Angie's List: Water heater maintenance

Bruce Flanagan never gave much thought to what was coming out of his faucet until he noticed the water temperature wasn't quite the same.

"We had a tank water heater and it was beginning to get a small leak, but we also had some carbon monoxide problems with a draft with it,” said Bruce.

Water heaters are often household appliances that are forgotten about, that is, until they break and water that once ran hot starts running cold.

What many people may not know is that a water heater is the third largest energy consumer in the home, making knowing when to repair or replace it a helpful thing to know. To avoid the type of problems Bruce faced, experts recommend a good maintenance regimen.

"An easy maintenance tip for your water heater to ensure its best efficiency is to drain a quart of water from the water heater once every three months,” says Angie’s List founder, Angie Hicks, “This will help to reduce sediment from building up in your water heater and make sure they are getting maximum capacity out of your water heater."

But even when a good maintenance job doesn't do the trick, how to know if replacing or repairing your water heater is the answer, experts say it could be as simple as a number.

According to Mark Weilhammer a plumber and contractor, "Anything more than about 8 or 9 about 10 years is a good life, after that you are going to start hearing it rumbling and carrying on and most people never maintain, they just put them in they sit for ten years, trouble free for 10 years and all of a sudden they start leaking and occasionally you'll have one really cause you some grief."

That grief can sometimes turn out to be expensive considering water heaters represent about 15-percent of your utility bills each month, making it important to evaluate the current options.

"You could go with a tankless water heater or an electric water heater. And depending on your bills and much you are willing spend on your water heater there are a lot of choices that can really make your house much more efficient,” says Angie.

While storage units are the most popular type of water heating systems, tankless systems are more compact and offer energy savings by providing hot water only when it's needed. Although it was more costly, about twice the price of an electric heater, Flanagan went the tankless route.

When multiple people are showering back to back, making sure the water stays hot makes for happy and warm experience for everyone in a household.


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