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Choosing the Right Hot Water Heaters

Hot water heaters provide us with the comfort of showering, washing clothes and dishes, and cooking. They are a necessary appliance in every home, but choosing the right one can be a daunting task.

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Water heaters are typically the second largest energy expense in a home, and it’s important to consider both initial costs and long-term cost savings when choosing a new unit. Some factors to consider include size and capacity, energy efficiency, brand quality, and warranty coverage.

Tank Water Heaters

Most homes in the US use gas or electric-powered conventional models with a large insulated storage tank. These heaters work day and night to keep the water at a pre-set temperature, heating it up when hot water is needed. They account for about 20 percent of a household’s total utility bill.

These heaters are usually located in the garage, laundry room, or basement and can have a 40-gallon to 80-gallon capacity. The size you choose depends on how many people live in your home and their peak water usage (showers, dishwasher, washing machines). A 50-gallon tank is a good option for most households.

In some cases, it’s possible to qualify for rebates and tax credits for purchasing a highly efficient model. Look for ENERGY STAR certified units with a high Uniform Energy Factor to save money on your energy bills.

A recirculating pump is also an excellent way to save energy and reduce your utility costs. These devices are inexpensive and can be installed easily, saving you up to 30 percent on your energy bill.

Hiring a professional to install or replace your water heater can be more expensive than doing it yourself, but the cost of hiring someone else is offset by the potential savings. Professionals have the tools and knowledge necessary to safely and properly install your water heater. In addition, they know how to ensure your project complies with local building codes and safety regulations.

If you decide to hire a professional, get several quotes to compare prices and terms. It’s also a good idea to ask if removal and disposal of your old water heater is included in the price, as this can be an additional cost. You may also want to ask about the length of the warranty. Getting a longer warranty can help you minimize your repair and replacement expenses over the years.

Energy Efficiency

The energy used to heat water can be significant, so it makes sense to make any efficiency improvements that will reduce this cost. Whether your current tank is old or you’re building a new home, the right choice can save you money over time and help reduce your carbon footprint.

The traditional storage water heater is the most common type in North America and Europe today. These large metal cylinders hold 30-50 gallons or more of hot water and use an energy source to keep the water at a constant temperature. The heating source may be electricity, natural gas, propane or heating oil. Some are now using renewable energy sources like solar and geothermal for greater efficiency.

When selecting a storage water heater, look for the ENERGY STAR label. These models are significantly more efficient than the standard units and will save you a significant amount of money over time. If you want to cut your energy costs even further, consider a heat pump water heater. These units pull heat from the air to heat your water, up to three times more efficiently than conventional electric resistance units.

If you’re replacing an old gas tank water heater, be sure to select one that uses sealed combustion or power venting for increased safety and energy efficiency. This system separates the combustion process from house air and exhausts the fumes outside, reducing the risk of indoor combustion and explosions.

Some people also choose to go with a demand or instantaneous water heater instead of a tank model. These units don’t have a storage tank and use a gas burner or electric element to heat the water only when there is a demand for it, minimizing energy waste. These are typically suitable for households with limited or coordinated hot water demands.

When considering a demand water heater, check the electrical requirements carefully to be certain your home’s wiring can handle it. Some larger electric models require 40 to 60 amps at 220 volts, which can exceed the capacity of some homes’ circuit breakers. If you’re unsure, have an electrician examine your wiring before making a purchase.

Safety

The water heater is the heart of your home and is an important investment. With that in mind, there are certain safety precautions you should follow to ensure your hot water heater is safe.

Whether you have a gas or electric unit, it is essential to keep combustible items away from the water heater. The reason is that if combustible materials come into contact with the hot water heater, they can ignite. Keeping combustible materials such as garbage, canisters of gas or clothing away from the unit will prevent this from occurring.

Another important thing to keep in mind is the temperature of your water heater. Many people forget that their hot water heater is actually a source of heat and they can burn skin very quickly. This is especially true of children because their skin is much thinner than that of adults. The ideal temperature setting for a water heater is 125F. This allows 30 seconds or more for a person to react before they get burned.

If your hot water heater is gas, it is crucial that you make sure the pressure relief valve works properly. This valve opens when the temperature or pressure gets too high and prevents tanks from exploding. This valve should be tested at least once a year. You can test it by pulling the handle up and down a few times. Water should flow out of the valve when you do this, but if it doesn’t, the valve is likely to need replacement.

If you have a gas water heater, it’s also important that you have carbon monoxide detectors installed throughout your home. Carbon monoxide is a colorless and odorless gas that can cause poisoning if not detected early. If you notice a sulfur or rotten egg-like smell around the water heater, turn off the gas and call a professional immediately.

Finally, if you have a gas water heater that vents into the chimney, it is important to schedule a chimney inspection once a year. A chimney that’s not lined correctly or a crack in the water heater can cause carbon monoxide to leak into the home, which is extremely dangerous for your family.

Environment

As with any home appliance, the environment is also impacted by your hot water heater. Standard models use a lot of energy, leading to higher electricity bills and contributing to carbon dioxide emissions. On the other hand, newer models are more energy efficient and can cut down on your environmental footprint. Choosing a model with better insulation and more efficient heating elements will reduce energy consumption. Similarly, selecting an electric model that uses green energy sources can help to cut down on harmful greenhouse gas emissions.

When you choose a heat pump water heater, you are not only making an environmentally responsible choice, but you can save money and lower your energy bill at the same time. You can also plant the equivalent of a tree for every unit you replace with a HPWH, thanks to its high efficiency and ability to run on renewable energy sources.

Most traditional hot water heaters are powered by fossil fuels to produce electricity. When the tank is full, the heat pump is switched on, and the electricity that runs through the system is used to heat the water. The heated water is then pumped out of the tank and into your home’s pipes. As the water level drops, it’s automatically refilled from cold water entering at the bottom of the tank.

Electric models work on the same principles, but instead of using gas or oil to produce electricity, they use heating elements inside the tank to heat up the water. When the temperature of the water needs to be adjusted, a thermostat is used to switch the heating element on and off. The energy that is used to generate heat is generated by natural gas burners, or in some cases, by an electric motor.

Many regions and states have strict regulations when it comes to NOx (nitrogen oxide) emissions, so Low NOx models are an excellent option for environmentally conscious consumers. They are able to reduce NOx emissions compared to their regular counterparts significantly.