Water heaters are wonderful. They provide hot water right to our faucets whenever we need it. But there are a few things you can do to make sure your water heater is safe, energy efficient, and lasts for years. The team at Herrmann Services has put together this list of helpful water heater tips and tricks to help you and your family live better, safer, and more affordably.
Insulate Your Water Heater
Because your water heater stores hot water 24/7, much of the heat can escape through the walls or the tank unless they are insulated. This loss is called standby loss since it is heat lost while the heater is standing by for use. Insulating your water heater can reduce standby heat loss by 25% to 50% which translates to savings of 4% to 9% on your water heating bill. These blankets, made of special insulation, are also sometimes called water heater jackets or sweaters and can be found at home improvement stores. To see if your tank is a good candidate for a jacket, just touch it. It should not feel warm. If it does then the tank is not well insulated and a good candidate for this easy project. Check its label to see if it has an R-value of at least 24. If not, you should insulate your tank.
Look for a blanket with an R-5 to R-10 rating. Insulating blankets are easy to install and inexpensive – roughly $20. When dressing your tank for saving energy, be careful not to block the thermostat on an electric water heater or the air inlet and exhaust on a gas unit.
Insulate the Pipes
Insulated hot water pipes can raise the effective hot water temperature at your shower head or faucet by 2°F to 4°F over the same water heater setting if the pipes were not insulated. You don’t need to insulate all the hot water piping, only the first 5 to 10 feet from the water heater. Insulating the hot water pipe means you won’t have to wait as long for it to heat up, which will save energy, water, and money.
Set It for a Safe Temperature
If the temperature on your water heater is set too high, the water can scald someone. This is especially important if you have small children in your home who may accidentally turn on just the hot water tap. On residential tanks, the settings are normally warm, hot, very hot or something similar to that. There is much variation on what these settings mean, but the safe temperature is 120 degrees at the tap. If your water heater doesn’t have exact settings, you can test the temperature with a meat or candy thermometer to see what it is when it comes out of the faucet.
Water Heater Maintenance
Your water heater requires very little maintenance. However, silt or sediment will build up a the bottom of the tank over time. This sediment makes your water heater less efficient because it settles on the bottom where the heating element is and insulates the water from the heat. Your water heater should be drained once a year to keep sediment from accumulating. If you have an annual tune-up, your plumber should drain it then as well as check for proper wiring and venting, and check the anode rod which prevents corrosion inside the tank. It may need to be replaced if it has dwindled to less than a half inch thick or is covered with calcium deposits.
Safety Tips You Should Follow
Know how to turn off the water and gas or power supply. This is important in the event of an emergency, if your water heater is leaking, or you smell gas. There should be a gas valve or a disconnect switch within a few feet of the water heater. It’s also a good idea to know where your main gas shut-off valve is if your water heater is gas or which breaker controls the water heater if it is electric.
Clear the area around your water heater. There are several reasons why it’s a good idea to give your water heater some space.
- A gas water heater needs a good supply of oxygen to burn the gas. If a water heater can’t get enough oxygen, it can affect the efficiency of the unit as well as cause damage to the burner chamber and other water heater parts. It can even cause carbon monoxide leaks.
- If the unit starts to leak, everything around it will get wet. You may not even notice if the area around it is hidden from view.
- Storing items too close to the water heater can be a fire hazard.
Signs of Trouble to Look For
- If you noticed any black residue, soot or charred metal, this is a sign you may be having combustion issues and you should have the unit serviced by a professional.
- If you ever smell gas, turn off the gas supply and contact a professional.
- For electric water heaters, look for any signs of leaking such as rust streaks or residue around the upper and lower panels covering the electrical components on the tank.