comfort versus security or wants versus needs

June 2nd, 2008

Comfort Versus Security (Or Wants Versus Needs)

As we start to pay down more and more debt, I’ve started to think beyond debt. That’s an interesting idea for me, especially since it isn’t certain to me that we’ll soon be at a place where we are beyond debt for good, but yet my mind wanders to “When we are done with the car and the student loans, we can…” a lot more now than it used to.

We bought an older house, with great space and layout but with slightly older interiors. I’m fine now, my more frugal and reflective self, with things that I thought we would replace right away, like the dated and not-in-good-condition floors in most of the downstairs, and the wallpaper in the front entry that goes up the stairs so I would have to hire someone to take it down, but there are a few things we can’t just ignore. Our house has some updated appliances, but the stove and refrigerator are not among them. Both are a bit over 20 years old and past their predicted life span. One of the things we’ll need to do sooner rather than later is replace both of them, which would make me feel more secure that we won’t be forced to replace them because of a crisis (especially the refrigerator).

But my mind continually wanders from security to comfort. There is one luxury I dearly love, and that is a nice hot bubble bath. Hot. Hot is the key word there. Our water heater is adequate, and at 8 years old not in danger of expiring anytime soon, but I must be frank. I hate it. It doesn’t hold heat. It has a blanket on it already, but it is in our garage (which is cold) and unless it is soon after it has been emptied and refilled, it just doesn’t stay hot.

It’s warm. But I want hot. It’s set high, it doesn’t care. It is warm. We’ve had it serviced and nothing is wrong with it. It just doesn’t provide hot baths upstairs very well at all.

So instead of replacing the security items, I want the comfort one. I want a tankless water heater. I want water to be hot, come out hot, make hot baths, and oh, I want it. A tankless water heater would be a nice thing to have, but definitely not something we need to have at all. Really, ever. Although it would use less energy, not having to heat a tank of water continually. See, I want an earth-conscious thing. That’s why, right?

Good that I have another year or more (hopefully nothing breaks and forces my hand!) to think this over before I figure it out, since debt reduction is a higher priority for us than any of this stuff. I know that needs trump wants, in my head. But my heart says this want is important. I hate lukewarm baths.

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18 Responses to “Comfort Versus Security (Or Wants Versus Needs)”

  1. Ooh I’m definitely with you on hot baths! I don’t have a good bathtub for bath-taking right now, but when I do, I “have” to sit in the tub while it fills because I like it so hot that I wouldn’t be able to get in after it was already full!

  2. I have one. And yes, you’ll love it when you get one someday, but I know what you mean about the stuff you *need* instead.

    I love that “someday” is getting closer and closer for you.

  3. From a monetary stand point, everyone says to set your water heater at 120 degrees F. But from both a sanitary/health stand point and from a “I want HOT baths” standpoint, you are better off making sure you have an energy star water heater set at 140 degrees F. Now a tankless at 140 degrees is the best choice, but tankless isn’t always available everywhere (we can’t easily get them in central IL yet).

  4. I totally hear you!

    Our shower shoots out warm water for some reason and it drives me crazy! It’s not our hot water heater because the water coming out of the kitchen faucet can scald you. Something seems to be causing issues between the hot water heater and the master bath shower.

    We’re in the middle of remodeling the main bathroom, so the master bath will have warm showers for probably another 5 years! I’m hoping that the water in the main bath will be hot, though, and once we’re finished in there I might use that shower. :)

  5. But see these considerations :

    You may be better off with an AO Smith Vertex heater – I don’t have one, I just heard about them via the “Living with Ed” show.

  6. If you just assume gas prices will go high enough the more efficient/better for the environment heater will also be the best option financially. The worse your current heater is efficiency-wise the more that factor would help :-) Probably if you end up waiting a year the costs of tankless will decline and they gain popularity…

  7. I love our tankless water heater, but had to install updated faucets to help regulate the temperature as it came through the pipes. If you think about it, tankless works by heating up the water as it flows through the copper lines within the tank. Once it hits the ideal temp, it shuts off, so we initially had HOT-cold-HOT-cold issues. I think newer tanks are better, and the new faucets helped, too.
    For replacing fridges, etc., you might want to check and see if your state has rebates for energy star appliances. Sometimes these programs run out of money half way through the year, so timing is everything!
    Love hot bubble baths!

  8. Oh, I was also going to suggest if you go with tankless (or not), consider adding solar water heating. By saving and using your water heater as a storage tank (? enclose it to improve heat retention), and, using a good plumber to set up the system, you could really cut back on costs! Maybe also get some other rebates.
    Lots of information online.

  9. I obviously need to learn a lot more about water heaters! :) And plumbing and faucets and…

    Thanks everyone for your input!

  10. In Debt Too Says:

    June 3rd, 2008 at 4:01 am

    I live in the UK and we have a combi-boiler, which is a ‘tankless’ water heater that also heats the radiators in the rooms. I love it, having replaced our old system with a tank right after we moved to this house. That was mostly because of the house heating, not the water heating, but what a bonus! No more lukewarm baths. :-) I think it’s also much more efficient, as you’re not using energy to keep that tank of water at a certain temperature — the water is only heated when you need it.

  11. Can you boil a pot of water and add it to your bath? Because it seems to me that would heat up your tub enough to make you happy. Your water doesn’t have to be that hot for other things you do. Just taking the bath. I have a big stock pot I can use to boil up 3 or 4 gallons of water. I am sure even half that would be enough to turn a warm bath into a hot one.

  12. paidtwice Says:

    June 3rd, 2008 at 4:09 pm

    sara – I do that, and it takes 3 stock pots of water to make it hot. I guess our tub is very cold. three stock pots up a flight of stairs… I only do it very very once in a while.

    I shall live :)

  13. A word of caution on a tankless hot water heater. We installed a Bosch Powerstar AE125 last year and it isn’t quite all its cracked up to be. There are noticeable differences between a tankless and standard water heater.

    First – if you have low water pressure, the temperature will fluctuate.

    Second – I did the install myself with the help of my father-in-law. We spent about $100. A professional install will run you at least $200 (and you need a relatively new circuit breaker panel).

    Third – you don’t save quite as much as advertised. It’s kind of like the Prius – gas mileage is very, very good, just not great.

    Fourth – you have to stay in your house at least 5 years to recoup the cost difference between a tankless and standard in utility bills.

    So, while I would recommend them, there are certainly drawbacks. It’s almost an “environmental/frugal statement” purchase like a Prius, except no one knows about it because you’re not driving it :-)


  14. Sounds like the case of not understand why the necessities are so important to you and why you VALUE them in your heart ABOVE some comforts.
    If you tell a child to do something, they won’t be enthusiastic or understand why they “HAVE” to do it.
    If you let a child be creative in accomplishing a goal by showing them why it should be important to them and helping them “feel” it, you will have a wonderful outcome!
    Consider your values.
    Consider what this means to you.
    So why do you actually WANT to take care of basics? Is this a comfort on it’s own.
    Visualize your accomplishment over debt, FEEL it, and then you can decide if some of these comforts discussed can be removed since they don’t FEEL as satisfying. Good luck!


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