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The Complete Buyer's Guide to Water Heaters

As the name implies, a water heater is in charge of keeping your home supplied with hot water. However, the simple name can be deceptive, given how many elements there are to take into consideration when buying one. If you’re in the market for a water heater, read the buyer’s guide below first so you make the right decision.

Type of Fuel

Every water heater needs a fuel source, so it’s important you consider which type to choose.

A lot of them simply run off of electricity. These are generally less expensive than other types. Electric models can also be so small they only contain 2.5 gallons of water, which makes them an efficient option for homes that don’t need a lot of water heated all at once.

Another popular option is gas. These machines heat water by using a burner and they need circulating air around them to operate. While these will cost you more than the electric variety, they’re also more energy efficient. They generally aren’t made to store any less than 30 gallons, but some models can also store well over 70.

In recent years, the popularity of solar water heaters has risen. These machines use heat from the sun in order to warm up your home’s water supply. A solar water heater will cost you more in initial investment, though there are federal and state tax incentives to help with some of the burden. You’ll also want to consider a backup system to heat your water on cloudy days. Their size range is similar to gas water heaters, but they have much lower yearly energy costs.

Types of Water Heaters

The fuel source is just one decision you’ll have to make. There are also a number of different water heaters you’ll need to choose from as well. Your decision here will depend most on the size of your household and the utilities available in your area.

Storage tank water heaters are considered the best type to buy, which is also why they’re the most popular. This version has an insulated tank that heats your home’s water and then hangs onto it until it’s required. They come in liquid propane (LP), natural gas and electric models.

There are two main things to look for when purchasing a storage tank water heater.

  • First, is the tank’s size. For the most part,
    • one or two people will need a 30 gallon tank;
    • two to three people will need one that can hold 40 gallons. After that, it will depend on your fuel source.
    • Homes with more than five people will generally need a 50 gallon tank fueled by propane or natural gas, but 80 gallons if it’s an electric model.
  • The second thing to consider is the tank’s recovery rate. This refers to how many gallons of water the tank can heat in an hour. Greater amounts of hot water require greater recovery rates.

You can also opt for a tankless water heater. These models don’t store any water, but rather pass it through a number of coils that heat the water up. As it only heats on demand, these are usually the most energy efficient option. However, most of these models can only supply about three-and-a-half gallons of heated water a minute.

How Much Space Do You Have?

Notable Accessories.For some, the final decision about what kind of water heater to buy will be dictated by how much spare room they have in their home. Sometimes additional plumbing components can be added to ensure you get the best water heater, despite a limited amount of space. You can also look into a lowboy option, which is a squatter version that can still hold the amount of water you need, just with less headspace.

Like just about any device in your home, you can add on a number of accessories to your water heater in order to receive enhanced results or otherwise better fit it to your home.

  • Water pans are generally a great addition as they’ll sit under your water heater, catch any overflow it might give off and then drain it away.
  • You can also purchase an alarm that will sense the overflow and send you an alert just so you know it’s happening.
  • Pressure regulators sit outside the tank and allow you to keep your unit from producing too much pressure, which could end up forcing leaks in your pipes or even causing them to break.
  • A great way to save money and energy is with timers. You can have them wired to your water heater’s electrical supply so that the unit only draws energy during certain pre-determined times.

Warranty

The warranty is something that should be given paramount attention when purchasing your next water heater. Most water heaters come with a six year warranty, however there is one brand that comes with a lifetime warranty. As well, many reputable water heater brands have additional warranty extension packages which must be purchased with the water heater or a couple of months after you purchase the water heater. It might be worth the money to extend your water heater warranty 4 additional years.

The most important thing to take note of when purchase a water heater is what your warranty requires the homeowner to perform whenever there is a problem. Some water heater brands take care of everything, and others requires the homeowner to perform much of the work (even picking up a new heater and dropping the old one off). Be sure to inquire what the warranty process is before purchasing your next water heater. You might be saving $50 dollars on your initial investment, just to spend $200 of your own time doing things you thought your warranty would allow your plumber to do.

Maintenance

Once you purchase a water heater, we highly recommend you read the manual and warranty for the manufacturers suggested maintenance schedule. Water heaters are not the product you want to neglect recommended maintenance with. If the price to maintain your water heater turns you off, consider how it will feel if you come home and find your whole garage, or the inside of your house, ruined with water because the tank finally leaked – then imagine the price to get a new water heater, and repair the water damage.

Water heaters in Arizona act considerably different from water heaters in other parts of the nation. This is due to our hard water and the way we soften our hard water. The problem is two fold:

  • either the home does not have a water softener, which means the water heater collects sediment in the tank more quickly causing it to decline in performance,
  • or the home does have a water softener, changing the composition of the water entering the water heater, causing the water heater to deteriorate quickly.

Most homeowners will need to check their water heater every four months to ensure it doesn’t have any major issues. It should be drained

  • twice a year for those in households with more than six people,
  • once every eight months, for those in households between three and five people
  • and once a year for those living by themselves or with one other person.

In terms of professional service, you’ll want to check your water heater’s specific manual to find out how often that’s necessary. This is different, however, for tankless water heaters. Per their warranty, tankless water heaters MUST BE MAINTAINED ONCE A YEAR by flushing them, which requires the use of a special liquid which cleans them.

Conclusion

While we hope this buyer’s guide helps, please don’t hesitate to contact us at Deer Valley Plumbing Contractors Inc. for more information. We’ve been helping home owners and businesses in Phoenix and surrounding Maricopa County with all their water heater plumbing needs by providing them with straightforward, objective advice.

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