As a homeowner, you know there are many different components that allow your residence to function normally. One of the most essential is your water heater. If you’re not familiar with how this works, it’s time to learn.
What Is a Water Heater?
True to its name, a water heater is responsible for heating up the water that you use in your home. This is the water that you use to wash your hands, cook, clean and even take a shower. The tank itself is supplied by a cold water line. The cold water runs through the water heater and is warmed. Then, it’s delivered anywhere in your home that you wish. This includes your clothes washer and your kitchen sink.
Your water heater accounts for between approximately 15% and 20% of your regular household energy usage. This component is only second to your cooling and heating costs. For this reason, it’s important that you understand how your water heater works and how to ensure that it’s operating as efficiently as possible.
The Two Main Types
There are two main types of home water heaters in use today. These are tank and tankless water heaters. The most common is the tank type, and it’s used in over 90% of households in the United States. This operates by having cold water come into the tank where it gets warmed up via electrical heating rods or a gas burner.
The heated water inside the tank simply stays there until you turn on your sink, shower or clothes washer. When this happens, cold water enters the water heater and forces the warmed water out of the pipes. This process also replenishes the contents of the system. With this type of water heater, you only have a specific number of gallons that are heated at one time, so you can only receive a certain amount of hot water before it turns cold.
A tankless water heater, on the other hand, works by heating water instantly. When you turn on the water and set the specific temperature that you want, the tankless water heater will heat the water on demand and send it off to your faucet, shower or washer. The benefit of this type of water heater is that it will continue to produce hot water for as long as you want to run it.
What Size Water Heater Do I Need?
Most water heaters come in a variety of sizes ranging anywhere from 40 gallons up to 120 gallons. When choosing a water heater for your home, it’s important that you get one that is the ideal size for your needs. You don’t want to overspend on energy bills to heat a water tank that is much larger than you actually require. Conversely, you don’t want to waste your money on an undersized water heater that runs out of hot water too quickly. It’s best to follow the recommendations below:
- 1 to 2 people — 30 to 40 gallons
- 2 to 3 people — 40 to 50 gallons
- 3 to 4 people — 50 to 60 gallons
- 5 or more people — 60 to 80 gallons
The above recommendations are meant to be loose estimates for the size of the water heater that you need. Obviously, the amount of hot water that you use on a regular basis will affect the size of the water heater that you’ll require for your home. If you’re not sure what size to purchase, it’s best to consult a professional so that you don’t waste your money on an underpowered or overpowered water heating system.
How Long Will They Last?
Knowing how long your water heater is intended to last can allow you to financially prepare to replace it in the future. For most tank model water heaters, the average lifespan is anywhere between 8 to 12 years. It’s highly recommended that you consider replacing your water heater around the 10-year mark so that it doesn’t fail on you. Tankless water heaters last much longer. Some of them will last up to 20 years, depending on the specific type and brand that you purchase.
How Much Do They Cost?
The cost of a water heater is going to depend on a number of different factors. Some of these include the type of fuel that it uses, whether it’s a tank or tankless system, the size of the system and the type of installation that you have performed. We’re going to share with you some of the most common estimates for having your water heater replaced so that you can get a ballpark idea of what it might cost. Remember, however, that these estimates can vary widely depending on the particular equipment purchased.
The cheaper of the two systems is going to be the tank water heater. This will cost you around $700 for the new water heater. The whole installation process will take about two to three hours to complete. In the event of replacing an existing water heater that already has the plumbing hooked up, you can expect to pay significantly less in labor fees.
A tankless water heater is going to cost anywhere between $600 and $1,100, depending on the type of fuel that powers it. In general, whole-house tankless water heaters that use electricity are going to be cheaper than gas-powered water heaters. You can expect this system to take about 8 to 10 hours of installation time.
Do They Come With a Warranty?
Just like any other household appliance, your water heater is going to come with a standard warranty. Most brands of residential water heaters offer a manufacturer’s warranty. In most cases, your warranty will last for a period of six years. It will cover the replacement of the tank and the internal parts.
It’s important to realize that most warranties only cover labor costs for the first year. After that, you’ll be responsible for paying the labor to replace whatever part is under warranty. It’s always a good idea to take a look at what the manufacturer’s warranty is for whatever water heater you purchase. Depending, on the make and model, it can vary from the typical six-year period.
Most Common Water Heater Problems
There are various components that make up the inner workings of your water heater. When these components fail or malfunction, it can cause your water heater to stop working completely. The most common issues that you’ll face with your water heater include the ones mentioned below:
- Water temperature issues
- Discolored water
- Odd noises
It’s always a good idea to consult an expert whenever you notice that there is something amiss with your water heater. While you may be able to solve some issues on your own, others should be handled by a professional who has the skills and equipment to do the job correctly.