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THE ARIZONA REPUBLIC

to pay for retrofitting.” She also advises inquiring about installation of a soft water loop when construction is underway so that later on you won’t have to pay extra for the additional plumbing necessary if you want to install that system. If a tank water heater is the only choice the builder offers, Gilbert recommends asking if the appliance is consumer-grade or professional-grade. Ideally, the water heater initially installed with your new home should be professional-grade, he said. Stanfield and Gilbert recommend installing a recirculation pump that eliminates waiting for hot water when taking a shower. You should also request a drip pan that can be placed underneath the water heater so any leak can be contained, Stanfield said.

Water heaters 101

Be sure to ask about this unsung hero of your new home

Gas, electric or hybrid

If you have a choice between gas or electric for your water heater, choose gas, Gilbert advised, unless it’s a hybrid. “Gas is a little more affordable and depending on the model, lets you have hot water in the event of an electrical power outage,” he said. Gilbert also advises asking about the warranty on your water heater. “You should be given at least a six-year warranty on parts in the tank with an option to extend it to 10 years,” he said. An extended warranty shouldn’t cost more than $200, he added. Tankless water heaters typically come with a 12-year burner and a five-year parts warranty, while a solar water heater should carry a six-year tank warranty and a five-year warranty on panels and components. Electric hybrids come with a 10-year warranty, Gilbert said.

BY DeBRA GeLBART

P

robably the last thing you’re concerned about as you’re shopping for or preparing to move into your brand-new house is the water heater. But there are questions you should ask your builder’s representative to make sure you’re getting the best water heater option, say two Valley plumbing experts.

Variety of options

F R I D AY , M AY 3 , 2 013

C R E AT E D B Y R E P U B L I C M E D I A C U S T O M P U B L I S H I N G

First, it’s important for new-home buyers to understand that water heaters come in several types, including traditional, tankless, solar and hybrid. The traditional or conventional tank water heater keeps a cylindrical tank full of hot water in your home at all times, while a tankless water heater looks like an electrical panel box from the outside and doesn’t contain any water inside. However, the device instantly heats water in the pipes of the house, explained Linda Stanfield, owner of Benjamin Franklin Plumbing. Two of the greatest advantages of tankless are space and energy savings. A device can hang on the wall on the side of the house, freeing up space where a traditional tank water heater would be placed. Even better, it only uses energy when hot water is needed. A solar water heater includes solar collectors installed on the exterior of the house (typically the roof). The usable hot-water storage container can be a traditional water heater.

An electric hybrid water heater using heat pump technology (but not a ground-source heat pump) can use up to 62 percent less energy compared to a typical 50-gallon electric water heater, said Ward Gilbert, owner of Gilbert Plumbing in Mesa. For most parts of the Valley, a ground-source heat pump water heater is not a good option, he said, because there’s not enough moisture in the ground to allow for the heat transfer.

“Review your options for either a 40-gallon or 50-gallon tank to make sure the size meets your household needs.”

Optimal energy usage

—Linda stanfield, Benjamin franklin plumbing

Alternatives and extras

So what questions should you ask your newhome builder about your water heater? “Ask if tankless or solar water heaters are available,” Stanfield suggested. Both are excellent alternatives to a conventional water heater that, although acceptable, is not as energy-efficient as the other two options, she said. At the very least, she advised, “ask if your home can be pre-plumbed for a tankless water heater so that if you want to get one in the future, you won’t have

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After you’ve made your choice, how do you ensure optimal energy usage? “Have your water heater tank professionally flushed and checked every year,” Stanfield said. “Water heaters are not meant to just leave and forget.” Gilbert said a solar water heater saves a significant amount of energy, but if it’s not possible to install one, start with a gas water heater with energy conservation features. “For example, some models can automatically shut off your water supply if a leak is detected,” he said. Resources U.S. Department of energy: energy.gov/ energysaver/articles/selecting-new-water-heater

NH3

doug hopkins, owner of red Brick realty property Management

BY MICHeLLe TALSMA eVeRSON

Q:

“I’m in the process of buying a new home and want to make sure I budget properly for taxes. But depending on the person I talk to, I get very different answers on what kind of tax bill to expect. Are there any rules of thumb I can follow to make sure I stay on budget?”

A:

“A good rule of thumb is to estimate one percent of the purchase price per year. For example, if you buy a home for $120,000, your taxes would be around $1,200 per year or about $100 per month,” explained Doug Hopkins, owner of Red Brick Realty Property Management in Mesa and DougHopkins.com. “If it is an existing home, it’s easy because you can look it up on maricopa.gov/assessor and find out exactly how much it is.” Richard de Uriarte, a public information officer for Maricopa County, added that each individual property tax bill is made up of combined taxes from a number of separate jurisdictions. “Basically, your total levy is a compilation of all the individual rates times your assessed valuation which is lower than your full value or your market value,” he said. “So, some of your tax bill is determined by the residents’ own votes on bond issues, not just the local governments.”

If you have a new-home-related topic you’d like us to research, please write to editor: Paula Hubbs Cohen, Paula.Cohen@cox.net.

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