Water heater experts give tips, debate tankless
Water heater experts
Andrew Cochran, vice president
Heating Cooling Outlet
Diane Woods, vice president
Jack L. Woods Plumbing Co. Inc.
Shawn Davis, master technician
Buckeye Heating & Cooling
Barry Jolly, president
Kris Knochelmann, general manager
Knochelmann Service Experts
What routine maintenance should I perform on my water heater?
Cochran: You should drain it once every year or two to get the sludge out of the bottom. You should also replace the thermocouple [temperature sensor] every year or two.
Woods: Your owner's manual is the best source of information. Some manufacturers make specific maintenance tasks a condition of warranty replacement.
Davis: You should flush it once a year, twice a year if you have a water softener. You should also inspect the anode rod at least once a year.
How can I keep my water heater running properly and efficiently?
Jolly: Flush it out annually by opening the valve at the bottom of the tank to clear it of any debris.
Knochelmann: By having routine maintenance performed. You need to keep the burner assembly clean, and flush the heater at least once every two years.
What are the pros and cons of tankless water heaters?
Cochran: They're pretty effective. The big drawback is cost. You also want to make sure the company installing it knows what they're talking about.
Woods: They're more efficient and will never run out of hot water. However, initial investment is higher than some people expect.
Davis: In my opinion, it takes up less space, but it requires more maintenance and costs three times as much to install.
What are the most common kinds of water heaters?
Cochran: Most of them are gas. We see a few electric. Tankless water heaters are a big thing right now.
Davis: Natural gas water heaters are about 75 percent of what we see. Power vented heaters are 20 percent, plus a few electric.
How do I know when I need to have my water heater serviced?
Jolly: When the homeowner notices a shortage of hot water, or when there is any leakage.
Knochelmann: Most people do not have their water heater serviced until something is wrong. Routine maintenance helps prevent future breakdowns.
What causes smelly water?
Knochelmann: It is bacteria in the water that reacts with magnesium and aluminum, which produces hydrogen sulfide gas, making water stink.
Jolly: In most cases, smelly water from the water heater is caused by a rotten anode rod. The anode rod can be replaced from the top of the tank.
How much should I expect to pay for a new water heater?
Cochran: A gas-fired tank water heater runs about $700 to $750 installed, plus permit cost. Tankless water heaters run between $3,000 and $4,500.
Woods: It varies by size and specifics, but a standard tank-style heater should run between $600 and $1,000. A power vent-style heater may be in the $1,300-$1,700 range. A tankless gas water heater could run $2,500 to $3,000.
What should I look for in a new water heater?
Jolly: Homeowners should look for an energy-saving model with at least a six-year warranty on the tank and two-year warranty on the parts.
Knochelmann: Energy Star and "green" options, such as tankless gas or heat pump water heaters. Rebates of up to $1,500 are available for each.
Any other pieces of advice you'd like to share?
Cochran: Most water heaters come with a six-year tank and parts warranty and a one-year labor warranty. You're not guaranteed to have a labor warranty, but it's pretty common.
Woods: "Universal" repair parts are a thing of the past. If you're having water heater troubles, be sure to inform the repair company of your model and serial number.
Davis: Make sure your heater can handle the demand. When people remodel bathrooms or kitchens and add new fixtures that draw hot water, they don't always take into account the increased draw on the heater.
Jolly: If the water heater is more than 8 years old, consider replacing it rather than making a repair. A water heater must be installed by a licensed plumber or the homeowner, both of which require a plumbing permit.