Hot Water Tanks
Hot Water Tanks are a also good thing about home hot-water heaters is that they require little maintenance and can last a decade or more before failing by springing a leak. The problem is, you usually don't know that the heater has failed until the leak has already sprung.
"We call them 'throw-away heaters,"', "The day after the warranty runs out, the heater is living on borrowed time."
Mr. Brooke said that most residential hot-water heaters are electric- or gas-powered units that store anywhere from 30 to 50 gallons. The warranties on such appliances range from 3 years to as many as 12.
"So if your water heater is approaching or is past the warranty, it's time to think about replacing it,"
Bob Brooke, president of Castle Pump and Electric, agreed. "The problem with a storage-tank-type hot-water heater," he said, "is that if it does rupture, you not only have the water in the tank to deal with, but you have the supply line that's going to keep on running until somebody shuts it off."
Mr. Brooke said that homeowners considering replacing their hot-water heaters should look for models that have the longest warranty and the shortest recovery time -- how long it takes for the heater to get water in the tank back to the desired temperature after it has been used.
Longer warranty periods, he said, are determined, in part, by a device in the heater known as an anode. "This is a metal rod inside the tank that acts as a sacrificial lamb for corrosion," he said, explaining that while most hot-water tanks are lined with fiberglass, chemicals in the water eventually come in contact with the metal tank and corrode it. The anode, he said, takes the brunt of that beating. In better heaters, he said, there are two rods.
Hot-water heaters also have different recovery times, with better heaters boasting faster times. Most manufacturers, he said, have both standard and high-recovery heaters. "A standard heater will have a recovery rate of about 40 gallons an hour," he said. "A high-recovery unit will recover about 55 gallons in the same time." Mr. Brooke said that depending on the size and quality of heater, replacing an existing hot-water heater with a new one can cost anywhere from $800 to $1,200.
Bob Brooke, buildings-program director for the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, in Yakima Washington, said that hot-water heaters have different efficiency ratings. Most gas-fired hot-water heaters have energy efficiency ratings ranging from 0.60 to 0.65. "That means that 60 to 65 percent of the energy in the gas ends up as hot water," he said, adding that most of the remaining 35 to 40 percent ends up going up its chimney both during and after combustion.
Electric hot-water heaters have energy efficiency ratings ranging from 0.93 to 0.95 because there is no chimney and almost all the energy goes into heating the water.
Does that mean that homeowners would be better off with an electric heater than a gas-fired one? "No," Bob Brooke, owner of Brooke Fuel Saving, in Yakima, said emphatically. "Electricity is three or four times more expensive to use to heat water than natural gas. So even if an electric heater is more efficient than a gas-fired unit, the gas model will end up costing less to use."
Mr. Brooke said that the temperature of the water at the tap should be no more than 120 degrees Fahrenheit, and that both the tank and the hot-water pipes should be insulated.
All experts agreed that a leak detector is important. Mr. Bellini said that inexpensive alarm-type detectors are fine if someone is home. A better solution, he said, is a device that costs $200 to $400 and shuts the supply line when a leak is detected.
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