Water Heating in the Media
I was just listening to news on the radio while driving around. There was a short discussion of tankless water heaters, talking about how they save energy compared to tank-type heaters. There was no mention of the cost of installation compared to tank type. No mention of the extra service a tankless needs to perform well and maintain warranty. No mention of how one can expect “different” hot water delivery, depending on flow rate. Nothing on condensing efficiency vs non-condensing. And lastly, they said tankless last twice as long as tanks, with no mention of maintenance. It seemed to this hot water nerd to be poorly informed news.
I used to be on a crusade to correct and educate the media about all the mis-statements and half-truths concerning hot water that I learned of. Turns out that’s a never ending job! (Just because, I did write to the radio station. We’ll see if they respond.) Mostly I seemed to upset media people and their writers, though some got into the habit of contacting me about hot water stuff. The plumbing industry is full of “old wife’s tales” and “that’s how it’s always been done” sorts of thinking. With good reason, plumbers are slow to change as there is a long history of new ideas being thrown out there for plumbers to try and then these things fail. The plumber is often left to deal with it.
Sadly, much of what the media gives us is simply a rehash of the old tales. Plenty of engineering and physics is involved in getting hot water right, and the sound bites we get from the media can’t give us the detail we need to make good decisions. No doubt the radio mention today will help with tankless sales, but there will be plenty the happy new owners of this technology will have to learn on their own in dealing with unexpected problems, and that won’t make the news.
Clearly, education is the key. If there were only, say one thousand people in North America who learned and became expert in hot water, all the mis-information wouldn’t go unchallenged. Also, when more than one person is telling a magazine that they missed some points, the magazine will probably notice and attempt to make things better and more accurate, at least in the future. As the field of hot water is big and complex, it’s tricky to put universally useful information down in a way that truly works for all. Understand that there are many thousands of different waters around the world and different waters affect plastics, metals and mineral build up in different ways. Heat alone is a game changer as it can speed up chemical processes and affect how and when metals corrode. I have only a plumber’s understanding of the chemistry, based on personal study and what I’ve met in the field. To me, it’s easy to understand why becoming a master plumber can easily take ten years. I’ve been doing plumbing for over fifty years and still there is something to learn (or re-learn) most every day.
I suppose it all boils down to the phrase “knowledge is power”. We need to educate ourselves and from there can educate the media and anyone else who cares enough to listen. For me, the education has come from mentors, old and new books, old and new equipment, manufacturers and people with different points of view. Sometimes it comes from simply looking at a question from a different perspective. Thanks for bearing with me!
Looking back over my working life of 50+ years, it seems clear that self sufficiency has always been the best way for me to be useful. Now, mix in a strong interest in water in its many forms and the wide world of animals and you'll know what's important to me.