A wall with three water heaters in a white room.

5 Step Guide to Water Heater Efficiency

Having a reliable and efficient water heater is essential for any household. Not only does it provide hot water for showers, cleaning, and cooking, but it can also impact your monthly energy bills. According to the Department of Energy, water heating can account for up to 18% of a household’s energy use, making it the second-largest expense after heating and cooling. Energy use and cost continues to fluctuate so maintenance becomes even more important to keep on top of.

To help you improve the efficiency of your water heater and save money in the process, we have created a five-step guide to water heater efficiency. Hopefully this guide can help simplify some common questions and create a little plumbing education that every household needs.

Step 1: Insulate Your Water Heater Tank and Pipes

One of the simplest and most effective ways to improve water heater efficiency is by insulating your water heater tank and pipes. This is especially important if your water heater is located in an unheated area, such as a basement or garage.

Insulating your water heater tank helps to reduce standby heat loss, which is the heat lost from the tank to the surrounding air. This means your water heater doesn’t have to work as hard to maintain the desired temperature, reducing energy consumption and lowering your bills.

To insulate your water heater tank, you can purchase a pre-cut insulating blanket from a hardware store or make one yourself using fiberglass insulation. To insulate your pipes, you can use foam insulation sleeves.

Step 2: Lower the Temperature on Your Water Heater

Another simple way to improve water heater efficiency is by lowering the temperature on your water heater. Most manufacturers set the temperature at 140°F, which can be higher than necessary for most household needs.

Lowering the temperature on your water heater to 120°F can reduce standby heat loss and save you up to 10% on your energy bills.

To lower the temperature on your water heater, you can use the thermostat on the unit or consult your owner’s manual for instructions. Be sure to test the temperature of the water at the tap to ensure it’s at a safe and comfortable level.

Step 3: Drain and Flush Your Water Heater Regularly

Over time, sediment and minerals can build up in your water heater tank, reducing its efficiency and lifespan. To prevent this, it’s important to drain and flush your water heater regularly.

According to Bob Vila, you should drain and flush your water heater at least once a year. This can be done by turning off the power or gas supply to the unit, attaching a garden hose to the drain valve, and opening the valve to release the water and sediment.

Flushing your water heater not only improves its efficiency but also helps to prevent corrosion and extend its lifespan.

Step 4: Check the Anode Rod

The anode rod is a crucial component of your water heater that helps to prevent corrosion and extend the life of the tank. Over time, the anode rod can become depleted and should be checked and replaced as necessary.

According to This Old House, you should check the anode rod every three years and replace it if it’s more than 50% depleted. To check the anode rod, you can use a socket wrench to remove the hex head screw on top of the tank and pull out the rod. If the rod is more than 50% depleted, it’s time to replace it.

Once more, this may be a task that you may feel better with a professional helping you with and Plumbing Doctor would be happy to assist you with that.

Step 5: Consider Upgrading to a High-Efficiency Water Heater

If your water heater is old, inefficient, or in need of frequent repairs, it may be time to consider upgrading to a high-efficiency water heater. High-efficiency water heaters are designed to use less energy and save you money on your monthly bills.

There are several types of high-efficiency water heaters to choose from, including tankless, heat pump, and solar water heaters. Tankless water heaters heat water on demand, eliminating the need for a storage tank and reducing.

Keep Your Seasonal Needs One Step Ahead.

The importance of having an efficient water heater can vary depending on the season. During the winter months, when temperatures are colder, hot water usage tends to increase as people take longer, hotter showers and use more hot water for cleaning and cooking.

This means that an inefficient water heater during the winter months can lead to higher energy bills and longer wait times for hot water.

On the other hand, during the summer months, hot water usage may decrease as people take shorter, cooler showers and may use less hot water for cleaning and cooking.

However, an inefficient water heater during the summer can still lead to higher energy bills, as the water heater may have to work harder to maintain the desired temperature due to warmer ambient temperatures.

It’s important to note that regular maintenance and upkeep of your water heater can help ensure its efficiency throughout the year. This includes regular draining and flushing, checking and replacing the anode rod, and insulating the tank and pipes.

When To Call Your Plumbing Professional.

In addition to regular maintenance, it’s important to know when to call a plumber for water heater issues. If any of the 5 steps seem outside of your abilities to do yourself, go ahead and give your plumbing professional a call to help out. Also, if you notice any of the following signs, it may be time to call a professional:

No hot water: If you turn on the tap and no hot water comes out, there may be an issue with the heating element or pilot light.

Inconsistent water temperature: If the water temperature fluctuates between hot and cold, there may be an issue with the thermostat or heating element.

Strange noises: If you hear popping, cracking, or rumbling noises coming from your water heater, this could indicate a buildup of sediment or other issues.

Leaks: If you notice any leaks around your water heater or puddles of water on the floor, this could indicate a problem with the tank or connections.

Age: If your water heater is more than 10 years old, it may be time to consider replacing it with a more efficient model.

Having an efficient water heater is important year-round to save money on energy bills and ensure a reliable supply of hot water. Regular maintenance, such as draining and flushing, checking and replacing the anode rod, and insulating the tank and pipes, can help maintain efficiency.

Any signs of issues, such as no hot water, inconsistent water temperature, strange noises, leaks, or an aging water heater may suggest this is when it’s important to call a plumber for professional assistance.

Please reach out to us when these needs arise or you have further questions about your water heater efficiency and any other plumbing concerns.
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