When your water heater needs to be replaced, you’re certainly interested in how much a new unit will cost. But this is equipment that’s meant to serve you for 10 years or longer, so cost shouldn’t be the only factor. The more information you have before you make your purchase, the better off you’ll be. Consider a few water heater facts before you choose a new unit.

How a water heater does its job
A conventional gas, propane, oil or electric water heater typically holds 20 to 80 gallons of water. Cold water enters the bottom of the unit, where it’s heated. The heated water is released from the top of the tank. As you use the water, a fresh supply is continually delivered to the tank.

This sounds simple enough, but any conventional water heater has inherent energy-efficiency challenges. Because the tank is storing hot water that you need only at certain times, it can experience standby heat loss. You can minimize this problem by buying a unit with sufficient tank insulation — an R-value of at least 24.

Gas and oil water heaters can also experience venting-related energy loss. You can minimize this issue by looking for a fan-assisted or an atmospheric sealed-combustion unit.

Also consider the unit’s energy factor. Gas storage heaters usually have an EF of 0.5 to 0.7. Electric models generally have an EF of 0.75 to 0.95. The higher the EF, the more efficient the water heater will be. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always translate to lower operating costs. Talk with your supplier before you settle on a certain EF.

Size it up

The last of the water heater issues to consider is size. This is where the first-hour rating comes into play. The rating refers to how much hot water the unit can supply in an hour. It’s typically determined by your normal hot-water use. Choose the one hour in each day when you use the most hot water.  From there, you can use a work sheet to determine your first-hour rating and match that to your new water heater.

Whatever you do, choose a unit that has the Energy Star logo. If you choose a gas unit with the Energy Star, you will:

  • Save about $30 a year, or $360 over the estimated life of the water heater.
  • Recoup the extra money you spent on the unit in about two-and-a-half years.
  • Reduce the amount of carbon monoxide sent into the atmosphere.

Have more questions about water heaters — or any other home comfort issues? Let the experts at Apollo Home Heating, Cooling and Plumbing help you out. We have been providing information, services and equipment to homeowners in Cincinnati, the Queen City, since 1910.

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