Whether your water heater broke or your family is growing, you might just need a new water heater. Choosing a new one doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Just follow these tips, and this will be one of the easiest things you’ve done!

Research How Water Heaters Work

There are a lot of different kinds of water heaters. They range from tank to tankless and can be powered by gas, electricity, oil, solar or heat pump.

graph showing differences between electric and gas water heatersThe two most common tank water heaters run on gas or electricity.

Electric water heaters use coils that go down into the tank to heat your water. This type is ideal for a smaller household that doesn’t require much hot water. Although electric water heaters might be cheaper to purchase, they’re not as efficient as gas heaters in the long run. They also tend to be more expensive over time.

Gas heaters, be it natural gas or propane, are another common water heater choice. They use a gas burner that is vented through a chimney or small wall vent. Propane gas heaters are used when natural gas is not accessible. Propane tends to be cheaper than natural gas.

Above are great examples of tank water heaters, but there is another option: a tankless water heater.

graph of a water heater in a basementAlso known as the “on demand” water heater, it only turns on when you need hot water. There is no holding tank, which makes this a more efficient option. However, like the electric water heater, this also makes it a more expensive option.

You also need to consider the lifetime expectancy of the heater you choose. Where a tank water heater can hold from 40 to 60 gallons of hot water and last up to 13 years, a tankless heater can last up to 20 years.

Taking all this into consideration, it ultimately comes to what is most suitable for you and your household.

Size and Storage Of Water Heaters

You must factor size and storage into your search for a new water heater. To help with this, think back to how satisfied you were with how your old one worked. Some things to consider: Did you had enough hot water? How long did you have to wait for it to reheat?

graph of water heaters and sizes

If the old water heater didn’t provide enough hot water, you might want to upgrade the size of the new water heater.

For a storage tank water heater, a very important factor to consider is the amount of water that can be held and the recovery rate, which is basically the amount of water that can be heated in an hour. An energy sticker on the new water heater will display the recovery rate as First Hour Rating (FHR).

For example, a four-person household would require a 40- to 50-gallon water tank, whereas a two-person household could skate by with a 30- to 40-gallon tank.

Gas heaters have a better FHR than electric water heaters, which means they have a smaller tank with the same EF rating.

Now What?

Choosing your new water heater doesn’t have to be a headache. Just remember: do your research on types, sizes and storage options.

If you get stuck, give us a call. Here at Knoxville Plumbing, we have experts who can help you evaluate what your family needs and match these up with the heater that will work best for you and your household.

frustrated kid holding his headIt can be very frustrating trying to figure out if it’s time to replace the household water heater, or if it simply needs a little TLC. This article will help shed some light on whether it just needs a repair, or if it needs to be replaced.

There are plenty of signs that a water heater is about to fail. Below are some of the most common indications that it’s time to replace the household water heater. 

Common Signs It’s Time To Replace the Water Heater

rust-colored water running out of a faucet

If the water heater is 10 years or older, it will be in the best interest of the house to go ahead and replace it before it starts causing problems. To check the age of the water heater, simply look on the upper part of it and find the manufacturer’s sticker.

If rust-colored, metallic tasting water is coming out of the hot water faucet, this is another big indicator. Dark, metallic water is a clear sign that the inside of the water heater is beginning to rust. If this is left unattended for too long, it will severely damage the tank. It will also begin to leak and cause more damage to the home. 

sediment at bottom of a water heaterWith older water heaters, it is not uncommon to notice strange noises or rumbling coming from the unit. These are usually caused by excessive sediment build-up accumulating on the bottom of the water heater. As the water heater will frequently change temperature, the sediment will eventually harden. When this happens, it will be harder for the water heater to effectively heat the household water supply. This will ultimately cost more money to run it. 

leak underneath water heaterConsistent “puddles” around the base of the water heater could be a sign that there are fissures and cracks in the hull of the tank. As the metal heats and expands and then cools and shrinks again, this causes these fissures and cracks. While this is normal and should not cause problems for quite some time, in an older water heater it could be a sign that it is time to replace the water heater. But before doing that, make sure that leaky pipes or loose valves are not to blame.

Why Isn’t There Enough Hot Water? 

shivering duckIt’s safe to assume that the biggest problem with water heaters is that there is often not enough hot water being supplied to the household. There are some simple explanations as to why this is happening, regardless of the type of water heater (i.e. gas or electric).

Electric Water Heater Malfunctions and Possible Causes 

yellow lightning boltMake sure that the water heater has a proper connection to the power source, and then, reset the thermostat. There could also be too much sediment in the bottom. As mentioned above, this impedes the function and makes it harder to heat enough amounts of water. A good flushing of the water tank will make sure that all the sediment is removed.

Another culprit might be that the pipes are not properly insulated, and the water is losing heat on its way up to the rest of the household. Another thing to assess is the heating element or thermostat. If this is the case, it would be best to just replace that part, rather than the entire unit. If all those things check out fine, it could just be as easy as raising the temperature.

Gas Water Heater Malfunctions and Possible Causes

close up of water heaterThere are only a few differences when it comes to assessing problems with electric and gas water heaters. The first thing to check on a gas model is the pilot light. If the pilot light has gone out, relight it, and make sure that the gas valve is hooked up securely and properly. Another issue could be that the gas burner needs to be cleaned. The cleaning is a good time to go ahead and replace the thermocouple, too. Just like electric versions, it is important to flush to rid the tank of sediment. Also, keep an eye out for rusty water coming from the hot water faucet.

In conclusion, if the tank itself is presenting serious damage signs, it is smartest to replace the whole water heater. Give us a call, and we will be more than happy to help you make the right decision!

Looking for ways to cut energy costs? New, more energy-efficient water heaters are flooding the modern marketplace. High on the list are water pump water heaters.

This article series starts an exploration of heat pump water heaters.

What is a heat pump water heater?

A heat pump water heater, or HPWH, uses surrounding air to heat water. It takes in air, heats it to a higher temperature and then channels that air into a water tank to heat the water. The HPWH can be a stand-alone unit, or it can be retrofitted on a water tank.

The Geothermal Heat Pump

The most common type of HPWH is a geothermal heat pump. The geothermal heat pump uses heat from the ground during the winter months. During the spring and summer months it uses heat from the surrounding air.

 

Controls

Most units come with control panels displaying multiple operating options. Below is a list of possible modes listed on the control:

  • Efficiency/Economy mode: will only use the heat pump to heat water when hot water is needed
  • Electric/Heater mode: Least efficient option, this will only use the electric element to heat water
  • Vacation/Timer mode: typically referred to as “sleep” mode, this is not on all HPWH models,
  • Auto/Hybrid mode: this is a default setting for everyday use of sustained heat

How the HPWH Works

The HPWH is a far more efficient way to heat household water because it using air already present in the environment.  A common analogy to explain how a HPWH works is a refrigerator. The refrigerator is designed to expel heat and create a cold place. In a similar way, the HPWH pulls in heated air, internalizes it, heats it to a desired temperature and uses that air to heat water for the household’s benefit.

Common HPWH Problems and Solutions

Winter Issues

One of the most common problems with a HPWH is icing up, especially in the winter time. The outside unit will often be covered with frost or maybe even a thin layer of ice. This is completely normal. When everything is working properly, the device has a built-in defrosting system that will help to take care of this problem. However, say the unit is covered in a thick layer of ice, or maybe the coils are surrounded by ice, and in a worst case scenario, the entire unit is completely covered in thick ice and heavy snow. All those problems could obstruct the transfer of heat from inside to the outside refrigerant which would continue to delay the HPWH functions. If this is left untreated, this could severely damage the unit beyond repair.

Here are a few ways to troubleshoot this problem before having to call in an expert:

  • See if your unit is activating its defrosting system
  • Make sure the outside fan is working properly
  • Check that the refrigerant level is where it is supposed to be
  • Inspect the outdoor unit for obstructions,  like ice or snow
  • Make sure there is no water leaking onto the unit from gutters or other places

Never chip away at the ice.

This could damage the fan coils in the device. Instead, use water to melt the ice. Try removing what may be blocking the air flow– like snow or ice. If the HPWH still won’t function, then it is time to call in the professionals to help sort it out.

Summer Issues

We explained above what to do when your HPWH starts icing up in the winter. You may find, however, that your HPWH is icing up in the summer months. If this happens, do not waste any time and call a professional right away. If the HPWH is icing up in the summer, there is a problem with the device itself and it should be looked at immediately.

Another common problem is when the HPWH is constantly running in the summer months. During winter, it may appear to be running all the time, however this is how the device was designed. The HPWH is not designed to consistently run during the warmer months, when the temperature is above thirty degrees. This could mean there is a serious service problem, such as:

  • leaky refrigerant
  • icing issues
  • a problem with the compressor
  • pump is too small for the household needs
  • improper insulation of exterior HP
  • unit is dirty and needs a good cleaning

Whichever the case, in a situation like this, it is best to call in an HVAC professional to help sort all this out.

HPWH: a great choice

Whatever other measures you take to help with energy efficiency, purchasing a HPWH is an excellent choice. Give us a call today to find out how we can help!