Hot water is one of the amenities we tend to take for granted until the moment it’s gone. We don’t often think about the water heaters in our homes that make every bath and shower a pleasant experience. So when the water heater gives up the ghost, you’re going to want to get a new one installed pronto.
But if you’ve started looking into the different water heater options, you may have discovered that there’s a lot to choose from. Read on to learn how to buy a water heater and what features you should look for.
When to Get a New Water Heater
Like anything, water heaters don’t last forever, and you’re probably looking at getting a new one every 10 years or so. How long your water heater will last depends on how much water you’re heating and how hard the water in your area is. You can also do some maintenance work to help your water heater last a little longer.
If you start hearing banging sounds coming from your water heater, that’s a sign it might be time for a new one. That’s the sound of built-up sediment on the bottom of the tank, and it’s killing your water heater. You may also see water leaking out of it, though do make sure that water isn’t coming from loose pipes or fittings.
Look at the Fuel Source
One of the first things you’ll need to decide about your new water heater is what sort of fuel source you want to use: electric, natural gas, or propane. Electric heaters are much more energy-efficient than the other two, so if you have a small household, this is a good choice.
Gas and propane heaters get the water hot much more quickly than electric heaters, so they’re better for larger households. But they aren’t as energy-efficient, and if you have a propane heater, you’ll need to have the tank refilled. You can also see if your area offers options for solar or geothermal water heaters.
Decide on a Type
There are two main types of water heaters you’ll need to choose from: storage tank and tankless. Storage tank heaters provide a large amount of hot water in an uncomplicated and reliable system. But they do have a limited capacity, and once that hot water is gone, you’ll have to wait for it to heat back up again.
Tankless water heaters heat water directly below the fixture and can provide a never-ending stream of hot water. You’ll never run out of hot water after a load of laundry again, and these heaters are very compact. But they are more expensive to install and may be restricted in terms of which fuel source they can use.
Pick a Capacity
If you choose to go with a storage-tank water heater, you’ll need to decide how big you want your tank to be. In simplest terms, water heater capacity is measured in terms of gallons, with sizes ranging from 45 to 100 gallons. But you should also check the first-hour rating, or FHR, on your heater to see how much hot water it can truly put out.
The federal government recommends that a household of two people should get a 44- to 55-gallon water heater. Households of three to four people should aim for 55 to 75 gallons, and households of five should get 75-85 gallon tanks. Households of six or more people will need a water heater between 85 and 100 gallons in capacity.
Find a Space
If you’re looking at a 100-gallon water heater, it’s going to take up a lot of space. So one of the factors that need to go into your decision is how much space you have to dedicate to a storage-tank water heater. If you have a basement or mechanical room, measure the space in there and see what you have room for.
If you live in a small apartment or a house that doesn’t have a lot of extra space, getting a tankless heater may be your best bet. If you are really wanting a storage-tank water heater, look for lowboy or point-of-use heaters, which are designed to fit into cramped quarters. You can also find models that come in different shapes to accommodate taller, narrower spaces.
Choose a Budget
Once you’ve narrowed down the general type of heater you want, it’s time to start looking at the budget. You probably don’t want to spend an arm and a leg on this heater, but it’s not a good idea to get the cheapest model you can get your hands on, either. That’s likely to not work well or last long, and you don’t want to find yourself spending more money to replace it three years down the line.
On average, you’re looking at between $1,000 and $3,000 for a new water heater. Depending on the model you get, you may be able to get some rebates from your local energy company. And don’t forget you’re also going to need to pay a plumber to install the water heater properly — if you think you can do it yourself, read this article.
With pollution and climate change getting worse by the day, you may want to do your part to reduce your carbon footprint. Not only is this great from a moral standpoint, but it’s also a good investment in your home. Getting an energy-efficient water heater can go a long way toward reducing your environmental impact.
If you can get a solar-powered water heater, that’s going to be the best option for a low-impact, sustainable heater. It will also more than pay for itself in energy bill savings over the years. If you can’t get solar, a tankless gas water heater will be the best bet since it will heat only the water you use.
Learn How to Buy a Water Heater
When it comes time to buy a new water heater, the options can seem endless. But learning how to buy a water heater isn’t as bad as it seems, and you’ll be making a great investment in your home. Take a serious look at your needs and priorities for the water heater, and you’ll wind up with something you can be happy with for years to come.
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