(Family Features) Water heaters are energy intensive appliances. In fact, they are the second largest energy user in the home, and as they age, they become less efficient, requiring even more energy.
If you donít know the age of your current water heater, or think it may be reaching the end of its useful life span, it may be time to make a switch, says home improvement expert Danny Lipford, host of ďTodayís HomeownerĒ TV and radio show.
Lipford suggests keeping these factors in mind as you evaluate whether itís time to make an upgrade.
Waiting until a current water heater fails will likely cost more in the long run. According to U.S. Department of Energy estimates, the average family spends $400 to $600 each year on water heating costs, and as an older unit ages its efficiency continues to erode. Rising water heating costs year after year could be a sign that itís time to replace your unit. By switching to a new energy-efficient water heater or a new energy source, you could save hundreds of dollars each year.
Depending on where you live and how often you use your water heater, a tankless water heater could drastically lower your annual water heating costs compared with electric storage tank models, which are working to heat water even when itís not needed. The energy source also affects your savings potential. For example, in comparison tests with electric units, propane-powered tankless water heaters saved more than $300 annually.
The size and cost of water heaters have increased dramatically. In April of this year, the National Appliance Energy Conservation Act went into effect, increasing minimum energy efficiency standards for water heaters in your home. This means manufacturers are required to make more energy-efficient models, which ultimately saves homeowners money. In fact, the U.S. Department of Energy estimates that the latest guidelines will save homeowners $63 billion in home energy costs between now and 2044.
However, these standards also mean tank sizes must increase. Some homes may not have room readily available for an electric storage tank that meets the new standards, which means the installation process could take longer and cost more, while limiting access to hot water for days. Even new water heaters such as heat pump models, which are known for their efficiency, require extra space to operate effectively. Heat pump water heaters require 1,000 cubic feet of space, the equivalent of a 12-by-12-foot room, and operate best in spaces where cooling and noise will not be a problem. Propane tankless models offer greater space flexibility.
Figuring the long-term value on your next water heater is important. Most water heaters should be replaced every 10 to 12 years. To make the right choice for replacement, you should factor in the annual cost of ownership, which is the cost of original equipment, installation and expected annual energy costs divided over the unitís lifetime.
Both high-efficiency propane storage tank heaters and tankless models deliver lower annual ownership costs than electric or heating oil. At the same time, tankless water heaters also have a much longer life span than storage models Ė they can last 5 to 10 years longer than storage water heaters.
A water heater upgrade is an opportunity to downgrade your carbon footprint. U.S. Department of Energy data suggests the new manufacturing guidelines implemented this year will prevent as much as 172.5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions, about the same as taking 33.8 million vehicles off the road. Upgrading to a newer, more efficient model means youíre helping with that effort.
Compared with standard efficiency electric storage tank models, propane produced two times fewer emissions. The difference amounts to about 1,300 pounds of carbon dioxide a year, the equivalent of driving a car more than 18,000 miles.
Dump Water Heating Costs
The U.S. Department of Energy offers these tips for cutting costs for water heating at home:
Moderate your hot water usage. Curb shower time, and use shorter wash cycles when possible.Regulate usage further by using low-flow faucets and showerheads.Buy a more efficient water heater. Tankless models, for example, are up to 34 times more efficient than other models.Consider an alternate power source. Propane-powered tankless water heaters can save more than $300 annually.Manage your hot water usage for dishwashing and laundry appliances by buying Energy Star models.Turn down your water heaterís thermostat.Insulate your water heater tank and pipes according to manufacturer guidelines.Donít let money trickle down the drain. Fix leaks to prevent waste.
Find more information on propane-powered water heaters and the new energy conservation standards at KnowYourWaterHeater.com, where you can also take a short quiz to help figure out whether itís time to pull the plug on your current water heater.
Photos courtesy of Getty Images (woman and child in bathroom, and woman and technician with water heater)