Water heater decisions
In the process of building a new house and trying to decide on the best strategy for hot water heating.
We tried to be efficient with our floor plan design, and were able to clump the bathrooms and laundry room in one corner of the 2nd floor of our house. The guest bath is downstairs, almost directly underneath the baths upstairs. The only outlier is the kitchen and a half bath, which is on the other side of the house.
The house is all electric, and there are a couple of things I’m concerned about…
The traditional placement of a hot water heater is in the basement (if you have one), but I am concerned about the long run from the heater to the 2nd floor. I am also concerned about the long run to the kitchen and half bath.
One solution to this would be to locate the heater in the upstairs laundry room, which would mean that the hot water run would only be a few feet to all the fixtures upstairs, and just a one-story run to the guest bath below. The concern here would obviously be having a water tank on the 2nd floor, and the risk of water damage if something leaks. However, there is already some risk involved with this in the laundry room already, and I wonder if I can include some waterproofing features into this room to help lessen the damage if something happened. This doesn’t solve the problem of having a long run to the kitchen, but I wonder if that should be solved by a separate heater just for those fixtures, placed directly under the kitchen.
I am concerned about recovery times for electric water heaters. We have a family of four, and pretty soon we are going to have 4 showers going in a short period of time. We have always had gas heaters, which have a quicker recovery time, and the kids are younger now so they normally bathe at night, but in a few years they are going to be showering in the morning like everyone else.
A possible solution to this would be a tankless heater. In addition to the efficiency, the advantages of a tankless heater would be that I could place it in the upstairs laundry without worry of a tank leaking and causing damage. However, I worry about it being able to keep up with the demand. I would imagine there will be times when two showers are running at the same time, and I’d worry that the heater couldn’t keep up with demand. I know that an electric tankless heater is a different animal than a gas tankless, in terms of output. I have done some reading on GBA and other sites and it looks like the jury is still out on these devices, or at least they were a few years ago when those articles were written. I’ve also wondered if adding a small tank between the heater and the fixtures would be a fix to some of the drawbacks to tankless (the “cold water sandwich” and problems with low flow not triggering the heater), but then you are also adding the back the drawbacks of tank-type heaters. Plus, you’d have the expense of both installations.
And then a third thought I had was a HPWH in the basement. This would not solve any of the problems above, but I would like to have wide plank hardwood flooring but have been warned about cupping due to the moisture from the basement. This is a little off topic, but I wonder if the HPWH would do enough de-humidifying in the basement to help in this regard. Or, would a couple of dehumidifiers be better? Or, would neither of those do enough to prevent the cupping?
Sorry this post is so long, but there is a lot to consider.