By adding an indirect fired water heater to your existing hot water boiler, you achieve the most efficient way of obtaining your domestic water needs. Most indirect fired water heaters consist of a stainless steel tank that is very well insulated by a thermal plastic jacket on the outside.
An indirect fired water heater does not require electricity or gas, and because of that, it does not require a vent. An indirect fired water heater is nothing more than a storage tank with a coil inside and inlet and outlet taps (connection points). The indirect fired water heater is installed as a separate zone, circulating hot water from the boiler to a coil inside the indirect fired water heater.
Heat from the water in the coil is then transferred to the water in the tank. As the indirect fired water heater has a separate thermostat, the boiler will selectively produce heat for the tank when necessary.
In some parts of the country, the boiler is turned on in October and turned off in April. Having an indirect fired water heater means that for about six months a year, your domestic hot water is provided by the already operating boiler. In other words, the boiler takes care of the home heating and domestic water at the same time. In the summer time when you do not need your boiler to heat your house, it will still turn on to heat the indirect fired water heater. This may seem to be the downside of this combination... but is it really? For example, consider a high efficiency/modulating boiler with a capacity of 100,000 BTU. In the summer time, it will turn on at only 25,000 BTU. This means that in the summer time, you still have a highly efficient system.
A very common question from our customers is, "What size should my indirect fired water heater be?" If you are replacing a conventional 40 or 50 gallon water heater and it was sufficient for your needs, simply match it up with a similar capacity indirect fired water heater. For new construction and remodeling where additional bathrooms are added, or if you're installing appliances that require additional GPM (gallons per minute), such as Jacuzzi tubs or big size shower heads, it is always best to contact eComfort.com and get advice from an expert.
Indirect Fired Water Heater vs. Conventional Water Heater
Lets compare the indirect fired water heater to your conventional water heater.
On the one hand, conventional water heaters are only about 50% efficient. In other words, for every $100 spent on gas for the water heater, $50 goes out through the chimney. Conventional water heaters run on gas, and in the winter time, both the boiler and water heater are operating using two separate gas lines. The average life of a conventional water heater ranges from 7-12 years and typically requires replacement parts at least twice in its life.
On the other hand, the indirect fired water heater does not have a vent which means that it is 99.9% efficient. It has no mechanical parts that can go wrong, and since it is composed out of stainless steel, it is trouble free and will last for decades.
Indirect Fired Water Heater vs. Tankless Water Heater
A tankless water heater is a great appliance. It is far more efficient than a conventional water heater. If a forced air furnace is used to heat the home instead of a hot water boiler, then a tankless water heater is the way to go.
However; if a hot water boiler is present, adding the tankless water heater to take care of the domestic hot water is not the best solution. Similar to the conventional water heater, the tankless water heater requires a separate gas line and even its own electricity source. In the winter time, the boiler and tankless water heater will operate using two separate gas lines and electricity sources, making the system not as efficient as expected.
Also, it is important to keep in mind that the domestic hot water production with a tankless water heater is limited. Depending on your home's specific needs, it may turn out that two or more tankless water heaters are required. That is why an indirect fired water heater is the number one solution for the domestic hot water when a hot water boiler is present.
At eComfort.com, we have many different brands of indirect fired water heaters. They all serve as excellent sources for domestic hot water and will work with any kind of boiler. There are some small differences among them and prices will vary depending on the manufacturer. If you have any other questions about indirect water heaters, feel free to call us or email us, and we will be happy to answer all of your questions.