household’s environmental priorities, with condensing models offering a greener footprint.

Installation and Maintenance: Installation considerations, such as space, venting requirements, and local building codes, are crucial in determining the right fit for your home. Additionally, understanding the maintenance needs helps ensure the heater’s longevity.

Tailored to Your Needs: The ultimate choice hinges on a balance of immediate budget constraints, long-term savings, household hot water demands, and personal environmental values.

Encouragement for Informed Decisions

Making an informed decision on a tankless water heater is not just about selecting a household appliance; it is about choosing a system that aligns with your lifestyle, budget, and environmental ethos. It’s important to consider the long-term implications of this decision, as it affects not only the comfort and convenience of your home but also your ongoing energy costs and environmental impact.

The Bigger Picture

In an era where energy efficiency and sustainability are more important than ever, the choice of a water heater plays a small but significant role in the broader context of energy conservation and environmental stewardship. By choosing wisely, homeowners can contribute to a greener, more sustainable future while enjoying the practical benefits of an efficient, cost-effective water heating solution.

 

In conclusion, whether you opt for a condensing or non-condensing tankless water heater, the key is to choose one that best suits your specific needs, preferences, and circumstances. With the information provided in this article, consumers are better equipped to navigate the complexities of this important decision, ensuring satisfaction and comfort in their homes for years to come.

Harnessing Solar Heating

harnessing the benefits of solar heating

Solar heating systems have emerged as a popular and eco-conscious solution for homeowners looking to reduce their energy bills and environmental footprint. In this article, we’ll delve into the world of solar heating, exploring its various aspects and offering valuable tips to maximize savings and efficiency while staying warm and comfortable at home.

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What is Solar Heating?

Solar heating is a technology that leverages sunlight to generate heat for your home, with two primary types: passive and active systems. Passive solar heating relies on architectural design to capture and distribute warmth naturally, while active solar heating utilizes solar panels to convert sunlight into electricity for heating purposes. Understanding how these systems function is key to optimizing your solar heating setup.

Assessing Solar Potential

Before investing in solar heating, it’s crucial to assess your location’s solar potential. Consider factors such as the amount of sunlight your area receives, the orientation of your property, and your home’s heating energy needs. This evaluation will help you determine if solar heating is a practical and cost-effective choice for your situation.

Passive Solar Design

Passive solar design is all about making the most of available sunlight and thermal mass to heat your home naturally. Through strategic architectural choices, such as south-facing windows and thermal mass materials, you can maximize passive solar heating. We’ll also share tips on optimizing these features to ensure consistent warmth.

Active Solar Heating

Active solar heating harnesses the power of solar panels to generate electricity for heating. Solar panels convert sunlight into electricity, which can be used to power fans or pumps for heating air or water. We’ll explain how solar panels work in active solar heating and how to integrate them effectively into your existing heating system.

Solar Heating Installation

Professional installation is essential to ensure the efficiency and longevity of your solar heating system. We’ll discuss the importance of hiring experienced contractors, the costs associated with installation, and available incentives and tax credits that can offset these expenses.

Maximizing Solar Heating Efficiency

Keeping your solar heating system in top condition is vital for saving money and energy. Regular maintenance, cleaning of solar panels, and routine inspections are key practices to ensure your system operates at peak efficiency.

Combining Solar with Backup Heating

While solar heating is an excellent primary source of warmth, having a backup heating system in place is essential for cloudy days or high heating demands. Learn how to seamlessly integrate backup heating and ensure a smooth transition when needed.

Smart Controls and Monitoring

Smart thermostats and monitoring tools offer advanced ways to optimize your solar heating system. Explore the benefits of remote control, energy monitoring apps, and weather forecast integration for real-time adjustments that boost efficiency.

Cost Savings of Solar Heating

Discover how solar heating can significantly lower your energy bills, shorten the payback period, and increase the value of your home. We’ll also explore the financial incentives, such as tax credits and rebates, that can make solar heating even more cost-effective.

Environmental Impact

Reducing your carbon footprint and minimizing reliance on non-renewable energy sources are essential aspects of solar heating. We’ll delve into the environmental benefits, including decreased greenhouse gas emissions and a contribution to a more sustainable future.

Summary

Solar heating is a smart investment that combines financial savings with environmental responsibility. By following the tips and guidelines provided in this article, you can embark on a journey towards a more sustainable and cost-effective home heating system, all while enjoying the warmth and comfort of your solar-powered home.

Maximizing Efficiency in Fireplaces

Fireplaces, beloved for their inviting warmth and aesthetic appeal, often come with the challenge of inefficiency and elevated energy costs. This guide aims to address these issues, offering key strategies to enhance the efficiency of both wood-burning and gas fireplaces. Our goal is to help you enjoy the comfort and ambiance of your fireplace, while optimizing its cost-effectiveness and environmental friendliness. Here are some tips to save on fireplace heating costs and keep your home warm.

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Use Seasoned Firewood

Using seasoned firewood is crucial for optimizing the efficiency of wood-burning fireplaces. Seasoned wood, characterized by its low moisture content, ignites more readily and burns hotter with less smoke. To ensure a supply of quality firewood, it’s essential to store and season the wood properly in a dry, well-ventilated area. This fundamental step significantly improves the efficiency of your wood-burning fireplace.

Glass Doors

Installing glass doors on your fireplace offers numerous benefits for efficiency, regardless of whether it’s wood-burning or gas. Glass doors help contain the heat generated by the fire, preventing it from escaping up the chimney. They also act as a barrier against drafts and block smoke and embers from entering your living space. Properly maintained glass doors can significantly reduce heat loss and enhance safety.

Add Fireplace Inserts

Consider investing in a fireplace insert to improve efficiency further, especially for wood-burning fireplaces. Fireplace inserts are specialized heating units designed to fit into an existing fireplace. They come in various types, including wood-burning, gas, and pellet inserts. These inserts increase heat output and reduce heat loss, making your fireplace a more efficient source of warmth. Ensure proper installation and consult with a professional to choose the right type for your needs.

Gas Fireplace Efficiency

For gas fireplaces, efficiency can be enhanced by choosing high-efficiency models that burn gas more cleanly and effectively. Annual maintenance, including cleaning and inspecting gas fireplaces, ensures they operate at peak efficiency. Consider using a programmable thermostat to regulate the temperature and avoid overheating when the fireplace is not in use.

chimney sealing for fireplace efficiency

Consider Chimney Sealing

Preventing drafts and heat loss through the chimney is essential for maximizing fireplace efficiency, whether it’s wood-burning or gas. When the fireplace is not in use, seal the chimney to block cold air from entering and warm air from escaping. There are various methods for chimney sealing, including chimney dampers, chimney balloons, and chimney caps. Regular chimney inspections and maintenance are also crucial to address any issues that may affect efficiency.

Efficient Fireplace Practices

In addition to the mentioned tips, several practices can further enhance fireplace efficiency, regardless of the type. Properly arranging and lighting the fire, using dampers and air vents effectively, and ensuring the damper is closed when the fireplace is not in use all contribute to better heat retention and reduced energy waste.

Energy Savings and Environmental Impact

Optimizing your fireplace efficiency not only saves energy but also has environmental benefits, regardless of whether it’s wood-burning or gas. Using seasoned firewood and ensuring efficient combustion can reduce carbon emissions and minimize the environmental impact of your fireplace. By making your fireplace more efficient, you contribute to a greener and more sustainable home heating solution.

Summary

Transforming your fireplace, whether wood-burning or gas, into a cozy and cost-efficient heating source is achievable with the right strategies. By using seasoned firewood, installing glass doors, considering fireplace inserts (for wood-burning fireplaces), sealing the chimney, and practicing efficient fireplace use, you can enjoy the warmth and ambiance of your hearth while reducing heating costs and your environmental footprint. Make the most of this beloved home feature by implementing these tips for a comfortable and eco-friendly living space.

The Home is the Castle: Half of Americans Don’t Leave the House Every Day

Home is the most important place in our lives, and one we always aim to make as comfortable as possible. Whether it’s furnishing and decorating to our every whim, or investing in smart home technology to keep it as cool or warm as we please, home is everything.

In 2024, we surveyed over 1,000 Americans on how they spend their time at home to see which rooms they stay in, which rooms they don’t use, and how much time they really spend in their own homes.

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Americans Average 17 Days without Leaving Home at a Time

That’s right: in the last year, Americans have gone an average of over two weeks without leaving the house. Rural Americans stayed inside the longest, averaging 25 days, while suburban Americans stayed at home for only half that time (11 days). Urbanites, however, averaged 23 days without leaving home- perhaps fueled by the proximal convenience of delivery food, groceries, etc. In fact, when surveyed, nearly 3 in 5 (57%) said that they prioritize habits that allow them to stay home for longer, like ordering delivery and buying exercise equipment for the home.

Over 1 in 3 Americans have increased both the amount of delivery restaurant food and the amount of delivery groceries they ordered since 2019; this number spikes even more for urban residents, with 49% ordering more delivery food and 45% ordering more delivery groceries. 

How much time do Americans spend at home daily?

When surveyed, Americans estimated that they spend an average of 17 hours daily at home. This is an increase of 2 hours from 2019. 

48% of Americans don’t leave their house every day.

  • Urbanites: 44%
  • Suburbanites: 48%
  • Rural: 53%

Americans leave their homes an average of 4 times per week.

With all this time at home, some Americans are finding it difficult to manage.

Nearly 1 in 4 Americans currently feel isolated in their homes. For some, this can result in ‘cabin fever,’ or a feeling of needing to get out of the house, even when it’s not possible. About half of Americans have experienced cabin fever. 

American Social Habits In & Out of the Home

Overall, Americans only see their friends an average of three times per month. Urbanites are the most social, possibly due to population density and proximity, meeting 3.3 times per month, while rural Americans only see their friends about 2.6 times per month. Suburbanites are on par with the national average, at 3.1 times a month.

American social habits have certainly changed since the pandemic. While about 45% socialize roughly the same amount, 43.5% socialize less, while an extroverted 11.6% actually socialize more.

When asked whether they typically socialize at home or outside the home, respondents were split about 50-50. For those that did socialize more in the home, they named comfort as the main reason they do so. Other reasons are because they’re doing activities better suited for the home, like to save money by not going out, find it easier to plan, and find their anxiety is better when they’re not in public.

Most Used Rooms in the Home

Americans love the living room. When asked which single room they spend the most waking time in, 44% responded the living room, followed by the main or master bedroom (28%), the office (12%), and the remainder include the family room, kitchen, dining room, and other bedrooms.

The love of the bedroom is not to be underestimated: it’s no shock people love the bedroom even in waking hours- 16% say they engage in popular TikTok trend “bed rotting,” or laying in bed and consuming passive entertainment like scrolling on the phone, and this number increases to 40% for Gen Zers.

Do Americans Use Their Whole Home?

It turns out, Americans spend the most time in just a portion of their home. When asked, over 1 in 5 Americans said they don’t use their whole home, instead spending the vast majority of their time in just a portion of it. We asked respondents what their home’s square footage was as well as the square footage of the room they used the most, and it turns out that on average, Americans spend the most time in just 56% of their homes. Broken down by setting, suburbanites spend the most time in the smallest portion of their homes – just 17%. Urbanites spend the most time in about 21% of the home, while rural Americans spend the most time in 54% of their home.

How Working From Home Affects Americans

Especially since COVID-19, many office workers are able to work at least some of the time from their homes, if not fully remotely.

  • 69% of Americans work from home at least part time
  • 33% work from home full time
  • Of those, 78% have a designated workspace

Just over 1 in 3 (36%) have a more variable style of working, utilizing multiple rooms in the house, rather than just one designated workspace. Top rooms to work from include the living room, main bedroom, office, kitchen, and dining room.

Many enjoy a combination including the living room and bedroom with an assortment of other rooms. With so many different options, why choose? 

Ways to Reduce the Higher Costs of Being At Home

With all this time spent in the home showing no signs of going back to the norms of 2019, utility costs are staying higher as we spend more time at home, using appliances, water, and ensuring that home temperatures stay comfortable. Paired with higher energy costs, this can spell trouble for the average consumer.

Here are some ways to reduce costs, even while you spend more time in the home:

       Invest in a Heat Pump

      Heat pumps are incredibly efficient devices designed to replace traditional HVAC systems. Rather than using electricity to heat or cool a space, they use electricity to move heat from one place to another. As such, they use a fraction of the energy a traditional HVAC system does. Not only that, but heat pump systems allow you to control individual temperatures by room, so you can keep little-used rooms less climate controlled and conserve your power.

      Close Doors and Windows in Little-Used Rooms

      Shutting windows and drawing curtains is a great way to conserve temperatures in little-used rooms and save on power by relying on your home’s insulation. When you’re only concerned with a few rooms in your home, concentrating your airflow to just those spaces can be another way to reduce those pesky power bills.

      Unplug unused appliances

      All those plugged-in items add up to a considerable difference in electric bills; unplugging appliances will prevent “phantom” drain on your power and ensure more energy efficiency.

      Replace air conditioner filters

      If you do have air conditioning or an HVAC system, proper maintenance ensures the long term efficiency of each appliance and makes it easier to keep space temperatures regulated without straining the system.

      Harness the Environment by Using Solar Power and Rain Barrels

      If you’re a homeowner, look into investing in solar power for your house- while not applicable to every climate, harnessing the sun’s power can offset bills and sometimes earn a tax credit. Not only that but installing rain barrels can keep landscaping costs lower and provide you with easy access to water that doesn’t run up your bill, particularly during gardening season.

 

Making the home the best- and most energy efficient – it can be has never been more important, and we’re here to help ensure that your home is always the perfect temperature. 

Methodology & Fair Use

In January 2024, we surveyed 1,006 individuals ages 18-75 on their habits and preferences around time in and out of the home. The average age was 42, and respondents were 50% male and 50% female. 30% rent their homes, 60% own their homes, and 10% live with family or otherwise are not payment-burdened to live in their homes. Sixty-five percent live in a single family home, 21% live in an apartment, 5% a townhome, 4% a condo, 4% a mobile home, 1% live in a multifamily or unlisted home type.

Fair Use

When using this data and research, please attribute by linking to this study and citing RYCOR HVAC.

Regular Scheduled HVAC Maintenance Plans

heat pump maintenance

Regular scheduled HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning) maintenance plans are essential for optimizing the performance of your heating system and extending its lifespan. These plans involve routine inspections, cleaning, and adjustments to ensure that your heating system operates efficiently and reliably. In this section, we’ll delve into the importance of HVAC maintenance plans and provide examples of maintenance tasks.

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Preventative Maintenance

Minimizing Breakdowns: Regular maintenance helps identify and address potential issues before they escalate into costly breakdowns.

Optimizing Efficiency: Well-maintained heating systems operate more efficiently, saving you money on heating bills.

Safety: Maintenance includes safety checks to ensure that your heating system is not a potential source of hazards like gas leaks or carbon monoxide leaks.

Examples of HVAC Maintenance Tasks

Changing Air Filters: Regularly changing or cleaning air filters ensures proper airflow and reduces strain on your heating system.

Cleaning and Inspecting Components: Cleaning and inspecting burners, heat exchangers, and other critical components prevent soot buildup and maintain efficient heat transfer.

Lubricating Moving Parts: Lubricating moving parts such as motors and fans reduces friction, which can lead to energy efficiency improvements and a longer system lifespan.

Checking Thermostat Calibration: Calibrating and testing thermostats ensures accurate temperature control.

Inspecting Ventilation: Ensuring that vents, flues, and ducts are unobstructed and in good condition prevents airflow restrictions.

Testing Safety Controls: Testing safety controls, including the limit switch and pilot safety system, guarantees safe operation.

Measuring System Performance: HVAC technicians often measure temperature differentials, system pressure, and combustion efficiency to assess performance.

Refrigerant Inspection: For heat pump systems, inspecting and maintaining the refrigerant levels is crucial for optimal performance.

Inspecting Electrical Connections: Loose or damaged electrical connections can cause heating system malfunctions; inspection and tightening are necessary.

Cleaning Coils and Heat Exchangers: Dust and dirt buildup on coils and heat exchangers can impede heat transfer; cleaning ensures efficiency.

Testing Ignition Systems: For gas-fired heating systems, testing ignition systems and adjusting for optimal combustion is essential.

Scheduled Maintenance Plans

Regularly Scheduled Visits: HVAC maintenance plans typically include scheduled visits by a professional technician at least once a year.

Priority Service: Many plans offer priority service in case of breakdowns or emergencies, reducing downtime and discomfort.

Discounts: Some maintenance plans include discounts on parts or repairs.

DIY vs. Professional Maintenance

Professional Expertise: While some maintenance tasks can be DIY, professional HVAC technicians have the expertise and tools to conduct thorough inspections and adjustments.

Comprehensive Service: Professional maintenance often includes a more comprehensive evaluation of your entire heating system.

Regular scheduled HVAC maintenance plans are an investment in the longevity and efficiency of your heating system. By addressing minor issues early and ensuring that your system is in peak condition, you can enjoy consistent warmth, lower energy bills, and fewer unexpected repairs over the life of your heating system.

Zone Heating

zone heating

Zone heating is a smart approach to home heating that can significantly reduce your heating bill while enhancing comfort. It involves dividing your home into different heating zones, each with its thermostat and independent temperature control. This method allows you to heat only the areas that are in use, avoiding unnecessary heating expenses. In this section, we’ll explore what zone heating is and how it can help you save money, as well as the types of furnaces that support this energy-efficient strategy.

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What is Zone Heating?

Definition: Zone heating divides your home into distinct areas or zones, typically based on usage patterns or room layouts.

Individual Thermostats: Each zone is equipped with its thermostat, allowing for precise temperature control.

How Zone Heating Saves Money

Reduced Energy Consumption: By heating only the areas you occupy, zone heating minimizes energy wastage.

Customized Comfort: Family members can set temperatures according to their preferences, enhancing comfort.

Types of Furnaces that Support Zone Heating

Multi-Zone Systems: Some modern forced-air furnaces are designed to support multi-zone heating. These systems have multiple air handlers or dampers that can direct heat to different zones.

Ductless Mini-Split Systems: Ductless mini-split heat pumps are inherently suited for zone heating. Each indoor unit serves as a separate zone with its thermostat, offering efficient heating and cooling.

Hydronic Heating Systems: Radiant heating systems that use hot water or steam can be zoned with individual thermostats for different areas.

Benefits of Zone Heating

Energy Efficiency: Zone heating reduces the need to heat the entire house, leading to lower energy consumption and cost savings.

Enhanced Comfort: Different family members can enjoy customized comfort in their respective zones.

Reduced Wear and Tear: By not constantly running your heating system at full capacity, you can extend its lifespan and reduce maintenance costs.

Installation Considerations

Setting up a zone heating system often requires professional installation, including the installation of additional thermostats and zoning equipment. Properly planning and designing the zones is crucial to ensure efficient operation and desired comfort levels.

Zone heating offers a practical solution to optimizing your heating system’s efficiency and lowering your heating costs. By targeting the heating where it’s needed most and employing the appropriate type of furnace or heating system, you can enjoy the benefits of a more energy-efficient and cost-effective home heating strategy.

Top 50 Most Sustainable Small Cities in the U.S.

small US city

Climate change is increasingly affecting Americans nationwide; while there are many cities with entire departments devoted to climate consciousness and becoming more sustainable, what about the rest of America, and what makes a sustainable city? 

We looked at over 100 small cities and towns and ranked them based on their number of EnergyStar buildings, walkability, farmer’s markets, and transit (both local and regional) to create a vision of America’s most sustainable cities and towns. Rather than look at initiatives or laws, focusing on infrastructure and built environment paves a blueprint for a more connected and climate-conscious future.

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America’s Most Sustainable Towns Study: 4 Key Takeaways

  • America’s top 5 most sustainable towns: Bakersfield, CA; Lansing, MI; Wilmington, DE; Charlottesville, VA; and Grand Junction, CO
  • The West and Midwest sport the most climate-conscious towns in the U.S. 
  • Most walkable cities: Butte, MT and Wilmington, DE
  • Cities with the most farmers’ markets: Anchorage, AK and Duluth, MN

What are the Most Sustainable Small Cities in the U.S.?

Top 10 most sustainable small cities infographic - report by rycorhvac.com

To determine climate consciousness, we focused on green infrastructure and different eco-friendly ways of addressing climate change. EnergyStar buildings are energy efficient and drain the grid less; farmer’s markets provide a climate-conscious approach to food systems; alternative fuel stations provide green alternatives to fossil fuels; walkability, public transit, and Amtrak stations all show a less car-reliant future on both the local and regional scale. 

With all of these factors in mind, Bakersfield, CA, is the most climate-conscious and sustainable town in the U.S., followed by Lansing, MI and Wilmington, DE. Rounding out the top five are Charlottesville, VA and Grand Junction, CO. 

To complete the top 10, Eugene, OR and San Luis Obispo, CA continue the strong West Coast presence, followed by Duluth, MN; Salinas, CA; and Montgomery, AL.

Full Ranking: America’s Most Sustainable & Climate-Conscious Towns

The full results of the ranking show that the West Coast is generally the most climate-conscious region of the U.S., with its higher number of both EnergyStar buildings and alternative fuel stations. Four of the top 10 cities for alternative fuel stations are in California alone!

The Best Towns for Farmers’ Markets, Walkability, and Alternative Fuel

Best Towns and Small Cities for Farmers Markets:

  • Anchorage, AK
  • Duluth, MN
  • Lansing, MI
  • Wilmington, DE
  • Watertown, NY

We used the USDA’s Farmer’s Market Database to count the number of farmer’s markets listed in each town or small city in our rankings, and Anchorage, Alaska came out head and shoulders above the rest, with 14 markets. Duluth, Minnesota comes in second with 10, followed by Lansing, Michigan with 8 markets.

Best Towns for Alternative Fuel Stations:

  • Bakersfield, CA
  • San Luis Obispo, CA
  • Eugene, OR
  • Lansing, MI
  • Santa Barbara, CA

Using the EPA’s database of alternative fuel stations, including everything from EV charging stations to biofuel and more, Bakersfield, California comes out as one of the greenest cities in the U.S. with 97 alternative fuel stations!

Most Walkable Small Cities in the US:

  • Butte, MT
  • Wilmington, DE
  • Missoula, MT
  • Salinas, CA
  • Fargo, ND

What makes a city the most walkable? We used the EPA’s Walkability Index, which charts walkability to U.S. census tracts, and averaged each score to cover the area of each town or city.

One Way to Make Your Home More Eco-Friendly

Whether you’re looking to move or simply to understand how your town stacks up in terms of sustainability, each of these towns and small cities offers a greener vision of the future. But if you don’t live in these places, that doesn’t mean you can’t be greener! 

One great step towards making your home more sustainable is installing a heat pump, or mini-split heating system. They only use the energy necessary to heat or cool a home, which makes them more climate conscious- and wallet conscious. Get in touch and see if you’re a good fit for a heat pump today!

Methodology & Fair Use

Sources:

The full town list was determined by selecting every town named in the 100 smallest DMAs in the United States. Initial analysis looked at over 137 towns before selecting the top 50 in this ranking. 

Each ranking factor was normalized on a ten point scale; modes of public transit were 10 points each, and Amtrak station presence accounted for either 0 points or 10 points. The final score out of 10 was determined by finding the average of all six categories. 

Fair Use

When using this data and research, please attribute by linking to this study and citing RYCOR HVAC.

Programmable Thermostats

programmable thermostat

Programmable thermostats are a valuable tool in your quest to save money on heating bills. These devices offer precise control over your home’s temperature, allowing you to create automatic schedules, set optimal temperatures, and implement energy-saving strategies. Here, we’ll delve into how programmable thermostats can help you achieve significant cost savings and greater heating efficiency.

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Automatic Temperature Scheduling

Customized Schedules: Programmable thermostats enable you to create customized heating schedules based on your daily routines. You can set different temperatures for mornings, evenings, and nighttime, adjusting your heating system automatically.

Energy Savings: By optimizing your home’s temperature based on your occupancy, programmable thermostats reduce the need for constant heating, resulting in substantial energy savings.

Energy-Efficient Settings

Setback Temperatures: These thermostats allow you to program setback temperatures when you’re away from home or sleeping. Lowering the temperature during these periods reduces heating costs without compromising comfort.

Optimal Comfort: You can easily program your thermostat to raise the temperature before you wake up or return home, ensuring a warm and comfortable environment when needed.

Remote Access and Smart Features

Wi-Fi Connectivity: Many programmable thermostats offer Wi-Fi connectivity, allowing you to control your heating system remotely through smartphone apps or web interfaces.

Learning Thermostats: Some models “learn” your preferences and adjust settings automatically to maximize energy efficiency.

Zoning and Zone Control

Programmable thermostats can be integrated into zoning systems, which divide your home into different heating zones. This enables you to heat only the areas in use, further reducing energy consumption.

Individualized Control: With zone control, family members can have individualized control over the temperature in their rooms.

Energy Usage Tracking

Many programmable thermostats provide energy usage reports, helping you monitor your heating consumption over time. This information allows you to identify opportunities for further savings.

Vacation Mode

When you’re away for an extended period, programmable thermostats offer a vacation mode. This mode maintains your home at a lower temperature to conserve energy while you’re gone.

By investing in a programmable thermostat and leveraging its features, you can fine-tune your heating system to operate efficiently, reducing energy waste and ultimately saving on your heating bill. The ability to customize heating schedules, set optimal temperatures, and remotely control your thermostat empowers you to achieve a comfortable home environment while maximizing cost savings.

Home Energy Monitoring

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Home energy monitoring has become an invaluable tool for homeowners seeking to gain insight into their energy usage, identify wasteful patterns, and make informed adjustments to save on heating and overall energy costs. With the advent of smart energy monitoring devices, you can now access real-time data about your energy consumption, allowing for more efficient and cost-effective heating practices.

Smart Energy Monitoring Devices

Real-Time Data: Smart energy monitoring devices provide real-time data on your home’s energy consumption, including heating usage.

Accessibility: You can access this data through mobile apps or web interfaces, allowing for convenient monitoring from anywhere.

Benefits of Home Energy Monitoring

Awareness: Real-time data offers insights into when and where energy is being consumed, making you more aware of your heating patterns.

Identifying Wasteful Practices: By examining your energy usage, you can identify wasteful practices and take corrective actions.

Cost Savings: Armed with data, you can make informed decisions to optimize your heating system, potentially resulting in substantial cost savings.

Monitoring Heating Systems

Heating System Efficiency: Smart monitoring devices can assess the efficiency of your heating system, helping you determine if it’s operating optimally.

Temperature Tracking: Track indoor temperatures to ensure your heating system is maintaining the desired comfort level efficiently.

Setting Energy Goals

Establishing Targets: Homeowners can set energy-saving goals based on data, aiming to reduce heating expenses and overall energy consumption.

Tracking Progress: Monitor your progress toward achieving energy-saving goals and adjust your heating habits accordingly.

Remote Control and Automation

Adjusting Settings: Some smart energy monitoring systems allow you to remotely control your thermostat and heating system, enabling you to make real-time adjustments based on energy usage data.

Automation: Implement automation routines that optimize heating based on occupancy and your daily schedule.

Energy Reports and Insights

Usage Reports: Receive detailed reports and insights about your heating usage over time, helping you make data-driven decisions.

Efficiency Recommendations: Some monitoring systems offer suggestions for improving energy efficiency, including heating practices.

Compatibility with Smart Thermostats

smart thermostats, enabling better control and optimization of your heating system.

User-Friendly Interfaces

Easy-to-Understand Dashboards: Smart energy monitoring devices typically feature user-friendly dashboards that present energy data in an easily understandable format.

Home energy monitoring empowers homeowners to take control of their heating costs by providing valuable insights and tools for optimizing energy usage. By leveraging real-time data and smart technology, you can identify energy-wasting patterns, make informed adjustments, and ultimately achieve a more efficient and cost-effective heating system.