Angie's List: Water Heaters

By: Tessa Darlington
By: Tessa Darlington

It's one of those appliances we rarely think about... That is until it breaks down. Water heaters become a priority when the water goes cold. Considering they are the third largest energy consumer in your house, you might want to pay closer attention.

In this Angie’s List report, Tessa Darlington helps you decide whether or not to repair or replace your water heater.

Bruce Flanagan never gave much thought to what was coming out of his faucet until he noticed the water temperature wasn't quite right.

"We had a tank water heater, and it was beginning to get a small leak, but we also had some carbon monoxide problems with a draft with it,” Flanagan said.

To avoid these problems, experts recommend a good maintenance regimen.

"An easy maintenance tip for your water heater to ensure its best efficiency is to drain a quart of water from the water heater once every three months. This will reduce sediment from building up in your water heater and make sure they are getting maximum capacity out of your water heater,” Angie’s List Founder Angie Hicks said.

But even when a good maintenance job doesn't do the trick, how do you know if replacing or repairing your water heater is the answer? Experts say it could be as simple as a number.

"Anything more than about 8 or 9 about 10 years is a good life, after that you are going to start hearing it rumbling and carrying on and most people never maintain, they just put them in they sit for ten years, trouble free for 10 years and all of a sudden they start leaking and occasionally you'll have one really cause you some grief,” Plumbing contractor Mark Weilhammer said.

That grief can sometimes turn out to be expensive considering water heaters represent about 15 percent of your utility bills each month. It's important to evaluate the current options.

"You could go with a tankless water heater or an electric water heater. And depending on your bills and much you are willing to spend on your water heater there are a lot of choices that can really make your house much more efficient,” Weilhammer said.

While storage units are the most popular type of water heating systems, tankless systems are more compact and offer energy savings by providing hot water only when it's needed. Although it was more costly, about twice the price of an electric heater, Flanagan went the tankless route.

"When the kids and grandkids are here, we have 5 or 6 people take a shower right in a row, and the water stays warm at the end of the last shower as it is the first."

Making for a happy and warm family visit.

Replacing a water heater can be difficult and involve many gallons of water. Make sure you know how it will be done. The units are very heavy and navigating small staircases can cause damage to your home. Check that the company you hire is insured to cover any damages.

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