3 Questions to Ask Your Plumber Before Having a New Hot Water Heater Installed

3 Questions to Ask Your Plumber Before Having a New Hot Water Heater Installed

Calhoun Plumbing

October 15, 2019

Heating water is one of the most costly energy expenses that homeowners face. On average, a hot water heater consumes 20% of an annual household budget and lasts about 10 years. The good news is that you don’t have to sacrifice your hot showers or running the dishwasher in order to save money. By doing a little homework, you can work effectively with your plumber to select the water heater that best meets the needs of your family.

  • What capacity do I need? Residential water heaters typically range from 20-80 gallons. In order to determine what size of hot water heater you need, conduct a simple needs assessment. First, how many people live in the household? Second, consider peak utilization time. Does everybody bathe or shower at the same time of day? When do you run the washing machine and dishwasher? Simultaneous use at peak times will put a strain on the hot water heater and less-efficient models will struggle to keep up. A good estimation is that on average, a shower consumes 10-12 gallons of water per person; 4 gallons for a bath; 30-32 gallons to wash a load of laundry, 4 gallons to wash dishes and 14-15 gallons to run the dishwasher. Multiply those numbers by how many people will be performing those functions during specific times of the day to figure out what capacity of hot water heater you need.
  • Which is more cost-effective: electric or gas? The two most common methods of heating a hot water heater are natural gas and electricity. The amount of energy it takes to heat the water per hour is called input — BTUs for natural gas and watts for electricity. The more BTUs or watts used, the faster the water tank heats up. Other ratings to look for include recovery rate, which is measured in gallons per hour (GPH). This rating tells many gallons of water can be heated in one hour. The first hour rating (FHR) is how much hot water is available during the first hour of use when the tank is full. Typically, a gas water heater will heat the water more quickly than electric and the units themselves are cheaper. But, gas-powered heaters have a slower recovery time than electric. Installation costs could include running a gas line if there isn’t one available or for an electric-powered model, upgrading existing wiring. Since natural gas tends to be cheaper than electricity, in the long-run, a water heater powered by natural gas is a more economical choice.
  • Are hard water and mineral deposits harmful to a hot water heater?  If the area you live in has hard water, it can adversely affect the performance of your hot water heater. The most commonly-found minerals in hard water are calcium and magnesium. While they aren’t harmful to drink, they can wreak havoc on hot water heaters, primarily as they can cause build-up. When these deposits accumulate on the bottom of your hot water heater, they can interfere with the heat source reaching the water in the tank. Excessive build-up inside the tank can actually decrease the capacity. One remedy is to install a water softener, which will remove harmful minerals from the hard water throughout the house. There is an initial set-up fee, plus monthly maintenance. The other option is DIY — draining the tank yourself which would need to be done every 3-6 months, depending on how quickly the deposits build-up. This is as messy and time-consuming as it sounds. The third option is to just realize that your hot water tank may not last as long as suggested and will need to be replaced more frequently.

Calhoun Plumbing has over 100 combined years of of residential plumbing service, including installing both gas and electric hot water heaters. If you suspect that your hot water tank needs replaced, contact our experienced plumbing team to help you choose the right size and type of tank for your hot water needs.