Water heaters are among the appliances that get taken for granted the most. Think about it: We use water heaters so much in our daily lives and it’s easy to forget that they, too, need to be maintained and cared for. The more you know about them, the better off you’ll be.

Let’s take a look at some things you never knew you needed to know about your water heater. Whether you’re in the market for a new water heater or you’re looking to learn a little more about the one you already have, you’ve come to the right place.

Tanked or Tankless?

Aside from the differences between electric or gas water heaters, these appliances are further divided into two more categories — tanked or tankless.

Tankless water heaters do not store water in tanks, hence their name. With tankless heaters, cold water travels through plumbing, which, when appropriate, triggers the tankless heater to warm the water, running it through its heating elements and raising the temperature and flowing without the limitations of a tanked water heater. Most tankless water heater systems can last at least 20 years.

Because it does not have to heat and store a full tank of water, a tankless water heater can cut your energy costs down by 30 to 70 percent. Because of its significantly lower energy impact, many tankless water heaters can qualify for government rebates.

While tankless water heaters are more energy efficient in the long run, they are also typically much pricier than their tanked brethren, and might require a more involved and expensive installation.

Tried, true and not phasing out of homes anytime soon, tanked water heaters heat and store a certain amount of hot water for use on demand. When water is drained from the water heater’s tank, specialized sensors trigger it to refill from the house’s plumbing. The tanked water heater will warm up this new water and the cycle begins again.

Tanked water heaters don’t usually require as much maintenance as tankless systems. These systems are also less costly to purchase and install. While tanked water heaters have a not-entirely-undeserved reputation of being less energy efficient than tankless systems, modern tanked systems are not as inefficient as their predecessors. Modern tanked water systems are frequently Energy Star certified. Tanked water heater systems are best for smaller homes that use hot water throughout the day.

These systems don’t typically last as long, somewhere between 8 and 12 years, but they are significantly easier on the wallet.

To Replace, or Not to Replace?

There are certain signals that could spell the end of your water heater’s life. Fortunately, most of these signals are fairly easy to spot. If your water heater has reached or exceeded the 10-year mark, if you see leaks around the base of the tank, or if you’re finding the quality of the water heater’s performance varies or is on a steady decline, it may be time to replace it.

Keep in mind a drop in performance may not necessarily mean it’s time to get rid of old reliable for good. Try troubleshooting first or, even better, have a professional check your water heater out for the most accurate diagnosis and future course of action.

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If Your Heater Acts up…

If your water heater isn’t operating properly, there are a few maintenance items you can check quickly do to get it back into peak performance again.

  • Make sure the power or gas is on.
  • Insulate the pipes and the water heater.
  • Raise the temperature.
  • Flush the water heater.

Thankfully, most of the water heaters installed in recent years don’t require much maintenance, if any at all. Nevertheless, it’s good to know how to do these things to keep your water heater going strong and for longer.

What to Look For In a New Heater

Whether you need to replace your water heater after your old one finally died or you’re looking for an upgrade, there are certain factors to consider to pick out the best water heater for you.

For example, there are a number of fuel systems to consider in modern water heaters. Electric heaters are typically used in the United States, valued for its versatility and efficiency when heating the house and water all in one unit. Solar water heaters are growing more prevalent, particularly in the southwest part of the US. There are also propane heaters, natural gas and in some cases, oil heaters.

You may have different options in fuel sources depending on where you live, so choose carefully as costs could vary considerably.

Be sure you’re getting a water heater that’s the right size for your home. It has to strike a balance – providing what you and your family will need while staying within the bounds of what you can afford and providing the most efficient solution.

Perhaps most obviously, you’ll want to consider the cost of the heater itself. While you may be paying more for, for instance, a tankless electric water heater over a gas tanked heater, those up-front costs can sometimes pay for themselves with the savings on energy bills.

There’s a lot to take in when choosing the right water heater for you, but after you weigh the pros and cons carefully, you can find the right solution for your needs.

Cost-Cutting Hacks

Outside of repair, replacement, and repair, there are relatively simple ways to save money with your water heater.

Switch to Showers – While there’s little better at the end of a relaxing day than a hot, steamy bath, it’s easier on your water heater and ultimately your bills if you can stick to showers most of the time.

Keep it Short – Yes, quick, five-minute showers aren’t the most pleasant things in the world, but if you’re looking to cut down on costs, the shorter the shower, the better.

Turn the Temp Down – Turning the dial down on your water heater, even by as little as 5 degrees Fahrenheit can really add up to energy savings in the long run.

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