What You Need to Know About Water Heaters

The Department of Energy has mandated that starting on April 15, 2015, all water heaters must meet new energy efficiency standards. Most manufacturers have met these new standards by increasing the size of water heaters as well as adding additional insulation and changing the insulation type. So, why does this matter to you? After the current backlog of already produced water heaters are all sold – many models are being discontinued. Make sure any water heater you purchase is a new model and not a discontinued close out.

Most people don’t know a lot about hot water heaters, and that’s to be expected. They can be rather complicated depending upon style and model. Regardless however, any water heater takes cold water and through a system of conduction – heats and stores hot water – making it available for your use on demand. Here is a basic information list of everything you need to know about water heaters:

When to Replace Them

All water heaters give out several tell-tale signs when they need to be replaced. Age is one factor; the Department of Energy suggests that you start doing research on a new water heater if yours is over seven years old. If your hot water heater is leaking, or if you notice that you’re just not getting as much hot water out of it as you used to, these might also be signs of pending failure. Other indicators of problems are slow recovery, noisy operation, calcium buildup, rust, leaking or no hot water at all.


A traditional hot water heater typically lasts between 10 to 15 years. However, the lifespan of any water heater is going to vary depending on use, routine maintenance and repairs.

The Importance of High-Efficiency

Water heating for your home makes up approximately 12 -17% of your overall energy bill. According to the Department of Energy, an average family will spend between $400 to $700 yearly on heating water and use around 64 gallons daily. Having a high-efficiency hot water heater is very important because it can significantly reduce the amount of energy required to heat and store hot water.

Current Efficiency Rating

Regardless of the type of water heater you have, each water heater is given an Energy Efficiency Rating or an Energy Factor. The Energy Factor of a hot water heater is a calculation of its efficiency when run under normal conditions for 24 hours. The Department of Energy calculates the Energy Factor by running a lab controlled simulated use test on each model of water heater. Thus – the higher the rating – the less energy it uses. Energy efficiency ratings are generally identified by a tag or label on the outside of the water heater.

How to Make It More Efficient

One of the easiest ways to make your hot water heater more efficient is to keep it regularly serviced and maintained. Regular maintenance can also increase your water heater’s life span. Regular maintenance includes periodically flushing your tank of water and replacing anode rods. Don’t wait until you no longer have hot water to start thinking about your hot water heater. Start a routine of monthly inspections right now. Have it professionally inspected and maintained at least once per year.


There are literally hundreds of different water heaters out there. The first thing you need to determine is what type of energy you use to heat your home. Electricity? Natural gas? Propane? Solar? Fuel Oil? If you have more than one option available or are thinking about switching your power source – consider which would be the most cost effective for you. After determining fuel type, you can decide what type of hot water heater would be best for you. The two main options are either a traditional (with a storage tank), or a tank-less system. Each of these two systems have both advantages and disadvantages but you should choose what you think will save you money in the long run.

The more you know about your water heater – the less you can spend on your maintenance, repair, or replacement needs.