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Q.In his November 1998 article, "Using Water Heaters for Radiant Heat," Bill Clinton shows how to heat a home with a gas water heater. Will an electric water heater work in this type of system? How about a tankless electric water heater?

A.Heating contractor Bill Clinton responds: Yes, an electric water heater will work fine. Of course, in most parts of the country, electricity is a relatively expensive fuel to use for home heating. However, in areas of the Pacific Northwest where electricity is fairly cheap, using an electric water heater can make sense and will make for a very simple reliable system.

I would, however, stay away from the instantaneous electric heaters. They operate with fairly high pressure differentials, which makes pump selection difficult. You could also have problems if the electric input were substantially higher than the load, since this would cause excessive cycling and perhaps excessive temperatures. The advantage of a system with a storage tank is that the tank helps buffer the system from temperature and pressure extremes.