Four Tips for Proper Care of Water Heaters

Water heaters are one of the most important household appliances, providing hot running water for bathing, cooking, washing clothes and dishes. Whether you have a tank or tankless model, the latest models offer energy efficiency and eco-friendly operation that reduces utility costs and emissions.

Water Heaters

Electric models heat water through a heating element or burner. They are simple and easy to install and typically come with a long warranty. Contact Denver Water Heaters for professional help.

Hot water is your second biggest energy expense, so upgrading to an ENERGY STAR certified model can help save you money. Regardless of your fuel type, most new water heaters are more efficient than older models, meaning they use less energy to produce the same amount of hot water.

If you are replacing an existing water heater, a plumber can advise on whether your old tank has any useful life left and help you decide which type of tank is best for your home. If you are building a new house, you have more choices about which kind of heater to install.

The most common types of water heaters are electric and gas. The energy efficiency of both is measured in a number called the energy factor (EF). The higher the EF, the more efficient the water heater. However, new testing standards have changed the way this number is calculated and reported. Look for a Uniform Energy Factor rating, or UEF, which takes into account more real-world water heating usage and better reflects actual performance.

Energy efficiency is an important factor in water heater selection, but it’s also important to consider your own water usage habits and the availability of your energy source. The most energy-efficient storage tank models can reduce your electricity consumption by up to 15%, while the most energy-efficient gas units can cut your natural gas bill by up to 10%.

Other types of water heaters that can help you save energy include solar and hybrid models. Solar water heaters rely on the sun to provide heat, and they can reduce your electricity and carbon footprint. However, they may need a backup power source on shady days or in cold weather.

Hybrid gas water heaters are another good choice for homes with a natural gas supply. They use a smaller version of the burner used in whole-house tankless models and have enough storage to achieve high first hour ratings. As a result, they generally don’t require new gas lines during retrofit installations. However, they are classified and rated as commercial products and often aren’t marketed for residential use.

Installation

Most people think of a water heater as a plumbing fixture, but it is also an appliance. As such, its installation should be done by a qualified professional to ensure compliance with national and local electrical, gas and plumbing codes. It’s important to read the printed installation instructions and safety warnings carefully before starting.

If you are replacing an existing water heater, turn off the power to the appliance at the service panel using a non-contact voltage test pen or inexpensive multi-meter. Shut off the cold water inlet and hot water outlet valves to prevent water damage during removal and installation. Open the drain valve on the water heater to release any built-up sediment.

Most electric storage-type water heaters have a Temperature and Pressure (T&P) Relief Valve factory installed. This is a vital safety feature that prevents overheating or over-pressurization from making the water heater unsafe to touch. If your new water heater doesn’t have a T&P valve, install one (and a discharge pipe) per the manufacturer’s instructions.

A gas water heater requires a venting system to safely remove exhaust gases, similar to an automobile gas line. This system must be correctly connected and vented according to the manufacturer’s written instructions to reduce the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning or a dangerous gas leak.

The main components of a water heater are a tank and a heating element, but the specifics vary depending on the type of water heater you select. You’ll also need a drain pan, a couple of big wrenches for the water and gas lines, a hand truck or helper to make moving the old heater easier, a ladder, and a pair of heavy-duty gloves.

Many homeowners use copper tubing, corrugated flexible metal connectors, or a form of plastic pipe called PEX to connect their water heater to the home’s plumbing. If you choose to use PEX, review the manufacturers’ literature and look for online videos that provide detailed step-by-step directions on working with this material. Many cities require a permit and an inspection of the water heater to verify that it was installed properly and meets all city safety codes.

Maintenance

A well-maintained water heater is a silent champion of hot showers and clean dishes. But like any major appliance, it eventually requires routine maintenance or a replacement. And when it comes to gas and electric water heaters, proper care helps extend life and reduce energy costs. The following four easy-to-follow tips can help you get started.

Generally, the best way to maintain your water heater is to follow a schedule, and make sure that all essential steps are included. This prevents over-working your unit, and ensures that all critical areas are checked. It also helps to keep a log of maintenance activities, with all necessary details recorded. A log will make it easier to identify and resolve problems as they arise.

Before attempting any water heater maintenance, always shut off the power or gas supply to the unit. This is particularly important if you are working with gas, as a malfunctioning unit poses serious health and safety risks. After the shutdown, it’s a good idea to drain the unit to flush out sediment — rust, scale, bits of corroded anode rod and other debris — that collects at the bottom of the tank. Draining about two or three gallons of water should be enough to remove the sediment.

Most gas-powered water heaters require regular inspection and maintenance to keep them running efficiently. One of the most common issues is a pilot light that hasn’t been lit. You can easily light a gas water heater’s pilot by turning the knob to the pilot setting, and then pressing and holding it for up to 90 seconds. Some newer units require more complicated lighting instructions, so be sure to check the manufacturer’s manual for additional information.

In addition to lighting the pilot, it’s important to adjust your unit’s thermostat temperature. Set the temperature to a maximum of 120 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent scalding accidents and maximize efficiency.

You can also save money on your energy bills by adding insulation to the tank and pipes. This insulation is available at most home improvement stores, and it’s simple to install. Just be sure to choose insulation materials that precisely match the size of your pipes, and to use foam tape to secure the insulation.

Safety

As with any combustion appliance, gas water heaters can leak carbon monoxide (CO). It is a colorless and odorless gas that is very dangerous to inhale. This is why it’s important that you install carbon monoxide detectors in your home, especially if you have a gas-powered water heater. Carbon monoxide poisoning kills over 200 people each year in Canada, and many of those deaths are due to gas water heaters. Proper ventilation of your gas water heater is critical to help prevent CO from building up in your home.

Similarly, electric water heaters are not without risk. They can be susceptible to overheating and electrocution. This is why it is extremely important to have a licensed electrical worker install your water heater. They will make sure that your heater is wired properly and that it has a fuse or circuit breaker to protect against overheating.

The temperature and pressure of your water heater are both regulated by a temperature and pressure relief valve (T&P Valve). This is a small metal tank that is installed above or next to the water heater and allows for the expansion of heated water. Regularly testing your T&P valve will help ensure it is working properly. To test the valve, pull up on the handle and allow some water to flow out. Then, close the valve. If you see water leaking out or notice that the handle does not return to its original position, it is time to call your local plumber.

If you have a gas-powered water heater, it is imperative that you keep combustible items away from the unit, especially in the vicinity of the pilot light. Gasoline fumes can leak out of the water heater and ignite if there are combustible materials in the area. That’s why you should never store gasoline canisters, gas cans, paint, solvents, or aerosol sprays near your water heater. It’s also a good idea to keep the pilot light elevated on a pedestal, about 18 inches off the ground.

Finally, you should always be on the lookout for water heater recalls. These are often issued by manufacturers when they discover a problem with certain models, or receive complaints from a significant number of customers.