How to Choose the Best Type of Water Heater
Water heating is considered to be a necessity for many residential homes in several countries around the world. Are you currently on the lookout for a new water heater or are you just curious to know which type of water heater is the best for you and your family so you can make a wise decision when you are going to buy one in the future?
Facts and Figures about Water Heating
Did you know that about 15% to 25% of your home’s energy consumption goes only to heating your water? Water heating is actually at #2 in energy usage, with #1 being the HVAC system.
A typical U.S. homeowner’s average water consumption is listed below:
37% goes to the shower
26% on washing machines
14% on the dishwasher
12% on baths
11% on sinks
With the figures stated above, it is no wonder that the use of water and the demand for heating is crucial. That is why if you do your research before actually buying a water heater unit, rest assure that you will make an informed and wise decision on which type of water heater to buy that will not only satisfy you and your family’s needs for hot water but also to help you reduce your monthly bills significantly.
So, what is really the best type of water heater for you? There are actually many water heater units available nowadays, and there are those that are perfectly made for residential homes such as gas water heaters, electric water heaters, tankless water heaters and tank-type water heaters.
If you take a look at the North American market, which includes the US and Canada, there are actually many brands that are major companies in the water heating industry:
Aside from the three brands mentioned above, there are other popular names in water heating such as GE, Whirlpool, Kenmore, Ruud, American Reliance, Richmond and State – these brands are either produced by the three mentioned above manufacturers or are owned by them.
The versatility, reliability and quality of the models they offer are excellent, and most of their water heating units are similar by the quality of materials used, longevity, available features, efficiency, warranty, etc. All of the brands stated above are makers of good tanks; however, prior to buying the best gas water heater or the best electric water heater, you need to be sure that you know what it is exactly that you are looking for.
Tips on What to Look for When Searching for the Best Type of Water Heater
Consider the type of fuel that the water heater needs in order to operate. Electric and gas water heaters will typically have different initial costs, installation costs and operational costs as well as the size, the type and the energy efficiency will be entirely different. Do keep in mind that water heating is the second-highest energy user in the home next to home heating, so it is crucial that you need to keep your costs low.
Whichever you choose – whether it is the tank-type or tankless water heater, it is actually dependent upon many factors as well as your preference.
The tank-type water heater can supply multiple fixtures simultaneously with no “cold water sandwiches” – no fluctuation in the temperature. This means that hot water is always ready whenever you need it. Normally, the best quality tank-type water heater units last for about more than 10 years, can heat the water efficiently (look for an EF 0.67 or higher), and provides you with hot water even during peak times.
The tankless water heater obviously has a higher initial cost; however, it is much smaller and usually mounted on the wall. Tankless water heaters provide hot water on demand and you can have as much hot water as you need it, and one large unit can actually supply up to 3 to 4 fixtures simultaneously. The best quality tankless water heater is environment-friendly (uses green tech), condensing and has a high EF factor over 0.9 and can last for several years.
Purchase a high-efficiency water heater unit for bigger energy and money savings.
The best water heaters nowadays are categorized as Energy-Star rated or at least of high efficiency. Do check out the EF factor as it describes the quality of the tank and burner design, insulation, ignition system, etc. The thicker the insulation, or the higher the R-value, the better the performance of the water heater unit. Purchase the water heater with at least R-16 as the stand-by heat loss (heat energy loss) through the tank walls is reduced.
On electric water heater units, the energy efficiency is actually higher than on gas water heater units. The most efficient and Energy Star certified electric water heaters are the electric heat pumps, whereas, on the gas water heaters, the condensing gas water heater is considered to be the most efficient and Energy Star certified unit.
Price and duration of the warranty.
Probably one of the first criteria utilized in choosing which water heater unit is the best for your home is the price and the length of the warranty. Cheap water heater units typically come with the lower quality and shorter warranty duration, whereas the more expensive (often the best ones) offer units that have advanced technology used in them, they have higher efficiency, durability, reliability, and they are offered in longer warranty durations.
Lots of water heater units offered in the market nowadays come with a 6-year warranty period, while the extended coverage may be about a 9 to 12-year warranty, but you usually pay extra for it. The main difference between the units with the short and long warranty period is actually in the anode rod. The bigger anode rod is placed in water heater units that have the longer warranty (or more than 1 year). However, some experts claim that it is actually not practical to pay extra money for a longer warranty because you can actually replace the anode rods by yourself if need be.
On the other hand, brands such as Whirlpool offer very useful features on their best water heater units, and they typically come with a 12-year warranty period. The useful features incorporated in their best water heater units include high recovery rate, self-cleaning system and stainless steel heating elements.
The tips above can significantly help you on how to choose which type of water heater is best for you and your home. If you are still not sure which one, use a much more simple (but time-consuming) strategy – read recommendations and reviews, or choose the water heater that has a trusted name with a long history of proven excellence and worth in the industry of water heating.
How to Perform Maintenance on Gas Water Heaters
Despite what other water heater owners think, gas water heater maintenance is actually a very simple DYI project that does not require any special tools or skills. Just like in any other appliance, conducting maintenance on your water heater unit can help you keep your water heater performing at its best, maintain its efficiency in heating water, provide you years of service and it also saves you the trouble of having to buy a new water heater unit.
Gas Water Heater Maintenance – The Vent System
You must inspect the venting system of gas water heaters at least once a year in order to prevent carbon monoxide gas from leaking because it is a health hazard once it does. When conducting this regular gas water heater maintenance, you should look out for:
Are the venting pipes connected properly in order to prevent the escape of gases?
Obstructions that might potentially affect the proper venting of the flue gases and air draw for gas combustion.
Check if the proper clearances are maintained from combustible objects and for proper venting.
Damaged, deteriorated or sooted flue pipes because it can cause the leakage of products of combustion and improper venting.
Rusted flakes in the area located at the top of the heater.
Take Note: Get rid of any corrosive chemicals such as bleach, waxes, spray-can propellants, swimming pool chemical and other cleaning solvents and do not let it stay in the same room with the water heater unit. This is to prevent chemical corrosion of the venting system, which could be very dangerous if it happens.
Gas Water Heater Maintenance – Gas Pilot Burner
In order to ensure that your gas water heater runs smoothly each time, perform simple preventive maintenance such as visual inspection of the main burner and the pilot burner at least once every year.
Check if there is any obstruction at the bottom of the water heater unit, specifically the area where the opening for air is located.
Inspect the air intake screen (present in some models) and clean the accumulated dust, lint or oil.
Use a wire brush and clean the combustion chamber by removing scale deposits and debris.
Check if there are any products such as adhesives, gasoline or solvents with potentially flammable vapor present in the same room with the water heater unit. Remove them from the room.
Check if there is sooting occurring because it might potentially impair normal combustion processes. Soot is what you call those fine black particles that are the end result of an incomplete combustion.
If in case the gas pilot burner requires cleaning, make it a point to always put the gas control knob to the “OFF” position and then remove it from the combustion chamber.
Gas Water Heater Maintenance – Temperature and Pressure Relief Valve (TPR Valve)
Schedule the maintenance of the temperature and pressure relief valve (TPR valve) at least once a year. It is recommended that you check if the TPR valve operates smoothly and has not become encrusted with lime and other debris. If in case you find that it is leaking water, you have to replace the valve.
Gently lift the valve and then release it. The lever must return to its normal closed position. If it does not return back, simply lift the TPR valve lever a few more times until the valve seats properly without any leaking. Remember that any water that is released will be very hot.
If in case you have a closed water supply system and you tend to see periodical discharges on the TPR valve, this might be because of the thermal expansion, and proper measures have to be taken.
Gas Water Heater Maintenance – Anode Rod
Remember that the anode rod or generally known as the sacrificial anode is consumed each time, in order to protect the lining of your water heater unit from damage. If your water heater has more than one anode rod, you need to inspect every single one of them. Anode rods are installed on the top of the water heater and submerged into the water.
Some manufacturers recommend that the owner must conduct inspection often, the most common being an annual checkup; however, the condition of the anode rod depends on the water quality, such as hardness and the usage of softeners. Keep in mind that if you completely soften your water, the anode rod will tend to corrode at a faster rate. Corrosion actually results not only from the salt that is present in the water, but also from water softeners themselves, and it can also result in a bad water smell. Therefore, completely softening the water over a duration of 6 months or less can typically cause an anode rod to corrode. If in case you really would want to soften your water, consider replacing the sacrificial anode rod with an electrical anode one as the electric type will not corrode when in contact with softeners.
If during performing regular maintenance you notice that the steel core is exposed more than 6” either from the top or the bottom, or the middle of the anode rod is exposed, or if the diameter is less than half of its original size, then it is time to replace the anode rod.
There are some anode rods that are nonfunctional. If in case you notice that your anode rod looks untouched after a few weeks of using your water heater, it might not be doing its job as it does not appear to be corroding to save your tank. You can replace it either with another rod of the same kind or with a non-sacrificial, electrical-type anode rod.
If in case your anode rod is made of aluminum, they will most likely need replacement. Unlike common anode rods, aluminum anode rods are most likely to split off into little pieces, or they are likely to produce waste as a byproduct of corrosion. Watch out for little pieces of the aluminum anode rod in your water heater, or for a foamy byproduct that floats at the top of the water in your heater and appears in the filters. These signs indicate that your anode rod needs to be replaced.
Gas Water Heater Maintenance – Sediments
Performing regular maintenance on your water heater unit is actually one simple way to save energy and reduce your bills. Due to the fact that fuel cost and hot water consumption nowadays are constantly increasing, de-liming (for instance) has become a necessity of modern maintenance procedures. This is because the more you use your water heater for years, more lime deposits come out. Since it is preventing normal heat transfer and decreasing the performance and efficiency, it is recommended to remove lime deposits by adding chemicals.
Once a year, it is crucial to drain and flush out the water heater tank as well. By means of flushing out the water heater, sediments that are the cause of decreasing the efficiency and performance of the water heater are removed. Simply drain a few quarts off the bottom of the tank, or read instructions from the manual, and you may actually prolong the life of your water heater. The drain valve is normally located at the bottom of the water heater unit.
Troubleshooting Smelly Water from Your Water Heater
Many people who have a water heater at home tend to forget about taking good care of them unless something is definitely wrong with it. There are many problems that can happen to your water heater such as not enough hot water, the water is too hot, the water heater is leaking, the tank is rusty, the water heater is noisy, dirty water, smelly water, etc. There are many ways on how to solve these different water heater issues, and some of them can be done all by yourself.
The Cause of Rotten Egg Odor or Smelly Water
Have you ever wondered why there are instances that the water coming out from your water heater unit seems to have a bad smell – somewhat resembling that of a rotten egg? The most common cause of smelly water is anaerobic bacteria that thrive in some water. The anaerobic bacteria tend to have some kind of reaction with the magnesium and aluminum sacrificial anodes (which are usual components with most water heater units), thus producing hydrogen sulfide gas – the gas that is responsible for giving off that recognizable rotten egg odor. This kind of water heater problem is most commonly found in municipal or private well systems.
Things You Should Not Do when Getting Rid of the Rotten Egg Odor or Smelly Water
There are many handymen or plumbers who advise homeowners to take off the sacrificial anodes from their water heater units as a way to get rid of the smelly water in them. It could be a possible fix; however, this will actually cause the water heater unit to rust out in a short period of time. Also, taking off the sacrificial anodes can void the water heater unit’s warranty.
In addition, homeowners have been told to replace a water heater’s magnesium anode with an aluminum anode. Do not do this because just like magnesium, aluminum also causes that rotten egg odor.
Another thing that you should not do is to try to soften the water. Softening can actually make smelly water even worse.
A Quick Fix to Get Rid of that Rotten Egg Odor or Smelly Water, but not Permanent
There is a quick fix to help you get rid of that rotten egg odor or smelly water from your water heater unit. It is simple, effective and cheap, but keep in mind that this fix is not permanent. First, you need to shut off the cold water valve to your water heater unit. Open a hot tap to relieve pressure, drain some water from the tank, open up the plumbing on one side and then put in a few pints of hydrogen peroxide. You can use chlorine bleach as well instead of hydrogen peroxide, but keep in mind that hydrogen peroxide is much safer to use.
After that, close everything up, and then turn on the cold water again. Let some water to run from all faucets. Every one of them should be odor free by now, until the time comes that the water heater unit will be unused for some time, especially when you are out of town. By the time you get back, you will encounter the smelly water again coming out from your water heater unit.
If you think that the water is smelly at one sink but not in all of them, then put some hydrogen peroxide into the basin overflow, not into the water heater unit itself. There are instances that the bacteria can build up inside there as well.
The Ultimate Fix to Get Rid of that Rotten Egg Odor for Good
In a lot of cases of rotten egg odor or smelly water from the water heater, this problem can be fixed by simply replacing the standard aluminum or magnesium anode rod with an aluminum/zinc alloy anode rod, and this usually solves the problem. It is a must to include the zinc because if you only use pure aluminum anodes, it will smell really bad.
For many homeowners, the aluminum/zinc anode rod is the most inexpensive solution for this problem; and this is most often the first solution to be implemented before trying out other troubleshooting techniques, unless the water you have in your household is softened.
There are 4 kinds of anodes available in the market: standard hex-head anode, flexible hex-head anode, standard combo, and flexible combo.
Hex-head anodes often go into their own hole at the top of the water heater unit. In many water heaters, you will easily see the hex head. If it is not visible, then the anode is either hidden under a plastic cap or under the sheet metal, or your water heater tank has a combo anode.
Combo anodes typically share the hot-water-outlet port. If you are not certain that there is anode present inside, you can try to run a long screwdriver down it. If there is an anode present, then the screwdriver will not go inside for more than a few inches deep.
There are some models of water heaters nowadays that have two anodes in them. It is very important to place an aluminum/zinc anode into the water heater, but you have to keep in mind that it is also very important to remove all of the previous anodes in your water heater unit or else, if you do not, the hot water coming out from your unit will still smell.
There are many circumstances wherein homeowners replaced their water heater unit and then realized that they have smelly water with their new one even if they did not have this problem with their previous one. No one really knows for sure what causes the smelly water from water heater units, but there are some speculations that may explain why they happen. Most people believe that water is a chemical concoction and that it constantly changes. The water that comes out of the faucet this morning may be quite different from the water that comes out at night, which may be because of what is in the ground or maybe because the water company has changed their water supply sources or added something to it.
How to Solve Some Water Heater Problems
Water heaters are definitely a good investment for any home because they offer the convenience of providing you with heated water any time you need them. This heated water is especially helpful when you live in cold regions where you would surely like to take a bath using heated water instead of cold tap water. Not only is heated water calming and relaxing, but it also ensures that you do not get a shock from having to bathe using cold water. In fact, heated water is not used primarily for bathing in many homes, but it is also being used for washing clothes and dishes. There are times though that your water heater may experience some problems such as the buildup of lime as well as the nasty smell of rotten eggs. Many of these water heater problems can be removed through extensive maintenance.
Buildup of Lime in the Tank
Often times, it is difficult to know how much lime buildup is in your tank, especially since they are not equipped with a porthole where you can view the inside. However, you can make rough estimates of this lime buildup simply by considering the age of your water heater as well as the water hardness of your area. For example, a 5-year old water heater using water with a hardness of around 20 grams will roughly have a lime buildup of about 5 – 10 inches at the tank’s bottom.
One of the good indicators that your tank has a buildup of lime would be popping and bubbling sounds when water is being heated. The truth is the buildup of lime can cause serious problems on the efficiency of your water heater as the heating capacity of your water heater is greatly reduced. This is because many of the heating elements of the water heating unit is covered or submerged in sediments thereby reducing efficiency. However, the most serious problem that this buildup of lime can cause to your water heater would be the growth of molds or corrosion which can make your tank leak over time.
One of the best ways to reduce the buildup of lime in the tank of your water heater would be to use water softeners. Water softeners have the capacity to eliminate any buildup that occurs in your unit. These days, water heater manufacturers claim they have solved the lime buildup on water heaters through their self-cleaning system. This feature is said to keep the water stirred inside the tank which in turn prevents sediments from accumulating on the sides and bottom. Although this can work to some extent, it is best not to rely on it too much.
Some manufacturers suggest draining your water heater regularly as they claim that this will significantly help to reduce the buildup of lime. However, lime can be very hard to remove especially if the drain of your tank is not situated at the bottom center. Lime is much heavier than water which is why it often settles at the bottom of the tank. It will not move simply by emptying the tank. Another thing is that lime often form chunks measuring over an inch in size. Since the drain of the tank is only half an inch in size, these chunks will not be able to pass through the drain hole. They even clog the drain most of the time making draining your water tank a very time consuming process. For these reasons, draining your water tank is not highly advised or recommended. Often times, doing such breaks the drain valves, yet lime still remains inside the tank. This is why it is recommended to simply use water softeners instead of draining the tank regularly.
If you have a lime buildup of over 6-inches in your tank, it is simply best to replace your water heater. Newer water heaters are more efficient and will eventually pay for themselves in the long run. Water heaters are not that pricey and they can be replaced by professionals in a few hours.
The rotting smell of eggs in the water is often caused by bacteria in the water heater. These bacteria produce this foul-smelling odor as they react with the anode rod of your water heater. Mostly, it is the aluminum and magnesium anode rods that catalyze this foul-smelling odor. Smelly water is often found on water heaters of buildings that are connected to a well system. Using water softeners will only help to increase the stench problem.
There are experienced plumbers who have a solution for this – removing the anode rod from your water heater. The main drawback to this fix is that it voids the warranty of your water heating unit and that it also significantly decreases its life span. There are also some misconceptions that replacing the current aluminum anode rod with a magnesium type (and vice versa) will help to solve the problem. The truth is this solution is hardly effective as both types of anode rods react with the bacteria that causes the foul odor.
To get rid of the rotten egg smell in the water, you need to change the magnesium anode rod or aluminum anode rod with a zinc-aluminum anode rod. Although this type of rod is mostly made from aluminum, the addition of zinc in the anode rod will help to fight off the rotting egg odor. The best part about these rods is they are fairly inexpensive and can be a long term solution in fighting smelly water. Zinc-aluminum anode rods can be installed by most local plumbers.
Water softeners are known for helping to get rid of lime deposits in your tank, but they on the other hand can help to contribute to smelly water. Even if you have a zinc-aluminum anode rod, the smell will not go if you use a water softener. This however can be solved by using a powered anode rod. A powered anode rod operates by releasing small electric current on the water instead of having full contact with the water, thus preventing the water in your water heater from having a foul smell. The only drawback is that powered anode rods are fairly expensive. Nevertheless, if you do not like smelly water and still wants to use a water softener to prevent the buildup of lime in your tank, then the powered anode rod may be your only solution.
How to Know When Is the Right Time to Replace Your Water Heater
As with all appliances, water heater units will eventually break down, but how can you determine whether you only have to repair your unit or replace it? Well, there are actually many factors – it depends on the age of your water heater, its condition, and your available budget that you are willing to shell out.
Water heater units are typically appliances that are taken for granted for the first couple of years or so until there comes a time that you will experience that first cold shower even if it is turned on just like the usual or you see a huge puddle of water in the basement floor. That is the time you would have to think and decide on what to do next – Do I repair it or replace it? If you have a traditional tank-type water heater which has been used for 10 years or so, replacing it is the only sensible way. This is due to the fact that modern models right now are actually 20% more efficient in heating up water and at the same time it can even help you save up to $800 in energy costs in the overall lifespan of the water heater unit. However, if your water heater unit is only a couple of years old, it may be wiser to just have it repaired.
Below are some more tips on how to decide whether you should repair or replace your water heater.
How to determine the possible problem/s with your water heater unit
Due to the fact that water heaters only have a few moving parts, then it is obvious that only a few things can go wrong:
The thermostat breaks down.
The valve sticks.
The heating element or burner fails.
The circuit breaker of the electric water heater trips.
The pilot light on the gas water heater unit flickers out.
Repairing or replacing any of the parts mentioned above is affordable. You can hire a plumber to accomplish the task for a fee of $150 up to $300. However, if your water heater tank is leaking or if it is over 10 years old, then it is more practical to get a new one instead.
If you have no other choice but to replace it
As time goes by, sediments and minerals present in the water tend to react with the steel, which results in the corrosion of the water heater tank. Keep in mind that when your water heater tank has a leak, you have no choice but to replace it immediately.
Looking at the bright side, the latest models of water heaters nowadays are obviously more energy-efficient than their older versions. Manufacturers inject some foam insulation in between the tank and its outermost shell, which results in a higher degree of heat retention. Also, new glass liners make water heater tanks less susceptible to the harmful effects of corrosion.
If you decide to get a traditional tank-type water heater unit, you would shell out about $500 up to $1,500. A high-efficiency model that bears the Energy Star logo can help you save up to 20% of your energy bills. Should you go for the tankless, heat pump and solar water heaters, then you are going to have even bigger savings and they also are eligible for federal tax credits.
Hidden Costs in Water Heater Replacement
If you are going to replace your traditional tank-type water heater unit, it is actually easier said than done. You also need to consider building codes that require you to upgrade the following in your area such as the supply pipes, the size or type of the venting system, the water heater mount, and the drain pain below the water heater. Before you go through all the trouble of replacing your tank-type water heater, ask an experienced installer or plumber to state out all of the possible expenses that you would have to spend on.
If in case you know how to do plumbing tasks, you may be able to install everything yourself. A lot of manufacturers these days provide detailed instructions on their manuals, and you just have to check the local codes of your building.
Avoid the Hassle of Repairing or Replacing your Water Heater with these Maintenance Tips
A typical water heater unit can last to about 8 to 12 years or even more, depending on the quality of the water in your home and how diligent you are in following a routine maintenance check.
Below are ways on how to properly maintain and take good care of your water heater:
Since new water heater units are already tweaked for high energy efficiency, you should insulate old water heater units with the use of a fiberglass jacket to improve efficiency, just keep in mind to avoid contact with the flue.
If you are going out of town, remember to adjust the thermostat on the gas water heaters to the “vacation” setting, which means it will maintain the pilot light without heating up the water.
Every 3 to 5 years, check the sacrificial anode rod by loosening up the hex head screw and take it out. If 6 inches or more of the core steel wire is exposed, then quickly replace the rod which costs around $20.
Once a year, flush out the water heater unit in order to get rid of the debris and sediments that collect at the tank bottom. Simply hook up a garden hose to drain the valve and then wait until the water is clear. This method also makes the water heater unit operate noiselessly.
Once a year, check if the temperature-pressure relief valve is working okay by immediately discharging it for a good 2 to 3 times. After that, check to see if there are any leaks present from the valve.
Remember to always adjust the thermostat to 120 degrees to prevent the danger of scalding yourself or others.
Keep in mind to maintain at least 2 feet of clearance around the unit unless it is otherwise specified by the manual.
How to Save Money with Your Water Heater Purchase
A water heater purchase along with installation can be costly. However, if you think smart and think about tax credit being given to water heaters, if you take advantage of this, then you will save yourself a lot of money. A tax credit was first announced by the U.S. Department of Energy for the tank and tankless water heaters. This tax credit also includes heat pump water heaters and solar water heaters. The truth is the Energy Star criteria announcement for water heaters was influential in transforming the water heater industry. This compelled water heater manufacturers to develop a new generation of water heaters that are far more energy-efficient as the demand for them will have likely increased due to the tax credit announcement. It is estimated that in around 5 years’ time, these Energy Star certified water heaters will be in hundreds of thousands of homes saving lots of energy in the process while also avoiding tons of CO2 emissions.
To further stipulate the transformation of the water heater industry, President Barrack Obama signed the Stimulus Bill where owners of Energy Star certified water heaters are qualified to apply for tax credits for energy efficiency. These days, the purchase and installation of Energy Star compliant water heater can reduce its total cost by up to 30%, all thanks to the tax credit.
In order for a water heater to qualify for an Energy Star rating, it first needs to satisfy certain criteria such as the Energy Factor rating, first-hour rating, along with other requirements. To date, there are five types of water heating technology that are qualified for the 30% tax credit. The tax credit for tank and tankless units are currently capped at $1,500, while the solar water heater and the heat pump water heater are not capped.
High-Efficiency Gas-fired Storage Tank Water Heaters
High-efficiency gas-fired storage-tank water heaters are similar to the traditional gas-fired tank water heaters that we know. However, due to their improved efficiency along with better quality materials used such as insulation, highly efficient burners, ignition system, heat trap as well as venting systems, they have become far more energy-efficient than their regular cousins.
Before such a unit qualifies for the Energy Star tax credits, it first needs to pass the minimum Energy Factor required for water heaters in this category which is 0.62. High-efficiency gas-fired storage-tank models would include Rheem’s “Professional Series” and Bradford White’s “Defender Safety Series.”
Whole House Gas-fired Tankless Water Heaters
Whole house gas-fired tankless water heater is in some ways similar to gas-fired storage-tank water heaters. The main difference though is that they have rid of the tank and instead heats water instantaneously when it is on-demand. Whole-house tankless water heater caters to the whole house as opposed to point-of-use tankless water heaters that only heats the specific tap it is installed on.
Before such a unit qualifies for the Energy Star tax credits, it first needs to pass the Energy Factor rating required for water heaters in this category which is greater than 0.82. Recommended whole house gas-fired tankless water heaters would include brands such as Bosch, Noritz, Paloma, Rheem, Rinnai, and Takagi.
Gas Condensing Water Heater
Condensing water heaters are practically the most efficient type of gas-fired water heater. Instead of directly venting their exhaust gasses towards the outside, it instead utilizes the heat from the exhaust and uses it further in the water heater process. This is possible through the use of a second heat exchanger where the combust gasses pass through. Gas condensing water heaters would include storage tank models and tankless models and they have an energy efficiency rating of over 90%
Recommended storage tank gas condensing water heater would include A.O. Smith’s “Vertex Series,” Heater Transfer Products’ “Phoenix Series,” and American Water Heaters’ “Polaris Series.” Recommended tankless gas condensing water heaters would include the Navien CR Series which has a 98% energy efficiency. Bosch, Noritz, and Takagi are the other manufacturers that have models with very high-efficiency ratings.
Heat Pump Water Heaters
Heat pump water heaters are also one of the most efficient types of water heaters as they draw less power than conventional electric storage tank water heaters. Heat pumps basically draw heat from the surrounding air and use this to heat the water inside the tank. Since they do not generate heat on their own, they have an Energy Factor rating of 2.0 or higher. Most heat pump water heaters have an electric backup element which in effect makes them hybrid water heaters.
Recommended heat pump water heater brands would include G.E., Rheem, and Stiebel Eltron. However, if you are unable to afford these models, you may convert your standard electric storage-tank water heater by purchasing a stand-alone add-on heat pump.
Heat pump water heaters are the only electric model water heaters that are Energy Star compliant and qualify for energy efficiency tax credits.
Solar Water Heaters
Since the energy coming from the sun is free, then solar water heaters are therefore the cheapest type of water heater to run. There are actually a wide variety of solar water heating systems and all of them have either gas or electricity as a backup system should there be bad weather conditions and the heat or ray of the sun does not directly shine on the solar panels. This means that there is still some operating cost in running the system. Nevertheless, it is a system that is efficient and will keep on running for many years. The main issue with solar water heating systems is that they are far more expensive than other types of water heating systems. However, due to the savings that you get from your annual operation cost, the extra price you pay in getting a solar water heater will likely pay for itself in around 10 years time.
Since solar water heaters and heat pumps are not capped at the $1,500 mark, then you are likely to get substantial savings when you get these water heating systems during your water heater purchase. Rheem manufactures solar water heating systems and has had good reviews on their “Solaraide” passive solar water heating system and their “Solpak” active water heating system.
Tips on How to Buy a Water Heater
Wanting to buy a water heater? Before you buy one, you need to know the many different types of water heaters available in the market these days, so you can wisely decide which one is the best for you.
How to Properly Select and Buy a Water Heater
When you are going to buy a water heater unit, it is advisable that you know important factors about water heaters, so you can determine what type of water heater is the right one for you:
Research and choose the type of fuel source that you would like to use and also go over the prices of the fuel. Most experts think that the best option would be natural gas, if it is available, rather than choose electrical or oil-fired water heaters. Solar energy may be environmentally friendly and it is a free energy; however, this technology poses a lot of obstacles.
Price and Operating Costs
The price and operating costs determine what type of water heater will you buy – economy, high efficiency, or the latest technology water heaters (like condensing ones). Even if there are so many models and brands in the market today, professionals highly recommend that you focus on the Energy Star products, since you will also benefit from the government grants and therefore you can save a lot in the long run. Because Energy Star products mean that they are utilizing green technology, you are automatically an advocate of the protection of the environment.
Size of the Water Heater Unit
The point-of-use water heater is small, the tankless water heater is medium size, while the storage tank water heater is big. Nowadays, a lot of professionals typically claim that the most popular types of water heaters according to size are the tankless or on-demand water heaters.
When it comes to products, people have different brands that they like, while others have their own favorites. Lots of water heater buyers go for their favorite brands or they buy a brand that has a lot of good feedback from satisfied customers such as A.O. Smith, Rheem, Bradford White, Polaris, Rinnai, GE, Kenmore, Bosch, etc.
As the norm for many appliances, higher-quality water heaters will typically have a longer life, utilize better technology, have higher performance and efficiency, more pleasing aesthetics, and even sometimes have a much longer warranty; but of course, with all these great features, they will actually turn out to be more expensive than other basic water heaters.
The features of a water heater must always be beneficial to the user, and they are more favorable if the components used are user-friendly, easy to troubleshoot, and easy to replace if need be.
Repair Cost and Availability of Parts
The popular brands of water heaters generally can provide a better service network and have available parts than less-known manufacturers.
Did You Know That: Next to home heating and cooling, water heating is the next biggest energy user. If you can utilize more than one fuel type, then it is a great idea to compare what will be your yearly fuel cost, installation, repair, issues, etc.
Types of Water Heaters Based on Fuel Source
Gas water heaters can utilize both natural gas and propane gas (LP). Gas appliances are actually the best choice whenever this type of energy is available and also because gas appliances are considered to be the most energy-efficient systems. Gas water heaters are available either in the tank or tankless models. In order for you to understand how much hot water it can generate, look for the heaters’ specification and the gas input in BTU (British Thermal Unit) per hour.
Electric water heaters are highly recommended if the only fuel source option you have is electricity (excluding oil). Even if they have a higher energy factor than the gas water heater units, electric water heaters are more expensive in the long run. However, they are actually the best type of water heater units if you are using point-of-use water heaters and heat pumps.
Solar water heaters are typically utilizing a very simple system, wherein free solar energy is used in order to heat the water. In the long run, using this cost-free and renewable energy, solar water heaters can prove to be an excellent lifelong investment.
Oil-fired water heater units are actually becoming less-popular systems for residential or home use, due to the fact that there is an increased availability of gas and other green-technology systems. Furthermore, oil-fired water heater models are also more expensive to install and they also do not last very long as compared to the gas water heater units.
Wood Burning Water Heater
Wood burning water heaters and wood furnaces are heating appliances that utilize wood as the energy source in order to carry out tasks such as home heating, cooking, and hot water preparation.
Types of Water Heaters Based on the Size and Technology Used
Storage or Tank-type Water Heater
Storage or tank-type water heaters are the most popular of all heating systems meant for home use. Hot water is always available for use, and even if you are away, this type of water heater always keeps the hot water available.
Tankless water heaters, or otherwise called on-demand water heaters, have no tank for water storage. Instead, they heat the water only when needed, which reduces energy consumption and so is your bill at the same time. They typically last longer than the conventional tank-type water heaters and they are also more environmentally friendly.
Electric Heat Pump Water Heater
Electric heat pump water heaters are a type of system that has an inexpensive way of heating water by means of utilizing electricity in order to extract heat from the air, then move the heat from one place to the other, thereby resulting in a highly efficient production of hot water.
As mentioned above, there are many types of water heaters. By being informed on what the different types of water heaters are and what they can specifically do, you can make a wise decision on which type you would most likely buy and enjoy using in the long run.
Simple Ways on How to Diagnose Water Heater Problems
Water heater problems are usually very annoying as they seem to occur when you need hot water the most, such as when you’re taking a shower or when you’re doing laundry. Although many symptoms of water heater problems can be identified earlier on, most of the time these symptoms are left ignored. The truth is some of the water heater problems can be fixed in simple steps. Despite this, you need to be very careful and take necessary precautions in order not to injure yourself or cause damage to your water heating unit. In addition, if you are not confident with your do-it-yourself skills, it is simply best to seek the help of a professional technician to identify and solve your water heater problems for you.
Diagnosing and troubleshooting the water heater problem is easy if you understand the inner working of how your water heater works. Reading the manual of your unit or doing some research over the internet will help you gain a basic understanding. In fact, you will be surprised to find out how easy it is to diagnose some of the common water heater problems and how easy they are to repair. Some of these repairs can be accomplished yourself which in turn will allow you to save money on plumber bills.
When making any diagnostics or repair on your water heating unit, always make sure to turn off the gas or electricity as well as its water supply.
Water Heater Leak – the dripping of water or pooling of water underneath your water heating units is perhaps the most common type of water heater problem. This type of problem can occur from a multitude of places or connections in your system. If such a problem only occurs during the cold season, then the problem might only be due to condensation. However, if it occurs even during the summer months, then expect to have a leaking problem. Tightening certain bolts and connections will usually help to solve the problem.
Most water heater leak problems occur from either a loose or faulty temperature/pressure relief valve, or from the unit’s drain valve. Replacing these is both easy and inexpensive. On electric water heating units, the problem sometimes fall with the gaskets.
A leaking water heater is truly a big problem, especially if the source of the leak cannot be easily fixed. Corrosion is the archenemy of storage tank water heaters and if the unit has corroded enough to have leaks, replacing the water heater unit would be the best course of action. This is because repairing the unit will only show more signs of corrosion in the unit and this rust will only get progressively worse.
Extreme Temperatures (Too Hot or Too Cold) – when the temperature is not to your liking, usually, adjusting the thermostat of your water heating unit will usually do the trick. However, if this does not work, you will need to determine if there is something wrong with your thermostat. Try to determine if the thermostat has current. If it has current, then the thermostat is faulty and needs to be replaced. Although this is easy to replace and replacing it yourself can be very tempting, if your water heater unit is still under warranty it is suggested to have it serviced instead as replacing the thermostat yourself can be deemed as modifying the unit and thereby void any warranty.
If the water coming from your water heater is too cold and you have determined that the thermostat is working, the problem possibly lies with the dip tube. The dip tube is simply a plastic tube and can be located near the cold water inlet. If the dip tube is busted, it will let incoming cold water to mix in with the already heated water. Replacing the dip tube will do the trick.
Water Heating Unit Makes Strange Sounds – this is perhaps the easiest way to determine if your water heater has signs of impending problems. If your unit has any banging, gurgling, or popping sound, then the problem lies with the hard sediments, lime and scale buildup inside your tank. In order to avoid such accumulation and prevent the deterioration of your water heater, it is highly recommended to flush your storage tank water heater at least every six months. Flushing will help to remove the sediments that could potentially become the scaly deposits inside the tank. However, if your tank has already a buildup of over six inches, it is recommended to simply replace your water heater unit. This is actually much better as such buildup will make the water heater very inefficient.
Water Has Rotting Smell – this kind of smell in the water comes from bacteria inside the water heater. This foul smell is produced when the bacteria reacts with the anode rod inside the unit. Often, magnesium and aluminum anode rods are responsible for catalyzing this foul smell. The smelly water is also somehow connected when the water being used in the water heater is from a well system. Using a water softener is highly discouraged at this point as this will only increase the foul-smelling problem. Although water softeners are known for helping to get rid of lime buildup inside a storage-tank water heater, they can however contribute to smelly water, especially when the insides of the tank already have the bacteria that produce the foul-smelling odor. In order to get rid of the problem, flush the unit with diluted hydrogen peroxide or bleach and replace the current anode rod with a zinc-aluminum anode rod.
Delayed Hot Water – the long delay of heated water before running through your tap could be the result of long water pipelines. This problem can be improved by properly insulating the water pipelines. However, a good way to solve this problem is to have a professional plumber install a hot water recirculating pump or maybe a point-of-use tankless water heater.
Although there are other types of water heater problems, the few listed above are just some of the most common types.
How to Solve Noisy Water Heater Problems
Water heaters are very convenient household appliances that enable us to feel comfortable when it comes to the usage of water at home such as taking a warm or hot bath, washing our clothes with warm water, washing the dishes in the dishwasher with warm water, or washing our hands with lukewarm water from the faucet.
Most of the time, homeowners and their family members tend to ignore the maintenance of their water heater at home, and the only time they will pay attention to it is when it starts to make some unusual noises. A noisy water heater in a residential area can have a number of common problems depending on the noise it makes such as rumbling, pounding, ticking, etc.
Water heater noises are typically associated with two major conditions – water hammer and mineral buildup. Unfortunately, there are also other reasons why a water heater could become noisy over time.
It is fairly common to experience the irritating noise that your water heater creates after a short period of service. Even if your water heater is installed in an area away from your living room or bedroom, you might still hear some kind of noise in the plumbing that travels with vibration waves from the water heater.
The irritating noises, for example, can originate either from the gas water heater because of the droplets on the crusty formations and sediments, or it is associated with the hissing sound created by the electric units and formation of limescale on the immersed heating elements of the water heater.
There are 6 common types of noises that a water heater makes which may indicate that there is something wrong with it:
1. Pounding Noise
You may be wondering why your water heater is making an awful pounding noise. The two major causes of a pounding noise coming from your water heater are water hammer and mineral buildup.
When water is freely flowing through the plumbing system and then it is stopped abruptly, what will happen is that the high-intensity shock wave tends to travel through the pipeline, which in turn makes some vibrations in the piping system, and then followed by a sort of banging, thumping and pounding noise.
The pounding noise could be associated with the occurrence of water hammer.
The pounding noise could also occur due to lime formations and sediments that settle at the bottom of the tank. In order to eradicate the noise, some professionals would most likely recommend installing a water softener, or occasionally flushing out the system.
2. Ticking Noise
The ticking noise coming from your water heater is usually caused by a fluctuation in pressure inside the piping system. If your water heater is an energy-efficient unit, then the odds are that it has heat traps that are installed. Because of the temperature change as well as the expansion and contraction of the heating elements, the heat trap ball is rattling in the nipple.
If there is no other way to get rid of the ticking noise, you may try removing the heat traps from the water heater. Be aware that there will be only a small reduction in its energy efficiency, but it will surely not affect the safety of the water heater’s operation.
One other possible reason for the ticking sound may be that it comes from the plumbing pipes, and this may be due to expanding and contracting against a loose-fitting strap or wood framing while making a hot water draw. One of the simple solutions would be to track down where the ticking noise is the loudest, and then try to secure the pipe or install some plastic spacers.
The simplest solution when it comes to ticking noises is to turn the temperature on your water heater just a few more degrees down.
3. Rumbling Noise
One of the main causes of a rumbling noise coming out of your water heater is the aluminum hydroxide gel inside it, whereas mineral buildup could also be an underlying factor. The aluminum hydroxide gel is actually the result of the chemical reaction between the water condition and the anode rod.
Aluminum hydroxide gel can either be blue, gray or green gel beads that tend to accumulate in the water heater drain or in faucet aerators as well.
There are two simple ways on how to solve this rumbling noise in your water heater:
If your water heater is fairly new and there is no lime buildup yet, you can simply turn the water heater off, remove the anode rod and then flush the system thoroughly. After that, bring the anode back and turn on the water heater.
If your water heater already has lime buildup in it, you may then use one of the recommended de-limers (such as phosphoric acid or maybe you could ask one from the manufacturer) and then follow the correct procedure for flushing out the deposits.
4. Sizzling Noise
The sizzling noise coming out of your gas water heater may primarily be due to condensation and/or a leaking problem – when there are drops of water dripping down the flame in the burner or any other hot surface.
Condensation is typically created when the hot flue gases come in contact with cooler surfaces. Condensation forms inside the vent and drops of water will hit a hot surface every few seconds, and that makes the sizzling noise. It can be seen by means of looking into the combustion chamber where the flame will first grow very bright and then very dim afterward.
Condensation must stop when the whole heater is heated at over 115 F. If the problem is due to leakage, then locating and repairing or even replacing the leaking element or tightening the loose fittings, is the most common solution.
When you own a gas water heater, the sizzling noise is considered to be a normal sign because natural gas has a very high moisture content.
When it comes to electric water heaters, the sizzling noise may come from the heating elements, due to limescale formation, and water that is trapped next to the element will also make the sizzling noise when the boiling water becomes steam.
5. Popping and Crackling Noises
The popping and crackling noises are typically caused by water that is trapped under the lime deposits. Lime (CaCO3) that is present in the water heater is normally the result of water hardness, and it is usually present in almost every home plumbing, more or less. As you heat up the water more and because of the water heater’s prolonged usage in the excessive hardness environment, more lime is created.
The solution for the popping and crackling noises made by your water heater due to lime buildup is very simple. You only have to flush out the water heater with the proper acidic compound such as a de-limer recommended by the manufacturer.
If the flow of water is abruptly stopped, it can also cause the popping and crackling noise.
Another possible reason for the crackling sound coming out of your water heater may be that condensation is dripping on the burner or any other hot part’s surface.
Noise coming from your water heater can be minimized by disconnecting the heater as well as doing a regular flushing, which is the most common solution to these irritating noises. If the water in your area is too hard, you may want to consider installing a water softener, but of course, do consider a negative influence on the anode rod.
Why it is a Must to Flush your Hot Water Heater
Having a hot water heater, for most people, is something that is convenient to have at home. However, many of those who own them do not actually care about its condition, unless something starts to go wrong and it stops working. A hot water heater that suddenly gives off unusual loud noises typically indicates that you have never flushed it. Well, don’t feel bad about it. In fact, there are actually thousands of water heater owners who never felt the need to flush their hot water heater. If their water heater stops working, they will just throw it out and then buy another one. However, you need to be aware that the old hot water heater-holding tank that has rust in it can potentially do a massive amount of damage on your home.
Below are some of the many reasons why you must flush your hot water heater. Flushing will actually save you some precious money on energy costs. Furthermore, the sediment that lies at the bottom of the tank displaces your hot water volume, which means that you have less available hot water (not to mention the rust, calcium scale, dirt and iron in the bottom of the tank as well). Bacteria can also typically grow and thrive in the older tanks in which you could sometimes smell a certain type of sulfur or rotten egg odor.
After you do the first flushing, you may reconsider making some hot chocolate or hot tea straight directly from the hot water tap. This kind of dirt that will be coming out of the bottom of the water tank can be pretty ugly.
There can be as much as eight inches of sediment that lies at the bottom of a 15-year-old hot water heater, which can be one good reason why you will not be able to have enough hot water whenever you need it. Flushing your tank can also actually help in making the unit last longer, and by cleaning the unit on an annual basis, you will surely notice any future rusting occurring on the exterior, which indicates that it is time for you to replace the unit or else it may cause flooding in your home.
There are many ways on how to flush a hot water heater:
For electric water heaters – make sure that you turn the power off at the main service entrance box (either the fuse box or the circuit breaker).
For gas water heaters – make sure that you turn the red temperature dial to vacation. At the top of the water heater tank, you will see the cold water inlet valve. Turn that off. At the bottom of the water heater tank, you will see the drain cock or hose bib. Hook up your garden hose, take the other end outside and away from your flower beds. If you have a floor drain present, put the end of the hose in the floor drain. Bear in mind that the water that will come out of the water heater tank is extremely hot, so do not forget to warn others in the surrounding area.
At the top of the water heater and coming from the cold water inlet line, there is normally a flex hose that is attached to the top of the hot water heater which allows the water into the tank. With the use of some pliers, unscrew the flex hose attachment at the top of the water heater tank and then just flop it over out of the way. This typically relieves the water pressure building up in the water supply line and tank, which then allows the air to enter the water heater tank for easy drainage.
When the tank is drained once, refill it to about half full and then drain it one more time. After that, you could say that you have cleaned your unit and you are ready to close it back up again. Make sure that you have the flex hose on tight again and ensure that there are no drips at the top of the tank. Prepare some pipe dope nearby in case any drips occur. Also, while the tank is empty, it is wise to make sure if it is level. If not, shim and make the tank level prior to refilling it with clean water.
If you happen to notice the presence of foul odors coming from your water such as the smell of sulfur or rotten eggs, it is highly possible that there are bacteria currently existing inside the hot water holding tank. To eliminate such foul odor and maybe even harmful bacteria, you need to first re-hook the inlet connection line and then allow the tank to re-fill at least half full. Afterward, with the use of a funnel, add one gallon of bleach by pouring it in at the top of the water heater at the inlet opening. Then, completely refill the tank and allow it to sit for approximately 30 minutes. This technique usually kills any bacteria residing in the tank. After the 30-minute decontamination process, check each and every plumbing fixture (such as sinks, bathtubs, etc.), turn on the hot water side, and then let it run for about a good 15 minutes. This method should effectively and easily remove most of the bleach in the tank, and after all that, you and your water heater tank are both good to go for another whole year.
If you have your water heater situated in your garage, it should be placed on a platform that is at least 18 inches off the garage floor, just in case gasoline or other highly flammable products should accidentally spill.
If you need to replace your water heater, make it a point to not but the cheapest hot water heater available in the market. You think that by buying the cheapest hot water heater unit you will be saving lots of money from it, but in reality, it will actually cost you more in the energy consumption factor later on. Additionally, read the “Energy Factor” on the tank labels. It is because the higher the numbers, the better the fuel efficiency. If your area has really hard water available, you may want to flush your system to about twice a year, or consider getting a water softener. Water softeners could also help with not having to flush your unit very often. Always check your T&P valve (temperature and pressure relief valve) and make sure that it is perfectly working. Pull the lever and it should let hot water to escape. If in case the T&P valve is not working properly, do replace it as soon as possible. It is also highly recommended that the T&P valve must be replaced about every 3 to 4 years for your safety and wellbeing.