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When it’s time to replace your water heater, it’s also a good time to evaluate your hot water usage and what it’s costing you month to month in energy. You may find that your hot water needs don’t match your water heater’s capacity or that there is a better solution that can work more efficiently using a different energy source. To choose the best water heater for your home and the way you use hot water, you’ll want to consider the following before making a decision.

Energy source. Increasing availability of natural gas has given homeowners another alternative to electric and oil as energy sources for heating water. You may have always had an electric water heater or heated your water using your oil-fired furnace, but choosing another form of energy may prove more cost effective. Geothermal, solar, and propane are other options to consider, especially if your home is already equipped with one of these systems. Compare the cost of each of your available energy sources before shopping for water heaters so you can accurately determine operating costs for your home. You may find that there will be some higher initial costs to choosing a different type of energy, but in the long run you will save money on operating costs.

Capacity. Before you decide what type of water heater you want, it’s good to know how much hot water you’re using. The number of people in your household, the time of day you’re using hot water, and your number of hot-water-using appliances all impact demand and should be factored in to the type of water heater you choose. A tank water heater should store enough hot water to supply hot showers, your washer, and your dishwasher, so it helps to have a sense of who’s using the shower and when and what hot-water-using appliances are typically running at the same time. The flow rate of your water may also come into play if you’re considering a tankless system. The U.S. Department of Energy offers some useful tools for calculating your usage that can be found here. You can also compare the pros and cons of a tank versus tankless water heater.

Cost. Water heaters can widely vary when it comes to cost, so if you’ve got a budget you need to stick to, certain types of water heaters may be out of reach even if they would be more efficient in the long run. Tank water heaters that use electricity are almost always the most inexpensive in terms of initial cost, but they also consume a lot of energy to keep stored water hot, and they can have high standby heat loss, which may cost you more over the long haul. Tankless water heaters have a higher initial cost but can be anywhere from 8 to 34 percent more efficient to operate than tank systems according to energy.gov. The efficiency of a tankless system depends on the amount of hot water your home uses.

Life expectancy. In addition to cost, life expectancy is another factor to consider before buying a new water heater. If you’re planning to be in your home for fewer than ten years, it may not be worth it to you to invest in a more expensive tankless system. Tankless systems generally last more than 20 years, making them a great long-term investment that will pay off over time in energy savings. Tank systems typically last 10 to 15 years (or less if you have untreated hard water), but you may want to opt for this less expensive solution if you won’t in your home long enough to see a return on of the more expensive alternatives.

Get an estimate, or two, or three. After you’ve done your homework and you have a general sense of what you need, choose a service provider you trust to evaluate your usage and budget and give you an estimate. If you don’t have a trusted provider and you want to shop around to get the best price, the general rule of thumb is to get three estimates and look for at least two that are somewhat in line with one another. The two that are in line likely represent fair market value for the service and equipment you’ll receive. To help you make the final decision, ask about service and preventive maintenance. Most reputable providers will offer a preventive maintenance agreement that will ensure your water heater operates reliably and efficiently and will also make you a priority if an emergency arises.

If you’re ready to replace your water heater and you need help calculating your usage and understanding your options, request an appointment with a trusted IT Landes plumber. To learn more about our water heater options, including tankless systems, visit itlandes.com/water-heater-installation.

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