Is your water heater green?
We use warm water every day in a myriad of ways — from rinsing dishes to soaking in the tub. When we turn the faucet toward “H,” we expect the hot water to gush. Yet, how often do we think about the mechanics behind it? In these penny-pinching days, our highly rated experts explain when you should replace your water heater and offer tips to keep it running efficiently.
When to replace
Most water heaters are designed to last at least 10 to 15 years, but the telltale sign it’s time for a new one is a leaking tank. “Some people ... buy one every 10 years,” says Greg Greenlee, owner of highly rated Greenlee Plumbing in Braselton, Ga. “But it really doesn’t have to be replaced until it leaks.” Costs start at $300 and top $2,000 for a premium Energy Star unit, not including installation.
A tankless water heater is the most energy efficient unit available to homeowners. Brian Frederick, president of A-rated Joseph Frederick & Sons in Wilmington, Del., says a new tankless system will cost around $3,000 installed, but prices can vary if the installer needs to rework the gas pipes.
Before buying a new unit, be sure to hire a licensed plumber who has experience installing water heaters, Frederick says. Proper venting, pipe fitting and gas connections are vital to the water heater’s efficiency and the homeowner’s safety.
Switch the rod
If your unit is still relatively new, consider replacing its anode rod, which is designed to attract the corrosive elements in your water. Roy Yehle, owner of highly rated Bill Smith Plumbing & Heating in Englewood, Colo., says getting a new rod every four years should help extend the life of the water heater. “It would cost $55 for the rod and take around 30 minutes to install,” he says.
Reduce the temp
To conserve a few bucks — and energy, too — our experts suggest turning down the temperature on the water heater when you go out of town. “Also, wrap it with a water heater insulation kit,” says Troy Huneycutt, owner of highly rated Huneycutt Plumbing in Charlotte, N.C. “It’s well worth the investment.”
Buy an alarm
If you’re not checking the water heater for leaks on a regular basis, invest in an alarm to do the checking for you. “It costs about $10 and you can set it beside the tank. If it was to ever leak, this device — called a Watchdog — will alert you,” Huneycutt says. “It’s another good investment.”