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Before Choosing a Water Heater, Read This

Published by Handy Work on

water heater

Water heaters are not exactly high tech, but they are still complex enough that some people may not know what to look for when shopping.

If you’re in the market for one, here’s a quick overview of some of the more important things to consider.

Size: How much water do you have to heat? A typical household needs around 40 gallons per day. If you have a big family or if you like to take long, hot showers, that number will be higher.

The size of the tank on an electric heater is typically 40 to 50 gallons, and on a gas heater it’s 50 to 80 gallons.

Cost: Energy Star-rated models cost about $50 more than regular ones. If your utility company offers rebates or credits for buying Energy Star models, the price difference can be even less.

Newer models also save money by using less energy than older ones do; if your home is more than 15 years old (or if it has an electric water heater), upgrading could pay for itself in less than five years.

Hot Water Delivery Rates

This refers to how quickly a heater can deliver hot water after it’s called up from the tank—also known as “initial heat-up.”

A faster rate means that your shower won’t cool down while you’re waiting for hot water to arrive; this feature is particularly important for households with multiple people who take showers at once or with older occupants who need lots of time and hot water for bathing.

Most new electric and gas heaters now have heat-up rates of 2 gallons per minute (gpm). Some high-efficiency models deliver 3 gpm or more—which can reduce your total energy bill by 10% or more versus a standard model

because you use less energy keeping your hot-water supply topped up between showers and dishwasher loads.

Energy Costs

You’ll save money over time by choosing an Energy Star model rather than a standard one, especially if your utility offers rebates or credits for buying them

If you plan on living in your home for a long time (typically at least seven years), buying one will pay off because it will allow you to have lower operating costs during that time period compared with an older model.

If fuel prices increase dramatically before you replace it, stay with what you have and do not upgrade just yet. A higher fuel bill now may ruin your savings.

If your current heater is close to the end of its life, replacing it now might be a good idea. Especially if you can find an Energy Star model for a reasonable price.

Maintenance

Electric heaters are usually low-maintenance devices because they have no moving parts. They have to be installed properly, but once that’s done, you don’t have to do much more.

Gas heaters require more frequent attention than electric ones because they have moving parts—such as vents and burners—that can get clogged or otherwise malfunction.

You’ll need to call in a pro to clean out your vents on an annual basis and replace other parts about once every five years. If your gas bills are high, you might consider getting a condensing gas heater or upgrading to an Energy Star model.

Condensing models use 15% less energy than standard ones and last 10% longer; they also cost about $200 more up front.

Safety

For safety reasons, some states don’t allow electric water heaters with tanks larger than 50 gallons because of the risk of fires from overheating wires or connections.

Check with your local utility or fire department for details if you’re in doubt about the size limit in your area—and keep in mind that gas heaters can get damaged by power surges and might not be as safe as electric ones during power outages because they burn continuously while there’s no electricity flowing through them (unlike an electric one).

If you’re replacing an electric heater, it’s also a good idea to get one with a safety valve that shuts off the flow of gas if the temperature in the tank rises above a certain point.

If you have young children or pets, another excellent feature to look for is an anti-scalding device, which will automatically lower your hot water temperature if you leave it on too long after the water in the tank has heated up.

Installation and Warranty

The best place to buy your heater is from someone who will install it and offer follow-up service should anything go wrong.

If you’re shopping online, research any company’s reputation before making your purchase and make sure it has a solid track record and clear information about its return and refund policies.

In addition, look for a warranty that lasts at least five years on parts and labor.


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