How to keep your water heater operating at peak efficiency

We’ve all been trained to take our cars in for oil changes every three months or 3,000 miles, but when’s the last time you thought about giving your water heater a tune up? Most homeowners don’t realize just how much they rely on hot water until it’s gone. Fortunately, a little preventative water heater maintenance can go a long way to prevent problems and keep you in ample supply at the turn of a faucet. But if you still notice problems with your water temperature, it’s best to call a professional company like Lion Home Service.

Types of water heaters

There are two main styles of water heaters on today’s market — models with tanks and newer tankless options. The traditional tank-style units include metal holding tanks of various sizes with a heating element that warms the water inside using electricity, propane or natural gas. These models work on the same basic principle as turning on your cooktop to heat a pot of water. In comparison, tankless water heaters operate by running water past a sensor and through a pipe where it’s spot-heated to deliver hot water on demand.

Each option offers its own unique pros and cons. For instance, tank models are cheaper to purchase than tankless models, but they only hold a finite amount of water. And once that tank of hot water has been depleted, you have to wait for the next batch to warm up to get more, which can take up to an hour. Because tankless models only heat the water when you need it, there’s an unlimited supply. Since they don’t require a holding tank, they’re often a good option for apartments, condominiums and small homes where space is more valuable. However, turning the hot water on and off can create pockets of cold water in the pipe between use.

Standard tank water heaters will usually last between 7 and 11 years and can cost anywhere from $1,500 to $4,000 depending on size, model features and whether any plumbing in your home needs to be brought up to code before the unit can be safely installed. Because they involve smart technology components, tankless water heaters are more expensive and can run $3,000 to $8,000 — about twice as much as traditional tank heaters. They’re not working constantly to keep heating, however, so they cost less to operate and can last twice as long as a tank heater— up to 15 or even 20 years if properly maintained.

Maintenance recommendations

Whether you decide to go with a tank or tankless model, maintaining your hot water heater shouldn’t require a lot of time or money. Each should be inspected and treated at regular intervals to keep them operating effectively; how often you’ll need to do this depends on the hardness of the water in your home.

Hard water can create sediment that collects in the bottom of a hot water heater tank over time, making it more difficult for the unit to heat the water and resulting in higher energy bills. Flushing this sediment a couple times a year can make a big difference in the heater’s overall efficiency. A home service professional can easily take care of the job for you, but it’s fairly easy to manage yourself after you’ve seen it done and received some instruction. Simply disconnect the electricity or turn off the gas/propane, release the pressure in the tank, drain it halfway and then turn the water back on to push any sediment out. (Of course, you’ll need to make sure the draining water has a place to go.) Another maintenance checklist item to keep in mind: Water heaters with tanks include a rod part that should be replaced every two or three years.

Likewise, tankless water heaters should be checked on a regular schedule to get rid of any scaling or calcification that can collect inside the unit and prevent optimal function.

If your hot water heater starts making odd noises or you simply notice it’s not heating properly, it’s always a good idea to call a professional who can evaluate the situation and make appropriate recommendations to remedy the problem.

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