This Old Water Heater

If the guys at G&C Plumbing and Heating could talk you into updating anything in your house to improve your energy efficiency it would be that old water heater in the corner of your basement. By nature, the traditional hot water heater is like a 1976 Chrysler New Yorker in that it is giant, and in constant need of fuel. It is not, however, impressive or fun.

“Water storage tanks work constantly to keep water hot for when you want it. When the water sits, it cools down, known as standby heat loss, then the burner or heating element kicks on to heat it up again, and again and again and again,” said Greg, master plumber who hates old water heater inefficiencies.

The guys agree that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, but water heating is the second largest energy hog in your home – heating and cooling is numero uno. So, until the old unit goes belly up, or you get sick of paying an extra $300 to $400 a year to constantly reheat a tub of water in the corner of your basement, here are a couple of tips to help out:

Turn Her Down

Most water heaters come preset to 140 degrees, but for every 10 degrees you turn the beast down you’ll save 3% to 5% on your bill. “We recommend keeping water heaters at 120 degrees so you don’t burn yourself,” said Brandon who likes a nice hot shower as much as the next guy. Call him and he’ll set the temperature for you. If you’re a Sunday, do-it-yourself kind of guy, or gal, here’s how to get 120 degrees:

  • Find a thermometer to measure the water coming out of the tap farthest away from the heater. Mark the temperature on the water heater thermostat because chances are it will be wrong. (It might even just say low, medium and high)

  • From there, turn down the thermostat to what you think will be 120 degrees and then wait a few hours and measure the water temperature again at the same far-away faucet. This might take a few tries, so if you want to call Brandon now and get back to the game you can. Some old water heaters have two thermostats — one for the bottom heating element and one for the top for twice the fun.

Drain the Junk

Tanks build up sediment which reduces efficiency. Do you have another Sunday? If so:

  • Turn off the water and power to the water heater. On a gas unit, set the burner to “pilot.”

  • Connect a garden hose to the spigot at the base of the tank and other end of the hose pointed at your floor drain.

  • Turn on the tank’s spigot.

  • Open a faucet in a bathroom or kitchen (hot side only) to allow air into the system so water will drain from water heater.

  • Don’t drain it completely, less water more often is actually best. A quart every three months.

What? None of the above sounds fun? Ok, stay tuned for the next installment of Plumbers Without Cracks when we discuss: Oh Good, You’re Finally Going to Replace That Old Water Heater. If you just can’t wait two weeks, give Brandon or Greg at call today at 508.541.8783.

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