When purchasing a new water heater for your home, it’s important to consider the water heater model’s energy efficiency rating and annual operating costs. The water heater energy factor (EF) indicates the water heater’s energy efficiency based on the amount of hot water it can produce per unit of fuel consumed on a typical day. This energy factor is useful for comparing the energy efficiency of traditional tank water heaters, tankless or “instantaneous” water heaters, and heat pump water heaters. The higher the energy factor, the more efficient the water heater should be. The annual operating costs may vary regardless of energy factor ratings due to fuel source costs.
Who determines the rating?
The U.S. Department of Energy determines water heater energy factor ratings as a method to enforce the Energy Conservation Program minimum standards. The energy factor rating not only applies to water heaters, but also to dishwashers and laundry washers and dryers.
How can I make my water heater more efficient?
There are many ways to improve the efficiency of your water heater.
- Lower your water heater temperature to 120 degrees Fahrenheit. You can save between 3-5% on your water heating costs for every 10 degrees you lower the water heater’s temperature.
- Fix leaks as soon as you find them. A leak of just one drip per second can cost $1 per month. The American Water Works Association estimates that at 60 drips per minute, you waste 8.64 gallons per day, 259 gallons per month, and just over 3,153 gallons per year!
- Install low-flow fixtures. Shower heads and faucets installed before 1992 can use twice as much water as newer models. This small upgrade can save you 25-60% on water usage!
- Install heat traps on your water heater tank to save $15-$30 a month on your water heating bill. Some new water heaters may already include heat traps, but older models may need a professional to install one.
- Insulate your hot water tank. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions or contact a professional to install insulation around your water heater storage tank.
- Install a timer to shut off your electric water heater at night or during other times when you’re not home to use the hot water.
When do I need to replace my water heater?
If your water heater is leaking or not heating up, it may be possible to repair it rather than replace it. The typical lifespan of a traditional storage water heater is 10-15 years, though some water heaters may last longer with proper maintenance.
If the water heater is failing to produce hot water, that may be a sign that it needs replacing, but it may also be a simple fix of relighting the pilot light or checking for a tripped circuit breaker. Likewise, the appearance of muddy or rusty-looking water coming from the faucet, or if it has a metallic taste, it may mean the water heater is close to failing. Call a professional immediately if you see leaking water around the base of the water heater. To learn more click here.