Water heaters are among the most essential home appliances, yet how much do you really know about your water heater? When your system is working well, you probably don’t even think about it—and to be fair, why should you? All homeowners have the right to expect reliable hot water. Yet as soon as you start to lose hot water, you’ve got a big problem on your hands. This is where it’s important to have some knowledge about how these important pieces of equipment work. Keep reading for answers to your top water heater FAQs, and remember that for all the water heater services you need, you can count on our expert plumbing techs at Service Today!
Answers to 5 Frequently Asked Questions About Water Heaters
- What Are the Different Types of Water Heaters? Broadly, the answer to this question is that there are two types: traditional tank water heaters and tankless systems. Granted, it is important to acknowledge that there some hybrid models out there, and that there is an important distinction between gas and electricity-powered water heaters. However, when it comes to the two main types of water heaters available to consumers, the most important distinction is that traditional models heat water in a tank every time you turn on the tap, while tankless water heaters warm your water as it moves through your pipes.
- Which Type of Water Heater Is Better? When deciding between a traditional and tankless water heater, it all comes down to figuring out which one better meets your needs. Traditional water heaters are great because they are easy and affordable to install and repair costs tend to be minimal. Conversely, installing and repairing a tankless water heater is a lot more expensive. However, once you have installed a tankless system, you may start to notice savings in your larger utility bill. These models are extremely energy-efficient, as they do not reheat water in a tank over and over again. They also take up very little space in your home. And while they can be expensive to fix if something goes wrong, they require less maintenance and repairs overall than traditional tank systems and usually have longer lifespans (traditional water heaters tend to last for 10-15 years at most, while tankless systems can function efficiently for up to 20 years.) And of course, there’s the obvious benefit of having a tankless water heater: these systems are point-of-use, so no more waiting around forever for your water to warm up!
- How Big Should My Water Heater Be? This question also depends on your household’s needs. For apartments and smaller houses, where no more than 1-2 people live, you can usually get by with a water heater tank somewhere in the 30 gallon range—probably 40 gallons at most. For 2-3 people, 40-50 gallons should do it. If there are 3-4 people living in your household, you will probably need a tank that can hold 50-60 gallons. And if you live in a home with five people or more, you may need a water heater tank that holds up to 80-plus gallons. When it comes to tankless systems, the question is not so much size as it is flow rate. Remember, all tankless models are fairly small, so what you will want to look for when buying a new unit is how high the gallons per minute, or GPM number is. The higher the GPM, the better your water heater’s flow rate will be. Larger houses always require a tankless system with a higher GPM. Traditionally, a drawback of tankless water heaters has been that they are not designed to accommodate large households. That said, there are now several tankless models on the market that can provide a reliable supply of hot water to big houses and small houses alike.
- When Is It Time to Replace My Water Heater? As mentioned above, the lifespan of a tank water heater is roughly 10 years—15 at most, and that’s with regular maintenance. Tankless systems should be replaced every 20 years or so. If you do not know how old your water heater is, you can usually find out by locating the serial number on the unit and then looking it up. Beyond that, you may also need to replace your water heater if the needs of your household change. For instance, if a family of four becomes a family of five, you will probably need to upgrade to a larger tank size. Watch out for signs that your water heater needs to be replaced, such as poor water pressure, funny smells or tastes in your water, and a lack of hot water when you step in the shower or turn on the tap.
- What Is the Best Way to Increase My Water Heater’s Lifespan? To get the most out of your investment when it comes to water heaters, make sure to perform a few simple maintenance tasks, like flushing out the tank twice a year, assuming you have a tank-based heater. Replacing your system’s anode rod and installing a water treatment system can also reduce the presence of sediment and bacteria build-up in your tank, thus improving the quality of your water and helping your system function more efficiently overall. You may occasionally need to drain your tankless equipment as well, if you start noticing rust and sediment in your water, though this will require you to purchase separate equipment, or to call a plumber. And speaking of calling a plumber, it is important not to neglect periodic water heater maintenance if you want your system to last as long as possible.