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Oil-Fired Hot Water Heater or Electric Water Heater: Pros and Cons

  • Transcript

    LESLIE: Stuart in Rhode Island has got a water-heating question for us. What can we do for you today?

    STUART: Had an oil-fired, hot-water heater – a separate oil-fired, hot-water heater – separate from the (inaudible at 0:10:26). And it finally went bad after 13 years. I guess that was a good time period. And my plumber is urging me to replace it with a hot-water heater with a timer on it. It’s much cheaper to do that than buy a – to replace the oil-fired, hot-water heater that I had. But I’m just wondering, are there any negatives to it?

    TOM: Well, it’s a little more expensive to run than oil but as you say, it’s a lot less expensive to buy. I’m actually surprised that it only lasted 13 years because oil-fired water heaters seem to last a lot longer than standard water heaters. I mean if you’ve still got the warranties, the standard water heaters – the electric water heaters – may have a 5-year warranty on the tank, maybe a 10-year warranty on the tank. But I found that oil-fired water heaters last 20 to 25 years on a regular basis. So the fact that it failed at 13 is just plain bad luck.

    I have nothing against the idea of you putting an electric water heater and saving some money there, as long as you are using it with a timer. It won’t last probably as long as what I would have thought your oil water heater would have lasted but it will save you some money.

    I presume your house also has oil heat. Is that correct?

    STUART: It does.

    TOM: And is it hot air or hot water?

    STUART: It’s hot air.

    TOM: It’s hot air. OK. Yeah, so the water heater is completely stand-alone. Yeah, so I think it’s a potential – I don’t really have a strong feeling one way or the other. It’s really a personal preference. But if you want to save some money, there’s no problem putting – there’s no reason not to put the electric water heater as long as the water heater is sized properly and it is on a timer. Because, of course, you only want that to run when you have to.

    Water heaters are dumb; they heat the water 24-7 whether you use it or not. So you want to make sure that it’s properly insulated and the timer is set up so it’s not running all night long when you don’t really need it running.

    STUART: Right. OK. Any idea how many hours I should probably have that shut off?

    TOM: Well, what I would do is I would shut it off kind of after you’re done with your evening cleaning tasks, because the water will stay warm for a while. So, if you like to shower and bathe at night, whenever that part of the evening is done, that’s when you want to shut it down. Then bring it on about an hour before you wake up in the morning.

    If you leave to go to work on a regular basis, you can turn it off while you’re away at work. But if you’re home or you work from home and you need it on during the day, you might have to skip that cycle. But the key time to have it off is in the middle of the night.

    STUART: OK. Very good, then. I think I’ll stick with it.

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