Q. Raymond asks: I currently have a gas water heater. I was thinking of replacing it with what I believe is called a set system, which is basically a set of heating coils that attach to your main water feed. The system gives you hot water only when it is needed. This would eliminate the need to heat water continuously. Where can I find such a system? Is this system more economical?
A. What you refer to as a "set" system is known industry-wide as a "tankless" water-heating system, because it does not store heated water. The tankless system is the most energy-efficient because hot water is not being continuously reheated in a storage tank.
The only time the tankless type uses energy is when the hot-water faucet is open. These systems are in wide use around the world, but Americans have shied away from them because they do not produce high volumes of water. For example, with a tankless system you might find it difficult to maintain warm water when the clothes washer is in operation at the same time as both bathrooms are in use. We think tankless systems are a good thing, but they're not for everybody.
Q. Betty asks: Our home is 40 years old. In my bedroom bath we have a four-way lamppost light fixture that holds four 60-watt bulbs. I was blow-drying my hair using a 1,500-watt dryer and I heard a pop. All electric in the bath cut off sharply and now nothing comes on and the light switch seems looser. No other part of the house was affected. Could you tell me what happened and what can we do?
A. We can only assume what happened. It sounds like you overloaded the circuit in your bathroom. If your hair dryer and the lamppost were plugged into the same receptacle, chances are you blew a GFI circuit-breaker or a fuse.
If you have checked the fuse panel and found that all is OK, start looking for the GFI breaker that controls the circuit for your bathroom. A GFI receptacle contains its own breaker system (two plugs with two buttons in the center). One button tests the circuit and the other resets it. The GFI breaker isn't always in the room where everything goes off. Sometimes it's located in a different bathroom or in the garage.
If you're unsure of what a GFI breaker looks like, go to a hardware store and ask to be shown one. Then finding it in your own home will be easier.
From now on, leave the lights off when you are drying your hair. Better yet, get four compact fluorescents and reduce the 240 watts currently being used by your pole lamp to 54 watts. You'll have the same amount of light as before, but you will be using 75 percent less energy.
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