Water Heating & Filtration Articles

  • Water Heater Efficiency - What's Your Best Option?

    Water Heater Efficiency - What's Your Best Option?

    The average household uses a significant amount of energy to heat water, and water heaters are the second largest expense on energy bills. You need hot water for various purposes, such as washing dishes, doing laundry and taking comfortable showers, but there are some ways you can reduce the amount of energy you use to access hot water. Upgrading your water heater to a more energy-efficient model can significantly reduce your energy bills.

    If your current water heater is old and needs to be replaced, upgrading to a new system may be the most cost-effective way to increase energy efficiency in your home. Understanding how to choose the right type of water heater for your home is crucial because the most efficient heater for one home may not be the most efficient heater for another.

    Continue reading to learn more about your water heater options, how to choose the right water heater for your home and how you can take small steps toward saving energy.

    How Much Do Homeowners Spend on Hot Water Per Year?

    Hot water is one of the highest energy expenses for households. Water heaters are the second-largest energy expense after heating and cooling. Choosing the most energy-efficient option for your home can help you save money. American households spend approximately $400 to $600 per year on water heating, making up 14%-18% of an average household's utility bill. Investing in an energy-efficient water heater can significantly reduce energy bills.

    Are There Different Types of Water Heaters?

    Various types of water heaters operate differently and offer pros and cons. Before replacing your old water heater, it's important to understand how water heaters operate, how they can benefit a home, and their potential downsides are.

    Conventional

    Conventional water heaters store hot water in storage tanks. A conventional heater's insulated tank keeps the water warm until someone in the house uses hot water. The tank's capacity determines the available amount of hot water a household can use at one time.

    When the tank empties, it can resupply hot water only after it heats more water. Depending on how much water a household uses, family members may have to wait a certain amount of time for the tank to refill and heat more water before using hot water again.

    A conventional water heater features a pressure control valve and a temperature control valve. The pressure control valve regulates pressure, lowering it if it exceeds 150 pounds per square inch (PSI). The temperature control valve releases heat and moderates temperature, preventing the heater from exceeding 120 degrees Fahrenheit. You can use electricity or gas to power a conventional water heater.

    Conventional water heaters are the most common type found in households. They limit the amount of water a family can use, but they typically have the lowest up-front cost and are easy to install.

    Tankless

    A tankless water heater heats water on demand. It lacks a tank, and it's designed with modern technology that allows it to heat water while it flows through the system. When you turn on a hot water faucet or an appliance that uses hot water, the water instantly flows through heated coils. Within approximately 15 seconds, the water reaches its expected temperature and travels where you need it. Because they are not limited by storage tank capacity, tankless water heaters can supply almost endless amounts of hot water.

    Tankless water heaters can be powered by gas or electricity. A tankless water heater typically has a higher initial cost than installing a conventional water heater, but tankless heaters can provide unlimited hot water. With a tankless water heater, you can use hot water to run the dishwasher, then take a hot shower afterward without waiting for a storage tank to replace the used hot water.

    Tankless water heaters are also more efficient than conventional water heaters. They only heat water when it's needed, so the system doesn't waste energy heating stored water. However, tankless water heaters can become overwhelmed and shut down.

    Heat Pump

    A heat pump water heater is also known as a hybrid water heater. It heats water by pulling heat from the air or the ground. Since it doesn't generate heat directly, it conserves some energy. It only uses electricity to move heat, unlike other water heaters that use energy to generate heat.

    Heat pump water heaters require more space than other water heater types and require vertical space while sitting on top of a water tank.

    Condensing

    Condensing water heaters heat water using unused gas fumes. A condensing water heater funnels natural gas exhaust fumes from a home's natural gas system. It then sends them through a coil at the bottom of a storage tank, heating the water inside. Condensing water heaters typically only come in larger models. This makes them a good choice for families that use large amounts of hot water.

    This type of water heater is an excellent option for households that already use natural gas because it conserves energy by using leftover gas fumes. However, it may not be the best option for homes that do not use natural gas.

    Solar

    Solar-powered water heaters operate on energy drawn from sunlight, making them a very energy-efficient option. A solar-powered water heater uses a closed-loop system to transfer energy from solar panels to a heat-conductive material. The heat-conductive material then heats the water inside the system's tank.

    A solar-powered water heater is a great choice for homes that already use solar panels, but it may require a backup energy source on cloudy days.

    Which Water Heater Is Most Efficient?

    The most efficient water heater for your home depends on how much water you need and expect to use. Electric tankless heaters are typically the most energy-efficient option, but your home may benefit more from a conventional water heater if your household uses large amounts of water. Additionally, you might save more energy with a gas-powered or solar-powered water heater if your home already has gas power or solar panels.

    How Can I Rate Hot Water Heater Efficiency?

    You can determine a water heater's energy efficiency using the energy factor (EF). The energy factor is based on the amount of hot water a water heater produces per fuel unit consumed in one day. It indicates how much hot water a system can provide using a certain amount of fuel. The energy factor considers the following details:

    • Cycling heat losses: Cycling loss is the amount of heat a system loses while water circulates through a tank, inlet pipes and outlet pipes.
    • Standby heat losses: Standby loss is how much heat water loses while it's in storage and not being used. This applies to water heaters with storage tanks.
    • Recovery efficiency: Recovery efficiency refers to how efficiently a water heater's energy source transfers heat to water.

    A higher energy factor indicates that a water heater operates more efficiently than other models. However, a high energy factor doesn't always guarantee a lower annual operating cost. Your system's operating cost depends on your home's fuel source. Looking at your heating bill can indicate how much your fuel source will affect your system's efficiency. Water heaters with an Energy Star label are more efficient than other models. You can even earn government tax credits when you purchase a water heater with an Energy Star label.

    How Can I Choose the Best Water Heater for My Home?

    Before you invest in a new water heater, you should determine which type of water heater will offer the most savings while providing you with sufficient hot water. While living without a water heater is technically efficient, it is not comfortable or practical. Having a water heater that meets your needs while using the lowest amount of energy possible is the best way to conserve energy and save money.

    Before installing a new water heater, consider how much hot water your household uses and how quickly you want it to warm up after each use. A tankless water heater is an excellent option for families that need continuous hot water.

    You also need to make sure you choose the right size water heater. Using a water heater with a tank or system large enough to keep up with your water usage prevents it from overworking and using an excessive amount of energy to operate.

    A tankless water heater can become overwhelmed if family members use more than two showers at a time or run multiple hot water appliances simultaneously. If your family plans to use a lot of water at one time, you may want to consider installing a large conventional water tank or two tankless systems.

    It's also important to consider your budget. While a tankless water heater can potentially save you more money on your energy bills than a conventional system, it has a higher initial cost than a conventional water heater. It's also important to consider your home's current energy source. If you already have a gas or solar power source, you can most likely save the most money with a water heater that operates on the same energy source.

    Can Regular Maintenance Improve Water Heater Efficiency?

    Your water heater's efficiency also depends on how well you take care of it. Regular maintenance can improve your system's efficiency, prolonging its life span and saving you more money. If your water heater has a tank, you should clean it regularly to remove any minerals or sediment. Cleaning your water tank reduces corrosion and helps your system last longer.

    Tankless water heaters also require regular cleaning. You should clean your tankless water heater's components at least once a year. No matter what type of water heater you choose for your home, you should also have it serviced at least once a year. A professional technician can check your system to ensure it's operating properly, make repairs if needed and let you know when it's time to upgrade your system.

    4 Extra Tips for Improving Water Heater Efficiency

    Installing a new water heater is the most effective way to increase hot water efficiency. However, you can take some other steps to conserve energy with your current system if you aren't ready to upgrade yet. Consider improving your current or new water heater's efficiency with the following tips:

    1. Insulate Your Pipes

    Water can lose a significant amount of heat as it sits in water heater storage tanks and flows through pipes. Insulating your water heater's tank and pipes helps the water retain heat and reduce the energy your system uses. You can use insulation blankets to conserve your water's heat and save energy.

    2. Limit Your Hot Water Use

    Limiting your hot water use is one of the most effective ways to increase energy efficiency. You can take shorter showers, reduce the water temperature during your showers, turn the water off periodically while you use soap or shampoo or take baths instead of showers. You can also set your dishwasher to the energy-efficient setting and wash your clothes in cold water. These small changes can add up and decrease energy costs over time.

    3. Reduce Your Thermostat Temperature

    Reducing your water heater's thermostat temperature can reduce your system's energy consumption. Most water heaters are preset to temperatures often too hot for human skin. Lowering your system's thermostat can help you save money on your energy bills and protect your skin from scalding water.

    4. Install a Volt Timer

    Electric water heaters with tanks use energy around the clock to keep the water in your tank warm. A volt timer can turn your water heater off overnight while your family sleeps. Installing a volt timer conserves energy while your water heater is not needed, reducing your energy bill.

    Can Small Changes Make a Difference?

    Small changes add up, and every decision you make regarding your water heater's efficiency can make an impact. If your water heater is old and ready for an upgrade, installing a new and more energy-efficient heater may be your first step toward saving energy.

    An energy-efficient water heater can improve your home's energy efficiency even if your current heater is working properly. Upgrading your system can save you more money over time. However, you can also take small steps toward energy savings if you're not quite ready to upgrade yet. Start by tracking your expenses and changing your thermostat to see how much your energy bill decreases. You can then take more steps and decide where to invest for the most savings.

    Improve Heating Efficiency With Ingram's Water & Air

    Taking steps to improve hot water heater efficiency can help you save money on your energy bills. Upgrading your water heater is the most effective way to increase efficiency because you can take advantage of the latest technology with an energy-efficient system. Ingram's Water & Air offers a wide variety of energy-efficient water heaters to help you reduce your energy costs. Browse our selection of water heaters to find the right match for your home.

  • Water Heater Not Working? Common Problems and How to Fix Them

    Water Heater Not Working? Common Problems and How to Fix Them

    Many water heaters contain durable materials and feature extended warranties for homeowners to use them without any issues for years to come. But the combination of heat, water and smaller components that help water heaters operate can also contribute to various problems. The key to effective repair is knowing how to diagnose water heater problems. If you find your water heater not working, learn more about common water heater issues and their fixes here!

    What Are the Components of a Water Heater?

    water heater consists of multiple parts that work together to warm water. The main components of gas and electric water heater include:

    • Tank: Most water heaters feature large insulated tanks to store the hot water.
    • Dip tube: Cold water from the main power line enters your hot water tank through the dip tube.
    • Heating element or gas burner: These elements sit at the bottom of the tank and heat the water.
    • Anode rod: An anode rod prevents the tank from rusting, and this steel rod will often rust instead of the interior of your tank.
    • Thermostat: All water heaters have an external thermostat so you can measure and adjust the temperature of your water.
    • Heat-out pipe: The heat-out pipe draws hot water out of the tank to the service line, which distributes your hot water.
    • Drain valve: The drain valve helps drain all sediment buildup inside your tank.
    • Shut-off valve: The shut-off valve is outside the water heater and turns off the water flow.
    • Pressure relief valve: A pressure relief valve prevents pressure from building to a dangerous level inside your tank.

    How Does a Water Heater Work?

    Your hot water begins its journey in the main water line connected to your home. Before your water enters your water heater, the line will split into two pathways that create the water intake system in your home.

    A tank water heater stores your water in a perpetually warm tank. After turning on the tap, cold water will flow through the shut-off valve and dip tube before entering your water heater tank. The heating mechanism at the bottom of your hot water tank will heat the water based on your temperature setting. The tank's water is then displaced — so warmer water rises to the top through the heat-out pipe to flow through your tap.

    Another water heater option is a tankless water heater, which only heats water when needed. After turning on the hot water tap, a sensor activates inside the unit to warm your water. A tankless water heater bypasses the process of storing a tank of hot water and reduces the amount of energy needed to maintain a high temperature continually.

    Water Heater Not Working? Start by Checking the Warranty

    Before troubleshooting your hot water heater problems, check your appliance's warranty. Every hot water tank features a rating plate with the model and serial number. These numbers will detail the manufacturing year of your heater and whether your tank has a prorated warranty. Call the manufacturers with these two numbers on hand to see if you're eligible for a new tank or replacement parts free of charge or at a discount.

    Troubleshooting Your Water Heater

    You can run into a few issues with your water heater. Look for the problem you're having below to help troubleshoot.

    Water Is Too Hot

    Extremely hot water is often a thermostat issue in which the temperature is set too high. To check the settings of your thermostat:

    1. Access your service panel and turn off the power to the water heater.
    2. Remove elements like the access panel, insulation and plastic safety guards from the heating elements on the water heater. As you remove these parts, do not touch the wires or electrical terminals.
    3. Test the wires with a non-contact voltage tester to confirm the power is completely off.
    4. Check the heat settings on the two thermostats to ensure they are at the same temperature.
    5. Adjust the temperature on either thermostat to the desired setting using a flathead screwdriver.
    6. Ensure both thermostats are at the same setting before replacing their safety guards, insulation and access panels.
    7. Turn on the circuit breaker.

    If the water temperature is too high, you may need to replace your thermostat or contact a professional to correct a wiring issue.

    Water Is Too Cold

    Water that is too cold is commonly the result of thermostat issues. However, exploring other possible causes is essential. Your water heater may not be getting enough power. Or, there could be a tripped limit switch or a failure of one or more heating elements. Your tank may also not be large enough for your needs, resulting in other appliances or people using all the hot water before the tank can recharge.

    If your water heater could produce enough hot water previously and suddenly stopped, this may result from a malfunctioning heating element. Before troubleshooting your water heater, ensure you do not need to reset your circuit breaker.

    If you reset the breaker and are still experiencing issues, correct the temperature of your water heater by:

    1. Turn off the breaker by accessing the water heater's circuit in the service panel.
    2. Remove the access panel for the upper heating element.
    3. Withdraw the insulation, plastic and safety guard. As you remove these elements, ensure you do not touch any wires or electrical terminals.
    4. Locate the red high-temperature cutoff reset button above the upper thermostat.
    5. Replace the safety guard, access panel and insulation.
    6. Turn on the circuit breaker.

    Once you complete those steps, if your water heater is still not working, test each heating element and replace them as necessary, or get a professional to do the job for you.

    Water Heats Slowly

    One of the downsides of an electric water heater is that it takes longer to reheat an entire water supply compared to a gas model. The exact amount of time can vary between models. But if it's taking longer than usual to reheat your water or your hot water runs out too quickly, there may be an issue with the heating elements on the thermostat, and you may need to contact a professional to replace a few parts.

    If your household uses more hot water than when you first installed your water heater, consider investing in a model with a larger tank. To correctly size a water heater, you will need to determine flow rate and temperature rise. If your water need exceeds the capacity of your heater, you can also try to limit the length of your showers, install low-flow shower heads or wash dishes and laundry at different times of the day instead of doing both tasks at once.

    Leaks

    Water leaks typically result from a loose valve or connection but can also relate to plumbing issues. If you notice leaking water, fixing your leak as soon as possible is essential to prevent damage to your home.

    Your water tank can also experience a leak at the top or bottom of the tank. A leak near the top of your water heater could result from a loose pipe or valve. Leaking at the bottom of your water tank can be due to normal condensation or a leaking gasket. When the temperature and pressure relief (T&P) valve opens to release excess pressure in the water tank, it also expels a small amount of water, which can cause a leak.

    To correct water leaks, turn off the breaker and inspect your tank for any loose elements and if needed, tighten them with an element wrench. If you see corrosion on your tank, contact a professional to replace your tank. To stop your tank from leaking until you can schedule a replacement, turn off the power and water supply to your tank and then completely drain the tank.

    Discoloration

    Rust-colored water indicates corrosion of the anode rod or your hot water tank. If you do not treat discoloration as soon as possible, you'll have to replace your entire tank, as the corrosion may cause your tank to develop a leak. One solution is to flush your water heater to clean the internal components and remove rust or the buildup of minerals. To flush your water heater:

    1. Turn off the power for your electric heater or turn your gas heater to pilot mode.
    2. Switch the water inlet valve off.
    3. Attach a hose to the drain at the bottom of your heater and then position the hose so it drains outside.
    4. Move your drain valve and some hot water faucets in your home to the open position to drain the water from the tank.
    5. Unlock the cold water inlet to drain the tank as you run cold water through your tank.
    6. Close your drain valve and make sure your hot water faucets remain open to allow the system to purge the air.
    7. Shut the hot water taps once they stop making a hissing and popping noise, and open the drain valve again at the bottom of the tank until the water turns clear.

    If the water is still discolored, repeat those steps until the water is clear.

    Noises

    Noises like popping, knocking and hissing are commonly due to scale building up on your heating elements or an excess of sediment on the bottom of your tank. Other causes of strange noises include a leak in your tank, excess pressure in the tank or your pipes expanding or contracting. If your tank makes noise, it's generally harmless. However, it is worth looking into the source if these noises become louder or more frequent.

    A quick solution for preventing noise is to use a descaling product to break down any sediment buildup. Another option for removing sediment is to have a plumber flush and drain the tank. You can also try to drain your hot water tank with the following steps:

    1. If your tank is powered by electricity, shut off the breaker. For a gas-powered tank, switch the tank to the pilot setting.
    2. Shut off the cold water with the valve on one of the thin pipes at the tank's top.
    3. Attach a hose to the drain valve and turn on the hot water faucet at a sink near the tank to prevent air gaps.
    4. Turn the handle to open your tank's drain valve and let the tank drain until the water runs clear.
    5. Close the valve and attach your hose cap to the valve.
    6. Turn on the tank's cold water to begin the refill process. As you refill, check the hot water tap. When you feel hot water coming from the tap, turn it off and turn on the gas control.
    7. Use your water pressure gauge to check the air pressure in your tank. Check the pressure when the tank is quiet and after it runs for a few minutes. After ensuring the pressure is below 70 PSI, lower the thermostat and install the pressure gauge onto the open drain valve for the indicator to read the pressure level.
    8. Turn the thermostat to your average temperature so the heater starts running again.
    9. If the pressure gauge still indicates high pressure, open and close the T&P valve to see if your tank will stop making noise without further assistance. If your tank continues to make noise, you need a professional to replace this valve.

    Low Water Pressure

    Low water pressure is standard in older homes due to smaller pipes. If you live in an older home and are experiencing low water pressure, your hot water heater problems may not be with your boiler but with your pipes.

    The best solution to correct low water pressure is to install modern piping. This permits more water to enter and flow through your pipes to increase pressure. If your water heater and home are relatively new and you're still experiencing pressure issues, you can have a plumber flush and remove any sediment buildup inside your tank.

    Water Smells

    Foul-smelling water is the result of bacteria in your heater. It's common to experience bad-smelling water with tanks that draw water from wells. Flushing your tank can eliminate the problem, or you can increase the temperature to 140 degrees Fahrenheit to kill the bacteria.

    Rotten-egg-smelling water can also result from a failing anode rod that requires a professional to replace. A plumber may also flush and disinfect your tank to remove the bacteria that's creating the rotten egg smell. Using well water may also contribute to a smell due to a high amount of sulfate-reducing bacteria (SRB). Your plumber may suggest a shock chlorination treatment to kill the SRB and reduce any smells present.

    Contact Ingrams Water & Air for Help With Your Water Heater

    When correcting issues with your water heater, the best thing to do is identify the problem early and take the necessary steps to fix it. If you ignore the problem, you may make it worse, leading to more expensive repairs later.

    Luckily, Ingrams Water & Air offers free technical support for the lifetime of your product. Our live tech support for owners and technicians is available five days a week from our Kentucky call center. We look forward to helping you correct problems you may be experiencing with your water heater.

    If you think it's time for a new water heater, we can help with that, too! Find the best water heater for your needs today at Ingrams Water & Air.

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