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Illinois Country Living

Doug Rye, licensed architect and the popular host of the "Home Remedies" radio show

Energy Solutions

Energy Efficiency 101: From the Ground Up

Easy tips for building an energy-efficient home

If you’re going to build a new house or want to make your existing house more energy efficient, it’s best to first prepare a plan. You might be surprised to know that more than half of the folks who send their house plans to me for an energy analysis have already started construction. In fact, in many cases, the house is already framed. I am still able to help them, but I could have helped them much more if they had contacted me before construction began.

For example, everyone I know would like to have instant hot water in the master bathroom. But when it comes to house plans, it appears that water heaters are just afterthoughts as most don’t even show the location of the water heater. Based on a large percent of the houses I have seen, one would think the plumbing code must require the water heater be located at the farthest point from usage. On most plans, the water heater will be installed anywhere from 40 to 75 feet from the master bath. That means when you turn on the faucet that has an H on it, you have to wait for what seems like forever for the water to be hot. Does this sound like your house?

The solution is really not that difficult. By planning ahead there is often a simple no extra-cost solution. When we built our new house, I promised my wife that we would have instant hot water. I certainly did not want to install a central hot water circulating system, as often seen in a hotel, because that system adds a significant amount of kilowatt-hours to the monthly utility bill. Just think about it. Circulating hot water through the house 24/7 in the summer. The circulating system is helping heat the house, therefore the air conditioning system has to run much more. The circulating pump uses energy and the water heater really never cuts off. So instead of this kind of system, what can you do?

If the house has a crawl space, install an energy efficient, lifetime warranted Marathon low-boy water heater (48 inches tall) right under the bathtub and shower. Place another Marathon water heater exactly under the kitchen appliances. Bingo! The water heaters are close to where the hot water is needed. Of course, it would be the same solution if the house has a basement. But remember this. If the rough plumbing is already installed before you learn this, it can be quite expensive to change. So plan ahead.

If the house has a slab floor, planning ahead is absolutely essential. In this case, the floor plan should reflect a location(s) for the water heater to be close to the areas that need hot water. Remember to always insulate hot water pipes, even under a slab and don’t put a water heater in the attic. And what about those tankless water heaters you’ve heard about? First of all, I do not encourage you to use them and we will explore that in a future lesson.

Summary of Lesson 1: Plan ahead and have that instant hot water you’ve always wanted without higher utility bills. For those of you wanting instant hot water in your existing home, check out for an acceptable solution. See you next month!


More Information:

Doug Rye, a licensed architect and the popular host of the "Home Remedies" radio show, works as a consultant for the Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas to promote energy efficiency to cooperative members statewide. To order Doug's video, call Doug at 1-888-Doug-Rye. More energy-efficiency tips can also be found at


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