When to Replace the Hot Water Heater
How can you tell it is time to replace the hot water heater.
There are several ways to tell when it's time to replace the old hot water heater. Of course, it's best to take your time and look at the different water heaters before you actually need one. It's no fun rushing around trying to find a replacement on a Friday afternoon!
But what are the signs that old water heater is ready to be retired?
When to Replace the Water Heater
1. Age. How long has that particular appliance been working for you? A gas hot water heater is expected to last 8-12 years, while an electric model does a little better at 10-15. Tankless water heaters have a longer life expectancy but they are so new that it is hard to estimate their actual lifetimes.
2. Water. Rust colored hot water; do you get tinted water when you open up the hot water tap? This is a real good indication!
3. Temperature. Hot water is not as hot or you run out of hot water under normal conditions.
4. Moisture. Moisture around the base may signal a slow leak.
5. Cold Water. An ice cold shower first thing in the morning is a pretty good sign that something is wrong.
6. Puddles. A flood in the area around the water heater is a sure sign that you need a new one.
The last two are obvious, and kind of funny but the truth is that most of people wait until they DO jump into that icy shower at 6 a.m. to decide that it is time for a consult with the plumber.
Figuring out your hot water needs
Replacing a water heater can be tricky. There are a lot of different types and sizes and it is confusing. How many gallons do you need? Tankless water heater or Conventional? Gas or electric? What about solar? Sometimes the more research you do the worse it gets! First things first:
How much hot water do you need?
To effectively decide what size water heater you need you will have to figure your family's peak usage. This means that you have to figure out how much hot water your household will use at the most in any particular hour.This is accomplished by answering the following questions ( the number following the activities refer to the gallons used for each activity):
How many times in the peak hour of your family's day do you:
- Showering 20
- Bathing 20
- Shaving 2
- Washing hands and face 2
- Hand dishwashing 4
- Automatic dishwashing 10
- Preparing food 5
- Automatic clothes washing 32
So if your busiest water usage is at 6 p.m..and the dishwasher is running, there is a load of clothes in the wash, and two people will take showers then your peak water use is 82 gallons per hour. You need a tank with at least 82 gallon FHR, or first hour rating.. This does not account for low flow shower heads and faucet aerators so it could be less but is a good rule of thumb. Many 40- 50 gallon water heaters come close to this but you may need something a little bigger.
Gas, Electric, or Solar? Tankless or Tank?
Once you know what you need you can consider the next part. Should you choose gas, electric, or solar?
Stick with What You Have
Typically you should stick with what you have installed all ready unless you are making the switch to solar. It is expensive to make a change from electric to gas or vice versa. The solar water heater will pay for itself in combined tax beaks and rebates, and energy savings in an estimated 4-5 years but again, the installation can be difficult if there are a lot of things to change.
Electric or Gas?
Electricity and gas are a trade off. The electricity is a little easier on the environment, especially if your provider has a source of renewable electricity but can cost more and works much less efficiently than the gas. Natural gas is not a renewable resource but is much more effective and, in most areas, cheaper than electric. Most plumbers will tell you that it is usually best to go with what you all ready have rather than making a switch.
What about Tankless?
If you want to replace a conventional water heater with a tankless water heater it is much easier to do with electric than with gas. Continuous water heaters that are gas need special size vents and gas-lines which drives up your cost considerably. When I queried my plumber about this very thing he said that for my house to switch it would cost over $2,500.00 without even buying the water heater!
However, many sites recommend the gas over electric for whole house heating. This type of heater also cannot take on too many things at once. If you are doing a load of laundry then you might be able to take a shower at the same time but not run the dishwasher as well. If you get one of these units, look for a gas-fired model eligible for 2006-2007 federal tax credits, at least an Energy Factor (EF) of 0.80.
A conventional water heater needs to have a minimum energy factor of .63 for gas and .93 for electric . The new heaters are much more efficient than they used to be and have more insulation and substantially reduce stand by heat loss.
An added bonus is that the typical conventional water heater will cost about half of what a tankless will, and about one fourth of what a solar powered one will.
Incentives and Tax Credits
Many areas have state and local tax credits and incentives for a homeowner that chooses to buy an energy efficient hot water heater. The Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPACT) gives homeowners a $300 tax credit when they improve energy efficiency by buying and putting in qualified hot-water heaters. Be sure to check with your local utility company as well because some have incentives and breaks for their customers.
Choose wisely and well. This appliance is going to be around for a long time! Do your homework and comparison shop and choose the best type of water heater for your family.