What to do when looking for a Water Heater.

Changing a Water Heater

Gas vs. electric water heaters

There are two types of water heaters which are gas and electric. Electric water heaters can be used almost anywhere. A gas water heater is more likely to be installed in a home that already uses gas for other appliances, such as a furnace, stove or hob. Building codes stipulate the location of gas water heaters and restrict them to areas outside normal household activity. Check with a plumber near you to double check regulations. I live in Collin county so I typically check with my buddy who owns a plumbing company in Plano TX.

It is likely that if you change a water heater, you will simply replace it with the same type of unit you already had. There may be exceptions to this rule, for a variety of reasons. In any case, if you choose to replace an electric unit with a gas unit, or vice versa, have a professional do the work. Installing or removing gas lines is not a project you can do yourself.

Even when replacing a unit of the same type, there are possibilities for improvements that should be considered. For example, if space permits, you can choose to increase the storage capacity of the unit to suit your growing family. Another important consideration is the energy savings of the drive. Switching heaters is the perfect time to lower your energy bill if you choose a water heater that is more efficient than the one you are replacing.


When looking for a water heater, consider these features:

  • Capacity in litres
  • Recovery rate (the number of liters the heater will heat in an hour)
  • Dimensions (width and height; physical space may limit the ability to improve the capacity of the unit. Will the heater enter the space intended for it?)
  • The energy saving rating (a sticker on the side should list the estimated annual operating cost for the unit)

However, before making any repairs or purchasing a new water heater, check the label on the side of your current unit. Here you’ll find useful information, including tank capacity, insulation R-value, installation guidelines, working pressure, model and serial number. If you have an electric water heater, the label will also list the wattage and voltage of the heating elements.

This information will serve as a starting point in your search for replacement parts or a complete replacement unit.


Replacing or repairing the heater

The water heater works quite well in most homes. Based on the useful life suggested by the manufacturer, the estimated useful life of a water heater is approximately 8 to 12 years. That, of course, will vary depending on the severity of the local climate, the amount of lime in the public water supply, the design of the unit, the quality of the installation and the level of maintenance the unit has received.

If your water heater is more than 10 years old, leaks around the base of the tank, or operates irregularly or not at all, it probably needs to be replaced. In any case, make sure the cause of the unit failure is not an electrical problem, such as a fuse popping or a circuit breaker tripping.


Common Problems

Perhaps the most common problem related to a water heater is water that is not as hot as you want it to be. This is usually caused by a defective thermostat or heating element.


Here are some basic steps you can take when the water is not hot enough:

Electric water heater

  • Make sure the power supply is connected. Restart the thermostat.
  • Drain water heater. Purge the heater to remove sediment from the tank.
  • Insulate hot water lines. Replace heating element or thermostat.
  • Increase thermostat temperature setting.

Gas Water Heater

  • Make sure the gas is connected and the pilot light is on.
  • Purge the heater to remove sediment from the tank.
  • Insulate hot water lines.
  • Clean the gas burner and replace the thermocouple (a safety device that automatically shuts off the gas if the pilot flame goes out).
  • Increase thermostat temperature setting.