A good hot water heater used to last about 20 years. Now … not so much. Now warranties will typically be expired after about five years. I’ve been in business long enough to remember when a company would warranty their product for 10, and even then, they lasted well beyond the warranty.
Date of installation is usually located on a panel on the side of the tank. If you don’t have access to warranty information, having that installation date can help your plumber determine (with the help of the manufacturer) how long it should be covered in the event it ends up leaking or otherwise needs to be replaced.
So, if it’s time for a new water heater, what are your options?
If you previously used gas or electric, those choices are often the best to keep so that new gas lines or electrical hook ups don’t add to your total bill. Some homeowners do occasionally switch from electrical to gas or vice versa, but that is unusual and costly. Generally, the factors you should consider are:
- Size of the tank in gallons and size of area for installation
- Conventional gas or electric
- Energy efficient models, or
Many energy efficient models exist today. Among the most efficient are the more expensive tankless water heaters. While the savings on water and energy are increased with a tankless, it’s important to understand that the initial investment will run considerably more than other models. Why?
There’s More Involved With Tankless Installation
What they don’t talk enough about at home improvement stores are the necessary requirements of tankless installation. The concept is: water is heated only as used, and unlike conventional methods that heat and heat and heat to maintain a temperature, a tankless will heat only as needed and as more flow rate is needed (when you turn the shower on harder.) The BTU demand will vary from 15,000 BTU to 199,000 BTU to keep the temperature constant.
That means the gas line into your home needs to be capable of bringing in enough gas to actually provide that BTU. Rarely is the gas line already coming into your home the right size for the job. Gas must come in through the correct size pipe, and then be dispensed at safe rates throughout the home for all gas appliances to work safely and effectively. That involves comprehensive knowledge of code and a detailed understanding of how gas flows. Anyone who tells you that you just pop in a gas tankless hot water heater and you’re ‘good to go’ is giving you very wrong information.
Electric tankless have their own issues, too. They need to be able to heat to the degree that at least two or three faucets throughout the home can access unlimited amounts of hot water at the same time. Gas does the job better because it heats faster and hotter than electric. For a smaller home with few occupants, an electric tankless might be fine, but even then, power is still a consideration. You can’t just replace a standard electric tank type with a tankless because it will take an electrician to install more power.
All in all, tankless hot water heaters are a greener choice, and they do pay for themselves over time. They save money on your gas bill, water bill, and electric bill – that is substantial. Because of their frequency of use however, and the relative newness on the market, we take the manufacturer’s word on their warranties, 10 to 12 years. They say they have a life expectancy of 25 years, but they don’t warranty them that long. Even so, my customers are very happy with their tankless models.
What is an Energy Efficient Hot Water Heater?
Generally, efficiency is based on the amount of power it takes to heat water to a given level. Standard tank type models run about 51% while tankless can run as high as 98% efficient.
An apple for apple replacement is an easy decision to make, but if you have questions regarding these other options, make sure you call me to discuss them. I’ve been in this business long enough to see my grandsons work for me! I can give you good advice for your situation, and will be happy to discuss the parameters of your particular circumstance. You can also leave me your questions or comments below, and I’ll be happy to respond.