How to Know When You Need a New Water Heater

You use your water heater much more than you realize. In fact, each of the following activities require some kind of water heating system:

  • Washing the dishes
  • Washing clothes
  • Washing your hands
  • Taking a shower
  • Taking a bath

The truth is, most residents don’t go a day (or even a couple hours) without using hot water. And yet, we don’t think twice about our water heater—that is, as long as it’s working. The problem is, homeowners neglect checking the function and efficiency of their water heater. For many, it’s out of sight, and out of mind. This can allow problems to develop and worsen over time.

According to Natural Resources Canada, heating water accounts for up to 1/4 of total home energy usage. Taking this into account, you realize how much money you really are spending on water heating. But if your water heater is old or inefficient, it may be costing you more than necessary.

How old is too old when it comes to water heaters? Natural Resources Canada usually cites a typical lifespan between 7-10 years. However, if you have particularly hard water or use larger amounts of hot water, your water heater won’t last as long. Whether it’s been two or ten years, you should check your system for problems that could require a replacement.

Signs that it Needs Replacing

  • Aside from an obviously leaking water heater, there are certain things to look for when assessing if it’s still functioning properly. These signs include:
  • Puddles of water around the heater
  • Frequent repeated repairs
  • Muddy, rusty, or black water coming out of the hot water tap
  • Sandy water
  • Loud popping noises from your water heater

Although issues like a loose connection or broken element can cause puddles, it usually means your water heater is leaking. Corrosion is the common culprit behind leaking and puddles, and is an obvious reason for replacement. Darker water coming from your hot water tap also indicates rust and corrosion within the heater.

As for sandy water and startling noises, these occur when there is a buildup of sediment. At times you can flush or drain your water heater to get rid of buildup, but usually this doesn’t fix the problem. With a certain amount of sediment buildup, it’s usually safer to invest in a new water heater.

Check the label on your water heater to see how old it is. If it exceeds ten years, this is a legitimate reason for replacement. Not only will your new heater be free of corrosion, it will also be more energy efficient for Canada’s Energy Efficient Regulations.

So You Need a New Water Heater

If you’ve identified certain persistent problems in your water heater, it’s time to get a new one. But what kind? There are several types of water heaters available:

  • Storage tank
  • Tankless
  • Combination
  • Solar

Energy sources are also an issue to consider when purchasing a water heater. The two most common types tend to be electric or gas powered. But for those who live far north, the advanced BTU transfer of gas models are usually the preferred choice. And yet, a typical 40 gallon gas fired tank is between 42-86% efficient, with most falling under 65%. To contrast, most electrical water heaters are closer to 70% efficiency.

No matter your water heater type or power source, its efficiency will drop over time as residue and corrosion build. But, there are certain systems that last longer than others. Overall, tankless water heaters provide several important benefits to energy-conscious homeowners.

Tankless Water Heaters

As a more recent development in the water heating industry, tankless heaters have a lot to prove. Within the past ten years, homeowners have discovered some obvious benefits of having a tankless water heater:

  • Longer system life-span
  • Cleaner water supply
  • More storage space
  • Lower utility bills
  • Energy savings

Tankless water heaters create heated water as you use and need it. This means that unlike a regular tank heater, tankless ones only use energy to heat water when you’re using it. Depending on your situation, you’ll certainly have times of the day where you aren’t using or in need of hot water. This is the main advantage of having a tankless heater.

Although they tend to cost more upfront (around $3K versus $1K+), you’ll be able to make up the initial cost over time through lower utility bills. What’s more, you’ll experience fewer problems. While corrosion is one of the leading causes of replacement for tank heaters, it’s not an issue with tankless heaters.

Overall, tankless water heaters are 24-34% more efficient than any other type. If you’re already looking to buy a new water heater, invest more money up front for better results in the long run. Talk to our licensed plumbers at Hillcrest Plumbing & Heating about what kind and size of water heater will work best for you.

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