Water Heaters 101

If you are a new homeowner, you may not realize that your home’s water heater uses the third largest amount of energy of all your household appliances. A water heater is crucial and in most cases you cannot reduce the amount of use that it gets. However, you can increase the efficiency of your current water heater or even replace it with a more efficient solution.

First, if you don’t want to replace your current water heater, here are three things that you can do to increase the efficiency of your water heating.

  • Use less hot water. Consider taking warm showers instead of hot showers, and lower the temperature of your dishwasher.
  • Take shorter showers when possible, or install low-pressure shower heads. Many people incorrectly believe that baths use less water than showers. Four people showering for five minutes each, three times a week use almost 1,000 gallons of water every single week.
  • Insulate! Just as insulating your attic reduces heat loss through the roof, insulating your water heater keeps water hot for a longer period of time.

If your water heater is more than five years old, you may need to replace it in the near future. If it is more than ten years, definitely consider replacing it before it stops functioning.

Water heaters are an enclosed mechanism and therefore cannot be repaired. It is always good to know which replacement model you will select if your water heater stops working.

Here are some additional useful tips about water heaters and water heating in general.

  • A water-heater thermostat set at 115 degrees is much more fuel efficient than those set at higher temperatures.
    When insulting your water heater, never cover the thermostat.
  • Insulate hot water pipes and the water heater itself for a more consistent water temperature.
  • Newer water heaters are better insulated than their older counterparts. Buying a new model is much safer than placing insulation around an existing water heater.
  • If your home has an electric water heater, try installing an automatic timer. This will allow you to turn off the water heater when your family is sleeping. Imagine the savings of not running the heater all night long.
  • Water heaters gather sediment. Removing up to a quart of water from your water heater tank four times per year will extend the lifespan of the water heater.

If you need to purchase and install a new water heater, know that technology changes constantly. Be aware of the latest developments in water heating. Here are some facts to consider when purchasing a new water heater for your home.

  • There are four major types of water heaters. Traditional tank-style water heaters keep water consistently hot to provide quick and easy access. Demand water heaters do not run continuously and are better for small homes with only a few occupants. Heat-pump-style water heaters are the most efficient option, but they also require the most space and are best in newer homes.
  • Tankless water heaters use your home’s heating system and require the least space.
  • Pay attention to the yellow energy-guide sticker. Consumers often merely glance at the statistics and underestimate the power of the information. The FHR rating will tell you approximately how much hot water the heater can provide during a busy hour in your home.
  • The EF rating on the energy-guide label tells you how efficiently the water heater operates and explains how much energy is wasted during the heating process. Look for water heaters with the highest EF for the type that you are purchasing.
  • With water heaters, you get what you pay for. You might save $100 up front by buying a less expensive model, but in the long run you are getting a shorter lifespan, higher energy costs and a shorter warranty.

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Risa Topper

Risa Topper

Broker Associate - MRP, ABR, GRI
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