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Before You Buy a Water Heater

Comfort Zone - Plumbing, Heating, Air Conditioning Blog

McMahon Plumbing + Heating Blog

If your water heater is breaking frequently, you may save yourself trouble and money by replacing it now. Here are a few things to think about before making your decision.

How much room do you have in the space where you will be installing the water heater?

Not all water heaters are the same size. Measure the space available and bring the measurements with you when you’re shopping for a new water heater.

Does your water heater need to be electric, gas, or propane?

Electric and gas water heaters are not interchangeable. So, be sure the unit you buy is designed to work with your energy source.

Choose a water heater that is energy efficient

Did you know that 25% or more of a family’s energy expenses come from running the hot water heater? The average family uses an amazing amount of hot water. It makes a lot of sense to buy the most energy-efficient model possible, even if it costs a little bit more. Models that meeting Energy Star requirements are allowed to display the ENERGY STAR label, which provides information about the unit’s energy usage.

Choose a water heater with a good warranty

Many water heaters today will not last much longer than their warranty. So go for the heater with the longest warranty. But just a long warranty in itself is not a protection. You also have to look at the warranty exclusions. Sometimes these warranties have fine print. So it may look like a great warranty on the outside, but then the fine print could say that the causes of most hot water heater failures are not covered.

Choose the right size water heater for your needs

Hot water heaters range in size from 20 to 80 gallons, but the most common sizes used are 40-50 gallons. If you choose a water heater that is too small, you will find that just as you lather up the shampoo in your hair the water turns cold. But if you choose a tank that is way too big, your utility bills will be too high. If you frequently run out of hot water now, you will probably require a larger size than what you currently have. If the size you have now seems to do the job, then ask yourself what your future needs are. Remember, you are buying one water heater to last several years, so you must consider if the family is going to expand in the future, or if you plan on buying a hot tub, spa, jacuzzi or over-sized bathtub in the future. Are you a laundry heavy family? Any additional future needs must be considered when sizing your hot water heater. It is also a good idea to size the water heater for the house, in case you plan to sell in the next few years. An undersized tank on a house would make the house less desirable and may even prevent the home from passing inspection.

For a family of 1 or 2, under normal circumstances, a 40 gallon tank should be enough. More than normal demand would probably require a 50 gallon tank for 1 or 2 people. If your family has 3 or 4 people, then a 50 gallon tank would usually suffice under normal circumstances. For a greater demand, then a 50 gallon gas water heater would probably still be sufficient, but if your tank is electric, you might consider an 80 gallon heater. Gas heaters are usually able to heat up the water in a tank faster. If your family has 5 or more people, then a 50 gallon gas heater or an 80 gallon electric heater is probably adequate under normal circumstances. If you are in a situation where your demand would be more than normal, then go to a 75 gallon gas tank, and perhaps even a 120 gallon electric, if the space you have available for your hot water heater is large enough to accommodate. Remember, you want to buy the water heater that will do the job NOW and in the FUTURE. So keep in mind what your future requirements will be. You may be surprised at how much water on average some everyday activities use:

  • Showering – 3 gallons/minute
  • Bathing – 15-25 gallons per bath
  • Shaving – 1-3 gallons
  • Washing hands – 1/2-2 gallons
  • Washing dishes – 4-6 gallons
  • Running dishwasher – 5-20 gallons
  • Running clothes washer – 25-40 gallons
  • Cleaning house – 5-12 gallons
  • Food preparation – 1-6 gallons

Choose the proper method of installation – Use a professional plumber

Installing the water heater is not a job for the layman. It involves plumbing work, as well as gas or electrical work. Installation also involves knowledge of current local code ordinances. Mistakes in installation are one of the most common causes of injury and water heater failures, so this job is best left up to a professional plumber.

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