It’s not me, it’s you: When to break up with your water heater
Love might be in the air this Valentine’s Day, but when you and your water heater no longer have any heat between you and the warm, fuzzy feelings have worn off, it could be time to end the relationship. But how do you know for sure that it’s time to break up with your appliance?
First, find the age of your water heater. The typical water heater warranty lasts six years, whereas the lifespan of a water heater can range from 10-20 years. If you’re unsure of how old your water heater is, find the description plate, typically located along the bottom of the unit. The first four digits of the listed serial number will indicate the month and date it was manufactured. From there, it’s simple math to determine how long you love birds have been together. If you’ve been with the same water heater for 10 years or more, keep an eye out for a few tell-tale warning signs that there could be trouble in paradise.
Consistently losing hot water is one of the easiest signs to recognize, as well as fluctuating water temperature after minimal use. Per CAEC’s recommendation, the setting of your water heater’s thermostat should be between 120-125 degrees Fahrenheit. If the size you have should easily accommodate the number of people living in your house and you still find yourself losing hot water quickly, it could be a sign.
Strange sounds such as popping, crackling or banging could indicate a buildup of scale or sediment in the tank. This type of buildup doesn’t necessarily call for a whole new water heater, but it could mean the tank could be drained or treated. Contact a professional to inspect the water heater before deciding.
Discolored water, strange smells or strange tastes could also be a sign of bacteria, sulfur, sediment or corrosion in the water, especially for rural homes using well water. Contact a professional to determine the cause; substances in the water can be treated, but tank erosion will surely call for a replacement.
If you find yourself putting more into the relationship and not getting much in return (like making increased and frequent repairs on small parts), it could be a sign that you need to move on to something new.
Finally, watch for leaks. These can be sneaky and show up without warning, especially on water heaters located in an attic. Those leaks are hard to find and continue to grow until they go straight through the ceiling.
It’s never easy to part with something you’ve spent years with, but in the end, you deserve better! If you suspect it’s time to break up with your water heater, call 1-800-545-5735 ext. 2118.
Hot Water Heater Efficiency Tips
Water use and electricity go hand in hand. Heating water can account for 14 percent to 25 percent of the total energy consumed in a typical home. What’s more, systems used to clean public water supplies and deliver it to homes require large amounts of electricity. If your home receives water from a well or spring, the pump also draws power. So when we use water, hot or cold, we’re also using energy.
Techniques for trimming water use in your home are surprisingly simple. For one, you can significantly reduce hot water consumption by simply repairing leaks in fixtures—faucets and showerheads—or pipes. A leak of one drip per second can cost $1 per month.
You can also reduce water heating costs in a matter of seconds by lowering the thermostat setting on your water heater. For each 10º F reduction in temperature, you can save between 3 percent and 5 percent in energy costs. Reducing the setting also slows mineral buildup and corrosion in your water heater and pipes.
Although some manufacturers set water heater thermostats at 140º F, most households usually only require them set at 120º F. However, if you have a dishwasher without a booster heater, you may require water temperature within a range of 130º F to 140º F for optimum cleaning.
Adding insulation to your water heater can save around 4 percent to 9 percent in costs. To determine if you need to insulate your water heater, touch it. A tank that’s warm to the touch needs additional insulation.
Insulating your water heater tank is fairly simple and inexpensive, and will pay for itself in about a year. You can find pre-cut jackets or blankets available from around $10 to $20 and install it yourself. Choose one with an insulating value of at least R-8. In addition, don’t set the thermostat above 130º F on an electric water heater with an insulating jacket or blanket—the wiring may overheat.
Installing insulation on gas- and oil-fired water heaters is more difficult. For these appliances, it’s best to have a qualified plumbing and heating contractor perform the work.
Another way you can insulate your water heater and save money is through pipe wrap. This is a simple, cost efficient way to keep your energy use low.
Insulating Water Lines
Insulating your home’s water pipes reduces heat loss and can raise water temperature 2-4 degrees Fahrenheit hotter than uninsulated pipes, allowing for a lower water temperature setting. You also won’t have to wait as long for hot water, which helps conserve water.
For exposed lines, such as in the crawlspace, or under a manufactured home, use pipe insulation foam to insulate the lines. Be sure to use the correct diameter based on the diameter of the pipes (i.e. if the diameter of the pipe is three-quarters inch, use the same size insulation). This will insure a tight seal around the lines. When installing foam insulation, do not leave any gaps where cold air could freeze the pipes.
For a home built on a slab foundation, you do not have to insulate the lines since they are covered by the concrete slab itself. But you do need to keep outdoor faucets protected for cold weather. An easy way to prevent the exposed faucets from freezing is fitting them with faucet covers, available at your local hardware store.
Installing Hot Water Heater Blankets
Water heaters can use a lot of energy even when you’re not using hot water. A common culprit is stand-by loss which occurs when heat travels and is lost through your water heater’s walls. One way to combat this is by using a water heater blanket, which adds an additional blanket of fiberglass insulation to reduce stand-by heat loss. To determine if you need a water heater blanket, place your hand on the tank itself. The tank should be room temperature, if the tank is warm or hot to the touch, then you need to install a water heater blanket.
Water heater blankets come in kits that contain a blanket, straps and tape for approximately $20 (Lowes and Home Depot). The straps hold the insulation the water heater and the tape seals the seams to the insulation.
Here are some tips about installing your water heater blanket:
- Turn the water heater off before installing the blanket. Read all the instructions that come with the blanket.
- Identify and wash the area of the water heater where the blanket will be taped, so the tape will stick.
- Cut the blanket to size with scissors or a sharp knife, leaving some extra until you know how much you will need.
- Identify the pressure relief valve on either the top or the side of your water heater. Don’t cover this important safety device.
- For electric water heaters, you can insulate the top of the tank as well as the sides. Note where the two rectangular covers provide access to the thermostats and elements. Cut small flaps in the insulation to provide access to these panels.
- For gas water heaters, don’t insulate the top. Note the gas valve and burner access door near the bottom of the tank. Cut the blanket so it is at least two inches away.
- Install the blanket so that it is snug, and fasten it well so it will stay in place.
This long-lasting conservation measure will save energy for the life of your water heater.