water from a conventional or tankless water heater

Tankless water heater or conventional water heater?

When considering replacing a water heater, homeowners should weigh the pros and cons of purchasing a conventional water heater or a tankless water heater. Both types of water heaters are commonly used in homes. The decision to purchase one over the other should be based on your household needs and budget.  

Conventional Water Heater Pros and Cons

Conventional water heaters typically offer the lowest initial costs. They are also easier to install, repair, and replace than tankless water heaters. Most conventional water heaters have a capacity of 30 to 50 gallons. The water is preheated ahead of time and held in the tank until it is needed. As the hot water is used, the tank refills and the new water is preheated

Since conventional water heaters hold a set amount of preheated water, regardless of how much is being used, they also have the highest operating costs. The amount of hot water that you have at any given time is also limited by the capacity of the tank. This means that you could run out of hot water during periods of heavy use. Conventional water heaters also typically have a shorter lifespan than tankless models. Conventional water heaters also take up more room than tankless versions.

Tankless Water Heater Pros and Cons

Tankless water heaters use gas or electricity to heat water on demand, so no water is stored. They do come with a higher price tag; however, the higher cost is typically offset by lower operating costs and a longer lifespan. Since water is heated as needed, you never have to worry about running out of hot water. Tankless water heaters may be more complex and expensive to install, but they can be placed virtually anywhere and take up less room than conventional models

Which Is Best?

Deciding which type of water heater is right for you is a matter of balancing budget against the pros and cons of each type of water heater. If you have a large family that requires large amounts of hot water, a tankless model may be your best option. If budget and ease of maintenance are your primary concern, a conventional water heater may be the best choice for you. 

The experts and Swan Plumbing, Heating, & Air can go over all the pros and cons with you and help you decide which type of water heater works best for your family!

Contact us today! 

Water Heater FAQ

QUESTION: Why Does the Upper Thermostat on My Water Heater Keep Resetting?

ANSWER:

If you have an electric water heater with a reset switch that keeps going off, it usually indicates a problem with the heating element or thermostat. The heating element can be tested using an ohm meter. This is done by disconnecting the wires from the element and putting the ohm meter on the leads.

IMPORTANT WARNING:

This should only be done by a trained service technician. The wires that are attached to the heating element and thermostat contain high-voltage electricity and pose a risk of serious injury or death. You should not attempt to work on these components unless you are trained and experienced in working with electricity and have knowledge of lock-out tag-out procedures.

As a general rule, you should replace the thermostat and heating elements at the same time. Before you spend the money on replacement parts and labor, you should consider the age of your water heater. Most water heaters have a usable life of 10 to 15 years. If your unit is more than 10 years old, it may make more sense to replace it. You can usually offset the cost of purchase and installation within a few years through lower utility bills.

QUESTION: Why Does My Water Heater Make Rumbling or Sizzling Noises?

ANSWER:

If your water heater makes loud, rumbling sounds, you most likely have sediment buildup at the bottom of your tank. The sound is actually the water inside the sediment starting to boil. The sediment buildup causes heat to be sent up the flue instead of being transferred to the water. This decreases the efficiency of your water heater.

You may be able to remedy the problem by draining some of the water from the bottom of your water heater tank. You do this by attaching a garden hose to the valve located at the bottom of the tank and allowing the water to drain for approximately five minutes.

IMPORTANT WARNING:

The water coming from the unit is extremely hot and dangerous. The water should only be drained into a bathtub, laundry tub, or down a floor drain. Do not drain the water into your toilet bowl because it will crack. You also should not drain the water onto your lawn to avoid killing your grass.

If you have an old water heater, you may benefit from replacing it. Newer model water heaters are more energy-efficient, and many new models come with features to prevent sediment buildup.

Gas water heaters sometimes make a sound similar to water hitting a hot skillet. This is a result of the natural combustion process and is normal during times of peak demand, if the tank is in a cold environment, or when first starting a new water heater that is filled with cold water.

QUESTION: Why Does the Pilot Light on My Water Heater Not Stay Lit?

ANSWER:

If the pilot light on your water heater keeps going out, you may have a bad thermocouple. A thermocouple is essentially a small generator that produces a magnetic current that opens the magnetic gas valve situated in the control unit on the front of the tank. The generator or the wiring can fail so that the thermocouple cannot sense the heat from the pilot. This will cause the pilot light to shut off repeatedly. The best solution is to replace the thermocouple. If you choose to attempt this by yourself, you should read the instructions that come with the thermocouple very carefully and follow all recommended safety precautions.

QUESTION: My New Water Heater Keep Releasing Pressure. Why?

ANSWER:

The temperature and pressure relief valves are an essential safety feature of your water heater. They are designed to go off anytime that there is an increase in water system pressure. For example, they should go off when the unit starts to heat the water since the pressure inside the tank will increase as the water expands. Without a working temperature and pressure relief valve, your water heater would essentially become a bomb if the pressure inside the tank were to get too high.

If you do not have a pressure-reducing valve on your main line, the water will expand into the city water supply in order to relieve the pressure. If your home is equipped with a pressure-reducing valve, you should install an expansion tank that can absorb the excess pressure. Pressure-reducing or backflow prevention valves are common in homes renovated or built within the past 10 to 20 years. They are designed to keep water entering the house from flowing back out into the water supply system. That means that the extra water inside the water tank has no place to go, which allows the pressure to build to the point that the water escapes out the discharge tube. An expansion tank is installed in the cold water line between the tank and the backflow value so that the water has somewhere to go. Our professional technicians are happy to take care of this task for you.

If the above steps do not resolve the problem, it could mean that the water pressure coming in from the main supply is too high. Residential water pressure should be between 50 and 70 psi. Pressure above 80 psi can strain your supply lines and appliances. You can solve the problem by installing a pressure regulator on the incoming water line along with an expansion tank.

QUESTION: Why Does the Temperature of My Electric Water Heater Raise on Its Own?

ANSWER:

There are a couple of reasons why the temperature of your water heater could increase by itself. The most obvious problem is a bad thermostat. The heat sensor in the thermostat is supposed to keep the water from heating beyond the set temperature. If the heat sensor fails, the temperature of the water will continue to increase until the backup thermostat causes the heating element to turn off. Unless you are knowledgeable about water heater repair, you should call a professional to determine which thermostat is not working. The thermostat of an electric water heater typically carries 240 volts, so it should only be removed and replaced by someone familiar with electrical safety.

The problem could also be mean that the tube surrounding the heating element is damaged. This means that the element is heating the water directly. When this happens, you may still get hot water until the element burns out. You may even continue to get some hot water as the second element continues to heat the water. A professional can test both the upper and lower heating element with an ohm meter to determine if they are functioning within acceptable levels. This should only be done by someone familiar with electrical safety and after the power leads are disconnected.

If you have had your water heater for more than 10 years, it may be more cost effective to install a new unit. The time, labor, and cost of repair will often equal the price of a new unit. A new energy-efficient model will also help you save money on utility bills.

QUESTION: Why Does My Water Never Seem to Get Hot?

ANSWER:

One common cause of tepid water is a buildup of residue or sediment at the bottom of your tank. You can solve this problem by flushing the tank. We recommend that you flush your tank at least once a year.

If you have a large family or you seem to run out of hot water when you have extra guests, your tank may simply be too small to meet the demand. You may want to consider upgrading to a unit with a larger tank or investing in a tankless water heater that offers hot water on demand.

The dip tube that forces the cold water down to the bottom of the tank may need to be replaced. When the dip tube is not working properly, cold water is allowed to rise to the top of the tank where it exits through the hot water outlet to your faucet.

If you notice that your pilot light is not staying lit, you may need to have the thermocouple replaced. The thermocouple is a tiny generator that is responsible for creating a magnetic current that holds open the gas valve located in the control unit located on the front of the water heater. If the thermocouple or its wiring are not functioning properly, the water heater will not sense the heat from the pilot light correctly. This will cause it to constantly cycle on and off. This can typically be remedied by replacing the thermocouple.

If your water heater is not providing you with enough hot water, our team of expert technicians can diagnose the problem and recommend the appropriate replacement part or install a new water heater if your unit cannot be repaired.

If you have hot water but it takes a while for it to get to your shower or tap, it is probably due to the configuration of your plumbing. Once the hot water exits the water heater, it has to travel through the pipes to the faucet. If you live in a large or ranch style home, this may mean that the water has to travel through an expansive plumbing run, so it can take a while for the hot water to reach the faucet. We can install a recirculation system that can help get the hot water to you faster.

QUESTION: Why Have I Recently Started Running Out of Hot Water?

ANSWER:

Water temperatures that fall quickly could be caused by a couple of different issues. The first is that your dip tube may have fallen off inside the tank. The dip tube forces cold water coming into the tank to the bottom so that it can be heated. This allows hot water to remain at the top of the tank near the hot water outlet where it can go out to your faucet.

If you have an electric water heater, the problem may be a malfunctioning heating element or thermostat. If the heating element in the bottom of the tank is not working properly, only the top part of the water will get warm. A qualified water heater repair technician can inspect and replace your thermostat or heating element.

You should also make sure that you do not have a leaking toilet. You should check that water is not flowing into the overflow pipe. The overflow pipe is located in the middle of your toilet tank and is connected to some small tubing. If you notice water going into the overflow pipe, you will need to adjust the fill valve so that the water stops at the water line mark stamped on the side of your tank or approximately one inch below the top of the toilet’s overflow tube. You can also use food coloring to check for leaks in the flush valve mechanism. Place a few drops of food coloring in your toilet tank. Check the color of the water in the bowl in approximately 15 minutes. If it has changed colors, you have a leak and should replace the ball or flapper.

QUESTION: How Do I Keep My Water Heater Running Properly?

ANSWER:

The most important piece of maintenance for your water heater is to flush or drain the tank. This is a relatively simple process that should be performed at least once a year. Flushing your tank will prevent dirt and sediment from building up at the bottom of the tank, which can cause rust and other problems. If you live in an area with a lot of water sediment, you may need to drain your tank more often than once a year.

Before starting the process, it is important to take safety precautions since the water will be extremely hot. You should wear gloves and safety goggles and read all warning and safety information for your water heater.

• Turn off the gas or electricity running to your water heater.

• Make sure the water supply to the water heater is turned off.

• Connect a garden hose to the drain valve. Make sure that the free end of the hose is located over a drain or in an area where the hot water can drain safely.

• Ensure that the pressure relief valve is open before opening the drain valve to allow the water to drain.

Depending on the size of your water heater and the amount of accumulated sediment, it can take up to 30 minutes for your tank to drain. When the tank has finished draining, you should close the drain valve and the pressure relief valve. You can then turn the water supply back on, but do not turn on the electricity or gas until the tank starts to refill to avoid damaging the unit. Once the tank is full, turn on the power to allow the water to heat.

Replacing the anodes is another way to extend the life of your water heater. The anodes are rods that hang down inside the top of the tank and help prevent corrosion. Changing the anode every few years can extend the life of the water heater tank almost indefinitely.

QUESTION: What Are the Pros and Cons of Different Types of Water Heaters?

ANSWER:

The two most common types of water heaters are conventional and tankless. The benefits of conventional water heaters include a relatively low price tag, easy installation and maintenance, and a fairly long usable life of approximately 10 years. The drawbacks of conventional water heaters include higher operating costs and a limited supply of hot water as determined by the size of your tank.

Tankless water heaters offer the greatest energy efficiency, the lowest operating costs, and a lifespan of up to 20 years. Tankless systems also provide an endless supply of hot water, which is perfect for families with a high demand. The downside includes a higher purchase price and a more complicated installation process.

Both conventional and tankless water heaters run off your home’s gas or electric power. Models are also available that use alternative energy sources like solar power or a geothermal heat pump. Your local authorities can advise as to which options are available in your area as well as the applicable plumbing codes. Water heaters that use alternative energy may be more expensive to install, and fuel costs can vary depending on your area.

QUESTION: What Is the Optimal Temperature for My Water Heater?

ANSWER:

The default setting used by most water heater manufacturers is 120°. Most people find that this temperature is comfortable, reduces the risk of scalding injuries, and still provides plenty of hot water. The lower temperature also slows corrosion and mineral buildup in your water heater tank and pipes. By reducing your water heater thermostat from 140° to 120°, you can save anywhere from 4 to 22 percent in energy costs.

If you have a water heater without specific temperature designations, simply use the medium setting on the thermostat. The temperature dial is normally situated in front of the gas valve on gas water heaters. Electric water heaters may have two thermostats. They are normally located behind the panels on the side of the tank. There are exposed high-voltage wires behind these panels, so you must turn off the electricity to the tank before attempting to remove the panels.

QUESTION: Why Do I Have a Puddle Under My Water Heater?

ANSWER:

Water under your water heater could indicate a couple of different problems. The first step is to look for a hole in the external tank or pipes. If you notice that your water is running constantly, your water heater is probably leaking and must be replaced by a professional. If you notice water coming up from the floor drain when you use other plumbing in the house, then there is probably some type of blockage at the junction of the branch line and floor drain. If this is the case, you should call a drain technician to clear the line.

It a good idea to place a metal drain pan under the water heater, especially if it is located in the attic or a small interior closet. This can protect your flooring in the event of a leak or tank failure.

QUESTION: Why Do I Have Yellow/Orange Balls in My Cold Water?

ANSWER:

The orange/yellow particulate in your water could be caused by a couple of different problems.

Water softeners contain beads made from zeolite resin. The beads remove the calcium and minerals in the water and replace them with potassium or sodium ions. Over time, the screen that holds the beads in place can fail and allow the beads to enter the water supply.

The particulate could also indicate a problem with the drip tube. This plastic tube is meant to carry cold water to the bottom of your hot water tank. Certain types of water can cause the tubing to dissolve, which can cause small pieces of plastic to appear in your water. If this is the case, you will also notice that you get lukewarm water instead of hot water.

QUESTION: What Options Do I Have When Replacing My Water Heater?

ANSWER:

There are times when a water heater simply cannot be repaired and must be replaced. The following are warning signs that indicate that you may need to consider replacing your water heater.

Your hot water is rust or mud-colored instead of clear. Rusty water is a tell-tale sign that the inside of your tank is corroded. The most common places for rust to develop are the seams, temperature valve, and pressure relief valve. Muddy water indicates that sediment has collected at the bottom of your tank.

Your water heater makes loud, rumbling noises. This is the result of hardened scale and mineral deposits coming into contact with the heating element.

Leaks or standing water around your water heater indicate a failure inside the unit. In most cases, these issues are not easily fixed, and the unit must be replaced to prevent flooding and serious damage to your floors and walls.

Most water heaters have about a 10-year service life. If yours is more than a decade old, you should anticipate purchasing a new one in the not too distant future.

When choosing a new water heater, you need to consider size, energy efficiency, cost, and the type of fuel that it will use.

When it comes to the fuel source, gas, propane, or electricity are the easiest and most common options; however, water heaters are also available that run off solar or geothermal energy. You should consider the availability and cost of the different fuel types in your area as well as what you use to power most of your other appliances.

Whether you choose a conventional water heater or a tankless model depends on your budget as well as your family’s needs. Conventional water heaters store preheated water in a tank and replenish the supply as the water is used. They are less expensive to install. The downside is that they cost more to operate, and your hot water supply is limited by the size of the tank. Tankless water heaters only heat the water as it is needed, so there is no holding tank. They are more expensive to install but cost less to operate. They also provide an endless supply of hot water, so you never have to worry about your shower suddenly turning cold. Hybrid water heaters typically generate heat using both electricity and a heat pump. The heat pump pulls in heat from the surroundings, which reduces the amount of electricity needed to heat the water.

The size of the space where you plan to install your water heater is also an important consideration. Conventional water heaters are bulky, and the size of your tank will be limited by the size of the space available. Tankless water heaters are more compact and can be installed in very small spaces. Hybrid water heaters are also well suited to small spaces and are easy to install. Many hybrid models also come with touch pads, which makes it easy to adjust the water temperature as needed.

A professional water heater installation service can help you determine the most appropriate type of water heater based on your budget and family needs.

QUESTION: Why Do I Still Run Out Of Water After Replacing My Water Heaters Heating Element?

ANSWER:

If you have a rapid loss of hot water, you may have a problem with the drip tube. This is the pipe attached to the water heater’s cold water inlet pipe that is supposed to heat the cold water by moving it through the hot water to the bottom of the tank where the burner is located. The drip tube is supposed to direct the cold water toward the bottom of the tank so that it does not go over the hot water outlet and out to your faucets. It is possible for the drip tube to fall off inside your water heater. This allows the cold water to rise to the top of your tank, which means that you get cold water within just a few minutes. Fixing the problem requires pulling the cold water inlet pipe to verify that the drip tube is still attached and in good condition.

QUESTION: How Do I Keep Cold Weather From Damaging My Water Heater?

ANSWER:

A number of factors can make your water heater susceptible to damage during the winter months. If your water heater is old or in an unheated part of your home, cold temperatures can cause the metal to expand and contract, which can result in damage as well as leaks. Excess sediment, the quality of the unit, and attention to maintenance can all affect how well your water heater stands up to the cold.

It is easy for water heater leaks to go unnoticed until they cause significant damage to your walls or floors. It is important to check under and around your water heater frequently for any signs of water, especially during cold weather.

You should also be aware of the following warning signs that you may have a leak or other problems with your water heater.

  • The metal tank is protruding, bent, or cracked.
  • The water takes longer than normal to get hot.
  • You run out of hot water too quickly.

Self-help fixes, such as adding insulation around the tank, adjusting the thermostat, or flushing the tank may solve the problem. In most cases, it is best to contact a professional repair service to diagnose and fix the problem.

A frozen water heater will typically only occur during a sustained power outage. If it appears that you will be without power for an extended time, you can limit the possibility of irreparable damage to your water heater by taking the following steps.

  • Shut off the electricity or gas to the unit.
  • Turn off the water supply to the tank.
  • Open the drain valve located at the bottom of the tank.
  • Open the temperature and pressure relief valve or the hot faucet. This will allow water to flow out by forcing air into the tank.

These measures may prevent your tank from rupturing, but you may still have some pipe damage. If the tank does freeze, try to disconnect it and remove it from the home before the ice has a chance to thaw and leak inside your home. A frozen water heater cannot be repaired and must be replaced.

QUESTION: I Seem to Lose Hot Water. Do I Need to Replace My Water Heater?

ANSWER:

Before you go to the expense of replacing your water heater, be sure to check your faucet. Temperature-controlled and pressure-balanced shower faucets use a spring to automatically adjust the hot water whenever there is a change in water temperature. Over time, these springs start to function less efficiently, so you notice a decrease in hot water pressure. If replacing the faucet does not correct your problem, you should contact a professional water heater repair service to determine if the problem can be fixed or if you need to replace the entire unit.

QUESTION: How Can I Lower My Hot Water Costs During the Winter?

ANSWER:

Keeping the winter chill at bay can increase your utility bills and take a toll on your wallet. Your water heater uses more energy than almost any other appliance in your home, so it makes sense that it should be one of the first places that you try to cut consumption. The following are a few simple measures that you can take to keep your water heater use in check during the winter months.

  • Adjust the thermostat. Most water heaters have a default setting of 140°. By adjusting the thermostat to 120°, you will use less energy while still having plenty of hot water. The lower temperature will also help prevent painful scalds and burns.
  • Take baths instead of showers. Even a shallow bath costs more than the average shower. You should also avoid lingering in the shower and turn the water off while shampooing or shaving to keep water usage to a minimum.
  • Remember to turn off the water while brushing your teeth or scrubbing the dishes until you are ready to rinse.
  • Only run your dishwasher or washing machine when you have full loads, and wash your clothes using cold water whenever possible.
  • Install a drain-water heat recovery system. These systems recapture the energy of the hot water that goes down your drain to preheat the cold water going into water fixtures and your water heater. The systems can cost several hundred dollars and must be installed by a professional; however, you can usually recover the cost in 2 to 7 years.
  • Consider replacing your traditional water heater with an energy-efficient or tankless model.

Of course, there are plenty of other places around the house where you can save on energy costs.

  • Use caulk or foam to seal around door frames, windows, recessed light fixtures, and electrical sockets. Small gaps around these areas can create drafts and allow warm air to leak to the outside.
  • Add layers of insulation. You can do this by hanging thick curtains, applying polyethylene film to your windows, and adding extra layers of insulation to your attic.
  • Leave the thermostat alone. Cranking up the thermostat does not warm the house any quicker. You can adjust or program your thermostat so that the house is slightly cooler while you are away, but otherwise it is best to leave it alone.

Whether you have a gas or electric water heater, you should check the thermostat and that the hot and cold water pipes are functioning properly. Simply touching the pipes should tell you if the hot and cold pipes are working.

Once a year, you should check and test the pressure relief valve and inspect for signs of leaks or discharged water. To test the valve, you need to lift the lever on the valve to ensure that water comes out of the discharge pipe. The water will be extremely hot, so you should use caution. If the valve does not function properly, you should call a professional water heater repair service as soon as possible.

Every two years, you should inspect the anode and replace as needed. The anode is a steel-core rod covered in aluminum or magnesium that is designed to prevent the outside tank from corroding. If you want to be especially thorough, you can drain a gallon of water from the tank on a monthly basis to check for sediment and silt.

QUESTION: How Do I Inspect My Water Heater for Problems?

ANSWER:

Inspecting and maintaining your water heater is relatively simple and will help extend its lifespan.

Gas water heaters typically require more maintenance than their electric counterparts. The first step is to check the pipes and the outside of the unit for any corroded, blackened, or rusted areas. These could be signs of improper combustion or a leak. If you notice any of these issues, you should contact a professional hot water heater repair service. Unless you are an expert, trying to fix the problems yourself can be dangerous and cause serious damage to your water heater.

The second step is to check for possible gas leaks. You can do this with an inexpensive gas leak detector that you purchase online or at your local hardware or home improvement store. You should also check the gas valve. The pilot light should turn off when you turn the valve slightly. Inspect the gas hood to ensure that it is not loose and is properly centered. It is also important the check the pilot light, burner, and flame color twice a year. The pilot light flame should be blue with just a touch of yellow at the tip.

QUESTION: Does My Gas Water Heater Have to be Raised off the Ground?

ANSWER:

For the safety of you and your family, a gas water heater must be raised off the ground. This will prevent a fire or possible explosion in the event that a flammable substance is spilled near the water heater.

According to the National Fuel Gas Code and the Uniform Plumbing Code, a gas water heater should be raised at least 18 inches from the ground. This standard specifically applies to units that are installed in garages, but it is still a good idea regardless of the location. The 18-inch requirement is from the ground to the pilot light or lighting mechanism. The stand that you use to elevate your water heater should also be strong enough to hold the tank when it is full. It is important to note that your city or municipality may have different regulations, so you should check with your local authorities before installing your new water heater.

QUESTION: How Can I Lower the Cost of Heating Water?

ANSWER:

You can lower your water heater usage and utility costs by following these simple steps.

  • Opt for showers instead of baths. Baths may be relaxing, but they waste water. Showering requires far less water than a bath.
  • Install a low-flow shower head. This can reduce overall water usage in a home by as much as 40 percent.
  • Install a timer to turn off an electric water heater during the night when you are not using hot water. You can set the timer to turn the heater back on about half an hour before you need it in the morning. For gas water heaters, you can adjust it manually for off-peak hours.
  • Do not linger in the shower. It may be nice to stand under the hot water while you belt out your favorite tunes, but all that water adds dollars to your utility bill. By focusing on limiting the time that you spend in the shower, you can save money on water as well as electricity or gas.
  • Adjust the temperature of your water heater. Simply lowering the temperature of your water heater by a few degrees can reduce your costs by up to 10 percent and put more money in your wallet. It can also help prevent scalds and burns.
  • Do not let the water run unnecessarily. If you leave the faucet running when you are not actively using the water, you are watching money go down the drain. You should turn off the tap while brushing your teeth, scrubbing dishes, or shaving until you are ready to rinse.
  • Add insulation. You can reduce heat loss and save money by insulating the water heater tank and at least the first few feet of pipes.

If you have an older water heater, you can also save money by upgrading to a new, energy-efficient model. Tankless or hybrid water heaters are the most efficient models on the market; however, they do come with a higher initial cost. Upgrading your dishwasher and washing machine can also reduce your water heating costs.

QUESTION: Do I Have to Reconnect the Drain Pipe From My Old Water Heater?

ANSWER:

The pipe extending from the drainage pipe on your old water heater is most likely a re-circulation line. The re-circulation line helps the water in the pipe to stay hot. It is not absolutely necessary, but it can reduce the amount of water that you waste before the water gets hot. The pipe may also serve as a pressure relief valve. This is the case if the pipe goes to a drain in the floor. The valve is an important safety feature of your water heater that will release water if the temperature and pressure inside your tank get too high. Without the valve, you run the risk of your tank exploding.

QUESTION: Should I Purchase a Conventional or Tankless Water Heater?

ANSWER:

Traditional water heaters typically offer the lowest initial costs. They are also easier to install, repair, and replace than tankless options. Most conventional water heaters have a capacity of 30 to 50 gallons. The water is preheated ahead of time and held in the tank until it is needed. As the hot water is used, the tank refills and the new water is preheated.

Since conventional water heaters hold a set amount of preheated water, regardless of how much is being used, they also have the highest operating costs. The amount of hot water that you have at any given time is also limited by the capacity of the tank. This means that you could run out of hot water during periods of heavy use. Conventional water heaters also typically have a shorter lifespan than tankless models, which means that the lower price is offset by replacement costs. Conventional water heaters also take up more room than tankless versions and cannot be installed outdoors.

Tankless water heaters use gas or electricity to heat water on demand, so no water is stored. Tankless water heaters do come with a higher price tag; however, the higher cost is typically offset by lower operating costs and a longer lifespan. Since water is heated as needed, you never have to worry about running out of hot water. Tankless water heaters may be more complex and expensive to install, but they can be placed virtually anywhere and take up less room than conventional models.

Deciding which type of water heater is right for you is a matter of balancing budget against the pros and cons of each type of water heater. If you have a large family that requires large amounts of hot water, a tankless model may be your best option. If budget and ease of maintenance are your primary concern, a conventional water heater may be the best choice for you.

QUESTION: How Will Water Heater Regulations Affect My Utility Bills?

ANSWER:

In April 2015, the United States Department of Energy instituted new regulations designed to improve the efficiency of new water heaters. If you are in the market for a new water heater, these changes may initially cost you more money; but this should be offset by lower operating costs.

The new efficiency standards apply to all water heaters manufactured after 2015. The rules impacting manufacturing, testing, heater design, installation, and distribution are meant to improve the energy factor, also known as EF, that determines the efficiency of a conventional, tankless, or heat pump water heater.

The energy factor is a measure of the amount of hot water produced in relation to the amount of fuel consumed during an average day. A higher energy factor means a more efficient unit. The energy factor takes into consideration recovery efficiency, standby losses, and cycling losses.

• Recovery efficiency looks at how efficiently heat is transferred from the energy source to the water.

• Standby losses apply to water heaters with tanks. It is the percentage of heat that is lost in an hour from the stored water in the tank compared to the water’s heat content.

• Cycling loss refers to the heat that is lost as the water circulates through the tank and the inlet and outlet pipes.

It is important to note that a high energy factor does not always correlate to lower operating costs. You also have to consider the cost of the fuel source in your area.

The new guidelines vary depending on the volume, overall size, and fuel source of the water heater. New gas and electric water heaters are required to have more insulation to prevent heat loss. This means that most new tanks will be taller and bigger around. This could cause an issue if your current tank is situated in a tight space. The improved insulation means that using a water heater blanket is generally not necessary unless you have an electric water heater located in an especially cold environment. Blankets should never be used on gas water heaters because they create a fire hazard.

In addition to the cost of the water heater and installation, you may also have to budget for modifications to the space or find another location for the unit, which can mean additional plumbing costs. If you purchase a water heater with a capacity of more than 55 gallons, you will likely have to switch out existing metal pipes for PVC pipes.

New water heater models may be more complex, which can mean that do-it-yourself installation is not feasible. This means paying for professional installation services. Retailers and wholesalers also have to get their technicians up to speed on the new models. This entails additional employee training that further increases the cost of installation.

The water heaters currently being offered by retailers comply with the Department of Energy’s new guidelines. You can anticipate that the new regulations will add anywhere from $100 to $200 to the sticker price of a new water heater, but lower operating costs should allow you to recoup the increased cost over the life of the unit. You may want to take the opportunity to upgrade to an on-demand tankless water heater, but you should be prepared to pay significantly more at the outset. The average 30-gallon conventional electric water heater costs around $300 compared to $700 to $1,500 for a tankless model.

The new guidelines should not impact how you inspect or maintain your water heater; however, you should review the manufacturer’s recommendations carefully.

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How To Make Your Water Heater Last Longer

No one likes a cold shower! Water heaters are essential to your enjoyment of your home, but they are also expensive. Not only do they cost money to replace, but repairs and additional energy costs from poor function can add up quickly. However, there are few ways that you can extend the life of your water heater and keep it running smoothly and efficiently.

How Do Water Heaters Age?

In order to extend the life of your water heater, it is important to understand their lifespan and the ways they can break down. Most water heaters are made to last around eight to fifteen years, although they can last up to twenty with good care. Tankless water heaters will last around twice as long. Water heaters are made of metal, usually steel, that is lined with glass or porcelain to prevent the water damaging the metal. However, over time this lining develops cracks and the metal begins to oxidize. In addition, sediment from the water begins to build up and lower efficiency.

The first signs of deterioration usually include gradual loss of efficiency. You may notice that your water heater is taking longer to heat or not producing as hot of water. In addition, you will see a gradual rise in your electric or gas bill. Later, the water heater may begin to leak. The initial leaks are slow; you will usually only see a small amount of water near the tank rather than actual dripping. Even a small amount of leaking can damage your foundation and flooring when it is constant. With time, the leak will become more severe; it's important to know where your water shutoff is located in case the leak worsens suddenly. At this point, the water heater needs to be replaced, which is an expensive proposition.

Invest in Routine Maintenance

Having your water heater inspected and flushed once a year can make a huge difference in its lifespan. Flushing the tank removes sediment and some of the scaling that reduce efficiency and corrode the lining. Many water heaters are self-cleaning, but a yearly flush still extends their lifespan. Routine maintenance pays for itself by helping your water heater last longer and allowing you to repair issues before the system breaks down altogether.

Prevent Sediment With Water Softener

Sediment and scaling will eventually cause a great deal of wear and tear while reducing the efficiency of your water heater. This is especially true if you live in an area with hard water. Hard water has minerals in it that can gather on the inner surfaces of a water heater and break down the lining while compromising efficiency. Installing a water softener will ensure that most of these minerals are removed from your water before they can wreak havoc on your water heater.

Add a Second Anode Rod

An anode rod is a rod made of aluminum or magnesium that attracts minerals and ions in water. They corrode this rod rather than corroding the inside of your water heater. Water heaters already have one anode rod, but adding a second can extend the life of the water heater significantly.

Consider an Expansion Tank

You probably know that liquids expand when they are heated. When cold water enters your tank and then is heated to around 120 degrees, it expands around 2%. This may not seem like much, but it's equivalent to an extra gallon of water in a 50 gallon tank. If you have a closed system, which has a valve preventing water from flowing back into water lines, this pressure eventually wears down your water heater tank as well as your water lines. An expansion tank gives this extra water somewhere to go, which means that there is less pressure on your tank.

Add a Pressure Regulator Valve

A pressure regulator valve, or PRV, does exactly as the name suggests. High water pressure, defined as pressure above 90 PSI, damages not just your water heater but your plumbing and many other appliances. Your water heater simply will not last as long when it is constantly under pressure. A pressure regulator valve will ensure that pressure stays constant and at a reasonable level. A PVR is generally installed along with an expansion tank in systems with high pressure.

If you want to expand the working lifespan of this expensive appliance, talk to a residential plumber today. A plumber can inspect your water heater and let you know what preventative measures are most important for your hot water heating system.

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