The high cost of heating water can be a real financial burden. At 20% of your household budget, it is second only to what you spend on heating and cooling. Despite the monthly expense, it can be easy to forget about your old water heater until it starts leaking or stops working altogether!
How to determine the age of your water heater
The durability of your water heater is difficult to predict — with different models and fuel sources, it could last anywhere between 8-20 years. The first 4 digits of the serial number are the month and the year. Give yours a quick check. If it's between 12-15 years old, you should consider replacing it VERY soon.
If your current unit is more than ten years old (and a little worn-down), consider replacing it before your bills get even higher. It might make sense to update it to a more efficient model even if it is in okay shape, considering how expensive energy is.
Think about replacement now
We recommend calling us or another plumbing expert for an inspection. Not only will it give you peace of mind, but it also gives you time to start researching. That way, you can find one that best fits your needs instead of getting stuck with whatever is available in the event yours breaks down unexpectedly.
Before looking for a water heater
Before looking for a water heater
One of the first things to consider when shopping for a residential water heater is energy efficiency. Simply put, if it saves you energy, it saves you money!
Another important consideration is the type of water heater. In most cases, homeowners replace their old water heater with the same type as before. However, it's worth doing a little exploring beyond "does it run on natural gas or electricity?"
First, are you replacing your old water heater or adding a new one?
Switching from a tank water heater to a tankless unit can be expensive because it requires retrofitting your plumbing and possibly even your electrical system. On the other hand, if you're starting from scratch, a tankless unit will work well in your new home or home addition.
Next, compare your daily hot water usage to the tanks FHR or GPM:
You must know how much hot water your household uses at peak times, otherwise know as "First Hour Rating". We have added a worksheet below to help you calculate this.
|Use||Gallons||Times Used||1 HR Period|
|Shaving (.5 per minute)||2||x||=|
|Food Prep / Hand wash||4||x||=|
|1 food prep||4||x||1||=||4|
|Peak Times||=||36 gallons|
What types of water heaters are out there?
Although there are three main categories (1. Storage or on-demand 2. Gas or electric, 3. Stand-alone or integrated with a heating system)- we're going to focus on the first. The storage or on-demand category: aka, the conventional tank or tankless units.
Storage tank units
You also need to know "The first-hour rating"- This is the number of gallons a water heater can deliver in an hour. You can find the FHR on the EnergyGuide label on the side of the tank.
Tankless water heaters
For tankless units, look at the gallons-per-minute (GPM) rating. It reveals how much hot water it can deliver over a set period. Higher numbers mean more capability. As a general rule, a typical shower uses about 2.5 GPM, while new washers range from 7 – 19 gallons per load.
Water heater sizing requirements
When sizing either unit, be sure to take usage, timing, and the requirements of your other appliances into account. Don't just look at tank measurements! For a complete guide on how to size a water heater, visit the Department of Energy's online sizing guide.
More information about storage tank water heaters
Storage tanks are the most common and are insulated tanks that store and heat water until needed. They have a pipe on top that delivers the hot water, and there is also a temperature- and pressure-relief valve, which opens if either exceeds a preset level.
Good- Natural gas water heaters typically use less energy and cost less to run (by about half) than electric water heaters, but they cost more.
Bad - They hold a limited amount and may struggle to supply enough hot water during high-demand periods. Tank-type heaters also burn energy (gas or electricity) day and night to maintain the water temperature, regardless of whether or not hot water is needed, something known as standby heat loss.
More information about tankless water heaters
Rather than storing water, tankless water heaters use heating coils to heat the water as you need it. They are more energy-efficient than a storage tank but provide a limited flow of hot water per minute -about 3.5 gallons.
Good - They are compact, wall-hung units that provide hot water for the entire house without the bulky storage tank. Most importantly, they are more efficient and use less energy.
Bad - They are not so great if you use gallons of hot water in multiple places, all at the same time. For example, showering and running a load of laundry simultaneously. They can also be an expensive purchase and require your home to have a newer electrical system.
Different kinds of storage-tank and tankless water heaters
Hybrid water heaters
A hybrid water heater is a tank-type heater equipped with an electric heat pump water heater. It uses about 60 percent less energy than a standard electric water heater but doesn't work well in colder areas and requires a lot of space. Hybrids cost about twice as much as a standard model, however, due to the lower electric bills, you can recoup your extra investment in as little as 3-4 years.
Solar water heaters
These collect energy from the sun through solar panels mounted on the roof. The units use the energy to run the water tank and have backup systems that are similar to conventional models. These backup systems only kick in when needed; say on a cloudy day for example. They are for great warm, sunny regions, but they come with a premium price tag that takes over 10 years to recoup.
Condensing water heaters
Condensing water heaters come in tank and tankless models and are an excellent option for those who heat with gas. They are most commonly known as condensing boilers or combi boilers. They are widely used in commercial spaces and are becoming popular for residential applications because of their ultra-efficiency.
With so many options for water heaters on the market, it can be hard to know which one is best for your home. If you have any questions about what type of water heater might work well in your house or if you need an honest assessment and recommendation from a trusted expert who knows their stuff, we’re here for you. Call Quix Plumbing Service today and let us help!