Every home needs hot water, but most homeowners don’t know much about their how water heaters work. Here are some tips for when to replace your hot water heater, as well as what to look for when selecting a new one.
The age of a hot water heater determines if it requires repair or replacement. Look for manufacturing information that has been printed on the hot water tank, which typically tells you the year that it was made. You’ll be able to estimate approximately how long the appliance has been installed in your home and if it is close to the age of replacement.
Hot water heaters do not live forever. In fact, they will last between 8 and 12 years before replacement is necessary. Use your judgment and assess any problems to gauge if you can get by with repair or if you need replacement.
Rust is a problem that often requires replacement, since rust damage cannot be fixed once it starts. You can slow down the rusting process, but you cannot reverse it. The risk of leaving a rusting hot water tank installed is coming home to a floor covered with water from a hole in the tank.
It’s worth inspecting the anode rod if you have rust on the tank, since the anode rod is designed to prevent rust by being a sacrificial element. The rod uses electrolysis to force corrosion to happen to the metal rod rather than the exterior of the tank, since the rod is made with metals that are more reactive than steel and will corrode first. If the anode rod is depleted, corrosion will start happening to the steel shell of the tank.
The heating element can also deteriorate from years of use. Excessive wear can occur from not emptying the tank of sediment and from setting the thermostat too high. A heating element can be repaired, but it may not be worth it if the tank is also rusty.
The need for a new hot water heater gives you the opportunity to add a better water heater to your home. Many homeowners use replacement as an opportunity to switch from a water storage tank model to a tankless water heater.
Tankless water heaters have the benefit of consuming less space and using less energy. Hot water is heated on demand, so you only use energy to heat the water that you are actively using. There are no concerns with a reserve tank rusting or an anode rod to monitor, since they are not part of the appliance.
Tankless models may never run out of hot water, but can struggle with simultaneous hot water use. Talk to your plumbing contractor to select the right model that can produce enough hot water for all the showers in your home. Also offset water use for laundry and dish washing to prevent shortages when showering.
A traditional hot water storage tank model does have its own unique advantages. The price of a storage tank model is often much cheaper compared to its tankless counterpart, and storage tank models are also easier to maintain and repair. Simultaneous water use is only limited by the size of the storage tank rather than how much how water can be produced.
Unfortunately, traditional hot water storage tank models can run out of water, use more energy, and have a shorter lifespan. What you may save up front with an initial purchase may cost you more over time, so keep in mind the pros and cons of both types of heater, as well as what your hot water needs are.