13 July 2011

I Don't Watch The Bachelorette...

...but if I did*, here's what I would write about this week's episode:

One of the Bachelorette's suitors this season (Ryan) is a "solar energy executive." The show routinely plasters his profession on the screen whenever he has a close-up, but it hasn't really been an important detail until this episode, when he asked her how she feels about environmental issues. He couldn't see it, but as he was asking the question, she was already making a face that clearly said she wasn't a fan of such hippie nonsense. She recounted an incident with a previous boyfriend who broke up with her on the spot because she put a plastic bottle in the garbage. Ryan made clear that he wasn't so rigid, and she said she didn't know much about that kind of thing but that she was open to learning. He chose water heaters for this once-in-a-lifetime teaching moment in front of a national (international?) audience. And that seemed to be when the Bachelorette decided that there just wasn't a spark with him.

But what I was focused on was what he was actually saying about water heaters. He went on and on about how regular (tank) water heaters waste energy by keeping water warm all day, every day, so tankless water heaters (which only heat water when you need it) are far greener. As we discovered through our lengthy water heater decision-making process, that's not exactly true -- instantly heating water when you need it is so energy-intensive that tankless water heaters aren't necessarily the best green option. While we were considering every possible option for everything, we explored all of the water heater options (gas, tankless, condensing, solar, etc.) before finally settling on a regular old electric water heater. Well, not exactly. We went with a particularly well-insulated (and therefore energy-efficient) electric tank water heater that's tied into our geothermal heat pump, with the electric power essentially serving as a back-up.

Here's the water heater:

The copper piping at the top ties into the geothermal system in the attic. To illustrate how much the geothermal system contributes to our water heating, the "Energy Guide" sticker on the water heater (a Marathon model by Rheem) estimates the annual energy cost to power the water heater alone at a fairly appalling $497. In fact, our total electric usage for our entire first year in the house totaled only two or three hundred dollars more than that.

And connected at the bottom is our on-demand recirculating pump, which sends hot water right to each faucet when we need it so we don't waste water while waiting for it to warm up:

(More about that here.)

Anyway, tankless water heaters were the thing a few years back, but several other technologies have surpassed tankless units in green building in recent years. Maybe the Bachelorette was playing dumb but actually knew that and sent Ryan home because he's kind of behind the times?

Regardless, he was blindsided and completely crushed to be sent home mid-date. (Usually that happens at a "rose ceremony" with all of the contestants present, or at least on a date where the rules say he could be eliminated. This time that option wasn't on the table.) Weird, since two bachelors (out of six) were going to be sent home at the rose ceremony, so he had to know he only had a 67% chance of making it to the next week (hometown dates!), and only a 17% chance of actually winning the girl (which, as mentioned here, still doesn't guarantee a happy ending).

* ...which -- okay, I'll admit it -- I do...

1 comment:

  1. You make an excellent point. I too try not to watch this program but found myself in the same room as my wife as the show was on...
    It surprises me how many people have bought the marketing pitch the tankless manufactures have been making recently. Ryan made the statement "just think if every home had a tankless water heater". The reality is with the additional 8-12 seconds it requires tankless to provide hot water to the fixture (on top of the normal wait time) the water waste would be huge. Not very green. Also, as you pointed out, the idea that todays tank type water heaters run all the time to keep the water hot while not being used simply isn't true. There is very little standby loss on modern designs. As more folks learn about the issues related to tankless the truth will come out.