Monday, September 27, 2010

Hot or Cold?

As the seasons change, it’s hard to decide whether it's hot or cold. One minute, I have the windows open, the weather being just perfect, another I'm turning on the air conditioning, and even within the same day, I can be switching the heat on. I have the same battles with my husband- I up the temperature, he likes it lower, he's opening the windows to enjoy the breeze, I'm closing them to block out the cold flow. If I can't decide myself, or the two of us can't agree on what's comfortable, how could we expect a couple of apartments to be equally comfortable?

With that in mind, we installed tankless water heaters, which control both the heating of the apartment and the hot water for that individual apartment. Quietside makes on-demand water heaters, which means the hot water is heated as it is needed, and there is no bulky water tank sitting in a far off corner or basement, taking up space you could be using for something else. Another plus with an on-demand system is that you don’t run out of hot water, as opposed to a water tank that holds only so many gallons of water at a time. Ever end up with a cold shower because someone else spent a little too much time in their hot shower? With these heaters, it’s not an issue- hot water can flow all day and night without worry.

Although these turn out to be more energy efficient in the sense that you aren’t paying to keep water hot all the time, whether you use it or not, that wasn't the biggest selling point for us. What we liked the most is that this controls the heat as well. Each unit was set up with one of these boilers, and a thermostat was placed in each apartment. One person could keep their thermostat at a temperature equivalent to those in the tropics, while another could enjoy the brisk winter temperatures if they wanted. Also, by splitting the heating systems by apartment, we could have each apartment responsible for their heating costs. If you drive around the city in the winter, you can always tell who pays for heat and who doesn’t. I’ve seen windows open as far as they can in the dead of winter, so someone somewhere is paying to heat the outdoors. With our set-up, if someone chooses to do so, it’s at their own expense, and you’d be surprised at how much more they are aware of those expenses.

After several years of having these units installed, I’ve found them to be low maintenance, but these units like to be worked. We left one apartment empty for about two years, so the heat was set to a “vacation mode”, which turns off the heat, but triggers a safeguard setting to prevent the pipes from freezing if the outside temperature suddenly drops, and when we went to start it up, it was a little temperamental, but after a few minor adjustments and just letting it run, it works great.

Another drawback is that some of the controls on the thermostat are too advanced for people who are not used to controlling the heat, with different setting for the summer months, options to turn the system off altogether, and economy modes where you can automatically lower the heat at a set time and have it warmer at a later time (for example, when you leave for work, you’d have the temperature lowered slightly, and then have it programmed to raise the temperature around the time you usually come home, this way you aren’t paying to heat an empty place all day). When we get a new tenant we tend to get a call at some point about the heat not working, but that’s easily fixed with the turn of a switch.

Regardless of what each person decides their ideal temperature is, I’m not caught in the middle. I’m still trying to figure out if I want the heat on or off myself…

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