Replacing a hot water heater isn't usually on a homeowner's improvement radar. You turn the tap, you get hot water, and you don’t give it a second thought. But have you checked your hot water heater lately? Doing so can help avoid hot water heater problems.
First off, it's important to know your hot water heater's age. The average life span of a water heater is anywhere from eight to 12 years. Unfortunately, there is no test or telltale sign that a hot water heater needs replacing, aside from a major leak. If the water seems less hot, even though the temperature on your heater has not changed, it could be a sign of malfunction. Other signs include leakage around fittings, and corrosion on the heater itself or any of the plumbing connections. Sometimes a hot water heater can be repaired, but if it’s at least eight years old or close to it, you might just want to replace the whole unit.
Most of the major parts in hot water heaters are designed to be replaceable. But with older hot water heater problems, you face corrosion, which makes it much harder to take your water heater apart and put it back together easily. Another big plus to replacing your water heater is energy efficiency. Newer models are much better in this respect, and as you shop, you should look for an Energy Star label as well as the annual cost to operate any unit you're considering. Both will be found on the appliance’s sticker.
A great resource for hot water heaters is www.smarterhotwater.com, where you'll find information on all different hot water heater types and sizes and how to find an installer. You can also learn exactly how to choose the water heater that's best for you. First, you should know the necessary fuel type--electric, natural gas or propane (LP) gas. Then determine the gallon size you will need for your home (a plumbing contractor can help with this). Measure the maximum height and width space for your new hot water heater, and remember to check your access door space for clearance. And finally, choose a warranty model that’s right for you.
One option to consider is a tankless hot water heater. For one thing, tankless hot water heaters last 20 years, much longer than their tanked counterparts. Another reason to consider a tankless hot water heater is maximum energy efficiency: tankless units are small and can be installed closer to the bath or kitchen, allowing hot water to reach those areas more quickly. While they are more expensive to buy and install, tankless systems heat the water as you need it, therefore saving the most money and energy in the long run and are a great replacement for your current water heater, making those hot water heater problems a thing of the past.