Buying a Water Heater
Posted on July 12, 2011
A puddle of water on the floor of the basement is always ominous. When it is the result of a leaking hot water heater, the fix can be costly. Replacing a water heater is complicated by the question of who will install it and how quickly the job can be done. When shopping for a water heater, remember your decision comes down to size, warranty, energy and height.
First, assess the needs of your home. With your old water heater, were people constantly taking cold showers? Was it impossible to run the dishwasher and bathe at the same time? It may be time to upgrade the size of your water heater.
There is no rule on how big the water heater should be. Home improvement store Lowe’s offers a size chart which suggests a 30- to 40-gallon tank for a home with two people, a 40-gallon tank for a home with three people, a 40- to 50-gallon tank for a home of four, 50 gallons for five and so on. The largest residential home water heater available is 80 gallons. Households of eight or more people may want to investigate getting a second water heater to prevent shortages.
What is the difference between a six-year and nine-year water heater? The quality of the inside parts. The average life span of a hot water heater is 13 years, so the year designation is not a prediction, but a length of time for which the parts will be guaranteed. The longer the warranty, the better the quality of the heating elements, the better the protection against corrosion and the thicker the insulation.
The cheapest source of energy for a water heater is natural gas. A 2005 study by the U.S. Department of Energy showed natural gas water heaters cost $12.18 per million BTUs (British Thermal Units) of heat generated. Electric can cost three times as much. Electric tanks are easier to maintain and install, but over the lifetime of the tank, gas is the most efficient and cheapest to own.
Hot water heaters are generally installed in basements, underneath stairs or in out-of-the-way places. As a result, there is a finite space in which to work. New regulations on hot water heaters have led to thicker insulation and larger tanks. As a result, it is likely a new water heater will be larger than the one being replaced, in some cases by more than 3 inches. Take full measurements of the space available before heading to the store or calling the plumber.