How To Consider a New Water Heater for Your Home

Installing a hot water heater

Gas or Electric Tank Water Heaters
Tank water heaters are the most common type of water heater installed in American homes. Your home will have a gas-powered water heater or an electric water heater, depending on what power source your house runs on. If the rest of the house is powered by gas you will naturally have a gas-powered water heater; if it runs on electricity you will choose an electric water heater.

Nevertheless, there are choices to be made. When you do purchase your new water heater, keep in mind that there are many problems you can experience with the appliance due to the nature of how it works. Therefore, you will want to take note of several facts when replacing your hot water heater. There are a variety of features that can save you time and money down the road.

Comparing Units. Not all water heaters are the same. Electric and gas units utilize two very different means of heating the water dispersed throughout the home. Because of this, trying to compare the two is somewhat impractical. However, you can compare gas to gas or electric to electric. Below are a few items to take note of when replacing a hot water heater.

  • Energy Factor. The first feature to look at is the energy factor (EF). Don't worry about combustion efficiency or heating efficiency if they are listed. The bottom line: overall efficiency is the EF.
  • Heating Capacity. Also on the energy-guide label, check the “first hour rating” to find out how many gallons the water heater can produce in one hour and make sure the amount will be enough for your needs.
  • Electrical Supply. For electric heaters, make sure your home has a 220 volt outlet to plug the tank into as well as enough room for the tank. Electric heaters often have larger heaters so they can have a larger supply of hot water ready, to make up for slower heating time compared to gas heaters.
  • Temperature Rise. Lastly, check the “temperature rise” measurement; it should be at 90° F or close to it.
  • Tankless Water Heater. You also have the increasingly popular option of a tankless or on-demand water heater. Whereas traditional hot water heaters have a tank in which the water is heated and stored for use, the tankless water heater works without the use of a water-filled reservoir. Instead water is fed through the appliance and heated as it is used. This saves both on electricity or gas and water. It also alleviates the need to wait for hot water.

Important Hot Water Heater Features. The following are some important facts to consider before you buy a new unit. These items can ensure that you purchase a heater that will be less expensive to run, last longer, and cost less to repair.

  • Insulation. The average tank-type water heater has an insulation of R-6 or R-8. However, ask if there are any water heaters with an insulation of R-16. The cost is only a little more, but the tank heating efficiency is much higher.
  • Anode Accessibility. The anode rod is a very important part of the hot water heater. This part is a long metal tube that dissolves over time to help prolong the life of the hot water heater. This rod keeps the inside of the tank from gathering rust and corrosion. Without this device hot water heaters would not have as long of a life span. You want to make sure that the new appliance has anode rods that are easily accessible.

    On tank-type water heaters, check to see if the anode rod is easy to access. Look for a hexagonal-shaped head on top of the water heater or ask if the water heater uses a combination anode rod (for more information see Anode Rods). If you cannot find the rod on the top and the water heater does not have a combination anode rod, then the anode rod is hidden. If this is the case, look for a different water heater. Easy access to anode rods means easier tank maintenance for a professional plumber.

  • Dip Tubes. One more question to ask is if the water heater has a curved dip tube, or a straight dip tube. The dip tube brings cold water into the tank to replace the water that is being used. A straight dip tube will shoot the water directly to the bottom of the tank. This design was the most efficient way to get the cold water to the bottom of the tank so that it would have time to heat up before being used.

    A curved dip tube will bring water into the tank at an angle. This causes any impurities to be dispersed through the water. Curved dip tubes prevent sediment from building up at the bottom of the tank. Make sure the new hot water heater has a curved dip tube in order to prolong the life of your hot water heater.

  • Warranty. Tank-type water heaters usually come with either a five-year warranty or a ten-year warranty. A ten-year warranty comes with a tank that has two anode rods instead of one. This is the only physical difference between the two warranties.

    Note: Most manufacturer defects show up within the standard five-year warranty period.

For Gas or Propane Water Heaters. Are you considering switching from an electric to a gas water heater? Are there gas lines available for the water heater or can they be installed? Do you have proper ventilation with the outside for the gas and air? Is there a second story directly above the water heater? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you might want to consider a direct vent water heater or a power vent water heater.

  • Direct Vent. Direct vent water heaters are ideal for spaces with difficult angles or for those wishing to convert from an electric to a gas water heater. It has a built-in venting system, using a two-pronged pipe that brings in air from the outside and expels the exhaust through an adjacent wall instead of the roof. And because this venting system creates an airtight combustion chamber, it effectively prevents back drafting. That is where gas fumes escape into the air directly around the water heater.
  • Power Vent. The power vent water heater is very much like the direct vent water heater. The only differences are that the power vent heater uses the air inside the house not the outside air. And the power vent heater is electrical so it will need an electrical outlet nearby.

As you can see, buying a new hot water heater is no easy decision. You want a unit that will be able to supply the demand that is placed on it, while still being energy efficient. That is why it is so very important to do a little research before going to the store. Learning the facts about this appliance can mean thousands of dollars of savings in years to come.


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