A tankless water heater made by a company in the South Carolina Lowcountry is one of TIME Magazine’s best inventions of 2018.
Heatworks, based in Mount Pleasant, took the honor for its Model 3 Smart Water Heater. TIME notes the water heater may be more expensive than a traditional tank water heater, but it helps save energy and money in the long run.
TIME explains: “Unlike other heaters, which heat water in a tank using metal components, the MODEL 3 sends electrical current through the water, heating it up quickly and only when residents actually need it.”
“At $799, the MODEL 3 is more expensive than many other water heaters, but the energy savings may well add up fast: Heatworks estimates that the device will save the average family of four $240 a year,” TIME notes.
The water heater comes with a smart phone app that can set a maximum temperature and track water use. The company’s website says customers can use the app to “select and maintain your favorite temperature within 1° F for a shower or even limit the length of your teenager’s shower.”
The new technology came from the company’s inventor-CEO Jerry Callahan, co-founder of the propane tank exchange company Blue Rhino, the Charleston Post and Courier reports. He had just left his job with Blue Rhino and was looking for a way to heat his outdoor shower, but was not happy with the options on the market in 2006, the newspaper reports.
So he built his own with materials he bought at a local hardware store in Mount Pleasant, according to the Post and Courier.
Instead of heating water in a tank with a metal element as traditional water heaters do, the company explains, the technology passes electricity through the water directly to heat it up. The company’s website notes, “In a traditional electric heating element, only two possible states are possible: on and off. When the element turns on, there is lag time as it begins to heat up. Similarly, when its turned off, it takes time for the element to cool down. This type of system is inefficient and unreliable.”
“There is no time lag since the water itself heats independent of the electrodes. More importantly, there are many more states than simply on and off. Each pair of electrodes can be controlled independently allowing the system to not only control heating activity, but also heating intensity,” according to Heatwork’s description of how the heater works.