Make your water heater act like a furnace

Three new training videos from the Propane Innovation Pavilion at JLC Live highlight new, energy-efficient heating and water heating technologies — such as a module that turns your tankless unit into a forced-air heater.

Jeffrey Lee
Staff Writer

Builders and remodelers looking for an alternative to the electric heat pump have an intriguing new heating option in their toolkit.

A new interface module from Rinnai called the Domestic Priority Switch, or DPS, allows pros to pair a Rinnai tankless water heater with any third-party air handler. It's a solution that can simplify installation, since the water heater serves as both a space and water heater, according to Eric Legacy, Rinnai's national boiler business development manager, who explained the new technology at a JLC Live seminar, "Advanced Space Heating and Zone Heating Options," held at the Propane Innovation Pavilion.

Legacy partnered with Tom Jaenicke, an energy advisor for the Propane Education & Research Council, to deliver six informative training sessions during the course of the two-day event. If you weren't able to attend the Propane Innovation Pavilion in person, we've created short training videos recapping these informative sessions. The courses covered a number of new products and technologies that can help builders reduce a home's energy costs while improving whole-home performance.

The DPS, for example, essentially enables a tankless water heater to operate like a furnace. When the thermostat makes a call for heat, a circulator pump sends water through the tankless unit to be heated. The heated water runs through a hot water coil in the air handler, which turns on the blower fan to send hot air through the home's ductwork.

Check out training videos from the Propane Innovation Pavilion at JLC Live.

The true power of the system is the tankless unit's ability to switch back to domestic water heating mode when hot water is needed, Legacy says. "If someone jumps into the shower while the unit's blowing heat, the unit will detect an abundance of flow," he explains. "If that flow exceeds a certain rate, we shut off the blower. You don't want a cold shower, so you have to shut off the heat."

When the shower is over, the unit returns to space heating mode. "You rarely notice the drop-out in the heating circuit," Legacy says.

"Any time you can do away with electric water heating, you ought to seriously think about it."

Whether or not the tankless unit is used for space heating, propane-fueled tankless water heaters are an extremely cost-effective way to provide a home's domestic hot water. Furthermore, on-demand tankless systems provide an endless supply of hot water without a lengthy recovery time. And especially in the Northeast region, where JLC Live was held, propane tankless units are much less expensive to operate than their electric counterparts, Jaenicke noted in the session.

"Your cost in the Northeast for electricity is outrageous," Jaenicke said. "Any time you can supplement or do away with electric water heating, you ought to seriously think about it."

Two other training sessions at the Propane Innovation Pavilion highlighted innovative, propane-fueled space heating and water heating technologies. In "Gas Boiler Technology Update: A Two-in-One Solution for Home and Water Heating," Legacy described a new boiler technology that combines the efficiency of a propane boiler with a charged indirect tank for domestic water heating. By combining both heating and water heating technologies into a single unit, the integrated boiler saves on installation time and space: It requires about 70 percent less space than a traditional floor-standing boiler and indirect-tank system.

In "Tankless Water Heater Technology Advancements," Legacy highlighted a variety of cutting-edge venting options and accessories available for Rinnai tankless water heaters. The company's new Circ-Logic Technology, for instance, cycles a recirculation pump at custom, programmable intervals so builders and remodelers can provide their customers with instant hot water without wasting fuel by constantly cycling the pump on and off.

Don't forget to check out the training video recaps. After you get the full story on energy-efficient propane, you'll be ready to get your hands on the new technology in person.

For more articles on propane water heating, check out these Propane Energy Update articles:

For some builders, rebates are a hidden opportunity
A lake home with luxury and low-energy aspirations
Make your water heater act like a furnace


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