4 Considerations When Replacing Your Water Heater

Published on: August 16, 2012

When you are shopping for a new water heater, there are a few considerations you need to think about. Because the energy efficiency of water heaters has increased in the past decade, you most likely will be upgrading to a new unit that conserves energy and ultimately saves fuel costs. In fact, if your unit is a decade old, you probably would not even be able to find the same unit for sale. Even if you could purchase the exact same unit that you will be replacing, you would benefit from checking into other, more energy efficient models to save fuel costs over the life of the unit.

The four factors you should consider when replacing your current unit include:

1.) Consider the “First Hour Delivery” factor.

The phrase “First Hour Delivery” refers to the amount of hot water available for use during the first hour of operation of the water heater. In other words, how many gallons are provided when the unit has been powered on for one hour. This is likely the most important consideration when comparing units. The “First Hour Delivery” factor is also known as the “First Hour Rating” or “FHR”. The FHR is determined by estimating the amount of hot water used during the peak usage period for the home.

First, determine the hour of the day when the most hot water is used in the home. Next, list the activities that are performed during that hour that require hot water. Use a water usage chart, generally available on the web or in an owners manual, to estimate how many gallons of hot water is used for each activity. Finally, total the amount of hot water that is used by the home during the peak hour of usage. The result will be the FHR for the home. Use the calculated FHR to compare units for the best unit for your home’s needs.

2.) Consider how energy efficient the unit will be over time.

Compare units to determine the most energy efficient model for your home. Water heaters are evaluated with the Energy Star logo if the units provide improved energy efficiency. In addition, The “BTU Input” rating provides a measure of how much energy the unit will use to heat the water stored in the storage tank. Compare water heaters to determine the unit with the highest BTU Input rating that meets your budget. This means that you will save money because the unit will use less energy to supply the home with hot water. Less energy is used to heat the water stored in the tank and therefore the unit with a higher BTU Input rating will improve energy efficiency.

3.) Select a unit that is sized appropriately for the home.

Again, using the FHR rating, estimate the amount of hot water that is used by the occupants of the home during the hour with the highest usage. Purchase a unit that will produce enough hot water to meet the needs of the household. A water heating system that is larger than what is required by the home will reduce energy efficiency because the extra water in the tank is unnecessarily heated. There is no need to heat more water than the household requires. Remember that heating the home’s water accounts for between 10 to 20 percent of the energy usage of homes. Improve the home’s overall energy efficiency by purchasing a unit that is the right size for the home.

4.) Consider tankless water heaters.

Tankless units may maximize energy efficiency in some situations. For example, for smaller households, where the demand for hot water does not exceed two applications at one time, a tankless unit may be a good choice. However, tankless systems heat water on demand, so if hot water is needed in several areas at one time, a tankless unit may not be the right choice. However, even in homes where a lot of hot water is required during peak usage times, tankless systems installed for various applications may reduce energy usage for the home.

If the household installs a tankless system and the need for hot water is high, the system’s energy efficiency is reduced. Because tankless systems do not store hot water, the electricity demand to produce hot water during high usage periods will often be more than that of a standard tanked unit. If your household is small and the demand for hot water rarely exceeds two applications at one time, consider a tankless model.

Purchasing a new water heater provides you with the opportunity to obtain a unit that will save money in fuel costs in the future. A new unit will be an investment in the home and you will likely have the unit for 10 years or more. Consider the unit’s use of energy when making your purchase.