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Hot Water Heaters

The hot water heater in your basement is nothing more than a water tank with heating elements surrounded by a thin layer of insulation. Hot water tanks are very durable, but unfortunately, they don't last forever. At the first sign of leaking water, you'll want to replace your tank and avoid a major problem that might occur if the leak widens and dumps gallons of water on your basement floor.

When looking for a quick replacement water heater, consider these items:

  • Hot water tanks heat their contents with electricity, gas, and oil. They are a major portion of most household utility bills so compare the prices of the fuels that are available in your area.
  • The capacity of the hot water heater, measured by first hour heating, should match your needs. Too small a tank, and your household will run out of hot water when it is in high demand; too large and you will waste energy trying to keep extra water warm all the time. For two typical people, 30 gallons should be enough; for a family of four, you'll need at least 70 gallons. Adjust the size according to your demands and whether the demand occurs all within a short period or is spread out through the day.
  • The energy factor or combined annual efficiency (CAE) indicates the efficiency of water heaters at heating water and keeping it hot. Higher numbers are better, with the best electric units better than 90 (or .90); gas, 65.
  • Look at the warranty period for the tank and parts. To prolong the life of the tank, manufacturers use a variety of different materials to protect against minerals and elements in the water. Rather than trying to sort out the various claims, see how long the manufacturer will stand behind his product. It should be both a measure of the manufacturer's confidence and a reasonable expectation of the minimum life of the tank.

As an alternative to the standard hot water

heater, consider an instantaneous or on demand unit. These units heat the water when it is needed by using an extremely hot electric or gas element rather than holding it in a preheated tank. Gas units with electric ignition eliminate the pilot light and may cut your gas consumption in half.

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