Your hot water heater will last between 10 and 20 years if it’s properly maintained. If you want to get the most out of your hot water heater, though, there are a few things you should keep in mind. Although today’s hot water heaters are already incredibly energy efficient, there are quite a few simple tasks you can perform on a regular basis that will help you and your family save money and get the most out of the system you have.
Water Heater Maintenance
The easiest way to keep your water heater running for longer is to perform regular maintenance on it. One of the biggest parts of this maintenance is regular sediment removal. This allows you to target unwanted gunk that builds up over time in your hot water tank. The sediment that builds up in your tank includes everything from debris in your pipes to various types of hard metals like iron and lead. It’s not unsafe, but it can reduce the efficiency of your system substantially.
Insulation for Your Tank
The easiest way to reduce your hot water costs is to insulate your water tank. By covering the tank with insulation, you can significantly reduce the amount of energy required to heat your hot water, and that will bring your bills down as well. Energy won’t be lost quite so quickly when the hot water isn’t being used and the system won’t be forced to work so hard to reheat it.
Proper insulation should be used to avoid any potential fire hazards and to reduce heat loss. A professional heating or plumbing expert can help you choose the right insulation for your particular system.
Proper Temperature and Heating Source
The recommended thermostat setting on their storage type electric hot water heaters to temperatures should not be set less than 60 C or 140 F for electric storage type water heaters, due to the possibility of low water temperature storage that may cause the growth of bacteria linked to legionnaires disease. The following links provide some information from Health Canada and the American Society of Sanitary Engineers which offer recommendations on legionnaires disease or hot water scalding. http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/hl-vs/iyh-vsv/diseases-maladies/legionnaire-eng.php#a5 (see "Reduce your risk") http://www.asse-plumbing.org/WaterHeaterScaldHazards.pdf
When installing your hot water heater, consider the cost of the fuel you will use. Gas hot water heaters are by far the most efficient of the three major types on the market. Electric water heaters are quite energy efficient as well but the cost of the electricity itself is typically much higher. Avoid electric hot water heating unless you have no other option.
Heat Pump Support
If you have a geothermal or standard heat pump installed, you can use the excess energy drawn from your home during the summer months to heat your hot water. Many hot water tanks provide a way to introduce alternative energy sources to the heating elements. Make sure to ask about this option when your technician installs your hot water heater or during a regular maintenance visit. It will likely reduce the cost of hot water for 2-4 months out of the year. Just because it’s hot outside doesn’t mean you won’t use plenty of hot water during that time.