When was the last time you thought about your water heater? If it’s not in plain view in your garage, chances are it’s been a while.
Never mind that water heaters are the unsung heroes of our homes. If Nashville is hit with another extended, cold winter blast next year, you’ll enjoy every moment of every hot shower.
But hot water doesn’t matter only when it’s cold outside. It’s part of everyday life in summer, too, from cooking dinner to doing laundry to bath time for the kids.
The bottom line is: the more you know about your water heater, the more likely you’ll be to make the right purchase, save money and keep this household workhorse in tip-top shape.
5 Things About Water Heaters
- A Bigger Water Heater Doesn’t Always Mean Better
When it comes to water heaters, one size does not fit all. With a larger tank, you’re less likely to run out of hot water. But a too-large tank wastes energy; it reheats the same water again and again.
On the other hand, with a smaller tank, your water heater could switch into its heat cycle too often. That also wastes energy and overburdens the water heater—and potentially shortens its lifespan.
An appropriately-sized water heater hits the sweet spot between energy efficiency, convenience, comfort and cost. The U.S. Department of Energy’s sizing a new water heater page provides a worksheet that helps estimate your peak hour hot water demand, which gets you in the ballpark, so to speak.
An experienced plumber will consider peak demand and other factors to help you choose the most efficient and effective system, whether that’s a storage and heat pump water heater, solar water heater or a combination system.
- Water Heaters Need Regular Maintenance
Out of sight, out of mind: that’s how most homeowners regard their water heater. But water heaters never really go off duty. While you’re sleeping, at work or shopping for groceries, your water heater is on the job, either monitoring temperature or cycling on to maintain a dependable temperature.
Without regular maintenance, minor issues can fly under the radar until they grow into a major repair issue. Some problems can make your water heater work harder than it should; others can leave you with a flooded utility closet.
It’s safer and much more cost effective to keep your system running smoothly than to clean up after a major leak or to replace the unit, which is why we recommend regular, routine service.
3. Just Because Hot Water Looks Clear Doesn’t Mean It Is Pure
If you could see inside the tank of your water heater, you might be shocked. Clean water flows in—the same water you get from the tap. But even water that looks crystal clear can have impurities, and over time, those impurities settle to the bottom of the tank. If there’s any rust inside the tank, that will settle to the bottom, too.
As a result, flushing your water heater is an important aspect of routine maintenance. It involves draining the water and flushing the tank with fresh water before refilling and putting it back into operation. The Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IIBHS) recommends flushing the tank twice per year, as well as getting an annual inspection.
As the IIBHS notes, “water heater failure is one of the top five sources of residential water damage…. In fact, water heater failures cost an average of $4,444 per incident after the deductible. If you think your water heater is not [at] risk, keep in mind that 69 percent of all water heater failures result from a slow leak or sudden burst.”
- On-Demand or Tankless Water Heaters Aren’t Perfect
Who doesn’t love the idea of endless hot water? While that’s a bit of an exaggeration, tankless or on-demand water heaters are designed to heat water as you need it. It can save money over maintaining a tankful of hot water at all times.
Energy Star advises that an Energy Star-certified gas model tankless water heater can save $1,500 over the life of the appliance for a family of four.
Another benefit is that tankless models are small; they don’t require a big utility closet or a large spot in the garage. And if the unit is sized appropriately for your family’s needs, chances are you’ll be satisfied. But tankless or on-demand water heaters present some potential drawbacks:
- On-demand water heaters are more expensive on the front end (though the lifetime energy savings could more than pay for the unit.)
- While all water heaters should get regular maintenance, tankless models require it. Mineral deposits can build up and impair operation sooner than they would in a tank-style appliance.
- Cold water can catch you by surprise. If you hop in the shower with hot water already in the supply line, expect a shot of cold in a minute or two. That’s because it takes a few seconds for water to heat up. While existing hot water in the line is used, cold water flows through behind it as the tankless heater warms up. Thankfully, there are work-arounds to bridge the cold water gap, such as a buffer tank added to the line.
- Last but not least, tankless water heaters require a different type of installation, which may include gas line and venting upgrades.
- Tank-Style Water Heaters Use More Energy (But Less Than Before)
There was a time when tank-style water heaters guzzled energy faster than a 1975 Buick station wagon guzzled gas. That changed in 2015. New Department of Energy efficiency standards translate to lower energy bills and less waste for homeowners. So if you prefer a tank-style water heater, you can own a new one without any guilt. They’re more environmentally friendly than ever before.
According to Consumer Reports, water heaters that hold 55 gallons or less are required to improve efficiency four percent over older models. (“Water heaters that hold 55 gallons or more will see bigger efficiency gains”).
If four percent doesn’t seem like much, consider this. The U.S. Department of Energy says water heating is the second largest expense in your home, accounting for 14-18 percent of your utility bills. So the savings can add up.
Do You Need Water Heater Repair?
whether you need routine maintenance, water heater repair or you’re in the market for a brand-new water heater, Jewell Mechanical is here to help. Contact us online or call us at (615) 469-5965.
We also offer a Plumbing Maintenance Agreement—the plumbing version of our HVAC Maintenance Agreement—for additional peace of mind. Jewell Mechanical provides residential and commercial plumbing services to Davidson County and most of the rest of Middle Tennessee.