Many homeowners replace their hot water tanks in the fall and winter because they notice a loss of performance. It is a common misconception, that the water heater is faulty, during the cooler months. Do not be fooled, most hot water tanks are still in perfectly good working order. Making a few plumbing modifications will supply the average homeowner with hot water again.
It is important to note if your hot water tank is leaking it needs to be replaced. There is no quick fix, for a leaking tank, and even a small drip, or twenty, can add up to big financial losses.
The first step, in reclaiming lost heat, is to insulate your water pipes. Water pipe insulation performs two jobs. The insulation holds the heat in, and keeps the cold out. The benefit of using water pipe insulation is that you regain the heat you were losing, and lower your risk of a pipe bursting. It is easy to install pipe insulation. A homeowner can insulate their pipes in just one afternoon. Insulating your pipes gives you a chance to inspect the pipes for defects, cracks, or leaking joints. 'An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.'
Once you have insulated your water pipes you should see a significant difference in the temperature of your hot water. There is no reason to stop here as this next step lowers your energy usage while further boosting temperature. Insulate the hot water tank itself. Hot water heating blankets are made for electric hot water heaters and gas hot water heaters. Insulating the hot water heater can save the homeowner hundred's of energy dollars every year. Remember that 30% of every energy dollar spent in the home is related to water heating needs.
When the maintenance tips above have been performed many homeowners find that the water is too hot, and the temperature settings need to be turned down. You can do this by consulting the diagram located on the front of your hot water heater. If the production of hot water is still lacking you may need to change the hot water heater elements or thermostat. Many do-it-yourself homeowners can complete this task with minimal tools. A local plumber can change these water heater parts if you are unsure about tackling the job. A hot water heater is a good candidate for this type of maintenance if is is newer than 7 years old and leak free. The life of a hot water heater will vary, on how you use the tank, but typically 10 years is the limit.
When changing the water heater elements or thermostat it is a good idea to clear lime, or calcium deposits from the tank. Remove the drain valve from the bottom of the tank and allow it to drain. Using a 5 foot piece of stiff wire feed it through the drain hole and up the inside of the hot water heater. The wire should be stiff but not so hard that it can't easily be maneuvered. Use a sweeping motion to dislodge any settlement and let it drain from the tank. Build-up from calcium and lime can cause a hot water tank to be less efficient.
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